This ain’t Emily Schoonover’s first Picked to Click rodeo.
Back in 2015, when Schoonover was just 16, her grunge-punk band Bruise Violet finished No. 2 in our poll, just behind Bad Bad Hats. They’d go on to play Rock the Garden, open for Babes in Toyland at First Avenue, and score CP’s coveted Best Rock Band honorific.
In early 2019, guitarist/vocalist Schoonover assembled a “Frankenstein’s band” of loose-knit collaborators—Shannon Maroney, Alex Norman, Griffen Desai—who would become bugsy. Their mission statement was pure.
“We wanted to rock,” Norman says.
And rock they did, blasting Schoonover’s raw, emotional songs with timelessly crunching buzzsaw guitars. The vocals range from operatic quivers to well-practiced roars, depending on the subject matter.
“Some of the first songs I wrote were about animals, and that’s still true today, and people that bullied me—and the songs I write now are also about people that hurt my feelings!” Schoonover says. One song is a tribute to her late bunny, Benjamin. “I feel like the songs I’m writing now are the best songs I’ve written; it’d be kind of a shame if I didn’t feel that way... that’d mean I got worse.”
As bugsy gigged through that first year, bigger and better shows started lining up and touring intensified. The band was en route to Chicago when the realities of COVID-19 hit.
“It was literally the most momentum we could possibly have,” Desai says. “And it came to a screeching halt.”
Unable to perform live, bugsy has spent the year of quarantine writing, recording, and rocking the occasional in-studio radio invite. Schoonover, Maroney, and Norman are all Zoom-learning juniors at the University of Minnesota, and all the members work part-time jobs. The chronically upbeat buds aren’t succumbing to doomscroll drudgery of 2020. “It’s very easy to fall into this trap of everything is bad and the world is falling apart, but music brings us joy,” Maroney says.
Schoonover, whose lifelong goal of making music for a living remains steadfast, agrees.
“Bugsy is my best friends, my family,” she says. “If something major happens in my life, I text them before I text anyone else.”
Even as everything is upended, bugsy’s North Star shines as bright as ever.
“We do like to rock,” Schoonover says with a laugh. “You can quote us on that.”