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.”