By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Sherri DuPree blows a bubble with her chewing gum, because that's all she can do right now. The gear has already been loaded in from the trailer, and another group is onstage, running through its sound check. Her brother Weston kneels in the corner, tuning his drums, and her sisters, Chauntelle and Stacy, are wandering around the empty club. They don't even have gum to keep them busy. Trees won't open for another 15 or 20 minutes, and MossEisley, the band the DuPrees are in, along with their friend Jonathan Wilson, isn't scheduled to perform for at least another hour. Probably longer. Sherri chews some more and blows another bubble, a little bigger than the last. Watching her, you'd never guess that yesterday, she almost died.
Well, that's the way the woman who rescued Sherri and the rest of the band from their broken-down van a few miles outside Omaha, Nebraska, would tell it. Probably wasn't quite so serious. The group members didn't seem to think so when they were laughing about it earlier, joking that they might've been bored to death, but that was the only real danger. Still, it was 8 degrees below zero and the Suburban they were in had just overheated. So it could have ended worse. Maybe their cell phone wasn't working. Or maybe no one could come pick them up. These things happen in Nebraska during the winter. But all that really happened was that a long trip home to Tyler became a few hours longer.
Here are a few other things you wouldn't guess by watching Sherri and the rest of the band roaming around Trees: that MossEisley--it's the name of a spaceport in Star Wars--just signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. after a handful of shows in New York and Los Angeles that had everyone with a pen trying to sign the band. That in less than a week, the group will open a trio of shows for one of its favorite bands, Coldplay, gigs that will put it in front of a few thousand people each night. That they've spent the past week or so recording their major-label debut in Omaha with respected producer Mike Mogis. Or that they're even a band: Stacy is only 14 years old and could probably pass for younger. The others aren't much older. Except for 21-year-old Chauntelle, no one else in the group will be allowed in Trees' upstairs lounge once the doors open; Sherri and Jonathan are 19, Weston is 16.
They act their ages as they wait for the show to begin, joking easily with their friends in Radiant, tonight's opening band. The DuPrees' dad, Boyd, hangs around, looking and acting more like an older brother, maybe a hip uncle. (His wife, Kim, usually comes to the shows and works the merch table, but she's sick.) If any of them are nervous--about the show, about anything--that emotion is manifest much differently on them than it is on anyone else. They look calm, like they've been doing this all their lives. Truth is, they almost have. Stacy wrote her first song (and the band's first, too) when she was 8. This is all old news to them.
To most everyone else, MossEisley's story is only now being heard. How they grew up in the country outside of Tyler with nothing to do. How that led to them picking up their dad's guitar and some other instruments, how they learned to make their own fun. How that turned into a band that has floored even the most cynical industry veterans. How this is all just getting started. The way it's going, this story is one that will be told for another decade, easy.
"They're the type of band that has the potential for a 20-, 30-year career," says Michael Barber, an entertainment attorney who started working with MossEisley in July. "It's not a band that's going out as a pop thing, and, you know, Britney Spears, as far as music goes, is over. This is a different thing. You have five members of the band that are all very creative and talented and are doing something that is somewhat timeless. If you would compare it to any band, I would think it would be more of a U2 scenario. Like a modern-day U2 that's gonna develop over time. The record that they're making now would probably be the U2 Boy record, and the rest is history, you know?"
Not that the group would be so bold as to weigh itself against U2. They don't even think they're the best band here at Trees tonight. Maybe it's all happened so fast, but no one in MossEisley realizes how far they've come and how far they can go.
"Why are y'all playing first and not us?" Sherri asks Daniel Hopkins, Radiant's drummer, not long before the show starts.
Hopkins laughs. "Because you guys are going to bring everyone," he says, as if it should be obvious.
When MossEisley takes the stage, just after 10 p.m., it's clear Hopkins was right: There's a bit of room at the back of the club, but it's only because everyone here is packed so close to the stage. The curtains swing open and the band launches into the first song of its set, "Over the Mountains We Go." Stacy's and Sherri's voices are as interchangeable as a $5 bill and five singles, but worth much more, making you feel something even when they're saying nothing. Musically, the group doesn't sound like anyone except itself--rare for any band, especially one whose members are so young.