By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But will all their talent be enough to keep the music industry from wearing these kids down? They've only been swimming with the sharks for a short time; too early to start bragging about not getting bit. In a way, it's appropriate that "Over the Mountains We Go" is the first song tonight. Because that's exactly what's about to happen to MossEisley.
Hanson, certainly, had more than a little in common with MossEisley. The three young brothers (ages 11, 13 and 16, at the time) scored a huge hit in 1997 with "MMMBop," an undeniably catchy bit of Jackson 5 jive that helped usher in the teen-pop era. But Zac, Taylor and Isaac were merely child actors, unable to make the transition to adult roles. They released a second record, This Time Around, in 2000, but the only people who really cared were their parents.
Ben Kweller was only 15 when Mercury Records dropped a million bucks in his band Radish's lap in 1996, not long after Silverchair's trio of 15-year-olds was sitting on top of the charts with "Tomorrow." Though Kweller has developed into a talented singer-songwriter in his early 20s, back then he was little more than a pocket Nirvana, imitating rather than innovating. Similarly, Silverchair was a travel-size version of Pearl Jam. Sure, they beat Creed to the punch, but that's not something you can really build a career on. Not surprisingly, they didn't. The only success singer-guitarist Daniel Johns has had since then is convincing Natalie Imbruglia to marry him.
But MossEisley stands on its own, keeping its influences mostly to itself; no other band readily leaps to mind when the group's playing, no easy comparison stands out. And their age is more of a hindrance than a selling point. The members of the group are older than their birth certificates would have you believe, at least when they're in a studio, onstage, in their bedrooms writing songs. They don't have to worry about making the transition to an older crowd, because as soon as you hear their songs or see them singing them, it's clear that they already have.
More important, or at least just as meaningful, the DuPrees are a different kind of family. Boyd says he and Kim don't really have any friends their age, simply because no one their age can relate to them. They listen to the music their kids listen to, go see the bands their kids like. But they like all of that, too. Put it this way: There aren't many other parents who plan family vacations around Radiohead shows. They aren't Shirley Partridge, but they're not far off.
It might have been different if Boyd and Kim hadn't decided to move to Tyler in 1990. They were living in suburban Houston before then, and Boyd was tired. Of his job, of the city, everything. He was, as he says now, going through a midlife crisis--at 30.
"We were burned out with the big city," Boyd says. "The big stone city, the big concrete jungle."
Kim encouraged him to quit--his job, Houston, whatever. So he did, and since the DuPrees had family in East Texas (Palestine, mostly), they decided to migrate to Tyler. Boyd wanted to change his life. He had no idea how much it would change.
At first, it seemed like the wrong move; the rented house they moved into--and lived in until they moved into their current home three years ago--was a glorified shack. Boyd can remember the toilet crashing through the floor one day, trying to fix it while water sprayed everywhere. It was like living in a foxhole, bringing them closer together than even the most tight-knit families. If you hang around with the family for even a few hours, it's obvious that they are all best friends, parents included.
The girls didn't mind growing up in Tyler much, if only because they had nothing to compare it to. "We didn't know any better," Sherri says, laughing.
"It was great," Stacy says. "We used to live in the sticks and play in the dirt."
"Yeah, we used to play in the dirt," Sherri continues. "Seriously, we played in the dirt and we rode bikes and we wrote songs. And that's all we did. It was awesome. We didn't have any friends or anything."
"There was nothing to do," Boyd says. "It was a big country kind of place, near a highway, on an acre or whatever. There was not cable, so they weren't sucked into TV. I mean, we watched videos, but other than that, you know, they had to find fun. So we had instruments around, and I'd always mess around with guitar and stuff."
Boyd is at their new home a few days before the gig at Trees. It's a nice two-story Tudor near downtown Tyler, situated on a quiet, tree-filled street where birds chirp louder than traffic (there's not much to speak of) and squirrels forage nuts out of hanging feeders. The front of the house is partly cloaked in ivy, and the rest is covered in Christmas decorations. Though it's almost February, the family has been so busy since the holidays--driving to Los Angeles to play showcases for record labels, then getting back in the van to record in Omaha--they haven't had time to take them down.