Bugsy finds self-acceptance in new single “talk to you:” A conversation with Emily Schoonover

bugsy shot by Téa McLawhorn

The first time I saw bugsy play live, at Minneapolis’ Seward Cafe, I don’t think I stopped smiling for their entire set. The quartet play like they’ve been friends their whole lives — guitarist and vocalist Emily Schoonover (she/they) led the band through song after song, as her bandmates chimed in with ripping guitar riffs, vocal harmonies, and high-energy drum fills. But Emily, bassist and vocalist Shannon Maroney, guitarist Griffin Desai and drummer Alex Norman have only been making music together since late 2019, and their first EP Teratoma was released within just months of them all meeting.

Now, bugsy is back with a new single, “talk to you,” their first release since Teratoma came out in February. “Talk to you” shows off the band’s signature high-energy indie rock, but with a softer message. I called up Emily to learn more about what bugsy has been up to lately, how “talk to you” was recorded, and how the song embraces self-acceptance. 

When was “talk to you” written and recorded? Did you plan to release it as a single, or did that happen because of quarantine?

We recorded two singles a little bit before we went on our little tour with Marmalade in March, right before lockdown started [due to] Covid. Initially we were going to record a full-length album. It was this single, and then there’s one more, which is going to come out at a later date. We recorded those two, and then because so much time had elapsed, we decided it was better to release those two songs as they were and go in a different direction with the album. 

We had written so many more songs and things were shaping up in a different way than the original vision I had for the album. Some of the songs we originally were going to record we decided not to. We figured it was better to finish these two songs and do them as well as we could and then do stuff for an album separately. Because I feel like music is better if recording is consolidated — anything you record is a piece in time; it’s how you feel, where you are in the exact moment it’s recorded. And just because so much time had elapsed, I felt like it was more appropriate to give those songs their own space.

When did you write the song, and what was going on when “talk to you” was being created?

“Talk to you” was written about a year and a half ago. It feels like your basic breakup song. Most of my songs are very sad and, “You did this, I’m so sad, I feel terrible.” But “talk to you” is more of an accepting, “Nope, I just don’t want to talk to you. I just want to keep living my life and move on, but I don’t want to associate with you.” It’s more accepting than some of my other songs and more upbeat. 

That song specifically was one of the first seven songs we wrote. But we obviously only recorded five for our first EP [Teratoma] and we were like, “What if we actually recorded this one?” But it was actually an older song.

That’s cool. I don’t think I would have guessed that it was an older song. Teratoma, your first EP with bugsy came out in February — do you feel like that process changed the way that bugsy approaches creating new music?

Almost all the songs that are on Teratoma, maybe with one or two exceptions, initially started off as, I write the songs and then I bring them in and we go from there. And I think since the EP, we have gotten to know each other better. I don’t know how to explain this, but the way that we write our parts together feels more organic as opposed to, “Here are these six new songs all at once, nice to meet you guys.” Because when my band first started playing we all didn’t know each other super well. I knew these three people from separate parts of my life — Shannon through school and a Facebook post, and Griffin was in my science class, and Alex I was in a different band with him — but none of them really knew each other. 

So I think since the EP, we’ve just been able to be more cohesive in our parts. And I think to an extent too, “talk to you,” we reworked quite a bit, I changed some of the lyrics. We reworked it a bit before we went in to record that song. I feel like we all felt more separate in Teratoma than we have since them. Because we recorded [Teratoma] within three or four months of us all meeting each other. 

I feel like I can hear some of that in this song, and in bugsy in general. There are a lot of moving parts in the music, there are a lot of dynamics in terms of instrumentals, and sections that have more catchy riffs and vocal harmonies. Could you talk a little bit more about the process of how “talk to you” came together? Did you come in with an outline of the song and then everyone added their own part onto that?

Yeah. That was pretty much the dealio. There are certain days where me, Griffin, and Shannon — because guitar, bass, and other guitar and vocals — we all kind of have our own separate practices. And then a lot of times we’ll have Alex join later or do drum stuff separately and then the four of us will come together.

When we were getting ready to record “talk to you” we tried a bunch of different tempos. We played a lot with the beginning — how does it start, who starts? We just tried a bunch of different combinations — do we start with drums, do we start with bass, do we start with guitar? And it was not until we were recording it that we figured out the right order. Every time we played it live we were like, “Let’s play it this way this time.” 

I’m sure things are a little bit different as you’re continuing to play with bugsy. Now obviously live shows aren’t happening. What has playing with bugsy, or the band been like in the past couple months?

For a long time when quarantine was going down, we were just not playing at all. We were all just at home. But Alex, the drummer, and I are actually going to be living together within the next week. A couple months ago, I’d say in July, we started practicing again but obviously we don’t all live together, so we’ve been practicing with masks on.

