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Interview: Gully Boys on friendship, memories, and new music to come

Gully Boys
Gully BoysBump Opera for MPR
  Play Now [28:45]

by Diane

May 08, 2024

It’s not often a group of young musicians find success in their first go around, but drummer Nadi McGill, singer/guitarist Kathy Callahan, and bassist Natalie Klemond all got their start in music as Gully Boys. Eight years later, the infectiously spirited, hard rockin’ band are currently in the midst of recording new music, and prepping for shows like Indeed’s Whirligig on May 17, Minnesota Yacht Club Festival on July 19, and a tour with local vets Motion City Soundtrack throughout June — all of which makes Gully Boys a perfect group to highlight as our local Artists of the Month for May.

A combination of factors helped Gully Boys to become one of Minneapolis’ most recognizable names in pop/rock music and a very familiar name to The Current’s airwaves. One essential aspect is the addition of the experienced, higher-educated guitarist Mariah Mercedes. Another is their unmistaken congeniality – not only with each other, but also with the local community. It was an entertaining delight learn more and go down memory lane with Gully Boys as we talked music, friendship, hardships, courage and more. Also, be on the lookout for new singles to come from them this year as the band’s first full-length record is expected to release late this year or early 2025.

Interview Transcript

Transcript edited for clarity and length.

Diane: I gotta say that this has been a long time coming for me. I started working for The Current. I've had you on my radar for a long time. And I've always wanted to interview you. Because I'm a fan, for one. But I feel like it was a great time to interview you because you are doing the Yacht Club Festival, which is so exciting.

Nadi McGill: Riding the yachts. 

Mariah Mercedes: Will there be a yacht?

Nadi: There's a boat option, so you can buy a ticket to watch the show on a boat. 

Kathy Callahan: Wait, can we do that? 

Natalie Klemond: But we're playing the show.

Nadi: If we play on a boat flying by, that'd be exciting.

It's exciting that you are on it. There's a handful of Minnesota artists; and you just released a great single. And you're one of the headliners for Indeed's Whirligig. You're on tour with Motion City Soundtrack. Whoa, you all have a lot going on, so I'm excited to be talking to you right now; and having Gully Boys as our Artist of the Month. So, welcome!

Everyone: Thank you!

Yeah, I get the sense that all of you are friends.

Everyone: Yeah, yeah.

And I think that's one reason why I think you make a great band is there's a chemistry. You can tell that there's this friendship. Talk to me a little bit about this bond that you all have as friends. 

Natalie: I don't know how people would do it without being friends.  

Nadi: We were shocked to find out some people are not friends in bands. 

Kathy: Yeah. How does that work? Yeah, on tour we have our own language. By the end, we share a brain cell. We come home and we have all these like personal memes that we can't share with our friends and family. And I'm like, I miss you guys.

Nadi: It's very strange coming back to reality after tour and being like, "Oh, I relate to no one but my bandmates."


It is wild. I feel like sometimes, you know, you have those friends where you spend, like, maybe a couple of days together and you're like, "OK, that was fun. And now I need to go and be by myself for another 48 hours." 

Kathy: Go home. 

Mariah: But with the boys, it's like, I don't know if it's because we don't have a choice. 


Nadi: I think we're also good at boundaries. Like, we don't talk the whole time we're in the van. So like we know when to just be quiet. It's so important because like I've been around yappers, and um, that would be so hard to be yapping all the time ...  But there are days where we just don't shut up. 

Natalie: But it generally all kind of happens at the same time. We feed into each other's energy. 

Mariah: We ride the waves. 

Well, it comes out as a great band. And the music – I'm loving the new single. It sounds so good. It's so hard hitting.

[Clip of “Bad Day” plays]

Bring me back to Ragstock.

Nadi: No! Please no! 


Kathy: Here we go! 

Kathy and Nadi, bring me back to Ragstock and you were listening to Panic! At The Disco; and you were like, "Hey, it's been my dream to start a band or be a singer.”

Nadi: I remember it so well, actually. Because I remember you were on the floor, sorting the clothes and we were closing together, and I was at the register and I was picking the music, and I looked at Kathy and I said, "Can I be embarrassing and play Panic! At The Disco right now?" And you whipped your neck around and you were like, "I love Panic! At The Disco". And I was like, "Oh my gosh, I like literally – I was obsessed. I went to this VIP meet and greet." And you were like, "I was at that meet and greet." And we were like, "There was only 12 people there. What do you mean?" And then I found out that I followed an amazing popular. Like ...

