At their gig back on the 14th of November in the Kentish Town Forum, Caroline sat down with Bully and chatted about how the band formed, their initial demos and many more. Scroll on down to read it. All pics shot by Caroline Quinn.
"It’s something I’ve always wanted to do" declared Alicia Bognanno of Bully when asked had she always had a desire to create music. Led by charismatic and charming multi-faceted singer, producer and guitarist Bognanno, Bully are the four-piece Nashville band whose name is on everybody’s lips and rightly so. The band humbly began when Bognanno initially recorded the band’s first demos independently before recruiting band members: guitarist Clayton Parker, drummer Stewart Copeland who Bognanno had been in a band with previously, and bassist Reece Lazarus and the rest was history.
After interning at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio, Bognanno had the opportunity, like all interns after the work is done, to use the studio herself and that’s where she wrote and recorded Bully’s earliest material. Bognanno is modest about the band’s start detailing how she and Reece Lazarus were already involved in the industry, with Bognanno running sound and assistant engineering at a studio and Lazarus booking a venue. ‘We wrote a couple songs and then we wrote an EP and then just worked on the full length, and signed with a label and along the way picked up a manager and a booking agent. It just kind of went from there’ says Bognanno. From their description, it almost sounds like the band just fell into being a band by chance and Stewart Copeland’s admission of not always having wanted to create music agrees with this, with him saying ‘I think I just kind of ended up in it.’
Writing and creating music has been a ‘huge learning process’ for the band. Every song is different and they currently have no ‘set routine right now’ and it ‘changes song to song.’ When discussing how long the average song takes, Bognanno explains ‘It really depends, certain songs they sound right and I can write them in like half hour and other ones I just kind of have to work on and come back to but sometimes if something isn’t getting done and I feel like I keep coming back to it like I’m not really getting anywhere with it, I just kind of take it as a sign I should just probably leave it alone.’ On the whole the band agree that generally their songs are written quickly but Copeland suggests that Bognanno is spending more time on her song writing than she would previously, describing to her ‘I feel like you’ve been taking a lot longer, you tumble ideas a lot longer than you used to, it seems like she’ll kind of have a song – we’ll come in and play it and she’ll get some ideas going, we’ll record and do a demo and keep on working on it, like it seems like she takes a lot longer, a lot more time to just like, let something sit for a bit and then revisits it.’ Bognanno attests to this saying ‘a lot of that has to do with just never being home anymore so it’s like we’ll write when I can, try and get it down so I don’t forget it and it’s a different process too cause we (herself and Copeland) first learned the first five songs, he didn’t have a lot to do with the bass stuff and it was before they (Lazarus, Parker) were in the picture and then I did all the guitar stuff and now it’s definitely not like that or we’re trying to ease out of that. We have with all the new stuff that’s come about so it’s just - I’m still trying to figure out what’s the most productive way to write for us with the limited time that we have at home to get stuff done.’
‘I just do my guitar and vocal part and then I bring it to the band and then just kind of explain what I was thinking and then we just work it out from there’ says Bognanno who started the band. With Copeland adding in that they’re not ‘like ‘hey you should add another thing in there’ or whatever. I mean if we did that it would be very minimal just being like maybe ‘that bridge could be shorter’ like that it’s – she’s the one that’s in charge of doing the structure and stuff like that.’ In previous interviews Bognanno had been described as solely doing all the mixing and engineering for their debut album Feels Like. When asked about whether she enjoyed the control of that aspect of creating their music ‘yeah I definitely enjoy it, I kind of learnt both things along side of each other so that’s the only way that I’ve really recorded any Bully material is through myself so it’s nice to be able to bypass the conversation with us and outside engineers trying to explain to them what we want. Instead I just know in my head what I want it to sound like and the guys are all really cool about letting us take that reins and things.’
‘I question everything, my focus, my figure, my sexuality’ lyrics such as these from single Trying off their debut album have been described by Bognanno as confessional and based on personal experience. Baring all for the world to see can be nerve wracking for the best of us, let alone when you’re baring all to thousands to see all across the world when performing and touring. Do the band ever struggle with this and in particular Bognanno who writes the majority of their lyrics we wondered ‘Not really, I mean - I think that maybe my first time hashing it out and playing it live can be a little bit awkward at first but it helps a lot when you have like a y’know a band behind you supporting everything. It’s what makes it a lot less nerve wracking than if I were to just get up there alone and be like ‘hey here I am, I’m a train wreck’ so that helps and I can always hide behind my hair so that helps too but it’s usually – at first it was weird, now I don’t really give a shit. I’m just like ‘who cares?’ admitted Bognanno. Her and Copeland agree that it’s certainly easier to bare all when you care about what you’re singing about, with Copeland reiterating ‘it’s better to sing about something you at least give a shit about than like singing a song about, like something stupid.’