Playing upbeat but noisy indie rock with pop hooks and more than a slight grunge influence, Bully was founded by vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Alicia Bognanno. The group emerged with a self-titled EP in 2014. Bully made its Sub Pop debut with second full-length Losing in 2017 before moving forward as a solo project.
Originally from Rosemount, Minnesota, Bognanno didn't show a great interest in music when she was young, but in high school she discovered that her school offered elective courses through an alternative education center located at a nearby zoo, and one of the classes was in audio engineering. Bognanno signed on for the classes and discovered she had a knack for working with recording gear. She was soon creating loops and beats for friends who liked hip-hop, and the experience kick-started her desire to write and sing her own songs. While studying recording at Middle Tennessee State University, she began working on her own material, occasionally sitting in with local musicians doing recording projects. After receiving her degree from MTSU, Bognanno landed an internship at Electrical Audio, the Chicago recording complex founded by outspoken recording engineer and musician Steve Albini. While she described the experience as "the most calming, welcoming comfortable environment for me to be in," she was also short on money in an unfamiliar city where she had few friends. The circumstances prompted Bognanno to work on her songwriting, recording rough demos in her apartment in her spare time. When her internship was over, she settled in Nashville, and joined a power pop band called King Arthur while engineering at Battle Tapes Recording and handling live sound at music venue The Stone Fox. When Bognanno met up with drummer Stewart Copeland (not the former Police percussionist), she decided it was time to form a band of her own to make use of her backlog of personal songs. With the addition of guitarist Clayton Parker and bassist Reece Lazarus, she formed Bully.
Bully started playing out in mid-2013, and in April 2014, they released their first single, "Milkman" b/w "Faceblind." By October 2014, the band had signed with Star Time International, an imprint of Columbia, which issued a five-song EP simply titled Bully. After steady touring in the United States and Europe (including festival appearances at Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, and a string of dates opening for Best Coast), Bully's debut album, Feels Like, was released on June 23, 2015. The album was recorded at Electrical Audio, with Bognanno helping engineer the sessions. For their sophomore effort, the group would return to Albini's Chicago studio, and Bognanno engineered the record. Sub Pop released the resulting full-length, Losing, in October 2017.
Soon after, Bognanno was asked to pen a handful of songs for the movie Her Smell, which starred Elisabeth Moss as fictional rocker Becky Something. Following a string of festival appearances, the movie and its accompanying soundtrack EP received a wide release in 2019. Having parted ways with her bandmates, Bognanno then recruited her longtime touring drummer Wesley Mitchell and bassist Zach Dawes (Lana Del Rey, Sharon Van Etten) to record Bully's third album, which saw Bognanno working with an outside producer for the first time. Co-produced and mixed by Bognanno and Grammy winner John Congleton, SUGAREGG arrived on Sub Pop in August of 2020. ~ Mark Deming