Bully - SUGAREGG [Limited Edition Loser Blue Color Vinyl Record]
SUGAREGG roars from the speakers and jumpstarts both heart and mind. Like My Bloody Valentine after three double espressos, opener “Add It On” zooms heavenward within seconds, epitomizing band leader Alicia Bognanno’s newfound clarity of purpose, while the bass-driven melodies and propulsive beats of “Where to Start” and “Let You” are the musical equivalents of the sun piercing through a perpetually cloudy sky.
A very old saying goes that no one saves us but ourselves. Recognizing and breaking free from the patterns impeding our forward progress can be transformative. Indeed, the third Bully album, SUGAREGG, may not ever have come to fruition had Bognanno not navigated every kind of upheaval imaginable and completely overhauled her working process along the way.
The artist admits that finding the proper treatment for bipolar 2 disorder radically altered her mindset, freeing her from a cycle of paranoia and insecurity about her work. “Being able to finally navigate that opened the door for me to write about it,” she says, pointing to the sweet, swirly “Like Fire” and slower, more contemplative songs such as “Prism” and “Come Down” as having been born of this new headspace. Even small changes like listening to music instead of the news first thing in the morning “made me want to write and bring that pleasure to other people.”
An unexpected foray into the film world also helped set the table for SUGAREGG when Bognanno was asked to write songs for the 2019 movie Her Smell, starring Elisabeth Moss as the frontwoman of the fictional rock band Something She. The experience was cathartic, infusing Bognanno with new energy for songwriting, and she dove into making the new album. Having engineered both previous Bully albums herself, Bognanno freed herself to focus on the songs by handing production and engineering duties to Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Sleater-Kinney, The War on Drugs, Modest Mouse), and who worked with her on SUGAREGG at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls in Bognanno’s home state of Minnesota. (Nirvana’s In Utero, PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me and Superchunk’s Foolish were recorded at Pachyderm.) With contributions from longtime touring drummer Wesley Mitchell and bassist Zach Dawes (Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey), and two additional songs recorded at Palace Studios in Toronto with Graham Walsh (Alvvays, METZ, !!!), SUGAREGG was finally complete.
Ultimately, SUGAREGG is a testament that profound change can yield profound results — in this case, the most expressive and powerful music of Bognanno’s career. “This is me longing to see the bigger picture, motivated and eager for contentment in the best way,” she says. “I hope the happy go lucky/fuck-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs because I really did feel like I was reentering a place I hadn’t been to in a while and was excited to be back there.”