Hometown heroes, Eisley, haven’t forgotten where they came from
Sherri DuPree is preparing to order food from one of her favorite restaurants when her phone rings. Asking her husband to grab something for her and apologizing for the background noise, DuPree—singer and songwriter for the Texas-based, indie-pop quintet Eisley—seeks out a quiet corner to talk about her band’s forthcoming tour in support of their third LP, The Valley, released March 1.
It’s just after 8 p.m. on a Wednesday in Tyler, Texas—a town of roughly 97,000 people, situated about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. This is where DuPree lives with her husband, and where she and her bandmates, all of whom are related, grew up. Tyler is also the city where the group recorded The Valley, and, if DuPree has her way, it will be her final resting place.
It might seem like a strange place for an indie starlet to settle. Considering that she is married to Max Bemis, lead singer of the pop-punk outfit Say Anything, one might justifiably wonder why she and her husband didn’t choose some place more cosmopolitan.
But it all makes perfect sense to DuPree. “I’m completely a homebody,” she explains, theorizing that her affinity for Tyler has a lot to do with the fact that she and the band started touring heavily when she was just 15.
“We were always constantly in Los Angeles and New York and Chicago,” DuPree recalls of her formative years, “and all those places are very dear to me. But it made me realize that there is no place like home.”
Appropriately, The Valley is a tale of finding your way home. The record’s title track paints a picture of a forlorn and lonely character wandering through a dark valley, surrounded by hills and mountains on all sides:
“Take me home,” the DuPree sisters, Sherri and Chauntelle, sing. “I walk the night in the valley.”
The song’s lyrical imagery recalls the album’s cover, which depicts a sepia-toned, young bridesmaid, holding a bouquet and looking a lot like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz—only without the glimmering ruby slippers that can easily transport her back home.
Just like Sherri and Chauntelle—both of whom recently endured a failed marriage and an abandoned engagement, respectively—this young girl must walk the valley, flanked by faraway peaks, which could easily represent the relationships the two sisters left behind.
The residual emotion left over from the sisters’ tumultuous breakups is woven throughout The Valley, and proves to be a versatile lyrical thread, capable of holding together a patchwork quilt of bittersweet memories while at the same time suturing old wounds.
The new record doesn’t diverge much from the sound Eisley fans have come to know. At times, The Valley sounds like a mellower Sherwood mixed with a less angular Death Cab For Cutie—such as on “Smarter,” “Better Love” and “Sad,” three songs that are energetic but soft around the edges. The album’s standout track, “Oxygen Mask,” recalls the asymmetrical pop-piano acrobatics of Kate Bush and Tori Amos.
DuPree is convinced that the complete “creative control” her band was afforded by their new label, Equal Vision Records, made a huge difference.
Recording in the Rosewood Studios in their hometown, the band got to sleep in their own beds, eat home-cooked gumbo and brownies, courtesy of DuPree’s mother, and ultimately allowed them to make “the most Eisley record we’ve ever written.”
Before she hangs up, I ask DuPree what her husband ordered for her. A shrug of contented indifference is almost audible. She has been to this place countless times before.
“No matter what, it’s gonna be good.”
Eisley plays at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv., $15/door. 423-8209. Photo Credit: Chris Phelps
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