Eisley | Family Resonance

eisley sqqIf you don’t know anything about Eisley, here’s a quick rundown on the band.

 

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Eisley consists of four siblings and one cousin of the Dupree family of Tyler, Texas, all of whom are in their 20s. They have been together since 1997, playing their own, evolving brand of indie pop rock, which they have dubbed “a special kind of music for you.” That mantra has been the only label that has persisted over the years.

Eisley sprang on the national scene with the Laughing City and Marvelous Things EPs, and have released three full-length LPs since 2005’s Room Noises for Warner Bros., each showing musical and lyrical growth, and stylistic flexibility. In 2011, Eisley left Warner Bros. for Equal Vision Records, in some respects becoming the true indie band they were, as is often the case with bands signed and considered lesser priorities with their labels. And that brings us up to date; the here-and-now of Eisley is what I want you to know in anticipation of their St. Louis show this coming Thursday at Off Broadway.

The freedom Eisley has experienced since going indie has coincided with the maturation of the band members. Less than a year after releasing 2011’s inspired The Valley, their swan song to Warner Bros. and so much more, the Dupree clan has been hard at work. Lead vocalists Sherri Bemis and Stacy King have been touring and recording. Sherri has toured with her husband Max Bemis (of Say Anything) performing solo. Stacy completed recording an album with her husband Darren King (of Mutemath) and Springfield, Mo.’s Jeremy Larson, a brilliant singer-songwriter, composer, and arranger, collectively calling themselves Sucre. A Minor Bird, their May 2012 release via their own imprint Red Velvet Records, is a stunning work, elegant and lively, showcasing a bent toward chamber-pop, but with a kinetic synergy beneath the beauty. In addition, both Sherri and Stacy, along with eldest sister Chauntelle, have been prepping material for their next album. Yet it’s about the journey, not the destination, and album four for Eisley is the destination; there’s more to this journey to tell you about in preparation for Thursday’s show.

When troubled times struck the homefront last summer, Eisley channeled these challenges into the Deep Space EP, a standalone release recorded in their own homes by Andy Freeman on his mobile studio. Tracked in the thick heat of late summer, with the drama that was unfolding in their lives, they captured the raw energy and emotion of the moment and circumstances, and channeled that through their refined tastes as both musicians and fans of music. As a result, the new material on Deep Space (one track, “192 Days,” is a fan favorite previously only available as a Garageband demo) showcases the band in a fashion perhaps unseen since their earliest years as an up-and-coming indie rock band. The tonality of the EP is consistent, the idiosyncrasies of the tracks nuanced in such a way that they flow, while taking you vastly different places. Eisley’s early indie-rock influences come through in a way that will no doubt put a smile on the faces of many old-school fans, and enthrall and enchant new ones.

And these songs truly resonate live. They were written to be performed by the band as is and still come through, and they do. They also serve as perfect bridges to Eisley’s other material, giving their dynamic sets a cohesive feel with consistent energy throughout. This is their first proper headlining show in St. Louis since 2010, and also their first at Off Broadway, a club that seems tailor-made for the five-piece whose members are known for their acerbic wit toward each other on stage. Oh, did I fail to mention that this will be their last tour for a while because Chauntelle, Stacy, and their brother (drummer) Weston’s wife, are expecting children? Well, that’s very important when considering whether to come out to the show. Sans this record-breaking heat, there is no doubt Off Broadway will be glowing.

Younger sister and brother Christie and Colin comprise Merriment, their excellent support act of the last few years. The pair, occasionally joined by a rhythm section, other times performing as an acoustic electric duo, play some of the most serene and enchanting music you’ll hear. Christie’s unironically crystalline voice at times evokes either of her elder siblings, but has its own vibrato, and this pinch of hurt that gives her a singular tone. It’s like a ray of sunshine one moment, or a teardrop another, hanging aloft, the whistling wind ever present. Colin, the youngest Dupree, has emerged as an incredible tasteful lead guitar player, using space, letting his notes breath and sing, complimenting his sister’s steady strumming and picking. The result manages to soothe without lulling, to emote without being resigned to melancholy. The most common response to their music, which in the past was strictly available at live shows, was “Where is Nashville at on this one? Are they clueless down there?” Merriment’s Through the Rough is available via iTunes and at their merch table, where they’ve been known to take tips.

Yes, Sensei opens and will provide some exciting variety to the festivities. For those planning on mellowing out and being disengaged, prep yourselves for high energy, rhythmic complexity, and intensity you’d otherwise not expect at an Eisley show. For old-school Eisley fans who remember their tours with bands influenced by the harder side of late ’90s/early ’00s emo (Brand New, Taking Back Sunday), this will make perfect sense. Yes, Sensei live up to their name. | Wil Smith

Eisley plays Off Broadway with Merriment and Yes, Sensei Thursday, July 12. Tickets are $12 21+, $14 under 21. Doors at 7 p.m.

For more information on Eisley and Merriment and links to all their social media, check out www.eisley.com, www.merrimentmusic.com, and www.strangeyellowpatterns.com.

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