Of all the reasons for a band to book a monthlong residency gig at a local venue, Gully Boys' motivation might come with the most pressure. And the most love.
"It's going carry us into next year," drummer/co-vocalist Nadirah McGill confidently declared, referring to their four Sunday shows at 7th St. Entry starting this weekend.
Talking over sour beers last week, McGill and the other three members of Gully Boys sounded remarkably unsour about the ups and downs experienced in 2021 by their young and riotous — but don't call them "riot-grrrl" — rock group.
Somehow they even found positives in their van being stolen off a south Minneapolis street in October along with nearly all their music gear and band merchandise, inexplicably including an entire box of Gully Boys T-shirts.
"Hey, it's still good advertising, whoever winds up wearing them," singer/guitarist Kathy Callahan cracked in what might have been this music journalist's most laugh-filled interview since Weird Al.
This month's four-show fun run in the Entry is no joke. It's a reprise of a previous residency there in December 2019, which — akin to this year's goal — actually helped carry Gully Boys through 2020.
"It was one of the last things we did together as a band before the pandemic," McGill recounted.
"It left us feeling so good about being in this band and in this city, this music scene," added bassist Natalie Klemond, who writes a lot of their song lyrics along with Callahan.
An active year off
All in their mid-20s, the three core members — who formed Gully Boys in 2017 when McGill and Callahan worked at Ragstock — spent much of 2020 getting active in their south Minneapolis community instead of staying active as a band.
They served food for homeless encampments. They protested after George Floyd's murder. They raised around $20,000 through T-shirt sales for the Northside Funders Group to help rebuild damaged areas of north Minneapolis.
All that kept them close, even when they barely played any music together. "Rehearsing and writing songs just seemed kind of trivial with everything else going on," Klemond said.
They hit the ground running again in early 2021, recording a game-changer of an EP. Titled "Favorite Son," the five-song collection enlisted new producers Zach Zurn and Hippo Campus' Jake Luppen to polish the band's lo-fi sound into more melodic blasts of new-wavy pop-punk.
While awaiting the EP's September release, the band started gigging again with palpable zeal over the summer.
Gigs included a hotly received festival set outside the Hook & Ladder and a packed Fine Line headlining set for a Twin Cities Pride party in June. The latter show was the first and maybe most memorable one for the trio, who identify as queer and (in the case of McGill and new guitarist Mariah Mercedes) nonbinary — and who chose their band name partly to mess with gender stereotypes.
"When we left the stage, I just felt shell-shocked," Callahan said. "In a very powerful way, I remembered how much I love playing shows with this band."
Thanks to a lot of help from other bands and a GoFundMe campaign, Gully Boys were able to hit the road as planned in October for a two-week tour even with all their gear gone (the van was found but was unsalvageable).
They mostly played on borrowed instruments, including the drum kit of their Ohioan tourmates the Sonder Bombs, who will open the Dec. 19 show in the Entry.
"I felt so silly walking into shows carrying nothing but drumsticks," admitted McGill, earning a loud "aww" from their bandmates.
Still, Klemond enthused, "It was the first time we experienced fans in other cities singing our songs back to us. That's just unreal."
One of those songs was their 2019 scorcher "Neopet Graveyard," which has garnered viral traction. New songs from "Favorite Son" were also in the singalong mix, including the escalating rocker "Russian Doll" (about social media's negative impact on body image) and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs-flavored title track (based on the members' memories of wanting to be boys as young girls).
On stage, the members challenged themselves to re-create the EP's more refined sonic layers. Hence the addition of a new guitarist, starting with Bruise Violet and Bugsy veteran Emily Schoonover over the summer. She's now being replaced by Mariah Mercedes, whose music-college training at Berklee and McNally Smith is a sharp contrast to the other members' self-taught musicianship.
"It's nice to be in a band where no one else is tainted by music theory," Mercedes quipped.
Said Klemond, "We were so raw and lo-fi — and proud of it — but we really didn't know how to do it any other way. When [producers Luppen and Zurn] showed us how, it was like, 'Wow, this actually sounds good.' "
Buzz over the new EP has helped Gully Boys line up higher-profile gigs next year, including a New York date and some South by Southwest Music Conference showcases in March.
But they have to make it through to 2022 first. These Entry shows will fill some plainly dire economic needs; it appears insurance will cover little, if any, of their stolen goods.
Just as important, though, Gully Boys are simply looking to end their up-and-down year on an emotional high.
"It's just such a great, easy feeling playing the same venue — especially that venue — for four weeks straight," Klemond said, "and to have the other bands all be ones we're friends with. There's so much comfort in all that."
When: Sundays in December, 8 p.m.
With: Kiss the Tiger, Sass, Evv (this week); Rafaella, Boyish, Ivers (Dec. 12); Sonder Bombs, niiice, Blue Venus (Dec. 19); King Pari and Lupin (Dec. 26).
Where: 7th St. Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.
Tickets: $15, AXS.com