By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
When Eisley stops in to play The Door on Wednesday night, it will be something of a homecoming for the Tyler-based DuPree family band.
"I remember playing The Door way back," lead Eisley vocalist and keyboardist Stacy DuPree offers over the phone from a tour stop in Maryland. Suddenly, she's waxing all nostalgic: "Just that whole area, that whole Deep Ellum scene. That's where we got our start."
Of course, let's not be completely fooled here. It's been a few years since Eisley's played Dallas, yeah—but it's not like it's been eons. The band's still pretty young, remember.
Sure, the three DuPree sisters at the band's front, Stacy, lead guitarist Chauntelle and rhythm guitarist Sherri, have been playing together since they were mere pups. But it wasn't until 2003 that the band truly burst onto the scene, earning a Best New Artist win in this publication's annual music awards. And in the years that followed that award the band released two full-lengths, 2005's Room Noises and 2007's Combinations, and seven EPs, including the just-released Fire Kite EP, albums which highlighted the band's intricate and grandiose takes on piano-driven modern rock and led the way to the band earning opening slots on international tours for the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Hot Hot Heat and Mute Math. Now the band's opening up on the road for Say Anything, the emo-rock outfit of newly minted Tyler resident Max Bemis, who, as Sherri's husband, is also the latest addition to the DuPree clan. Bemis and Sherri were married April 4 of this year—just a little more than a year after the 25-year-old's divorce from New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert.
"We've just been off and writing and experiencing life," Stacy says. "Everything is great now. We kind of just made this complete turnaround. It's been a long time since we've been on the road. But, oddly, coming into it, everything felt really natural. It's a little scary, just because anytime you're playing for a new audience it can be, but it's been good."
Maybe it helps that audiences are aware of the band's tie to the headliner's frontman? Stacy laughs: "I don't know if they have to be nice to us because Sherri is Max's wife, but they sure are."
It helps, too, that there seems to be a newfound confidence surrounding the band—one stemming from her family's reactions to Sherri's recent love-life changes, she says. "Our family goes through everything together. And when you go through something like that, it gives you a little bit of a tough skin, I guess."
So don't be surprised if some of Eisley's upcoming full-length material, which Stacy warns is less ethereal than some of Eisley's past songs, is also a little angrier.
"It's just a lot more direct," she says. "But it's better too."
For the 21-year-old frontwoman of the band, such sentiment is likely the result of finally feeling comfortable in her role in the group.
"For once, I feel like I'm a little older than the audience," Stacy says with a sigh of relief. "It's crazy."
But not as crazy as next year is looking for the band, she says. "Honestly, next year, we're gonna hit it harder than we ever have. We're coming into our own as a band and growing tired of the restrictions being put on us. Hopefully, we'll become a little more independent. I'm extremely excited."
So while Stacy calls this current tour "nice," expect a different Eisley come 2010.
"This," she says, "is just a warm up, pretty much."
It'd be easy for one to look at this week's Rhett Miller gig at the Granada Theater in the same light, considering that he and the rest of The Old 97's will be closing out 2009 with four straight shows at Sons of Hermann Hall.
But, in Miller's case, that'd be out of line. The Sons residency just came into being a few weeks back; Miller's Saturday-night gig has been on the books for some time. This is the third year of the annual cystic fibrosis research benefit thrown at the Granada Theater—and, at each of these events, Miller has performed.
There's a reason for that, of course: "My brother's one of the coordinators of the benefit," Miller says. "And I just believe in the cause. Knock on wood, I haven't had it touch my family, 'cause it's fucking tragic."
A genetic disorder in which secretory glands produce excess mucus that can stunt proper growth and weight gain, there's currently no cure for the disease—just therapeutic treatments that can slow the disease's progression.
"It feels good that I have an excuse to come back and contribute to the Dallas scene," he says.
And, on Saturday night, he'll be doing just that, sharing a stage with local products The O's and Shibboleth. It's possible too, that Miller could invite local singer-songwriter Salim Nourallah to join him onstage for a bit. Nourallah, readers will recall, produced both Miller's recent, self-titled solo release and the last Old 97's record—and Miller expects them to remain together as he and the 97's move forward.
"I kind of just feel like he's the guy," Miller says. "And I don't really feel like I need anyone else."