Photo By Andrea Behrends
Minnesota-born Alicia Bognanno hides behind her frenetic hair as her Bully bandmates hide behind her
When we recently called the 25-year-old front woman of what just might be rock’s next big band at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, we dialed 651 first. It seems that you can take the girl out of Rosemount (by sending her to college in Tennessee), but you can’t take Rosemount out of the girl. Yep, Alicia Bognanno—whose big, Kim Deal–esque vocal style and apropos pile of bleached hair belie the more modest person she is off-stage—and her band Bully might be in the early moments of the vortex brought on by the June release of its critically acclaimed first album, Feels Like. However, they’re still pretty much the same people they were before rock stardom—high school cell phone numbers and all.
Speaking of, when Alicia Bognanno was as junior at Rosemount High School, she discovered audio engineering while taking extension classes at what she called “Zoo School” because it was held at the Minnesota Zoo. Turns out she had a knack for it, and from there it was off to the sound recording program at Middle Tennessee State University. She parlayed school into an internship at Chicago’s Electrical Audio where she learned the ins and outs of making actual albums from legendary sound engineer Steve Albini. Her next stop was Nashville for a couple of sound gigs before she moved to the other side of the studio glass and formed Bully. Although Nashville is the band’s homebase, Bognanno claims no “real emotional connection” to the Music City and still has a serious reverence for her homeland: “When I got older and would go back [home] it was like, ‘Minneapolis is so awesome.’ Everyone that we’re friends with who has lived there is like, ‘It’s the best place ever.’ It’s really cool, I guess, to be a grownup in Minneapolis.”
We asked Bognanno about her favorite . . .
. . . ride at Valleyfair? I’ll just say Wild Thing, though I’m kinda terrified of it because one time it went up and it stopped at the top for like five minutes because there was a technical difficulty, but then they just kept going. So we did the whole ride like: Is this thing broken? What the hell?
. . . city: Minneapolis or St. Paul? Minneapolis.
. . . on-a-stick food from the State Fair? On a stick? [It doesn’t have to be on a stick.] OK, fried cheese curds. OH WAIT! NO! NO! Oh, what about the cookies? Sweet Martha’s Cookies? I’m gonna say those.
. . . thing about a snowstorm? Snow days.
. . . thing about the Mall of America? Oooooh. People watching?! Or, like, we used to be there so long that we’d go to all the Starbucks [locations].
. . . historic Minnesota-born musician? Oh, wait, can I change my MOA answer to Camp Snoopy? [OK, but it’s not called Camp Snoopy anymore.] I know, but it was. [Back to the question.] Paul Westerberg.
. . . up-and-coming Minnesota-born musician? Oh. I don’t know. Who is up and coming from Minnesota right now? [Anybody from Doomtree to Hippo Campus?] Hippo Campus is from Minnesota? Wow. I didn’t know that. That’s really cool. I don’t know. [You can name yourself.] I’m not going to name myself. That’s so pretentious. I’ll say Hippo Campus. No, I’m not going to say that because I feel like a fake. [No answer.] OK, no answer.
. . . Twin Cities landmark? If I think of the place I love, it’s Lake Nokomis because that’s where my dad lives. I just love walking around that lake.
Hear Bully’s first single “Milkman” at its first Twin Cities headlining gig on October 12 at the 7th Street Entry.