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Virtual Session: Bully

Bully - Live Virtual Session
Bully - Live Virtual SessionPhoto by Angelina Castillo

by Sean McPherson

August 19, 2020

Bully's Alicia Bognanno joins Sean McPherson of The Current to perform a few songs and talk about recording Sugaregg in Minnesota's Pachyderm studios in Cannon Falls, and relinquishing her usual duties as producer.


[Sean McPherson] You're with The Current, my name is Sean McPherson and I'm very excited to be hanging out with Alicia from Bully. Bully has a new record on the way called Sugaregg that we're all very excited about here at The Current, and Alicia thank you so much for making some time in your schedule to hang out with The Current today.

[Alicia Bognanno] Yes, thanks for having me.

Before we chat we'd love to just get right into a song and I'm so excited that you're playing this first one on bass, it's not a common solo instrument but I'm really excited to hear the tune on it.

I'm working with what I can. Alright, shall I go?


[Music: Bully, "Where to Start"]

Alicia, we've been playing that tune a bunch on The Current and we're so excited about more music coming from Sugaregg, can you tell me a little bit about that tune and what that song's about and how you came to write it?

Yeah, that for me was just like one of the more fun songs on the record, I feel like in the past I've just been so serious about stuff and I was just kinda felt good and wanted to write something that was a little more storytelling and fun but that's just kind of about a dysfunctional relationship but you sort of love it that it's dysfunctional. [laughs]

Well then I guess it might be no surprise that we love the tune and everybody can associate with some level of dysfunction in relationships. Now did you write the tune on bass or is that just somethin' that fits because it's such a bass-line heavy tune?

Yeah I wrote it on bass and then I went and did rhythm guitar and then lead guitar over it so when quarantine happened it was just like, I tried to play it on guitar but the guitar cuts in and out throughout the song and it was just kind of the only way that it would work was on bass so I don't know, first time doing a song solo on bass but I guess it's the first time for a lot of things right now.

Well you said it and I completely agree, and this is obviously your first time releasing a record during this time of quarantine, you know, we've had Bully in the studio a number of times, I got to see you live on stage at First Avenue at one of our birthdayparties. How has it been navigating promoting a record sort of from your home in Nashville as opposed to hitting the road to get out there to let people know about it?

Oh my god it's been awful. [laughs] I mean it's not awful it's just like truthfully it's so much easier if I was in Minnesota I'd just pop in and do this and I would be done but here, every different outlet needs a different format in a different medium so it's just like a different setup for everything so it's just a lot more time consuming you know? Even just like connection stuff it's just like certain connections will drop out or it's Google Meets or Zoom or Facetime audio and it's just like different for everyone I'm like, I don't even know anymore if I'm gonna be filmed on like a Zoom meeting or if it's just a call, it's just like -- just doesn't even matter anymore. It's like O.K. let's just do this.

Well thank you for navigating it for us because your music is so deserving of attention and of celebration and I'm really excited for Sugaregg which is dropping on August 21st - this album is the first time where you've worked with an outside producer because you are known for being a very capable producer and engineer yourself - what did you discover working with an outside person and what surprised you the most in that process?

I think there was a lot of, or, a couple things on this record that just sort of were a big sense of relief to me as far as stuff that I've really stressed or over-thought about in the past and throughout working on this record have sort of realized that I don't necessarily need to stress out and have everything exactly mapped out. I can just go a little bit more with the flow and still make a record that I'm really happy with, if not more happy with because the experience itself was a lot more enjoyable. But it was so nice, I mean, it was nice to have someone there that could just, would see me getting stressed out and suggest that I take a break instead of it just being me and kind of telling myself that, ok, well if you don't just do this no one's gonna do it for you so just like get it done and just pushing myself deeper into the rabbit hole, it was like really nice having someone there that could just help me lighten everything up and it was great I had a great time, I mean we did it in Minnesota.

Oh, what studio did you use?


Oh I didn't even know you recorded at Pachyderm that's such a trip!

Yeah, it was awesome

There's some pretty big history in that room, that's pretty amazing. And does that mean, did you get to like literally crash in Rosemount because we're talking not very far away from Cannon Falls or did you stay in the house?

So this is what's so funny is that I don't really have any family in Minnesota anymore except for extended family and I had like shown up in Cannon Falls thinking I was like hours away from where I grew up and the studio manager was like, "Yeah you're literally 20 minutes away from Rosemount," and I was like oh my god that's like amazing but devastating at the same time like, I didn't think I was literally going home to make a record but it was awesome, I love the thought of it, like when my manager suggested Pachyderm, I was like, who would've thought I would be back in Minnesota making, who would've thought I would be making a record period? Who would've thought I would be back in Minnesota making a record? It was just like, this is wild. It was such a trip.

One more question about your upbringing in Minnesota before we get into more tunes. Are there particular artists that you think
you connected with specifically because you were from Minnesota? Stuff you might not have caught just as a national fan but local groups that were sort of central to your musical upbringing thatcame out of the Minnesota world?

I think there's bands that, like, throughout college, and now I really love, and a little bit of that is because they're in Minnesota but like The Replacements and Husker Du and I actually did a podcast where I had a conversation with Bob Mould a few weeks ago and it was just thinking about kind of growing up around the same area that he spent a lot of time in after his upbringing in New York was just, I think about it and I'm like man, I wish I was, there was a music scene in Rosemount Minnesota because there wasn't but it's funny to think back and like think of all this crazy rock and roll history in Minnesota but then feeling so far away from any sort of music scene in Rosemount and learning about it when I left.

Understood. However you got to it, it seems like you certainly have ingested the right music to keep on contributing to the tradition and making some really great music of your own, so lets get into some more of this music, I think we're going to hear two in a row from Alicia from Bully.

Let me get my guitar going.

[Music: Bully, "Prism"]

[Music: Bully, "Every Tradition"]

The songs definitely sound great with a full band but they sound really raw and awesome in this quarantine-required setting. You have such a talent for writing and for performing and it comes through loud and clear even in these compromised conditions compared to having you up in the big studio here in St. Paul, I'm just so impressed with the songs we've heard off the new record, that one's called Traditions? What's the full name of that title?

Every Tradition.

And that one is kind of about rebelling from boxes that folks are trying to force you into is that what I read about,
sort of like, "You're gonna want to have a baby one day" type of stuff?

Yes and you know what I'm gonna send the internet trolls your way when they come up next time I do a solo performance and say, "The Current said it was fine, leave me alone."

Yes please do, and to me, I always like when people come into a studio or come in to a situation like this an answer those challenges with a unique response like the bass line is the center of this tune so I'm gonna play bass on this tune. Or I'm gonna make it work with pedals to get this through and to me I thought you did a great job of communicating your songs - send the trolls my way Alicia I'm down, you know The Current loves Bully and The Current is really excited about this new record Sugaregg, and hopefully before too long we'll be able to see you in a more traditional format, a packed show at the Entry, I guess last time you came through headlining you played the Fine Line, is that right?


We love you here in Minnesota, we want to see you in the normal format but this will have to suffice for right now andcongratulations on the new record, Alicia.

Thank you, thanks.

Songs Performed

00:44 Where To Start
10:22 Prism
14:40 Every Tradition
All songs from Bully's 2020 album, Sugaregg, out on Sub Pop Records.

Bully - official site


Host - Sean McPherson
Techincal Director - Peter Ecklund
Producer - Jesse Wiza