Tuesday, December 5, 2017
On "Kills to Be Resistant," the searing second track on Bully's new album, Losing, singer-guitarist Alicia Bognanno unleashes a furious, vocal-cord-scraping yell -- "Do you! Feel! Nothiiiiinnnnnggg!!!!!"
Along with being a fine vehicle for Bognanno's scrappy yawp, the song is also a great example of Nashville, Tenn.-based Bully's updated take on early '90s mosh-pit rock -- fuzzy guitars and a heavy stomp swirling with melodic arrangements that call to mind Hole and Mudhoney. The group stops in Little Rock for a Wednesday gig at Stickzy Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack. Cincinnati outfit Smut will open.
Opening act: Smut
9 p.m. Wednesday, Stickyz Rock ’N’ Roll Chicken Shack, 107 River Market Ave., Little Rock
Admission: $10 advance, $13 day of show.
It's an early afternoon in mid-November and Bognanno is giving her voice a much-deserved rest. She and bassist Reece Lazarus, guitarist Clayton Parker and drummer Wesley Mitchell are enjoying a day off in Richmond, Va., toward the end of a short East Coast tour.
Saving her throat is a priority these days, not only because of her singing style, but also because Bully, with a pair of critically lauded albums to its name, is playing much longer sets nowadays.
"The first record was just 28 minutes, so our set doubled from 30 minutes to an hour now and there's more screaming,'' she says. ''But it's been going well. I drink a lot of tea and sleep whenever I can. I stay hydrated and keep my fingers crossed."
Bognanno, 27, grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of Rosemount, Minn., and earned a bachelor's degree in audio engineering from Middle Tennessee State University.
"I just wanted to be involved with music in any way I could be," she says. "That felt like my best opportunity. An audio engineering major was the only thing I cared about at all, and I knew I was going to study that in college and work on starting a band."
During college, she interned with prolific and influential producer Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago. Years later, it's where Losing was recorded -- to analog tape, by the way -- with Bognanno handling engineering and mixing duties.
She started writing songs in high school ("They were terrible," she claims), but as she was learning her way around the studio in college, she began to really flex her songwriting muscles.
"They came parallel to each other, me writing songs and learning how to record music myself."
She moved to Nashville right out of college, working as an engineer, and started Bully in 2013.
The band put out an EP and signed to Columbia, which released the 2015 Bognanno-engineered debut Feels Like to good reviews and solid buzz.
Was there any anxiety when recording Losing, which came out on Sub Pop in October?
"We wanted it to do well so we can continue to tour and play for more people, but there wasn't any overwhelming pressure," she says. "Through the songwriting process, I was just trying to write songs that I was happy with and not so much comparing them with the first record or wondering how they were going to be received."
Wednesday's show will be the first of a new leg of touring that will have Bognanno and company on the road through the middle of the month. With all the touring the band has done they've had a few chances to meet musical heroes, but they get more geeked out over actors.
"At South by Southwest, we saw Connie Britton from Friday Night Lights and we were all really excited," she says, adding that she is also just as impressed when she gets to meet hosts of her favorite podcasts.
"I'm a huge podcast person," she says. "I love Throwing Shade, This American Life, Revisionist History, 2 Dope Queens, 99 Percent Invisible, Criminal ... Podcasts pretty much get me through touring. Our tour manager does a good job of playing music in the van, but if it's up to us, we just listen to podcasts."
Style on 12/05/2017
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