‘I’m so honored. How touching. F— you.’
Alicia Bognanno of Bully talks misogyny and new music
Alicia Bognanno of Bully
Alicia Bognanno is a force to be reckoned with on Bully’s latest album, Losing. The Nashville band’s Sub Pop follow-up to their major label debut, Feels Like, finds the 28-year-old songwriter in the most confident form of her career. With a third LP in the works, the band is touring their fiery brand of grunge-punk around the country with emo-punk icons Jawbreaker. They’ll be stopping at Cain’s Ballroom on June 25.
“I actually love touring—a lot. A lot a lot. I’m totally looking forward to it,” Bognanno says. “I love playing live and hope it comes off that way. We put a lot of effort into practicing and making sure everybody is comfortable and feeling confident.”
That effort is a major trait that seems out of character for the band’s flannel-wearing-messy-hair-low-slung-guitars punk vibe. That is exactly what separates Bully from the “slacker rock” label lazily attributed to many of their peers. Bognanno’s lyrics are purposeful, and she and her band are accomplished musicians who work hard for their craft. Bognanno even produces and engineers all of their music, and a few friend’s bands too.
“I’m just kind of doing what I can with the space I have,” she says. “I recorded my friends’ band the other day … It’s not any sort of serious commitment [at this point]. My priority is Bully right now and just working on the third record.”
Being in male-dominated fields like audio engineering and punk music, Bognanno said she has had to endure a fair share of misogyny. What really gets under her skin, though, is the fake-woke posturing of some of her peers.
“I feel like a lot of men in bands kind of talk the talk and post about progressiveness and, you know, that’s frustrating cause I feel like they get like a medal … for being a decent human,” Bognanno says. “‘Wow, that’s so cool that you’re talking about, you know, respecting women. ‘I’m so honored … how touching.’ Its like, ‘Fuck you.’”
That frustration is displayed front and center in Bully’s music, a bludgeon against chauvinists. “When Bully started, I didn’t even really think about the gender dynamic—and the further along it has gotten the angrier I’ve gotten about it, and definitely the less tolerant I am with it,” she says. “My biggest thing is, if you feel like something is wrong and uncomfortable, it probably is.
“When I first started playing in Bully, I was constantly questioning whether or not I was over sensitive and whether or not I was overreacting,” she continues. “I just completely changed the credibility I give myself and the way that I’m feeling. If I see behavior that I feel unacceptable or feel like I’m being talked to in a condescending way, I call it as I see it in hopes that it won’t happen again or that they’ll think twice before they approach another woman like that.”
Bognanno sees the culture changing around tolerance of misogyny and abusive behavior, but she says we still have a long way to go. “I think there’s a lot more awareness that has been brought to men and their behavior and what’s acceptable and not acceptable,” she says. “There’s been progress made … or [we] want to believe that it has been made, and hopefully it just keeps going up from there.”
Can we just exist without your hate and control? Bognanno screams on Losing’s powerful closing track. Such questions animate her music and experience in the industry, and will no doubt continue to deepen on the band’s upcoming third album. Currently shrouded in mystery, Bognanno says the new record will come from a different part of herself.
“The second album was a similar process to the first,” she says. “The third one will be done in a completely different way, on completely different terms, so much so that I don’t have the words to sum it up—a lot has changed and I feel a lot better in every aspect of my life than I have in a long time.”
One constant with Bully is their energetic and cathartic live shows. This will be on full display when the band takes the stage at Cain’s Ballroom alongside the newly-reunited Jawbreaker, a band who has influenced tons of acts across today’s indie rock spectrum—including Bully. “I love Jawbreaker and pretty much everything about them,” Bognanno says. “I am beyond excited to play these damn shows. I cannot wait.”