We had a quick chat with Bully’s powerful vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, producer and engineer Alicia Bognanno ahead of the release of the band’s first album Feels Like out June 23. The band’s sharp 90’s alternative rock sound and matter-of-fact lyrics impressed and endeared me after just one play of ‘Trying’ but, after learning about how hands-on, knowledgable and inspired Alicia is inside the studio and out, you can’t help but respect their music above everything else. It’s also dope that they still mix in the studio, avoiding computers as much as possible – which symbolizes the old-school reverence and hardworking nature that sets Bully apart. Bognanno is flanked by Stewart Copeland, Clayton Parker and Reece Lazarus – all incredibly talented and important facets to the vibe and mechanics that help make Bully the powerhouse that it is and will continue to be.
Growing up, was there a live gig or artist that really impacted and moved you?
I really liked Ace of Base when I was younger and the first Matchbox 20 CD. I don’t think I heard an artist that really moved me until I was older…..maybe when I first got to college.
Your lyrics are gritty, honest and refreshing. Have you always been pretty blunt or was there a time when you felt pressured to write a certain way – or even in a pop manner?
I didn’t used to write as bluntly as I do now. I tried to write honest lyrics for this record so that I could get my point across through them and understand what I was really singing / writing about. I can usually connect or relate to an artist when I know what they are singing about and I wanted people who heard this record to have the same opportunity.
What was your motivation behind ‘Trying’? It’s a song that’s really been a relatable hit with listeners. I’ve not stopped playing it, myself.
I would say confusion and frustration motivated me to write ‘Trying’.
Reece told Nerdist that “Female gets used as a genre more than a gender sometimes”- I completely agree. I think bad ass bands like yours help remind people that regardless of gender, good is good and heart is heart. Have you noticed other people in the industry mirroring your sentiments? Or would you rather everyone just shut up?
Thank you!!! I wish everyone would stop bothering me about gender because it’s something that I obviously think and feel strongly about and because of that, I think it can be unfair and insensitive for a stranger to casually bring it up and expect you to be comfortable and willing to discuss your views on it so briefly. I think questions about gender are a lot easier to ask than to answer and if people are going to ask about it they should do so in a well thought out way.
Alicia, you interned at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago where you learned a lot about sound engineering. How has this helped you with writing and recording today?
It’s helped me to further my knowledge in working with tape machines, microphone techniques, mixing techniques, proper studio etiquette and in million other ways. It definitely influenced the way I wanted to record ‘Feels Like’.
Before we go, BULLY is a really simple, memorable moniker. Can you tell us what went into the naming of the band?
I wrote the song ‘Bully’ before I picked the band name but they both come from the same place. The song ‘Bully’ is sort of about learning how to stand up for yourself and not letting other people treat you poorly.
Bully’s debut album Feels Like is available for pre-order on iTunes now and is set for release on June 23, 2015. You can visit their website for US tour information and to purchase tickets to their show at The Pitchfork Music Festival. ‘Trying’ was recently voted Spin’s 17th Best Song of the Year.