Kathy: Ahem …


Kathy: It was so embarrassing that I did that. I tried to scrub it off the internet. 

Wait, time out. You had a popular Tumblr blog?

Nadi: Kathy was a Tumblr-er. 

Kathy: Yeah, and it was all about Panic! At the Disco for a good two, three years. 

Nadi: Good lore. 

Kathy: It was a whole lot. Yeah, but yeah, but being at the same meet-and-greet is crazy because neither of us bought tickets. I won tickets and then Nadi – 

Nadi: I got tickets because I slept outside of First Avenue, which is crazy because now I know them. And Damon came outside and was like, "If you're still here when I clock back in to work, I will give you meet-and-greets.” And I was like, "I don't plan on leaving! The whole point is I'm gonna be here."

Kathy: Yeah, one more crazy thing, we look back at the pictures ... we're wearing the same exact purple color.

Nadi: We were like, in the vibe. 

You were all meant to be in a band together ...

Nadi: So from there, we talked about dreams of like, "Oh, I've always wanted to be in a band. I love boy bands." And my ex at the time – my boyfriend at the time, my ex at the now [Laughs]. He is a drummer, and so he had drum kits. And I was like, "Oh, I've always wanted to learn how to drum." Kathy was like, "I always wanted to sing."  And so we jammed. Two songs.

Kathy: Over and over and over.  

And that's what it takes! Repetition. 

Nadi: Well, then Kathy was like, "Oh, my middle school best friend just got a bass for Christmas ... she should come play these two songs with us."

Kathy: It was Best Coast and –

Nadi: It was "Boyfriend" and your original. 

Kathy: Oh, yeah. Oh, crap. 


Ooh! An original!

Nadi: An original that we cannot say on air.

Kathy: Very inappropriate.


Well, it leaves something up to the imagination. And so enter Natalie. You're like, "Oh, I know who would fit in with us, Natalie." Tell me about getting to Natalie in the band.

Nadi: The first time that I met Natalie, she was dressed up as Lava Girl. 

Natalie: And you were just it was Ursula. 

Nadi: It was awesome. Kathy was Mother Nature.

Natalie: Naturally.

Kathy: I came late to the party. Everybody was trashed, because I was working at Ragstock.

Nadi: Yeah, you were at work! 


Nadi: I mean, Natalie walked by me in the basement and you had like pink hair and a pink suit on. You looked so cool. And I was scared of you at first. Because I was like, “Whoa, she's serious.”

Natalie: Meanwhile, Kathy's the most unserious person I know.

Nadi: Yeah, then Nat joined and we jammed one time and we were like – 

Kathy: “Well, this is happening.”

Natalie: “We're Gully Boys now.”

Nadi: And it was crazy because we were like, What's our band name? We were like, Mediocre Boys? Because we weren't that good. Or like the Birthday Boys.

Natalie: We had so many stupid names.

Nadi: Kathy was like, “Let's just name our band Fern Gully.” We were like, “That's literally already something. We cannot do that.”


Wouldn't make you very Google searchable.

Natalie: OK, but then we call ourselves Gully Boys. And then two years later, the biggest Bollywood movie of the year was Gully Boy

[Clip of “ Dizzy Romantics” plays]

I've seen you in your earliest stages ... I caught Gully Boys the first day I moved to Minneapolis. 

Nadi: What?

Kathy: That's so special! 

So that's another reason why I've always kind of like – it's been fun to watch you grow and grow and grow. 

Natalie: What year was it? 

2018. September. You played Porch Fest in South Minneapolis. I have a picture of it – just playing on the side of the road. No stage.

Nadi: Which is crazy, because that's where I lived. I was on that street…

So it just felt so Minneapolis to me to be there. And all these people on bikes, and just all these very hip-looking people. And you all sounded cool. And I was like, this is fun. So I took a picture and I said, "Minneapolis, I'm in the nutshell." That was my caption.

Kathy: Wait. I love that. I really do need to see this.

Nadi: I mean, yeah, we had been getting it for like, two years at that point.

Kathy: So maybe we didn't suck.

Mariah: You didn't suck. OK, I similarly was a fan of Gully Boys before I joined the band, which is always fun. But yeah, I think that's about the time – I think the first show that I went to was 2017, 2018. 

Kathy: Wow

Nadi: Brutal. 


Kathy: Well you liked us enough to wanna –

Nadi: I remember I logged onto Instagram and I saw a cute little picture of you wearing a Gully Boys t-shirt. I was like, "Oh my god!" And I was like, "Wow, this person went to McNally and Berklee and still likes Gully Boys.”

