Concert preview: Bully follows its instincts on Feels Like

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

In spite of its title, Bully singer and guitarist Alicia Bognanno can recall little about recording the vocals for "I Remember," the cathartic, sub-two-minute howler that kicks off the Nashville band's 2015 debut full-length,Feels Like.

"It was just a rush of energy when I was singing," said Bognanno, who hurls her words on the song as violently as dishes thrown against a kitchen wall. "I remember showing up at your house!" she screams. "And I remember hurting you so bad!"

Prior to beginning work onFeels Like, cutting loose in this way might've been unthinkable to Bognanno. Indeed, it wasn't until the singer started demoing "Trying" that she started to let go a bit more, allowing her voice to break off into a raspy, ragged howl.

"'Trying' was the first song I had a little screaming on, and then from there I think I realized how good it felt to do that," said Bognanno, 26, who joins her bandmates for an Ace of Cups concert on Friday, April 26. "That was a part of my voice I had never really experimented with, and a lot of the songs that had more screaming followed from there, like 'Trash' and 'I Remember.'

"It happened totally naturally, like it was supposed to go there anyway and I just didn't know about it yet. When it first happened in band practice it was like, 'OK, I guess that's a thing. That felt good.'"

Fittingly, Bognanno embraces a similar letting go with her lyrics. "Being honest and putting myself out there in 'Trying' really did influence a lot of other things on the album just as far as keeping it real goes," she said.

Throughout, Bognanno struggles with anxiety and guilt, engaging in a bit of self-flagellation over a childhood accident (on "Six" she recounts the time she broke her sister's arm - unintentionally, of course) and wrestling with regrets that have her insides churning like a cement mixer ("My lies settle thicker than my milkshake/ But they both make my stomach ache," she confesses on the fuzzy, freewheeling "Brainfreeze").

"I would say it's not easy for me to get over things that have happened in the past that have affected me," said Bognanno, who was born and raised in Rosemount, Minnesota, by a teacher mother and a chemical salesman father. "It's usually feelings of guilt I hold onto for a lot longer than is healthy, but there were some things I got to write about [on the album] that in a way helped me accept them and myself for it."

According to Bognanno, music is the first outlet she's had for purging negative energy, and she equates plugging in and playing with the sense of release an exercise enthusiast gets from going on a long run. "It feels good to be able to pick up a guitar and play and start screaming," she said. "I didn't have anything like that until I started playing music."

It's a raw, cleansing feel that carries over into the band's recordings, which crackle with an energy that suggests the players tracked together live in a room rather than relying on overdubs and Auto-Tune. This, it turns out, is absolutely the case. The musicians recordedFeels Like direct to tape at Electrical Audio in Chicago, a studio where Bognanno served as an intern prior to forming Bully (the musician earned a Bachelor of Science in sound engineering from Middle Tennessee State University).

"I love natural imperfections," said Bognanno, who was drawn to recording analog, in part, because the limited options provided a needed focus ("If we [recorded] digitally I'd be endlessly tweaking it and would never have a finished product," she noted). "So much music now is just done digitally and the drums move to line up with the bass and there's auto-correct on the vocals and the pitch is perfect. That can be cool if that's what the project calls for, but I really appreciate natural imperfections on records and knowing the artist kept it raw and real."

Bognanno further embraces this loose, handmade approach in regards to her instrument, occasionally favoring feel over technique.

"I still lack a lot of music theory when it comes to guitar, but I don't think that matters," said Bognanno, who first picked up a guitar at age 20. "If it sounds good to you and it feels right you should go based off that instinct and not based off what chords are correct."

Bognanno intends to follow these instincts as Bully enters into the earliest stages of amassing new material for its sophomore album.

"Sometimes I feel a sense of pressure, but I try not to think about it because I want to keep writing what feels right," she said. "There was a time we were touring a lot where I wasn't able to write and I was anxious and panicking. But I've been home for a bit now, and I'm happy with a couple things I'm working on, so I'm starting to think there's hope for it."

Ace of Cups

7 p.m. Friday,

April 29

2619 N. High St.,

Old North

Also playing:

Kizzy Hall