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— by Ryan J. Downey

They're cute, they're young, most of them are related, and even though one of the girls in Eisley wrote the band's first song at the age of 8, their music is far from elementary.

Hailing from the tiny town of Tyler, Texas, Eisley is made up of four siblings — guitarist/vocalist Sherri, vocalist/ keyboardist Stacy, guitarist Chauntelle and drummer Weston DuPree — as well as their longtime neighbor, bassist Jon Wilson. And they play dreamy, high-minded pop far more akin to Coldplay, Björk and Radiohead than Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears. 

The DuPree kids owe much of their devotion to rock, love of vintage gear, songwriting prowess and melodic sensibilities to the off-the-radar parenting practices of Boyd and Kim, who home-schooled all of them in an often-crowded household that was very accommodating to neighbors (like Jon) and filled with the sounds of the Beatles.

"It's chaos at our house, because half the neighborhood lives there too," laughed Sherri, sitting alongside her bandmates in the Burbank, California, studio where they recently spent some time sorting through material for their first proper full-length. "We have another brother and another sister at home, so it's a lot of people at our house all the time."

All of the DuPree kids really connected with their parents' record collection, but it was when then-14-year-old Chauntelle stumbled across Radiohead's OK Computer that they became truly inspired. "The thing that stuck out to me was the guitar stuff," she said. "They were just so off-the-wall. I hadn't heard anything like it before."

 
Sherri, who to this day composes mainly on the piano, first tried her hand with her dad's drum kit before her and Chauntelle both went to him for guitar lessons. With Weston taking over on drums, the trio started jamming together while Stacy (then 8) sat jealously in her room.

"She always wanted to be a part of [the band] but we were like, 'You're not cool enough, you're not a teenager,' " Chauntelle laughed. "She got really upset and hurt and wrote her first song, which became [the band's] first song."

"I would always knock on the door and they wouldn't let me in," Stacy added. "So I just did it by myself and then showed them."

"And it was a lot better than what we had been writing," Chauntelle said.

The group started playing out, first in the Christian-music-oriented coffee house where their parents booked gigs and eventually in surrounding areas throughout Texas. Sherri explained that at their early gigs, audiences were "weirded out" but pleasantly surprised that such a young band drew upon so many older influences, like the Fab Four or Pink Floyd.

The group eventually adopted the name Moss Eisley, after the space port in the original "Star Wars," though they aren't huge sci-fi geeks.

"Moss Eisley was like a different planet [and] that's what our music reminds me of," Chauntelle explained.

"We don't dress up in costumes or anything," Jonathan said. Though they all admit to a healthy appreciation of the "Star Wars" films, they shed the first half of the moniker for fear that it sounded too juvenile, and perhaps more importantly, to avoid the possibility of being sued.

And it isn't just the music that's otherworldly, but the lyrics, which run the gamut from finding ways "high above the treetops" to a morality tale about an undersea king. It's a melodious and trippy concoction that attracted the attention of Coldplay's Chris Martin, who took the band on tour and would often warm up by singing Eisley's tunes.

Thanks to the attention, the band has quickly ascended from the confines of the indie-pop world into the upper echelons of the music industry, with Warner Bros. powerful management and slick producers all grooming them for a major breakout. But if stretch limos and Video Music Awards shows are in their future, there's little doubt about whether Eisley can withstand the increasing attention with their humility, credibility and integrity intact. After all, it's their small-town roots and offbeat upbringing that's gotten them this far.

There's perhaps only one thing Boyd and Kim DuPree didn't prepare their children for — and that's a (seemingly inevitable) run-in with their ultimate musical heroes. 

"We always have these fun conversations about what we would say [if we met Radiohead]," Weston said.

"We think about it a lot actually," Sheri said. "We're pretty obsessed with Radiohead."

"We had some friends that ran into them and like, choked, and didn't say anything," Weston said. "What would you say? Obviously it's not like you are going to be doing Thom Yorke any good ... so we might as well just say whatever to make ourselves feel better." 

Currently touring on the strength of their Laughing City and Marvelous Things EPs, Eisley plan to drop their full-length debut next year.


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 "Marvelous Things"
(full-length audio)
Marvelous Things
(Record Collection/Warner Bros.)
   Photo: Record Collection


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