Gully Boys ready to take the next step as they head to SXSW

Twin Cities band The Gully Boys return this week to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The feel good punk-pop band, known as much for their commitment to the community as they are for their danceable sound, visited SXSW in 2019, but it was more of an unofficial tour.

“We did it the DIY way,” says drummer and vocalist Nadirah McGill, recalling the band’s last trip to the festival. “We played a whole bunch of unofficial showcases, and it was really cool.”

This year, the Gully Boys are making a bigger entrance, performing at an official showcase at the Newsroom in Austin, presented by SXSW in partnership with Side Door, a new platform that supports bands with logistical assistance as they book tours across the country. They will also be playing small gigs to round things out.

“We get a real South by experience,” says vocalist and guitarist Kathy Callahan.

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The Gully Boys formed five years ago when Callahan and McGill worked together at Ragstock in Minneapolis. They had similar musical tastes and soon decided to form a band with Callahan’s childhood friend, Natalie Klemond.

They quickly began to attract supporters in the Twin Cities, but like all emerging bands, they faced the sometimes unexpected journey of playing in smaller spaces, house parties and DIY venues when they go on tour.

Once, playing in Baltimore, the Gully Boys performed in a Southeast Asian restaurant to an audience of only a few people. “They had a place for us, but no one was there,” Klemond recalled.

Even on their last tour before heading to SXSW, the band played in a loading dock. The crowd stood on the ramp as the band performed on the platform. “The sound wasn’t the greatest ever,” admits Klemond. “But it was a really cool space and a really interesting way to use the space that was next to a bar.”

In Pittsburgh, they played at a venue called Mr. Roboto Project for a crowd of all ages. “It looks like a store front, but they just built a little stage out back,” says McGill. “It’s technically a state and city-recognized hangout, but it stays true to our do-it-yourself ethos.”

Mariah Mercedes, the newest Gully Boy, having officially joined in December, notes that audiences aren’t all that different in these offbeat spaces compared to traditional venues, though they’re often more concentrated. “They tend to just want to listen,” says Mercedes.

The problem with many such spaces is that they are often not the most accessible. McGill remembers playing in spaces where people smoked cigarettes inside, or you had to walk down a steep, decrepit staircase to get to someone’s basement.

Their most recent East Coast tour was the least DIY Gully Boys tour they’ve done so far. “We’ve played in people’s basements and in unconventional spaces, but this tour we just finished feels like we’re going deeper,” McGill says.

The band also now work with an agent and manager, instead of booking everything themselves. Callahan says it was a relief to have help. “I feel like if we did everything ourselves like before, I would go crazy,” she says.

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Now that the Gully Boys are more established than when they started, they may require a bit more care down the road. “We can request things like free bottled water now,” Callahan says.

Being on tour, Callahan says, is like glorified soulful work. Since their gear was stolen from their van last fall, the group has brought everything to each location. They often encounter many stairs on which they have to lug everything up and down. “Honestly, I feel stronger every day,” Callahan says.

What do you take when you go on tour? Mercedes quickly understood that they had to modify a little. “I have a better idea of ​​what I will need,” said Mercedes. On their last tour, Mercedes brought along a laptop and all their recording equipment, to use only once. “It’s still scary to go without it,” Mercedes says.

For their trip to SXSW, the Gully Boys are working with Side Door, which is kind of like Airbnb for music gigs. It has been around since 2017, mostly based in Canada. The brand’s partnership with SXSW was originally slated to take place in 2020, and is finally coming to fruition as they host the Gully Boys with Abstract Rude (Los Angeles, CA), JUNACO (Los Angeles, CA), SCAB (Ridgewood , NY ), and status/non-status (London, ON).

“With Side Door, it’s really cool because it sounds like exactly what we like to do,” says McGill. “They helped us tremendously to get to SXSW.”

Side Door CEO Laura Simpson says the company started as a way to make touring more accessible and easier for artists to navigate. The platform has the ability to manage ticketing, reservation and payment services. “It’s designed to be a DIY platform that any potential artist or host can sign up to use,” Simpson says. “For us, this SXSW project is a demonstration to air the kind of shows that we are capable of creating. But anyone can go out and barrier-free, create a profile to be an artist or a host, and then connect with someone else to create a show.

You can follow the Ravine Boys trip by looking at their social media pages and checking The side door for the most recent updates.

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