Kathy: Mariah was one of the first people to like, post an Instagram picture – 

Nadi: In our merch.

Nice! Showing up hard! Yeah, I want to get to that. You started as this more rudimentary grunge band. And everyone has to start somewhere. But one thing I did notice about you – because there are a lot of rock and roll bands in Minneapolis. There are so many. But I think one thing I noticed about Gully Boys is you had style and you had, umm…

Nadi: Swagger. 


Swagger. But I think you, Kathy, I mean, whoever writes the songs, you know how to write a song – something that you want to sing along to. And so that's one thing I think I noticed about Gully Boys. And maybe that kept you all going. Were there moments in your earlier days where you're like, "Oh, this could really be something?" 

Nadi: Yeah. I think we didn't really believe it all the way. People were telling us that and they were like –

Kathy: We thought everybody was just being nice, because like, "Oh, look at the little girlies! They have a band too!"

Natalie: Because we went about it in a very unconventional way. We hadn't played instruments before. We hadn't been in bands before. Apart from Mariah, none of us have had other projects. I mean, you have at this point. But it's kind of been like, this has been the main thing since then. Like, this has been the friend group. This has been the band. It's kind of just been, we're just going to keep going. And we just kept continuing to decide to keep going. And here we are, like, eight years later, or however long it's been.

Nadi: I think when we wrote "Neopet Graveyard", we accidentally wrote a good song. And we were like, “Huh! That's kind of fun."

Kathy: And that's when we first learned how to be collaborative, because I came with something like super bare bones. We were like, "What can we do with this? How can we make it better?" And we practiced our little butts off. And it became the "Neopet Graveyard," and now it's the bane of my existence.

[Clip of "Neopet Graveyard" plays]

Well, yeah, and I've seen you because I've been a fan of Gully Boys. And as someone who's a musichead – and I went to 7th Street Entry for one of your residency nights. And then when Mariah joined, I took notice. And I was like, oh my gosh – it just seemed like when, Mariah, you joined, it just became so fully formed. And now the sound you have is incredible. 

Nadi: Our missing brother.

Yeah! Tell me about, missing brother ...

Kathy: The day Mariah was born. 

Tell us about the day you were born.

Mariah: The Universe said there needs a baby brother Gully Boy. 

Nadi: We needed to balance out all the older sisters' energy out with a baby brother.

Mariah: Which is true. They're all the oldest siblings, and I am the baby of, like, my quote-unquote real family.


Nadi: What are you saying? Are we not your real family?

Mariah: No, I mean like, my actual family.

Nadi: Biological family.

Mariah: Yeah that's the word. I had known Nadi through a mutual friend. I've been a fan of Gully Boys. I have seen them before. And then you guys just reached out and we're like, "We're looking for another guitar player."

Nadi: That was in 2020. Bad timing

Oh my gosh, it was the worst.

Mariah: I remember you sent me one of your songs – "Favorite Son." And it was like, halfway done. And then I was like, "Oh!" Because that's kind of the first time that I heard that bigger sound come out of them. And I was like, "Whoa! Hang on!" And I was like, "I want to be a part of this." I've been in bands and stuff my whole life ... I was hesitant at first because it was like, I know how big of a commitment this is. And if I'm going to do it, I want to go in and do it. Yep. So I kind of had to, like, court them.

Natalie: You sent us a video soloing on "Favorite Son," and we were all [gushes].

So great. Oh, man, the chemistry is real. And I'm so excited that you're a part of the band.

Kathy: We need them! We need them!

Mariah: So now we're married. 



Kathy: Another crazy little fact is that Mariah met their partner at one of our shows.

Mariah: Yeah, that's the best story ever. Because people are like – we're very cute. And people will be like, "Oh my gosh! How did you meet?" 

Oh I've seen pictures. I know you all are cute. 

Mariah: But yeah, and it's fun because it'll also probably be like at a Gully Boys show and it'd be like, "Get this. We met at a Gully Boys show before I was in the band." And then I joined the band later. Yeah, so it was like a whole, full circle. 

Nadi: I was like, my hot friend Sarah, you should meet my hot friend Mariah. This could be good.


[Clip of "See You See" plays]

You mentioned, "Oh, that was a tough year." Oh my gosh, you have, as a band, been through a lot. Through the stolen van, and then like, when the pandemic happened, there was this real big upward trajectory from the band. And then you had to cancel residencies, and the turmoil, of course, of the city during George Floyd's murder. And you all really took an initiative to stand up for the community in a lot of ways through activism work and raising funds. Tell me about that time and how that maybe played a role into the growth of your band as well.

