Gully Boys 101 w/ Natalie Klemond (1/10 at Brooklyn Bowl w/ Motion City Soundtrack)

Minneapolis quartet Gully Boys are no strangers to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, having headlined PhilaMOCA in 2021 and opened Johnny Brenda’s for Bad Bad Hats...

Minneapolis quartet Gully Boys are no strangers to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, having headlined PhilaMOCA in 2021 and opened Johnny Brenda’s for Bad Bad Hats in 2022, but this Wednesday, January 10th, the band play their biggest local show yet when they will find themselves supporting Motion City Soundtrack at Brooklyn Bowl for the I Am The Movie 20th Anniversary Tour.  And, frankly, we’re far more excited about Gully Boys…

Gully Boys released their debut LP, Not So Brave, in 2018, and have been releasing EPs and singles ever since, most recently “Optimist,” which dropped last March.  The group are currently working on their sophomore LP, which will apparently be their top priority after returning from the road with Motion City Soundtrack next week.  But bassist Natalie Klemond (she/her) – a middle school friend of Gully Boys co-founders Kathy Callahan (she/her) and Nadirah McGill (they/them), who decided to form the band in 2016, while working at a vintage store —  recently took some time to chat with me from the road, and tell me basically everything you need to know about the band thus far.

Izzy Cihak: You’re just kicking off your dates supporting Motion City Soundtrack on their I Am The Movie 20th Anniversary Tour. What can be expected of your live show when you play Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia?  I know you’re working on an upcoming LP.  Can we expect a preview of that?

Natalie Klemond: We have a pretty quick set for this tour, so we wanted to make sure we play all of our favorites that we know our base at home loves.  However, yes, we do have an upcoming single in the set!  It’s so much fun to start adding our new stuff to the mix.

Izzy: On a related note, how do you feel like the music on the upcoming album compares to Not So Brave and your EPs, in terms of sound, message, and even the writing process?

Natalie: These days we think of Not So Brave almost like a collection of demos.  We needed to put out music and were still figuring out how to be musicians and what kind of music we wanted to write.  Since then, we’ve honed our writing and sound quite a bit.  On our latest releases, beginning with Favorite Son, we have worked closely with our friend and producer Zach Zurn at Carpetbooth Studios.  This collaboration has really helped us wade into pop production, which we’re loving.

Before working with Zach, we brought fully-fleshed-out songs into the studio, and recorded and mastered them as-is.  These days we more often bring bits and pieces of songs into the studio, and play with them together to develop them into something we’re excited about.  We let ourselves go down weird paths with things.  Since we haven’t been playing them for months prior to recording, it’s easier to throw out things that aren’t clicking.

Our lyrics have always been introspective.  As we’ve moved into more of a pop-rock, and heavier sound, the lyrics have leaned a little bolder to match.  There’s more sass, anger, and bluntness.  That’s definitely something that can be expected in our upcoming releases.

Izzy: You’ve played Philly (or Philthy) a few times now, including shows at Johnny Brenda’s (a barroom, or “mini rock n’ roll ballroom”) and PhilaMOCA (a gallery/DIY space), and now you’re playing a LiveNation bowling alley.  Do you have a particular favorite live setting, or one that feels most conducive to your performance style?  Or do you like the variety?

Natalie: There’s pros and cons to different types of stages.  Opening for a bigger band like Motion City, we’re playing to big crowds, and there’s definitely a different energy and power with playing to so many people.  It also typically means we’re going to get better quality sound on stage, which makes us feel more comfortable and assured.  It also means more intricate aspects of our songs — delicate harmonies and production — are going to translate better to the audience.  That being said, DIY spaces are where people really let loose and go nuts — even if they’ve never heard your music before.  Those shows are always the most fun and high energy

Izzy: I’ve heard your sound described as “bubblegrunge,” which I was told by Spotify was my second most listened to genre of 2023 (between indie pop and riot grrrl), so I’m curious if you’ve heard the term before or have any feelings about it and the kinds of things it would seem to want to reference? I think I kind of like it…

Natalie: We’re into “bubblegrunge”!  We’ve been using pop-rock too, which is maybe a little less specific.  One thing we don’t love is being referred to as, is “riot grrrl.”  Maybe we’re just not seeing a very obvious aspect of our music, because we get that a lot, but we often feel like any band that doesn’t have any men in it and features a loud front-person gets thrown into that category.  Our music isn’t particularly political, and is very pop and melody-heavy.

