Indie band Eisley has been a mainstay of the music scene for over 15 years, releasing four albums and 10 EPs. Effortlessly mixing fantastical imagery with haunting melodies and three-part harmonies, Eisley has created an iconic sound. In preparation for their upcoming tour, I got to call vocalist/guitarist Sherri DuPree-Bemis for an interview. We talked about Eisley’s inspiration, what it’s like to be in a family band, and how they’ve grown throughout the years:
From “Telescope Eyes” to “Mr. Moon” and onward, how would you say Eisley has matured, and how have you matured?
Wow, gosh, when you say all those song titles, it takes me back to like, how long we’ve actually been doing this. It doesn’t feel like it’s been my whole life, but it basically has. Every record has been different growth in different ways, like Room Noises; it was one of the first ones we ever wrote, so they had this kind of, pureness to them that is really special to me. Then as we kept going on, like The Valley, I had been through a crazy divorce, so that record had a lot of growth.
Personally, for me? Just learning to be myself and appreciate who I am, so as far as being a songwriter, the growth has been, well it’s always a journey, but as far as Eisley’s concerned as a band, we’ve gone through a lot of changes, like right now, we’re trying to figure out who can even tour these days, and then who’s going to be working on records. So there’s always kind of been a family band, especially since all of us have kids now, and y’know, definitely things have changed with what we’re going through right now, but I think something that we’ve retained as our whole career as a band is, and this sounds so cheesy but it’s really true, just writing songs from our heart and from our gut, and not like trying to sound like some current trend of music. We just write songs that we love and they come from our hearts and I think that’s something that we’ll always have, because it’s something that’s really important to me.
Speaking of the whole “family band,” what’s it like writing, recording, and touring with your whole family? I know with my siblings, we have a hard time just choosing birthday presents for our parents.
(Laughs) Well, we were all home-schooled, so we were all home all the time and I think because of that, there was no way, we had to get along, or else everyone would just go crazy literally. That was one of the things I appreciated what my parents did; they really, not forced, but encouraged and made sure that we respected each other and learn to love each other and get along, because we were so close and always all in each others’ faces all the time, so I think that honestly really helped lay the foundation for being able to work together and tour together and live in a tiny space together for weeks and weeks at a time.
We’re all really close and best friends, and despite the fact that we’re all grown up now and, like I said, right now we’re in the stage where some people can be like, “Well I want to work on the records, but I can’t afford to tour and leave my job and my family.” Different things like that […] but everyone is so respectful of each other and what they bring to the band, and what they bring to the songwriting and the whole process, that it’s never been an issue, thankfully, that we’ve struggled with. I feel really lucky, though, because I know with most people, even if they love their siblings, it’s hard to be around each other all the time (laughs).
Did your parents push you guys to learn how to play instruments, or did you all kind of find interest in it coincidentally?
It was kind of coincidentally, like, my family has always loved music; my dad plays drums, he was in a band growing up, but never was it anything they were thinking career-wise for themselves, but they’re very encouraging of it. They’re just kind of encouraging of whatever we wanted to do, supporting it and giving us the tools to grow those […] they just wanted us to find something that we loved to do, because they know you’re not going to enjoy life unless you find what you love to do and get good at it. I feel really lucky that we were encouraged; they saw that we loved music, and they had guitars around and we kind of just picked it up, all at the same time, and came together, and I think it was because it’s what we were meant to do.
It’s funny, I was just talking about that with my husband last night. I was going, “It’s so weird, we have two daughters now,” and I don’t really think so much about what they’re going to do when they grow up because I’m so focused on enjoying every day with them and helping them to grow into humans (laughs). So I was going, “It’s so weird, what would they be?” We have no idea. My parents never thought that they would have six kids who would all basically grow up to be musicians. Like, how could they know that? […] I was really blessed to have parents that just saw it in us and were like, “Y’know? Go for it.”
As you were saying before, you guys have to coordinate who can tour and who can record. How do you do it? You all have families, most of you have kids on the way. How do you keep that balance going?
Yeah, it’s just become trickier, and now, this year, specifically, has been kind of crazy. A lot of my family has moved to Nashville, which is super cool, and I’m excited for them, because we’ve always lived in the same neighborhood, but with that, some of us are going, “I can’t tour.” Actually, for this tour, we have a couple of girls filling in who are from Nashville. They’re in a band called Poema, they’re amazing, and they’re actually sisters too, which is completely coincidental.
Everyone is so supportive and they just do what they can, and everyone loves Eisley. It’s a passion project, y’know, and it always has been. Projects like that, you find a way because your heart’s in it, you just make it work, and that’s what we’ve always done, and we’ll just continue to do that, despite [what] comes up. I’m really, so lucky I get to bring my kids on the road with me, that’s basically unheard of, and I have sisters that help. It’s only doable because we want to do it and we love it. If it was something we didn’t really have a passion for, it would just be like, “Oh my God, no way am I going to deal with that.”
That’s actually pretty awesome that it’s such a community effort with you guys.
Yeah, seriously, I don’t know how we’d do it otherwise. You just have to have support within the band and luckily everyone gets it.
A lot of artists find inspiration from their hometowns. How has Tyler, Texas, inspired Eisley?
I am definitely, I don’t want to say a “country girl” because it’ll conjure up images of like, cowboy hats. I grew up in Texas and we were never super into the country thing, but just the whole—I don’t know, there’s a lot of small towns, so growing up, there was a lot of camping and exploring the woods, and just being inspired by—nature just very much inspires me, just the whole mystery and magic of it all. It definitely still plays into my songwriting these days, I’ll go out on my porch and just be looking at the sky or the moon, and it sounds so cheesy, but I’ll go to my husband, “Can you just look at the moon? Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful,” and he’s just like, “Yep. Cool.” (Laughs) I definitely have a big connection to that kind of stuff; it makes me feel something. And I think being Tyler, like I said, it’s a small town, so you could see the stars in the middle of the city at night, so I think it definitely is just something that I connect with. It’s definitely inspired me lyrically throughout my whole life.
One thing I’ve noticed about Eisley’s music, or at least a lot of it, is that it’s got this dark, whimsical nature to it. Would you say that’s the full band contributing to it or is that more of your own personal songwriting coming through?
Honestly, it’s mostly me; I have always deeply connected with fairy tales and kind of whimsical, dark, mysterious stuff. I don’t know why, there’s no particular reason. I just grew up loving and reading a lot of fairy tales. It’s something that’s always stuck with me; it’s one of those things I’ve just connected with and it always inspired me and just excites me. Whenever I’m writing a song, I always dive back into that world and borrow from that stuff because it’s just always there for me and is endlessly inspiring. It’s definitely an element that’s strong in Eisley and is something that fans have come to expect from us, which is cool too, because it’s something that so naturally comes from us, so I think that they realize that it’s not coming as forced, and that’s why they connect with it.
You guys have toured extensively throughout the years and played with a lot of bands. Is there any advice you have for those musicians who like to tour, but at the same time, would also like to start a family?
Yeah, you just have to really, really, truly love it and do it for that reason. I know the whole, “if you’re not in the band circuit, the lifestyle could look really romanticized.” To me, it is, and because I love it, I love going out, and I love touring, there’s nothing more crazy to me than standing in a room full of people and singing songs together, it’s epic and beautiful. You have to just want to do that all over the country, and it’s hard touring, it’s not easy; you have to leave some of your family, like when I don’t see my husband for almost a month, that sucks. I’m not excited about that at all, but luckily, I have a husband who’s also in a band, so we both really understand the need to do that and have that fulfillment in our lives creatively. If you love it and are passionate about it, just go for it and if you more so just think it sounds fun, y’know, just want to do it to get out there and have fun, it’s probably not going to stick, because it is hard work and it is a sacrifice, but it’s so worth it if you can’t think of any other way to even live if you couldn’t do it.
One more question, and it’s super cliché, but I feel like it would be a good question for you.
What does the future hold in store for the band after this tour, and what does it hold in store for you?
Well I mean, like I said, this year’s been crazy, there were times where, even in the last few months, we had these “Oh shit” moments where people can’t afford to tour and stuff like that has come up a lot. There’s been moments these last few months where I’m going, “Oh my gosh, does this mean Eisley’s over?” and I just had to have the moment where I realized it never has to be over, because I’m here still holding the flag writing songs and just pouring my heart into it. There’s no end in sight, whenever you have that because no one can stop me.
We have a record that we’re working on right now that we’ve been writing, and after this tour, we’re going in the studio and doing the record, which we’re super excited about, and after that, just touring and more touring and making music; just doing it all (laughs), it’s all there is: Keep playing music for people and writing music and we’re going to keep doing that until no one wants to hear it anymore (laughs), and then we’ll just play it for each other.
Eisley is currently on tour with Copeland and We Are The City and will be playing two shows in the area: Sunday, Nov. 8 at Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia, and Tuesday, Nov. 10 at Gramercy Theatre in New York City. Their fifth album is expected to be released sometime in 2016, and for more information on their other albums and projects, you can visit eisley.com or facebook.com/eisley.