Home Music Bully’s music feels alive, but ridden with tension

Bully’s music feels alive, but ridden with tension

by Calvin Cashen April 10, 2018
Bully’s music feels alive, but ridden with tension

The band talks their latest album and the struggles of touring life

Fresh off the release of their new project Losing, Nashville’s fiery punkers Bully took their antics on the road for a tour across the United States and Canada. Lead singer Alicia Bognanno is a confident voice in indie-rock, making tracks with lyrics that feel painfully relatable and relevant, like finely aged wine. She took the time to speak with us about her experience interning for infamously stringent producer Steve Albini, her anxieties and personal turmoil and the endless abyss of auteurship.

According to Bognanno, when the band released its latest project, there was more of a learning curve to consider. The album needed to sound larger and more fleshed out, a big change from their lo-fi leanings. But, on top of that, the singer underwent personal turmoil that gave her succificent material to compose even bigger and more powerful songs.

Aside from a plethora of new steps as a band, including testing new material on the road, touring the world and then some, there was the added pressure of winning new fans over. “There was definitely a lot more to consider this time around,” said Bognanno. She assured the reception of the band’s new material has been overwhelmingly solid. The actual recording process was just as smooth. She was able to apply these skills on the new record, thanks to her experience interning for Albini at his studio in Nashville. “I learned a lot about mic placement for amps. I took a lot of notes.”

Bully’s sound is indebted to a wide-ranging palette of 90s grunge–music fueled by angst and insecurity. Those feelings run amuck in the band’s overall sound. Despite the underlying sadness to the band’s music, there’s an endlessly positive catharsis to it all.

The sound of the actual instruments, however, remains untouched. The distortion is raw, the drums are pummelling and Bognanno’s vocals are commanding. There’s a huge, jangly undercurrent of sound that cascades from left to right. These are anthems for the best and worst of times.

The band applied that anxiety well before the release of Losing when they were approached to release a single as part of the Our First 100 Days compilation. The series provided artists with the opportunity to voice their discontent for President Donald Trump’s first hundred days in office. The band contributed their song “Right,” a track that features Bully’s typically angst-ridden instrumentals and lyrics. It’s perhaps the band’s most immediate and urgent song. This is especially displayed in Bognanno’s lyrics: “It’s 8 a.m., this hell I’m in/Seems I’ve crossed a line again/For being nothing more than who I am/So break my bones and throw your stones/We all know that life ain’t fair/But there’s more of us we’re everywhere.”

Much like the rest of Bully’s material, the track feels like a call-to-arms against big business administration. While the track definitely feels antagonistic, there’s a hint of insecurity. Bognanno said she wasn’t in the best personal position while writing the new record. On top of that, the band underwent changes to life on the road as a full-time band right after its release, trudging from town to town to play their new and old songs. The band also switched record labels, making the experience collectively more daunting, overwhelming, but all the more exciting.

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop

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