Izzy: This is a big question but, considering that you’ve been doing this for a little more than half a decade now, what have been some of the personal highlights of Gully Boys so far, whether reactions your music’s gotten or experiences it has afforded you (or anything else that has stood out)?

Natalie: So, so many things come to mind with this question.  Musically, we started out not knowing how to play our instruments, or really what we were doing at all.  We got a lot of praise and great feedback in the beginning, and because we were so new and inexperienced, we felt a lot of imposter syndrome.  It feels strange to play gigs with bands full of people who have been playing guitar for their whole life, and then have people react like that.  We felt like we had something special, but I think we rightfully knew we had a lot of work to do if we were serious about being a band. We did the work, we’re still doing the work. We’ve come so far in that time, and feel so much more comfortable and self-assured on stage.

The experiences afforded to us through Gully Boys have also been life changing to say the least.  We are truly best friends, not just a group of people who play together.  We added our guitarist Mariah Mercedes in 2021, which really felt like putting a missing puzzle piece into place.  We are really close.  Traveling on tour has really cemented that bond, too.  Spending weeks straight in a too-small van with a group of people will either bond you, or tear you apart, I think.  We’ve been really lucky, and have yet to get sick of eachother.  The experience of traveling the country with your best friends, playing your music to a new audience each night — we don’t take that for granted.  We know how incredibly lucky we are.

Izzy: I know that the origins of the band actually started at a vintage clothing store, and you all have an amazing sense of fashion.  So, I have to ask, what is it that inspires your fashion, whether it be individual “style icons” or something more general?

Natalie: We all have such different styles!  We’ve been working to coordinate better because of this, honestly.  We’d been told in the past that we looked like, “four roommates going to different events.”  But we’re honing it in now that we’re playing on bigger stages, and our “look” matters more.  The influence comes from all over the place, but I think this is one place where we definitely lean into inspiration from femme bands from the ‘90s and early 2000s.

Izzy: Speaking of clothes, you have a bunch of awesome new merch that you designed (I really love the “Optimist” T-shirt!)  What was the concept or inspiration behind your latest batch of designs?

Natalie: The new merch is inspired by our new sound that we’re leaning into with upcoming releases.  Darker, more grungy, kind of bratty.  Again, we’re trying to be really cohesive with these new releases, and we all have pretty different personal tastes and styles.  This new aesthetic was something that felt true to the music for all of us.

Izzy: On a related note, what kinds of things inspire the visual elements of Gully Boys, in general?  I really like your music videos, especially “See You See” and “Neopet Graveyard,” whose video is just as ‘90s as the song (I mean that in the best way possible.)

Natalie: We’re so lucky to have various, talented friends who we’ve collaborated with to make all of our videos.  We like to give them a lot of creative freedom, so we usually come in with a loose concept and see where they want to take it.  They’ve been pretty spread-out over the course of our career too, so visually there’s a wide range.  I think the place where they meet is that (with the exception of “Neopet Graveyard”) they tend to all have a narrative, and they all highlight our friendship.  That’s not something we necessarily seek out, but it comes through every time.

We feel like we’ve begun to hit our stride sonically, the visual elements have been more of a second thought.  We’ve experimented with lots of visuals over the years, and it feels like we’re just now getting to a place where we’re putting a lot of concerted thought into how we want to present ourselves.  Gritty, maximalist, fun.  We never want to take ourselves too seriously.

Izzy: Not to detract from your own music but, according to your Twitter and Spotify, you’re fans of a lot of our favorite artists, so I’m curious if there are any 2024 releases you’re especially excited about?  We’re really excited for the new ones from The Last Dinner Party, Madi Diaz, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Nadine Shah, Mannequin Pussy, San Cisco, and Chastity Belt.

Natalie: Those are big on our lists too!  Mannequin Pussy is kind of our collective favorite band, so obviously we’re stoked about that.  The Last Dinner Party stands out, too, we’ve been loving everything they’ve put out so far.  Mariah works with our friends and Minneapolis locals Trash Date, who are putting out music this year that we can’t wait for.

Izzy: I’m guessing that you’re going to be mostly focused on your upcoming LP for at least the first part of 2024, but is there anything else that you’re especially excited about, or that fans can potentially look forward to?  I’m guessing/hoping some more music videos and additional tours are in the works…

Natalie: Yes, we are super focused on writing right now and getting new music out into the world.  We’ve got at least one music video in the works and I’m confident there will be more to come.  We’re hopeful that more touring opportunities will come our way as we release music, right now we haven’t got anything on the books, but I know we will be out there playing shows all year no matter what.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.