Bully: “Who remains after the party is done?”

Alicia Bognanno’s Bully have always been a little bit special, but with her new album ‘Lucky For You’, she’s hitting a whole new level.

Alicia Bognanno is known for laying everything out on the table when it comes to her musical project, Bully. When it comes to raw, searing honesty, her fourth album, ‘Lucky For You’, is perhaps her most candid yet, and it’s all the more triumphant for it. 

Much like on record, Alicia is endearingly open when speaking about where she finds herself ahead of the release of ‘Lucky For You.’ “I’m very overwhelmed right now,” she laughs before pausing and adding, “but in a really good way.”

Bully’s previous record, ‘Sugaregg’, released in 2020, was officially her first solo release, having parted ways with her former band members. It also found her speaking frankly about her mental health issues on record for the first time after being diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. 

Moving on to her fourth album, Alicia knew it was important to work with someone who valued authenticity as much as she did, so she paired up with producer J.T. Daly, who’s Nashville studio is conveniently close to her own Nashville home. After an initial few days together in the studio to “feel it out and see if we were a good fit,” ‘Lucky For You’ ended up being created over a seven-month period, with Alicia dealing with life-changing events over the course of the process.

“I had no idea it was going to take that long,” she explains. “None of it was intentional, and I was so stressed at first because in the past, I’d go into the studio for two and a half weeks, and the whole thing would be done. We had to take breaks and work around my touring schedule and J.T.’s schedule, but in that time, I ended up with so many new songs that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. There was so much room for life events to happen that inspired a lot of songs on the record.”

One of the major life events that happened and became a huge inspiration for the record was the loss of Alicia’s dog Mezzi, her best friend of thirteen years. “Mezzi travelled with me and recorded with me – I’d write, and she’d be next to me. She was fully an extension of me.”

The passing of Mezzi left her in a state of flux, wondering how to cope with losing the friend who’d been by her side every day. Tracks such as ‘Days Move Slow’ and ‘A Wonderful Life’ were born through this attempt to move through the grief and are some of the most heart-wrenchingly irresistible tracks Alicia has ever created. The former, ‘Days Move Slow’, is a slice of punchy, 90s-esque alt-pop that fizzes with a restless energy as Alicia contemplates whether there is an afterlife. 

‘A Wonderful Life’ is slower and cinematic, swelling with emotion as Alicia’s signature yowl roams between heartbreak and hope. Reader, try and listen to this track without bawling your eyes out. 

“I was crying while I was practising ‘A Wonderful Life’ yesterday,” Alicia admits. “That song is the saddest one to me, everything in it is exactly what I was going through, even just staring at the window and contemplating some sort of afterlife. All of those things are so true to the situation that that one just fucks me up. I think it will continue to, but it just makes it that much more meaningful to me.”

“It’s a very eye-opening process to learn life over again without drinking”

Alicia Bognanno

Another major milestone explored in ‘Lucky For You’ is Alicia’s journey to sobriety, as explored in passionate opener ‘All I Do’ which sees her roaring “I’ll never get fucked up again.”

“When you stop drinking, as far as realising who your real friends are, everything really comes to the surface. You wonder who you can see sober, or in the afternoon, or not at 1am in the bar. Who remains after the party is done? It can be very isolating. Another big part of it that was stressful for me was driving back past all the places that triggered every memory, all the memories that built up to the moment when I decided this absolutely can’t happen anymore. 

“For me, drinking was so second nature. I’d get back into town after being gone for months and feel totally mentally unstable, and my first comfort move was to go to the bar. It’s a very eye-opening process to learn life over again without drinking. ‘All I do’ is a diary of me navigating life in that way but in the same city and in the same house – sometimes I think it would have been easier if I’d just moved!”

As someone who makes a living through being so creatively honest, it’s important for Alicia to continue to be open in her music, particularly in a society that still tends to romanticise alcohol and substance abuse in music.

“It’s a dangerous thought process to perpetuate in our society that people need that in order to make good art. It all feeds back into mental health: I had a voice in my head that was so paranoid that nothing I made would be good anymore. A lot of what I wrote came from the guilt and shame that I would have from drinking; drinking fed into my depression times a million. I feel like everything I do now with writing is so much better, and the process is so much more enjoyable now that I’m tuned in.”

Each Bully album cycle feels like we find Alicia working through a new stage of metamorphosis in her life. As well as dealing with grief and sobriety, she explains that she has been learning to live with bad ADHD that was untreated for a long time. “I’m still learning about the relationship of that and the emotional regulation of the things I struggled with,” she pauses before adding with a shrug: “I guess I really do lay it all out on the table, but why not!

“I feel really good right now. There are a lot of things I still have to work on and remind myself of – the medication stuff was so trial and error for so long, but I feel like I’m at a good place with all of it.”■

Taken from the June 2023 edition of Upset. Bully’s album ‘Lucky For You’ is out 2nd June.