I first saw Bully at The Stone Fox in Nashville, sometime in 2014. Front woman Alicia Bognanno used to run sound there. You know, back before she was crisscrossing the nation, writing and singing for everyone’s new favorite rock band. Alicia also interned at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, where Bully recorded their newly released debut full-length album Feels Like.
This package of songs explodes with charisma and strength. Bognanno, like all the women featured in this issue, writes lyrically about broadly human issues from a specifically female perspective. It’s fresh, essential, just in your face enough to make you pay attention. In “Trying” she sings:
Kink it up
Invisible handcuffs locked on me
Been praying for my period all week
And relief that I just can’t see
I question everything
My focus, my figure, my sexuality
And how much it matters or why it would mean anything
I can’t keep it together
I’ve been better
I’ve been thinking about it every night
The sound of the band, as well as Alicia’s songwriting, owes a lot to early-mid-90’s rock, especially the riot grrl bands of that era. But Feels Like doesn’t sit still long enough to get pinned down. It’s steeped in a knowledge of music and sound, a knowledge that has allowed Bully to step out of the abyss fully formed. One thing this record does not feel like is a debut.
Punk-inflected indie rock is not exactly on the rise at the moment, but if Bully have anything to say (and they have a lot to say), Nashville just might be one of its strongest holdouts.