Concert preview: Bully adjusting to the increased spotlight

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Nashville quartet Bully has only released a half-dozen songs in its short time together, but the band has already attracted the attention of musicians, labels and tastemakers alike.

Recently, alt-country pioneer Ryan Adams praised the group on Twitter, writing, “In my opinion @Bully are the best band in the world at the moment.” Additionally, the crew landed a major label contract with Startime International — an offshoot of Columbia Records — on the strength of its self-titled 2014 EP, a bounding, high-energy effort centered on singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno’s fuzzy fretwork and raw, scraped-knee vocals. “I’ll never sleep with you again/ I don’t want you broke over me,” she confesses on “Sharktooth,” following with a warm, feedback-colored guitar outpouring that feels like a bloodletting.

Despite the increased spotlight, Bognanno and Co. managed to keep a level head as they wrapped recording sessions at Steve Albini’s Chicago studio Electrical Audio for a still-untitled full-length debut, which the singer expects to release sometime this spring.

“[The attention] surprises me, but it's been great,” said Bognanno, 24, reached en route to Chicago for a mid-January concert with Cloud Nothings. “We went into recording the full-length with [the label] being like, ‘Do whatever you want to do.’ Nobody was like, ‘This is how the songs should sound and this isn't right and you need to add a chorus here.’ Everybody was like, ‘Yeah, just go make your record.’ I wouldn't say there was a ton of pressure.”

The frontwoman was able to block the outside glare, in part, by fully immersing herself in the recording. In addition to her roles as singer, guitarist and songwriter, Bognanno, who holds a degree in audio engineering and spent three months working as an intern at Electrical Audio, functioned as co-engineer during the 21-day session. “Before we went in there I explained that I wanted to do everything up to a point where I physically couldn't, and then [the co-engineer] could step in,” Bognanno said.

Considering the direction Bully’s music has taken — the band’s most recent single, “Milkman,” released in April ’14, packs increased punch and clarity — expect the full-length to hit even more directly, both sonically and in terms of its content.

“I was more lyrically abstract [when I was younger], and I'd try to hide behind what I was saying a little bit more than I do now,” Bognanno said. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable the older I get.”

Photo courtesy of Bully

Rumba Cafe

8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22

2507 Summit St., North Campus