June 30, 2018
When it comes to being in a touring band, most know that there are two vastly different sides to the experience. There are the performances–the sweaty, packed-out rooms full of fervor, people dancing and screaming the lyrics; the fun times. Then there’s the other half. The months away from home. The van breakdowns and costly repairs. A world where everything that can go wrong usually will. For those searching to get a closer glance at the dark underbelly of what it takes to do it all, look no further than Bully, a Nashville four-piece fronted by Alicia Bognanno, whose lyricism reflects just what can happen when you throw yourself into the void of uncertainty that is traveling the country as an indie band, trying to make everything work at once.
“It’s just running around like crazy.” Bognanno is speaking from Nashville, where she and the rest of Bully are gearing up for their latest string of shows. Her tone comes across as nonchalant with just a hint of anxiety as she elaborates on what it takes to get off the ground. She lists the series of tasks required of her and the band before they hit the road, laughing to herself at the sheer amount of duties that have to be checked off. Things like oil changes, merch counts, and guitar setups seem to be routine to the point of mundanity for her, but that’s to be expected from a musician that’s toured for nearly three years straight since the band’s debut full-length, Feels Like released in 2015.
“We didn’t get a lot of breaks between those tours. So, I was learning how to write on the road and figuring out what I needed to do to make that happen. Losing was a different experience in that way; I was juggling being on the road and writing at the same time.” Bognanno’s voice slows as she recalls the experiences that led up to the band’s latest record–one that stands as a testament to what she has undergone in the years between the two releases and where she is now emotionally in both her personal and professional life. Losing contains some of the most emotionally raw lyrics in Bully’s catalogue, detailing moments on the road that reflect Bognanno’s yearning for the comforts of home, the loneliness she experienced in rooms full of people, even the times that made her doubt her own ability.
“Everyone was ready to work on new stuff once we pulled the plug on touring. I was personally relieved to be home. I didn’t realize this, but if I go a long time without being able to write, I get in a bad way. When I get to come home and write, I feel a lot better–I feel more confident, like I’m still being productive and working to not milk this one thing that happened a year and a half ago.” Bognanno’s voice quiets to a near-inaudible murmur now that the subject has shifted to a more personal topic. She speaks pensively, calculating exactly what she wants to convey from a less-than-comfortable life on the road.
This brand of sincerity and vulnerability is what makes Bully so refreshing in the current indie rock scene. On stage, Bognanno is tenacious, bubbly, and carefree; but behind the scenes, when it comes down to the brass tacks, she’s direct in revealing the reality of being in a band like hers–it gets hard. The touring is arduous. The uncertainty is daunting. But at the end of the day, Bully perseveres through it all to continue traveling and writing, demonstrating that their kind of life is exactly what you make of it.