Bully wows Pitchfork Music Festival 2015

Minnesota native Alicia Bognanno performs with band Bully at Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday, July 18. The indie-rock band formed in 2013 and is currently based in Nashville.

Juliet Farmer

Minnesota native Alicia Bognanno performs with band Bully at Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday, July 18. The indie-rock band formed in 2013 and is currently based in Nashville.

Joe Kellen

Nashville, Tenn., garage rock outfit Bully may blast sneering, raucous punk âÄônâÄô roll tunes, but they were scared off pretty easily when massive thunderstorms hit this yearâÄôs Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. âÄúWe just ran straight to the van,âÄù Vocalist and guitarist Alicia Bognanno said. Bognanno started Bully shortly after finishing her degree in audio engineering at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She met drummer Stewart Copeland there, and schooling led to an internship at famed musician and producer Steve AlbiniâÄôs recording studio Electrical Audio. Skip forward a few years, and BognannoâÄôs moved far from her Rosemount, Minn., roots âÄî BullyâÄôs breakout debut âÄúFeels LikeâÄù found solid footing in the Nashville scene and put on an electrifying show at Pitchfork. âÄúWe were definitely blown away by the amount of people there,âÄù Bognanno said. âÄúWe werenâÄôt expecting it.âÄù BullyâÄôs early afternoon set sped by despite the oppressive heat. Hundreds moshed to the jagged, jangly sprints of BognannoâÄôs guitar. When the band broke into the massive chorus of âÄúTrash,âÄù the crowd jumped in sync as Bognanno preached from the punk pulpit. âÄúThatâÄôs my favorite song on the record,âÄù she said about âÄúTrash.âÄù âÄúThe most satisfying part of it is how good it feels to actually do. ItâÄôs weird âÄî I never perceived us going in that [loud of a] direction, but it naturally found its way.âÄù With her background in engineering, Bognanno took the wheel on producing âÄúFeels Like.âÄù The album sounds shinier than BullyâÄôs 2014 self-titled EP. Bognanno trades basement fuzz for studio crunch, lending the songs a new energy that doesnâÄôt feel manufactured. Tracks like âÄúBrainfreezeâÄù and âÄúMilkmanâÄù still retain their punch âÄî itâÄôs just more grown-up. She was able to score Bully recording time at AlbiniâÄôs studio and found the experience initially overwhelming. âÄúIn the past, I had done Bully stuff completely on my own,âÄù she said. âÄúI didnâÄôt want to be stressed out over 21 days of recording, so I talked to [co-engineer Jon San Paolo] ahead of time. I told him, âÄòI want you to be able to be there to take over for me in case I canâÄôt handle it [at times].âÄôâÄù Bognanno is hard on herself, though she has no trouble putting her tongue in her cheek. âÄúI just didnâÄôt want to fuck up the drums,âÄù she said. Her emotional connection to Bully doesnâÄôt end at perfecting sound. As the bandâÄôs primary songwriter, Bognanno cites personal experiences in many tunes on âÄúFeels Like.âÄù On the track âÄúSix,âÄù Bognanno recalls an incident when she injured her sister as a little girl. The song carries on an album-wide theme of memoryâÄôs ability to hold its victims captive. âÄúShe was riding down the driveway with a âÄòLittle MermaidâÄô bike [our siblings] all shared, and there was a string attached to it,âÄù she said. âÄúI stepped on it, and she fell off and broke her arm. I felt devastated at the time, but when she first heard the song, she texted me and was like, âÄòI love you so much,âÄô and I laughed and said, âÄòStop.âÄôâÄù âÄúSixâÄù is one example of BognannoâÄôs frankness. The entirety of âÄúFeels LikeâÄù bares BognannoâÄôs grievances, joys and fears with a sneer and a grin âÄî and itâÄôs exciting to see which will emerge. Her quick transitions from howls to sweet mumbles resemble the mood swings we all feel from time to time, and Bognanno just hopes audiences can relate to it. âÄúItâÄôs crazy going from doing a show where you wonâÄôt know how people feel at all to whatâÄôs happening now,âÄù she said. âÄúYou walk out, and the crowd knows the words and theyâÄôre jumping up and down.âÄù