Glass talks to Nashville rockers Bully

IT’S been two years since Bully released their debut record Feels Like, and since then they’ve have made a mark on the grunge scene playing the festival circuit and signing to the legendary Sub Pop label. Now returning with a new release Losing, I spoke to lead singer Alicia Bognanno about the challenges of the new record and her recent involvement in activism.

Bully

What have you been doing in the last two years?
We’ve been playing a bunch so I would say just getting another year of getting used to each other playing and then we kind of pulled the plug so that we could work on the second record and stopped touring altogether so we could focus on it. I would say that learning what it’s like to play the songs on the record every night on the road leaves a little bit of an impression of the direction you want to go for the following record.

Do you think the romanticism is lost a bit when you play the same songs every night?
They definitely get boring from time to time and certain ones I’m not too into but they go through phases a little bit but we’ll kick certain songs out of the set if we’re not enjoying them but more the most part they’re still relatable for me personally so I don’t have too hard of a time but there are certain ones that will get under your skin that you just want to take a little bit of space from.

Do you spice things up when playing songs from the record live?
No, we don’t jam, we try and play it like the record. We always have that in the back of our heads because we want people who liked the record to be able to show up and see those songs done.

Your first record received so much positive press and feedback. Do you feel under pressure to match the success of the first record?
Yes, totally. It feels like we haven’t played in forever which is weird because we played last week but I think it’s really weird to go from being out every night and getting feedback to just being a lot more isolated and not touring. It kind of takes you away from that reassurance so yeah, I absolutely get nervous about it. I think we worked really hard on it so even if it isn’t too well received I wouldn’t beat myself up too much about it because we spent a lot of time on it either way.

You have a past history interning and recording at Electrical Audio. What was it like returning again?
After a week of being there I feel grateful and lucky and thankful that we even got to record there than at home, and I do feel at home there which is why we record there but there’s moments where I’m like “Jesus, we’re so lucky to record here.”

Have you ever thought of recording at another studio?
Yeah we’ve definitely thought about it. With the first one I definitely knew we were gonna go there but with the second one it was written and done and we didn’t have endless amounts of time to record it or figure out where we were gonna go. We really wanted to start playing again and get back on the road and even after you record it, it’s months waiting on mastering and working out when it’s going be released and all that kind of business bullshit of releasing a record so maybe in the future if we had a lot of time we would consider it a little bit more. With Electric Audio, I’m familiar with the consoles and the microphones and the pres and everyone there.

You seem to have a lot of creative control which is nice.
Yeah, we’ve never been in the position where someone was telling us or suggesting how to change a song or anything so we’ve been lucky for that as well.

You engineered and mixed the album yourself. Is this because you’re a perfectionist or are you just good at everything?
No I think I just like the challenge. I went to school for it, I have a bachelors in science for it so I’m just forcing myself to be using that and to be refreshing my memory every year and making sure that I still understand how to engineer a studio.

Looking at the tracklist it seems the songs titles are quite dark. Is that something that you’d planned?
Certain ones are a little upbeat and lighter than others but I think in general I always write and can only write from a place if there’s something bothering me or in the back of my head that just won’t escape or if there’s some emotions that I want to work out. I don’t know how I feel about how heavy it got but I’m kind of glad for it and happy about it because those songs needed to be worked out.

I would be lying if I didn’t sit around thinking “maybe I should lighten things up for the third record” because it wasn’t intentional it was just the product of what drives me to write.

Your first record is very confessional and had a lot of angsty energy to it. What would you say the driving theme is for this record?
Yes, I would say its the same thing and every songs is situational so I don’t really have an idea of what I’m going to write until I write it and then I see what happens. I’ve never really been one to perceive or plan out in my head where I want it to go.

The video for Feel the Same is fun. What’s the story behind that?
It’s actually really funny because it wasn’t meant to be a video at all because we had another music video in the works for it. It was just Stewart who was our original drummer does a bunch of picture stuff and art stuff. He did the photo for the album cover and he’s just so good at that kinda stuff and it’s just footage he had and we were kind of in a rush to get some things together to post with the song, and he just threw it together and we were in Seattle at the time and got the email and were like “holy shit this is so cool, this is almost too cool because everyone’s gonna think it was the music video for our song” and it ended up just working out that way.

In your Bonnaroo performance last year, you’re wearing a PETA “Seaworld Kills” t-shirt and you’ve recently been voicing yourself as an advocate for gun control, women’s rights and animal rights. How do you do this?
One one of our tours we went around with a laminated sign for every city with a petition for gun control in those cities and it was on the merch table so people could sign it and then at the end of the tour I sent it out to every senator in every city we played. For PETA, I participated in their anti-Seaworld campaign shedding some light on the sad parts of Seaworld and how their affected their animals there in a negative way. We’re always doing plan parenthood things that come up.

by Katrina Mirpuri