Bully is a post-grunge/90s alt-rock revival quartet from Nashville. The band is led by Alicia Bognanno, who took an unusual path to being in a promising young band. She grew up in Minnesota, and as a high school student, she ended up taking some elective courses in sound engineering. For some reason, those classes were taught at the town’s zoo. I picture a ridiculous scenario where a bunch of puffins wander through the studio during class. After learning the basics of engineering, she learned piano, then later, guitar. Most of her interest, though, was in production, and used her new skills to help make loops and things like that for her hip-hop loving friends. Her teacher influenced her to go to Middle Tennessee State University, which has a highly reputable audio engineering program. She got her degree, then got an internship in Chicago at Steve Albini’s studio. She returned to Tennessee, started working the sound board at a Nashville venue, and started Bully as a solo project. She was joined by Clayton Parker (guitar), Reece Lazarus (bass) and Stewart Copeland (drums). No, not that Stewart Copeland. But seriously, the drummer’s name is Stewart Copeland.
The band is influenced by things like Dinosaur Jr, Liz Phair, Pixies, The Breeders, Pavement, Superchunk, and other bands who thrived in the world of early 1990s indie rock. Some people even say that Bognanno’s sweet-n-sour voice, which can sometimes be sandpapery, reminds them of Kurt Cobain’s howl. I’m not sure that I’d go all the way there, but I think it is fair to say that other things about Bully are a bit Nirvana-esque.
Bully put out an EP last year, and their debut album Feels Like came out yesterday. It’s one of the most talked about debut records this year, and it’s one that I expect to fair well in my year-end list.
Bully is also one of the 140 or so bands who will be playing at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in September. They’re playing Thursday night, the first night of the festival. It’s already looking like it’s going to be impossible to manage that night. See the lineup here.
Although I didn’t know anything about them, Bully was on my Hopscotch radar, and I’ve been anticipating the new album. I got a review copy of it, and after just two listens, I’m surprised by how much this album has exceeded my high expectations.
Right now,this is my favorite song on the album.
“Trying” by Bully
In the first 45 seconds of the song, we get the “sweet” side of Bognanno’s voice, and a bass solo that was undoubtedly inspired by Kim Deal’s iconic line in “Gigantic”. Then, in the chorus, her voice is gritty and big. In the music, there’s also a bit of that loud/quiet/loud thing that the Pixies did so well.
In the weeks leading up to the release of Feels Like, they did a pre-sale on a limited pressing of vinyl. There was a small run of red and a small run of blue. Both sold out. You can purchase a CD, vinyl, or a digital download via Amazon here.
For extra credit, and a lot of fun, here’s the official video for the song. Note that Bognanno plays guitar right-handed, but plays skee ball left-handed.
Look for Bully when they come through your town, and if you’re close enough, start planning your Hopscotch weekend. It’s September 10-12. Go here for all of the ticketing details. Single day wristbands go on sale today, but you really want to get the whole festival.