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Bully connects by turning up the emotion as high as the volume

A black-and-white image of a woman playing electric guitar while singing loudly into the microphone on stage at a darkened music venue with spotlights overhead.

Bully truly captured my heart when I caught their set at the Sh*tty Barn in Spring Green back in 2016. That night, they played alongside the now-disbanded Milwaukee group Midnight Reruns (since then, Graham Hunt of the Reruns has struck up a collaborative friendship with Alicia Bognanno of Bully, featuring her vocals on a song called “Atwood”).

I had been a casual fan after spinning the band’s 2014 debut, Feels Like, on my college radio show of yore. I was instantly drawn to the noisy, fast-tempoed, nervy rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and lead vocalist Bognanno dished out in the form of one-part rocker harmonies and two parts pure, melodic yelling-slash-singing.

Listening to Bully, guitars were always at the forefront, the vocals were good and cathartic, and the drums crashed oh so satisfyingly. Bognanno admitted to me that The Breeders and Pixies are two of her most formative bands, so it makes sense I was drawn to her project since those are bread-and-butter sounds for me, too.

That set at The Sh*tty Barn was one of the wildest I’ve seen there — plain old rock 'n' roll, complete with head-banging, distortion and feedback. It was the perfect way to cap off an extended Fourth of July holiday bender.

A woman wearing jeans, Chuck Taylor sneakers and a sweatshirt from the band "Pixies" smiles at the camera while kneeling in front of a rack of compact discs.
Alicia Bognanno of Bully

Since that first release (and that show), Bully’s found a home with Sub Pop Records and counts her newest album, Lucky For You, as her third for the iconic label.

Bognanno described Sub Pop as being cooler than cool (“everybody’s so supportive … that makes my connection even stronger because they're all people that I would hang out with, outside of music”), allowing her total freedom to do whatever she wants, artistically. Through that trusting relationship, Bognanno has issued another killer album.

Even though Lucky For You deals with the toughest of blows — losing her beloved dog of 13 years, Mezzi — it made Bognanno realize that gratitude can soothe some of those blows. “It was a gift,” Bognanno said of her time with her dog. “It wasn't something that I deserved or was owed to … any of that. I felt like her presence was just in the way that she acted and responded to me and how close we were in our bond. It felt like it just made my life that much better.”

Lucky For You is, through and through, an album about being strong in gratitude and moving forward so you can make room for more opportunities to be thankful. It packs an emotional punch and adds to Bognanno’s sonic legacy of crafting well-written rock songs that feel right in line with The Breeders or Pixies. In fact, she recently landed a slot opening for the latter — a dream come true and another chance for gratitude.

I caught up with Bognanno before she heads to Milwaukee’s X-Ray Arcade this Saturday, Sept, 16, for a sold-out show. She talked about how she found her life path after throwing herself headfirst into studying audio engineering, non-tour life, fostering dogs, living in a big music city like Nashville and opening up for her heroes.

Catch the full conversation using the player at the top of the page, and enjoy the Lucky For You single “Days Move Slow” right below.

88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee