Eisley: Currents

Release Date: May 28, 2013

When I first encountered Eisley as an unsigned band, I was extremely impressed – and not just because they were fronted by 3 sisters ranging from 15-19 years old (Stacy, Sherri, and Chauntelle DuPree). Their first major-label full-length record, Room Noises satisfied expectations while smoothing out some of the rough production of their indie releases. On Combinations, their followup, it felt a bit like someone was telling them to smile real hard and make music that will make sense to the masses – I’ve never connected with it. Then they released their master-work, The Valley, which blew all previous accolades out of the water. So, how do you follow up such an album?

For Currents, the band took full control of the production. They involved more of the family in the process with brother Weston (drums) and cousin Garron (bass) contributing to the writing and recording on a level that they hadn’t before. (They are also joined by their additional siblings Christie and Colin of Merriment on a track.) And they took their sound back to the beginning while infusing mature lyrics to their already amazing harmonies.

The result is good on its own and exists on almost a whole different plane than what the band has done before. If it’s possible to reboot a band without changing the lineup, Eisley has done it. They exorcised their demons on The Valley and have emerged re-energized, wiser, and perhaps more excited than ever before… That said, I can’t help but be a little disappointed to hear them not continue in the same vein as the sound of The Valley – a heavier (sonically and thematically), emotion-filled attack on the senses.

The themes here have a much more positive vibe than anything the band has done in the past. While some of the lyrics are difficult to make out (more on that later) there seems to be a couple of common themes: love and faith. In fact, this record seems to show the band putting their faith on display more than they ever have. It’s always been a part of who they are, but has not blatantly seeped into their records – to be fair, it’s hard to talk about faith when singing about winter wizards, candy forests, a gumdrop mountains.

The biggest standout track is “Millstone“, the first full lead vocal track from the eldest Dupree sibling, Chauntelle. While each sister (including Christie on “Wicked Child”) has a very similar voice, Chauntelle’s tone brings a welcomed groundedness to a previously airy collection of tracks. The sparse production on “Millstone” also serves as a nice change of pace for the record and allows Chauntelle’s voice to be on full display.

The biggest successes here ride on the vocal interplay of the singers. The simple addition of a heretofore unheard male vocal on “Save My Soul” is a welcomed gift. Sans liner-notes, I’m left to believe that this is the previously stated guest vocal from Max Bemis of Say Anything (and husband of Sherri). I’m a huge fan of Christie’s voice and her placement opposite Sherri on “Wicked Child” creates a wonderful balance.

The misses for me on the record are really in the production department (a responsibility that the band was excited to have full ownership of this time around). Save for a couple of standout tracks (“Millstone”,”Find Me Here”) the vocals are very buried in the mix making the lyrics a bit harder to comprehend.

While I’m glad to see the guys take more of a leadership role and get the recognition they deserve for their years in the band, the production on the bass and drums is a bit much for my taste. It reminds me of the re-formation of Ben Folds Five who offered pretty balanced mixes in their first incarnation, but crank the bass and drums up to 11 on their reunion album with previously Five-less Folds.

While it lacks the urgency of its predecessor, Currents succeeds far more than it fails. It doesn’t try to recreate the simplicity of the past, but it pays homage to a deep history as a band and as individuals while clearly stating, “this is where we are in life, we know who we are, and we know what we’re about… but we may still be discovering ourselves musically.” And maybe they always will be.

Eisley: The Valley

Release Date: March 31, 2011

With a new record on the way next week, I wanted to go back and review Eisley’s previous record, The ValleyPersonally, I think that they will be hard-pressed to surpass this near-flawless work of art, but we shall see.

There are some songs and albums that are incredible, but enter a whole new echelon when you begin to grasp where they originated from. Several that come to mind: Ben Folds Five’sBrick” telling the story of an actual abortion, Gary Allan (covering Vertical Horizon) on “Best I Ever Had” following his wife’s suicide. These are abysmal circumstances but as the writers and performers exorcise their inner demons and turmoil, we experience our own catharsis. Such is the case with this entire record.

Following the release of 2007’s Combinations, the band entered into a lengthy struggle with their parent label, Warner Bros., which eventually led to their release. Add to this the ugly divorce of lead singer Sherri Dupree and the late-stage-engagement breakup of sister/guitarist Chauntelle and the band found themselves clearly in the proverbial Valley.

With a couple of years to recover which saw all three sisters (including chief songwriter Stacy) get married and sign with a new label, they had no lack of material. They masterfully took every drop of angst, heartbreak and recovery and filled every song to over-flowing with emotion. The results: a near-masterpiece.

The album opens with it’s title track, an overview of the journey that has been and which we are being invited into. The sparse intro with vocals over strings is one of the truly transcendent moments in music and is quickly jolted forward with the driving kick drum and soaring vocals.

Smarter” is possibly the closest thing to “diss track” that this band will ever put out. It shows Sherri as strong and (unironically) smart, but there’s still a sadness or disappointment that makes this very aggressive song still heartbreakingly vulnerable.

When hosting the other Dupree siblings (Merriment) for a performance at a corporate event last year, I had the chance to talk to their mother who gave me a little more insight into the events that precipitated the song “Ambulance“. As she told (and forgive my hazy memory), Sherri had gone to visit her husband while his band was on tour. She found him with another woman and he told her to get out of the hotel or he would have security remove her.

I need an ambulance / I took, I took the worst of the blows / send me a redeemer, let me know /if I’m gonna be alright / Am I gonna be alright… ‘Cause I was told to get out / told to leave / told to have my things in the parking lot…

In my mind, the fact that Stacy was the one to pen these words on her sister’s behalf makes it even more impactful.

