Bully and Sub*T talk mutual admiration, recording in Nashville and more
Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett of Sub*T sat down with Bully to talk about the collaborative process of their debut EP.September 23, 2021
Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett formed Sub*T while living in their respective states of California and New York. While they plan to one day live closer to one another, they still maintain their coastal residences and wouldn’t think of letting the miles between them change their music-making goals.
The two met online, brought together by a shared passion for music, finding multiple mutual tastes in a variety of alternative genres. Wanting to do more than appreciate the sounds that inspired them and gave their innermost thoughts and emotions a place to land, Alcantara and Bennett decided to create their own music. They both learned to play guitar and began writing songs, working both at a distance and in the same locale when possible.
“iCloud is crazy in terms of being able to record things and piece them together when we’re apart,” Bennett says. “A lot of it was done when we were together, too, but for the most part, we finished our first single completely apart.”
That single, “Boxing Day,” is a triumphant release of a song. The two use their sweet, harmonious vocal blend on top of noisy guitars and a pervasive drumbeat to explore the angsty reflection that comes from just being alive. The spirit of ’90s female-driven rock permeates the song. The vocal dynamics conjure up thoughts of Veruca Salt, Liz Phair and Shirley Manson of Garbage, while the gritty guitar sounds capture the essence of Hole and Bikini Kill. They have no problem drawing you in, keeping you hooked and creating a lasting effect on your brain.
Connecting with Alicia Bognanno is a great fit on so many levels. Not only was the Bully lead interested in their sound that resonated with her from the jump, but she also loved the women-oriented aspect of the project. “It’s so great working on a session with all women,” Bognanno says. “It has been so empowering just having the three of us working together and putting our egos aside.”
Fresh from their Nashville sessions, we got to chat with Bognanno, Alcantara and Bennett about this collaboration, what Sub*T learned from the experience and more.
This is a powerful union—Grace and Jade of Sub*T teaming up with Alicia of Bully to record. Please tell us how this came to be.
GRACE BENNETT: We saw an Instagram story that Alicia posted talking about wanting to mix music and work on projects. At that point, we had demos and songs written, and she was interested. It was like love at first sight.
ALICIA BOGNANNO: It was right up my alley. I was so excited. I had time during COVID, so I tapped back into mixing and producing, and I remembered how much I love doing it.
This is a lot of new activity for Sub*T. Where were things at with the band before this fierce collaboration?
BENNETT: Pretty much nonexistent. When we first started talking to Alicia about producing this EP, we hadn’t even released our first single yet. We only decided to be in a band two years ago, and if things were normal, we probably would have been performing, but we had no opportunity to do that, so we just focused on writing songs.
What did you submit to Alicia that got her attention?
BENNETT: I think it was three finished songs and four half-finished song ideas.
BOGNANNO: Seven songs were enough for me to grasp the idea and like what they were doing. I just tried to gauge how much feedback they wanted and how receptive they were going to be—so many people say that they want feedback, and then you start, and they just don’t. But [Grace and Jade] were so open and willing to accept any ideas. I had some thoughts on structural things for the songs. When we were recording, I had input about tones and pedals, and they took notes and came back with everything they wanted to keep.
You did the recording in Nashville, right?
BOGNANNO: Yes. They came to Nashville. We still had some figuring out to do—like they had brought a drummer down. They were playing with a drum machine before. I was definitely giving some drum direction here and there, but they came down here and booked a practice space and rehearsed everything before they came to my house. They had a good idea of where they were heading.
And the plan now is to release this as an EP?
JADE ALCANTARA: It’s interesting because we started out being like, “We’ll do all of this on our own. We’ll reach out to producers.” We just wanted to self-release everything. Now we see the restraints that might cause in the future. We learned so much in Alicia’s presence, and she has really good ideas about how we can shop the EP around or, if we do want to put it out on our own, what that could mean and what the next step could mean. We’re ready to record an album, as well. That’s the interesting part of getting these songs mixed—figuring out that next step because it could go in so many different directions. We’re pretty much ready for anything.
How about that drummer situation? Are you going to add a permanent person or just have someone come on board for touring and recording?
BENNETT: We struggled for so long, just the two of us being like, “Why does nobody want to be in this band with us?” It was just us [for] two years, basically. People would take interest, and then that would fizzle out pretty fast. That was something that we talked to Alicia a lot about, which is why she’s an inspiration to us—she figures [it] out on her own and is the face of [her] project. She doesn’t really rely on other people to make the music or tell her what to do with her art and her songs.
Over the week that we were with her, we realized we don’t need a drummer to be in the band with us. We can just find a person who’s down to record in a session and then find somebody to tour, and that’s all we’ll ever need because I’ll never let Jade down, and she’ll never let me down. We can always count on each other to be there. So we just need somebody when we need somebody, you know?
BOGNANNO: I was just going to say, they are the band. Working with them, it’s like that too—they don’t need anybody else. I told them that unless they have somebody that thinks they can bring something to the table that you guys can’t, there’s no point in blurring the lines more than they need to be because [you can] see how much they do and see their vision and [see] how capable they are.
Alicia, what was it about Sub*T’s music that made you want to work with them?
BOGNANNO: It’s hard to describe. It was just not pretentious at all. It was unpretentious and pretty raw and great. They have really catchy lead parts, and their vocals together are very special. They are very rare. That’s one thing that drew me in. They are polar opposites, and they can sing together. That’s not something that most bands can do—to have those huge differences vocally and then have them put together.
And that was something that I loved because for me, listening to Kim Gordon or Kim Deal and those nonconventional singers who had so much of their own thing, made it way more special than what you hear on the radio. That was what motivated me to feel like I could play music, so I have such a soft spot for any sort of originality like that. You don’t come across it often, so that’s what drew me in. And of course that it’s pretty ’90s-inspired female rock; it’s just undeniably great. It was right up my alley.
It sounds like mutual respect powered this fusion.
ALCANTARA: The same things she said about us are what draws us to her so much. No one sounds like her—her voice, her style, her edge. She’s someone who stands out from everyone, and that is super compatible with what we wanted to do.