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2021-12-09 @ 9:00 pm
8PM DOORS / 9PM SHOW
STANDING ROOM ONLY
COVID-19 POLICY: The Grey Eagle requires all patrons attending performances to provide proof of vaccination or negative test within 48 hours prior to the event. Currently Buncombe Co. mandates that masks be worn indoors. THIS MEANS YOU NEED TO MASK UP. Patrons will need to provide physical or digital documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test. Professional negative test results must be dated no more than 48 hours prior to the event. At-home testing will not be accepted.
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 — just ask Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. 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.
“There was change that needed to happen and it happened on this record,” she says. “Derailing my ego and insecurities allowed me to give these songs the attention they deserved.”
SUGAREGG roars from the speakers and jumpstarts both heart and mind. Like My BloodyValentine after three double espressos, opener “Add It On” zooms heavenward within seconds, epitomizing 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.
On songs like the strident “Every Tradition” and “Not Ashamed,” Bognanno doesn’t shy away from addressing “how I feel as a human holds up against what society expects or assumes of me as a woman, and what it feels like to naturally challenge those expectations.”
But amongst the more dense topics, there’s also a lightheartedness that was lacking on Bully’s last album, 2017’s Losing . Pointing to “Where to Start,” “You” and “Let You,” Bognanno says “there are more songs about erratic, dysfunctional love in an upbeat way, like, ‘I’m going down and that’s the only way I want to go because the momentary joy is worth it.’”
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. “It got me motivated to play music again after the last album,” she says. “I loved reading the script and trying to think, what music would the character write? People asked if I’d play those songs with Bully but the whole point was for them to not be Bully songs. It was nice to get my head out of my own ass for a second and work on a project for someone else,” she says with a laugh.
A highly accomplished engineer who ran the boards herself on the first two Bully albums, Bognanno was ready to be free “from the weight of feeling like I had to prove to the world I was capable of engineering a record, and wanted to be content knowing for myself what I can do without needing the approval of others to validate that.”
So for SUGAREGG , she yielded recording and mixing responsibilities to outside collaborators for the first time and trekked to the remote Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minn., an unexpected return to her home state. Behind the console was John Congleton, a Grammy-winner who has worked with everyone from St. Vincent and Sleater-Kinney to The War on Drugs and Modest Mouse. “Naturally, I still had reservations, but John was sensitive to where I was coming from,” Bognanno says. “He was very respectful that I’d never worked with a producer before.”
The studio’s rich history (classics such as Nirvana’s In Utero , PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me and Superchunk’s Foolish were recorded there) and woodsy setting quickly put Bognanno’s mind at ease. Being able to bring her dog Mezzi along for the trip didn’t hurt either. “I had never tracked a record in the summer, so waking up and going outside with her before we started each day was a great way to refresh,” she says.
SUGAREGG features additional contributions from longtime touring drummer Wesley Mitchell and bassist Zach Dawes, renowned for his work on recent albums by Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey. Dawes and Bognanno met at Pachyderm to work on parts just two days before tracking, “but it ended up being so much less stressful than I had expected and I loved it,” she says. “Zach wanted to be there to help and make my vision happen.”
With 14 songs on tape, Bognanno and friends left Pachyderm thinking SUGAREGG was done. But once back home in Nashville, she realized there was more to be written, and spent the next five months doing exactly that. Moving to Palace Studios in Toronto with Graham Walsh (Alvvays, METZ, !!!), Bognanno and Mitchell recorded “Where to Start” and “Let You,” which proved to be two of the new album’s key tracks.
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.”
For years, Graham Hunt’s been turning heads with impressive runs at several different flavors of punk. Whether that be through the undeniably catchy, grit-bitten power-pop of Midnight Reruns, the swoon-worthy dream punk of Sundial Mottos, or Midwives’ blistering hardcore, it’s clear that Hunt’s made an impression over the last decade, spending years as an active member in Milwaukee’s music scene and moving to Chicago for a year before relocating to Madison in 2018. Hunt’s solo work continues to be an oddball amalgam of the best traits of his other projects: Midwives’ exacting focus, Reruns’ strong songwriting structures, and Sundial Mottos’ winsome, relaxed aesthetic all are apparent throughout the excellent new solo album Painting Over Mold. Even the distinct imprints of Dusk and Mike Krol, both acts Hunt has appeared with as a touring member, find cohesion across the record.
Despite slowing many other musicians and artists down, the COVID pandemic seems to have ultimately accelerated Hunt’s output. Painting Over Mold arrives hot on the heels of former Hussy drummer Heather Sawyer’s galvanizing debut album as Heather The Jerk, Cable Access TV, which Hunt recorded and produced. Hunt also has a few other projects in the works that he’s not quite ready to discuss in detail. He’s also a visual artist and has been posting new paintings lately on his Instagram.
A strong group of collaborators from across different corners of Wisconsin music contributed to Painting Over Mold, including Amos Pitsch, Disq’s Shannon Connor and Isaac de Broux-Slone, Tollboth’s Sheridan Connor, Daydream Retrievers’ Ian Olvera, Sahan Jayasuriya (aka Cold Lunch), and Proud Parents’ Claire Nelson-Lifson.
“Scraping The Road” gave listeners a promising first look at Painting Over Mold, which stands tall as one of the most memorable entries in Hunt’s superlative discography. While Hunt’s lyrics have impressed in the past, they hit a new high watermark with Painting Over Mold. Throughout the record—Hunt wouldn’t commit to characterizing it as an EP or full-length—there’s an incredible amount of conviction, even as the various protagonists in Painting Over Mold’s narratives waver in confidence.
On “Change Their Mind,” which first appeared as a single in 2019 (and has a music video premiering below), Hunt uses first-person to assuage doubts about the shifting nature of personality, hammering home an incredibly effective chorus of “Anyone can change their mind at any time for any reason.” “Paul The Cat,” a song inspired by a cat who used to live across from Mickey’s Tavern, finds Hunt extending a watchful eye outward, noting the cat’s hesitant movements and overall comfort. “Dinerland” opens with the words “Now what instinct do I trust?” and later follows up with “Homesick for another world / When you’re not sure you’re a girl / How can you visit if you’ve never been there?”—contrasting the complex realities of gender identity exploration with the escapist impulses that have been heightened by quarantine, providing both angles with empathy and understanding.
On the breathtaking “Lighter Touch,” which includes the line that gives Painting Over Mold its title, Hunt positions himself as the narrator again, returning to the body dysmorphia that populated Midnight Reruns’ Force Of Nurture: “I can feel my teeth are clenching and my neck is stiff / When I’m watering all the plants, I forget that I need air, and then I catch my breath / When I start to brush my teeth, there’s a motor in my arm that’s going way too fast / Then I’ll spit and then I bleed and I wonder why I know I’m doing it / I can not stop, waiting for the shoe to drop / You’re always saying ‘Can you not?’ and you’re telling me that I need a lighter touch.”
Hunt finds grace in the margins on Painting Over Mold, celebrating the minuscule and the mundane, knowing that life’s more fulfilling to navigate if the journey’s treated with the same respect as the destination. He spoke with Tone Madison ahead of the album’s February 26 release.
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