Kathy: We took a big pause during that time. 

Natalie: It's maybe the only pause we've ever taken. 

Kathy: Yeah. Once we got the van back, Nadi kind of turned it into a makeshift ambulance.

Nadi: Well, no. We got the van stolen after. So, the world shut down in March.

Kathy: Oh, I don't remember anything. 

Natalie: The van was trashed when we got it back. We never went back to using the van. 

Nadi: [In] 2020, March, the world shut down. The first thing that we knew was that it was gonna be bad because we were supposed to play at South By [Southwest] that year. The year before, we were on the waitlist. And then 2020, we got in. And we were so stoked. I remember I was in college, and I got the email. And I was like, "This is it." And we had canceled tours and just so much. And we took a pause. And I think about this, it definitely would have been a time that we could have just quit. We could have been like, “Actually, I'm done.” And I sometimes wonder why we didn't. Well, I'm glad we didn't. But I'm like, what was it that made us want to keep going? I think because we felt like we were on the cusp of really breaking out of just Minneapolis. So we we're not feeling like we wanted to give up on that ...

I turned to TikTok, and I made that work for us. I got on TikTok for the Gully Boys, like, in April 2020. And I was like, I'm using this for my band. I don't care about making TikToks for me. And that really gave us a lot of momentum. And we were able to reach a lot of people that like — when we came back from the pandemic, we were larger than when we went into the pandemic, which was really nuts. And also, with the uprising, Kathy was in Seward, I was living in Powderhorn. It was just our neighborhood that was experiencing a lot of grief and trauma. And so it made sense that we would show up in the ways that we were able to. And so we use the van to shuttle people out of protests if they need or to have medical aid, because we have this big, big vehicle that wasn't being used because we weren't touring. So we just did that. And we made meals. And Natalie designed a shirt, and we were able to raise like $20,000 for the Northside funders to rebuild North Minneapolis. But yeah, we were just like, OK, we have this platform. Let's actually use it. Because what is a platform if you're just going to be quiet and just be self serving? It's just like, our community built us to what we were. It only made sense that we were able to show up how we could. It was just a terrible time.

Related Story After a year of mutual aid, Gully Boys return to the stage for Pride

Natalie: It was just the natural thing to do with the tools – like, we have this platform, we have these tools. 

Nadi: Let's do something.

Natalie: Nobody wanted to feel helpless in that. And we had more tools and more access than a lot of people did. So it just I think made sense.

I think a lot of people look up to musicians and artists, who are doing really admirable work, to feel inspired and also be active as well … You are all really great at owning your identities and putting yourselves out there. And to be on a stage, and to really put yourself out there, and sing to the world, and to play instruments in front of the world, and to be active on social media – all those things require a certain amount of courage or a certain amount of self-belief or excitement for art and music. Tell me about where that might come from.

Kathy Callahan : Yeah, for me, it was about overcoming something that I needed to overcome. I was so shy as a kid – kind of like a hunchback little kid in the corner. Can't talk to anyone. Don't-look-at-me-in-the-eyes type of a little kid. So being onstage and being able to just open my chest and show everyone what I am, who I am, with the people that I love is so, so important to me. And that's just kind of how that is, I guess. Even though it usually is just a persona that I have.

Being onstage and being in Gully Boys has given me a lot of courage, honestly, to take up more space and be proud of the space that I take up. – Nadi

Nadi: But it's still good, I think. Yeah, similarly, I was also pretty shy. Growing up, I was like, how can I take up the least amount of space as possible? Especially growing up in like, predominantly white spaces. Being onstage and being in Gully Boys has given me a lot of courage, honestly, to take up more space and be proud of the space that I take up. And then also being able to find myself within that space within the community. And like, I came out as queer and trans while being in Gully Boys. And I don't think I would have been able to do that without the support and the bravery of just being in a band, and like being vulnerable, and being seen, and being OK with being seen. And, like, not hiding has really helped. And also, I don't think I would have been able to be in a band if it weren't for being in a band with these people. For me, it feels very circumstantial. Like, it is like one of the most vulnerable things you can do, and I trust my bandmates so much. And that is the reason I'm able to get onstage and be vulnerable and sing about hard stuff. And I don't know and just be witnessed. Especially as femmes, you're not supposed to be witnessed, not supposed to take up too much space.

Kathy: Be loud.

Nadi: To be loud, and to be angry, and to be sad, and to be all of these things. And to be able to do that with my bandmates, it feels so empowering. 