Other great tracks round out the collection including “Mr. Moon“, “Better Love“, and “Oxygen Mask“. I’ve never really noticed any failures on the record, it’s just that some resonate more soundly than others. If have one complaint about the production, it’s not really about the production but about live performance… this is a great rock band, but as the videos above showcase, they are equally astounding in an acoustic environment. In live, full-band performance, some tracks are used to recreate sounds on the record that were not replicable live – namely: strings section on several tracks. My philosophy: in the studio, create to your heart’s content but when you hit the stage only give me what you can actually play live. It may not sound as full as the record, but I’ll respect you more for it.

I wrote before of how I was introduced to this group very early in their career when their ages ranged from 15 to 21, when perhaps innocence and naivete abounded . I would never wish the circumstances that precipitated this record onto anyone. However, I’m encouraged to see a close-knit family wrap around one another and carry themselves through the valley to a much stronger place on the other side.

Essential Playlist :: Eisley

I first heard Eisley before they were signed and I picked up their home-burned, hand-stamped “Moss Eisley: EP 1 and 2“. Since those old out of print records are not available on Spotify, I pulled up some of their early singles that featured those songs as B-Sides. Of their 3 LPs thus far, I definitely lean more heavily toward Room Noises and The Valley. I’ve just never really connected with Combinations (their sophomore release). I’ll address this all in more depth in forth-coming reviews.

The Dream World of Eisley

the valley

1. “The Valley”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – The first 20 seconds of this track are so great. The whole thing is, but I just love the way it kicks off the record.

room noises

2. “Telescope Eyes”, Room Noises – I still have a problem with the lyric being changed from “you, you freak” to “you, you see“, but this is a classic track.


3. “Currents”, Currents – This is the first single from the as-yet-unreleased album, so I’m still getting to know it. The acoustic guitar is a nice choice.


4. “Come Clean”, Combinations – Really only one of the two songs that I dig on this album. This one has grown on me over time.

the valley

5. “Better Love”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – I hadn’t paid much attention to this song until I saw an acoustic video of it.


6. “Head Against the Sky”, Head Against the Sky (single) – This is one of those songs from the indie EPs that didn’t make the first record. This version is over-produced but up until The Valley released, it was my favorite song from the band.


7. “I Wasn’t Prepared”, Marvelous Things (EP) – This was the first track on the first official recording by the band. I wasn’t prepared for it, but it has become a favorite.

the valley

8. “Smarter” (acoustic), The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – Geez. The Valley. So good. I like the acoustic version because the lyric is strong, but fragile and this showcases the fragility in a hauntingly, heartbreaking way.


9. “Go Away”, Combinations – It’s the other song I like on this record.

room noises

10. “Golly Sandra”, Room Noises – A live favorite that finally got to be heard by the masses. Something of a unique sound for the band.


11. “Ambulance”, Fire Kite (EP) – This is really more of a demo than a fully produced version. I’m choosing this version over the studio and “acoustic” versions from The Valley because it is so sparse. I could write 600 words on this one song, so I’ll save it for my review of The Valley.

the valley

12. “Mr. Moon”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – This record is so great that it became easy to overlook some of the tracks. Eternally grateful to Dan for pointing me to it. I put it in behind “Ambulance” because I think they represent a complete thought.

deep space

13. “Laugh it Off”, Deep Space (EP) – I didn’t like this EP, but it felt like it was needed in light of the weightiness of The Valley.


14. “Mr. Pine”, live at the Troubadour, Head Against the Sky (EP) – This is another indie EP fave. The recording is pretty awful, though. I love how Stacy and Sherri share verse vocals and the interplay they have during the chorus and outro/bridge.

room noises

15. “Trolleywood”, Room Noises – If memory serves, this was the go-to concert-closer in the early days. It’s a type of whimsy that belied their youth and possibly even naivete.

Artist of the Month :: Eisley

Fall 2002. I travel to Dallas to hear a band that I’m scouting play a show – I think it was around Thanksgiving. When I get to the venue, I meet my guys and I look over to the merch table to see a bunch of young girls hanging out. Cool, one of the band brought their kid sisters to see t-shirts. My band plays a great set complete with a much loved guitar-behind-the-head maneuver and I retire to the adjacent coffee shop to catch up with some old friends.

Eventually, I decide it’s time to go home. I walk back into the main hall of the venue to find a bunch of statues staring at the stage, many a jaw upon the floor. Then I hear it. Mesmerizing, ethereal, hauntingly melodic sounds coming from the speakers. I look up to find the aforementioned kid sisters destroying everyone in the audience with their Radiohead meets Sixpence NTR meets Coldplay brand of melodic rock. I join the gape-mouthed statues for the remainder of the set.

So was my introduction to the band (Moss) Eisley.

circa 2002 copyright Alison V Smith

The band, comprised of sibling Chauntelle, Sherri, Weston, and Stacy Dupree was originally accompanied by a family friend and later replaced by cousin Garron Dupree on bass. Since that change, the group has experienced lots of personal changes (marriages, divorce, re-marriage, parenthood) but no personnel changes. With a new album (Currents) set to release at the end of this month, the band shows no signs of stopping. In fact, they have a Kickstarter going right now to help offset the costs of a world tour – a far more daunting task with spouses and newborn babies in tow.

I’ll be exploring the band’s discography over the course of this month leading up to the release of the new album.

circa 2012