Playing music is super important to all of us, but we also take social distancing and our safety and health seriously too. Because we love to rock, but we also would prefer not to get sick or get anyone else sick. We try to practice twice a week — without shows, but still trying to work toward something, have a goal and hang out. Because at the end of the day we’re also all super good friends. We do a lot of picnics before band practice. 

I bet it’s really important still, even if it’s just a picnic or hanging out, to have those interactions. I know for me, meeting up with friends outside and doing little things like that has been super important in keeping me going.

I think for me too, music is — it’s what I’m the most passionate about. I care very deeply about my music. It’s very much a priority for me to make that a priority in my life, regardless of what’s going on. I’m a musician and a barista. You know what I mean? I know all of us, globally, and us as individuals in the band, we’ve all had very transformative summers and springs, and we probably will have that as our fall too. So it’s very important for me to be able to get that out in a creative context. 

I know another thing that has been impactful for you recently is sadly losing your rabbit, Benjamin.

Yeah. Poor Benji. That was actually funny, because exactly two weeks later on the dot, one of my friends texted me and was like, “I found a rabbit and I don’t think it’s a wild rabbit.” And I rushed over, it was probably 11pm, and I actually found this bunny who was a domesticated rabbit that someone let loose as a stray. So now I have a bunny again. His name is Fudge. 

But Benjamin is very, very missed. He was featured in the “talk to you” music video. I knew I wanted to do a music video for “talk to you” and I was like, “Well, I can do it myself.” So I just brought a green screen to band practice and we were all outside and I made everyone lip sync to the song once in front of the green screen. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, and neither did my bandmates. None of my bandmates knew we were doing a music video so they were all like, “Dude, I’m not wearing the right outfit for it.” And I was like, “We can do it another day” and they were all like, “Nah, it’s fine.” And then I just used a bunch of random clips of us hanging out and random other stuff in the background, in kind of a wholesome music video. I shot it on my iPhone 6, so it’s real DIY. It has a lot of animals in it, Benjamin is featured in it.

That’s almost maybe even better that your bandmates were caught off guard — it’s like a very candid vision of a bugsy rehearsal or hangout.

It was very funny too because I didn’t really know exactly what our plan was, and then at the end when I was editing it, I realized that not all the clips I wanted were in it and the ratio of band members was off. I wanted to put a clip of me and Shannon, one clip of just me, one clip with just Shannon, one clip with just Alex, one clip with just Griffin. But then I realized that I had too many of me and Shannon and not enough of the other band members. Griffin was the least expectant of a music video, and in all the clips of him he looks so startled and caught off guard. So I had to edit the same four clips of Griffin like six different times. I was like, “Griffin, I should have filmed more of you but it’s too late now.”

I also saw that Bruise Violet posted on social media recently that y’all were rehearsing again.

Yeah. We are rehearsing again. I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to do, but we are rehearsing again. All of us are in other bands, and Bella is in school full-time and does a lot of study abroad stuff. So I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to do, but we did get together and hang out and play some songs, which was very sweet.

That’s awesome. Because it had been a while since y’all had been playing together, right?

Yeah. We hadn’t played together in probably two years or a year, something like that.

Since I know that people aren’t really playing live shows right now, if you had the chance to put together a dream lineup with any other bands that bugsy could perform with, who would you want to play a show with most right now?

I would definitely want Marmalade on the bill, because they’re our local faves. They’re the sweetest band ever, I love them with my heart and soul. I don’t know, I love a ton of bands. I’m sure all of my bandmates would answer super different things. 

Do all of you have pretty different tastes in music in bugsy, or are there things that you land on in common?

We definitely have common things, but we all also listen to super different things. Everyone has things with each other that we overlap with. There are quite a few local bands that all of us come together for, like Keep for Cheap and Marmalade. 

Is there anything else that you want to mention about “talk to you” or what bugsy is up to in general?

We’re just working, we’re trying to do the best that we can. We’re very excited to release this song. While this one is one of the older songs — it’s just interesting because things kind of come full circle. When I wrote “talk to you” it was about one situation and one person. And then a year goes by and by the time the song is finished I’m in a very similar situation. So when we recorded it, even though the song was originally about a different situation, it’s just interesting how that stuff will come full circle. 

We unintentionally promoted the song a lot by posting pictures of our feet on Twitter. We were just hanging out and took pictures of our feet. Also, on the album art, if you look very closely you see all of bugsy in the corner. And then other than that, it’s just a little collage.

I’m very excited. I’m nervous. It’s a weird time to release stuff. Of the two songs that we recorded, “talk to you” is the accepting one. And [the other one] is like the bummer. But I guess that’s a conversation for another time.

“Talk to You” is out today, September 19. Keep up with bugsy on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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