[Clip of "Russian Doll" plays]

Tell me about what is to come for Gully Boys.

Nadi: We're working on our debut LP.

Kathy: We just got back from the studio yesterday. 

Nadi: And it's a bit different, I think. Mariah said it yesterday. We're a pop band. And we were influenced by grunge and punk and rock in general. But also we love pop melodies and pop production and strong melodies in general.

Natalie: I think leaning in a lot harder to those like extremes of the genres that we fit into. Like, leaning in harder to the grunge and the heaviness, but also leaning super hard into the pop production and the pop melodies.

Nadi: Pop rock.

[We’re] leaning in a lot harder to those like extremes of the genres that we fit into. Like, leaning in harder to the grunge and the heaviness, but also leaning super hard into the pop production and the pop melodies. – Natalie

Yeah, I love it. I saw (in your EPK) – what is it? Bubblegum pop? It's like Carly Rae Jepsen meets Foo Fighters meets My Chemical Romance meets Sleater-Kinney. 

Natalie: Totally.

Kathy: That's exactly what it is.

And yeah, it's fantastic. Is there anything else you'd like to maybe clue the audience into that you're working on?

Nadi: I guess, the album, we're hoping it comes out in winter. Maybe 2024, early 2025 — sprinkling some singles throughout that time. But it's gonna be big, and it's going to be different; but it's still Gully Boys. It's gonna sound like we have a fourth member ... Well, it's our first, like, full thing that we're creating with Mariah. The only thing we've really done with Mariah, writing, was "Optimist." It sounds like we finally have someone in the band who, like, knows music theory. 


And is able to write cool parts because of it. I also think it's just like – leading up until this point, we were really confused as to what is our genre; and we've been asked many times and told we were certain things. And this actually feels like a really good entrance into the world. Like, this is who we are. This is what we sound like, this is Gully Boys. And I'm really, really proud of the stuff we're working on right now. It's definitely the coolest. 

Mariah: It still feels like the Gully Boys that we saw onstage in 2018. It's just, like, grown up.

Nadi: Because we grew up! ... Unlike Taylor Swift.


Mariah: Yeah, I feel like we're just growing into ourselves. And I'm super stoked to also be the guitarist, because that's like – I sing too. And, I mean, all of these guys are incredible singers. So it was so cool to be like, I'm actually not going to do that. And I'm just gonna riff really hard.

Kathy: And they do!

Mariah: Yeah, so it's been a cool thing to sort of grow into also with these guys. 

Kathy: Yeah, it's kind of cool too, with this album. Mariah is freeing me from guitar. Because I usually play rhythm guitar. But, I mean, Mariah is shredding so hard. I don't really need to play guitar, which is great because I find it distracting, and I don't really see myself as a guitar player. To be honest, I like to play it, but –

Nadi: You play so you can accompany yourself.

Kathy: Yeah, I would rather jump around and yell at people.

Well, you're very good at singing. That's for sure. 

Mariah: Prepare for Kathy to go absolutely feral in our coming shows.

Nadi: The red hair will be flames.

Natalie: Don't forget about the backflips that we're doing.

Nadi: Hey, Brendon Urie did it!

Kathy: Do not speak of the devil.


Well, thanks again for being here. The last thing I wanted to ask is how has it been with Motion City Soundtrack? I know that you're on tour with them.

Nadi: I love those guys! It's so cool because they're just dads.

Natalie: They're dads, and their fans have been fans super hard for a super long time. That is a cool crowd even just to watch and enjoy their music. It's cool to see people who love a band so much every night.

Kathy: It's fun to win them over too. Because they don't know who we are until they see us live. And for them to like us after they see us for the very first time is really awesome. 

Nadi: And also, those guys, I think they just genuinely – it feels cool because I feel like they're genuinely fans. Like, I am always hesitant when people are like, “Can we take you on the road?” And it's just like a group of all white dudes. And I'm like, "Are you filling a checkbox here?" But no, they genuinely are so kind and they like our music. And they have been like, “Let us know if we can help in any way, using our connections,” and have just been really down for — I don't know, just like being a helping hand and community member. 

Mariah: They genuinely want to help. Instead of just, like, "I don't know. I guess this band will work."

Kathy: It's also fun to see their dynamics —

Nadi: Very similar!

Kathy: Over the years. It's like, oh, we could be like a 25-, 30-year-old band and still be just like this. 

That's awesome. Well, Gully Boys. This has been a great interview. Thank you so much for being in the studio with us today on The Local Show as our Artist of the Month for May.

Everyone: Thank you, Diane!

Gully Boys – official site

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