Gully Boys: Gritty, Fresh, and Not so Phony

Gully Boys are brave and not so phony, contrary to the titles of their full-length 2018 debut and their recent EP (Not so Brave and Phony, respectively).

I first started listening to Gully Boys after they played a gig in my hometown. I couldn’t go, unfortunately, but I was curious. Then, after just one listen of Not so Brave, I was hooked. Gully Boys' sound is big and nostalgic, yet fresh. It’s punk with catchy hooks, but just grungy enough that they don’t fit what most would define as pop-punk.

And, I love the music as much as I love their story. Based in Minneapolis, members Kathy Callahan, Natalie Klemond, and Nadirah McGill realized after talking to each other about wanting to be musicians, that they should just do it, despite only being able to “half-ass” play their instruments at the time. When I listen to them, I think about their origins, and wonder if I should finally buy that baby-blue electric Fender I’ve been eyeing.

In Phony, their 5-song EP released this past December, there’s growth from the (already amazing) Not so Brave. Everything is tighter, from drums to guitar licks, there’s more dynamic vocals (moving between the sweet and the gritty), and there’s a bounty of layered harmonies. Phony is also a collection filled by conflict, which is apt, because growth comes out of conflict.

It kicks off with “New Song No. 2,” where there’s a relationship that’s “splintered and crumbled.” It’s a charged song, steadily building until Callahan finally howls out, “Don’t you go and hide your eyes.” Then, there’s what reads as an argument in the next track, “You Should Sleep Alone,” as well as a realization that what’s been given has not been appreciated.

Credit: Juliet Farmer

Love songs can have conflict, too, which “Fight Song” proves. Because, like the title suggests, the love is a fight. “I’ll steal you away with my thieving devotion” sings Callahan on the hook and describes a tense push and pull with lines like “Trust me today and control me tomorrow” and “Fight me with patience/ When I’m sure I’m right.”

What I like most about Gully Boys’ songwriting is their ability to communicate basic and universal desires (for example: wanting to be liked in “Like Me Now”) while also shifting to abstract and poetic details that are open to interpretation. This writing style is consistent, too, which I appreciate. On Phony, “Hear You Calling” is perhaps the most abstract, with the image of floating in an “ivory pool,” sung with softness. But the story is relatable: it’s about losing feelings and moving on (“I hear you callin’/ Begging for things I don’t feel and someone I don’t know”).

If there's a takeaway to be taken, it might be this: You can't grow if you don't try. With change, comes growth.

So, I don’t know, maybe I will buy that Fender.