Gully Boys (photo by Eric Dimac)
Sometimes bravery takes vulnerability. For Gully Boys, it was acknowledging that they really had no idea what they were doing when they decided to start a band two years ago.
"I think we basically invented 'fake it till you make it,'" said the trio's singer/guitarist, Kaytee Callahan. "Now we're there and we're not faking it anymore."
Formed by Callahan with Nadirah McGill (drums) and Natalie Klemond (bass), Gully Boys — no, not the dad band from Vermont or the upcoming Bollywood musical — started mostly with the trio’s desire to be in a band and their ambition to turn that dream into reality.
Their first album, “Not So Brave,” is a culmination of the group’s growing confidence. They figured: if you don’t know, you might as well try — and rock it out, anyway.
"We played a variety show at 7th Street Entry and we were literally shaking in our boots,” said McGill of a show they played in July 2017. “Now we're headlining one and my boots are nowhere to be found."
They're hosting an album release show at the Entry on Sunday (7 p.m., $10, with Beasthead, Sass and Niiice opening), followed by their first tour, with 11 stops moving from Wisconsin to Illinois and ending way down south in Austin, Texas.
In late June, the band finally found themselves in a recording studio. They recorded with Nick Tveitbakk at Pachyderm from Friday to Sunday, mixed it in a day, mastered in a week and then a week later were holding the physical CDs. The album includes both “Greasy” and “Neopet Graveyard” off their 2017 self-titled EP, but also features five new songs written for the album over the course of six weeks.
“We realized, ‘Oh, we’ve been in a band for two years now, we should probably release something,’” said Callahan.
Gully Boys described the sound of “Not So Brave” as “chaotic but melodic” with softer, poetic lyrics and three-part harmonies. The album’s pre-released single “Dizzy Romantics” keeps focusing on the little things, such as "cherry zingers written on your hand," while navigating a tumultuous relationship.
“Greasy,” previously released on their self-titled EP “Gully Boys” but remastered for “Not So Brave,” ruminates on the mundane moments of life, like itchy hair and shampoo, but nods to a larger metaphor of trying to scrub the impurities clean.
McGill met Callahan while working at Ragstock in Uptown. After realizing their similar taste in music and mutual ability to halfway play instruments, Callahan recruited longtime friend Klemond. The first song the trio played fully through as a band was Best Coast’s “Boyfriend,” but the style didn’t quite fit.
"We were like, 'Oh, this is cool, we sound decent, but we never want to play surf music ever again,'" said McGill.
They looked to some ‘90s throwbacks — Hole, No Doubt — but found their sound mostly through live performances. That meant opening themselves up to critique — and not letting men get them down. At one show, a male audience member came onstage and started messing with Natalie’s bass amp. The trio said that as a femme musician, there is often the pressure of perfection that comes with performing.
"Some of my inspirations are women in music who aren't afraid to be imperfect," said Callahan. "I feel like women in general have this big pressure to know exactly what to do at all times."
Learning along the way also allowed the trio to cultivate their own style, similar to the grunge pop of Nashville’s Daddy Issues but with the driving basslines and snarl of Sleater-Kinney. As a local influence, the band cited Tony Peachka, which just called it quits (but whose members Danielle Cusack and Stephanie Jo Murck make up the newly formed punk quartet Scrunchies).
By now, the trio lean into the uncertainty, finding friendship is the best support, and motivation.
"We've gotten comfortable in being more vulnerable with how we play," said McGill. "If you want to do it and you have really good buddies that will go along for the ride with you, you can do this.”