Bully: “I haven’t really put out a record that so many people have gotten behind, and I can feel that.” (9/23 at The Church)

Bully, the 21st Century grunge outfit of Alicia Bognanno, is about to kick off the next leg of their tour behind Lucky For You, their fourth full-length, which dropped...

Bully, the 21st Century grunge outfit of Alicia Bognanno, is about to kick off the next leg of their tour behind Lucky For You, their fourth full-length, which dropped June 2nd on Sub Pop (who also released 2017 sophomore LP Losing and 2020’s third full-length, Sugaregg).  This batch of dates kicks off Thursday, September 14th in Davenport, IA, and will have Bognanno returning to First Unitarian Church on Saturday, September 23rd for Bully’s first show at the city’s most famous DIY punk basement since November of 2017.

However, Bognanno has already done quite a bit of touring this year, including two stops in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection that gave select fans a chance to check out her latest sounds live.  Bully played a five-song set of Lucky For You songs at World Café Live early this May for WXPN members at this year’s NON-COMM, and one week after the album dropped, Alicia and her band opened The Met for Pixies and Franz Ferdinand, with eight of the album’s tracks, which had an abundance of fans flooding the isles of the opera house in full-on early-mid-‘90s anti-rock star duds.

I recently got a chance to catch up with Alicia Bognanno via phone.  In addition to an entire tour opening for Pixies, she also opened for The Breeders this March at The Basement East in Nashville.  And while I refrained from asking any potentially provocative questions, she did tell me that both experiences were major highlights of her recent years.  “Both of those bands were on my bucket list!  And I got to play two songs with The Breeders when I opened for them, which was a highlight,” she tells me, before going on to add, “The whole Pixies tour was a highlight.  I watched the whole set every night, which you don’t normally do when you’re on a tour with a band for 30 days [laughs].”

The first single from Lucky For You, “Lose You,” dropped this February, prior to the album’s official announcement.  The track features vocal harmonies from Sophie Allison, AKA Soccer Mommy, another major name in Nashville’s indie rock scene and PHILTHY phavorite (She recently opened The Mann for Maggie Rogers’ Surrender anniversary show, and found herself on our “20 CRAZY Concerts in 20 Years in Philthy” list, for her 2018 appearance at World Café Live opening for Phoebe Bridgers.FLOOD called the song, “a succinct grunge-pop tune woven with stark realizations,” while Stereogum said, “It meets in the midpoint between the two bands’ aesthetics, trading out Bully’s usual rapid-speed intensity for an ambling ’90s alt-rock vibes while holding onto the raw power. It might be the most purely catchy Bully song to date.”

“It was great.  There was talk about having a feature, and I’ve never done that before,” Bognanno tells me of working with Sophie/Soccer Mommy on “Lose You,” before going on to explain, “I don’t know that I would’ve done it, if it wasn’t for Sophie.”  Sophie even joined Alicia to perform the song at Bully’s most recent hometown show, at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, just a few weeks ago.  Curious if this inspired thoughts of any future Bully collaborations, Alicia tells me she’s not quite there yet, but suspects it will be discussed soon: “I’m not sure.  I haven’t thought about it, but I’m sure I will be thinking about it in the near future.”

The album itself received profound praise as soon as it dropped in early June, with Paste calling it, “the best rock record of the year so far,” and New Noise Magazine giving Bognanno her first 5 star review (At least according to her Twitter…  I think it was actually a 10/10.)  “I haven’t really put out a record that so many people have gotten behind, and I can feel that,” Alicia tells me, going on to say, “The one thing that people say is that they cried when they listened to it, which is weirdly a compliment to me [laughs].”

Lucky For You is Bully’s fourth full-length, but only the second since Bully officially became a solo project, which Alicia discussed with me in a November 2021 chat, once she was finally able to get back on the road and tour 2020’s Sugaregg Lucky For You is also just the second album for which Alicia worked with a producer (John Congleton and Graham Walsh co-produced Sugaregg with her.)  For Lucky For You, she brought on producer JT Daly, frontman for Paper Route, and known for his production and co-writing work with K. Flay and PVRIS.  And Alicia tells me that this time around the process was far more collaborative: “With Sugaregg, I had those demos completely worked out.  For this one, I was working on everything throughout.”  This seems to be at least partly inspired by the bond that the two felt almost immediately, despite having never previously met: “This was the first time I’ve worked with someone where I was interested in receiving their feedback and wanting their contributions, musically…  I realized right away that he really cared about the project as much as me.”

While we have seen Bully a good handful of times in the 215 over the years, including three post-lockdown shows, Alicia tells me that these shows will definitely feature something new, in addition to the new songs: “It’s a completely different show.  We have about 10 times more gear than we’ve ever had…  I had to work a lot to learn to recreate these tones I made on the record.”  She also calls these current dates Bully’s, “most elevated show yet.”  After US dates wrap on November 1st in Louisville, KY, they will head to London for a three-show residency, making up for a UK tour that had to be scrapped earlier this year after Alicia got sick.  Bognanno also tells me that she’s hoping to keep touring Lucky For You for the foreseeable future: “I’d like to be on the road as much as possible!”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.