By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
"We felt trapped," DuPree-King says. "That situation was ill-fitted to our band, and there were a lot of expectations put on us because we were so young."
Business wasn't the only thing going wrong for the members of Eisley: Their personal lives were also spiraling out of control. Dark times for the band were made darker when singer Sherri DuPree-Bemis split from her new husband, Chad Gilbert. She had met Gilbert, guitarist for New Found Glory, on an extended tour Eisley had done with New Found Glory, and the two hit it off despite DuPree-Bemis' initial trepidation. Life on the road apart from each other, however, proved to be too much of a strain on their relationship, and the two divorced in 2007, less than a year after they were married.
"I think we just jumped into something too soon, because we wanted to get married and we fell into that relationship on tour because we had a really long tour together," says DuPree-Bemis of her relationship with Gilbert. "It was like a whirlwind and then, boom, we were married and neither of us realized the gravity of what happened. Then we went on tours and he fell in love with someone else, and I couldn't do anything about it."
Only months after that, DuPree-Bemis' older sister and bandmate, Chauntelle DuPree-D'Agostino, broke off her engagement with lead Taking Back Sunday vocalist Adam Lazzara.
The DuPrees had reached the bottom, and the failed relationships of the two sisters hit the entire family hard.
"It was rough because we're all so close," says Dupree-Bemis. "It was hard."
The band needed a break. And after they finished touring in support of their second LP, 2007's Combinations, they had fulfilled their end of the record contract and were ready to cut ties with Warner Bros. and Reprise.
But the people at Warner, who had all but disappeared when sales for Combinations were disappointing, were, surprisingly, not ready to let go. The band's A&R representative, Craig Aaronson, had just become the president of Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., and he begged the band to stay, promising that they would receive the attention that they deserved. The DuPrees reluctantly went against their judgment, extended their contract, and, without taking a break, thrust themselves into the studio to begin work on their third record. The band worked on that record for about a year, during which they negotiated the terms of their new deal.
"We showed [the record] to them, and [Aaronson] loved it and said he'd show it to his label," says Dupree-Bemis. "He felt like they didn't really get it, and he told us, 'I don't think this label's going to work for you like you need. If you guys want to get off the label, I think you should.'"
It was an absolute blow to the band's morale—and the final nail in the coffin for their relationship with the major-label system. So, after losing a year in contract negotiations, the band began the process of doing what they originally set out to do—leaving Warner Bros. and Reprise. The process would take them another year, right up until the fall of 2009, when the band started publicly questioning their major-label ties, as they did in a 2009 interview with the Observer, and openly hoping for a new, independent label deal.
A few months later, the chops began to fall. In February 2010, Eisley formally announced that they had split with Warner Bros. and Reprise Records. Then, just this month, the band revealed the details of the independent record label deal they had pined for, officially signing to the New York-based Equal Vision Records—an independent, sure, but still somewhat of an awkward fit. The biggest names on Equal Vision's roster are teen-punk stalwarts Chiodos and Pierce the Veil.
It's cold in Colorado, where the year's first blanket of snow has just fallen. It's been five years since Jonathan Wilson left Eisley, and now he's living a simple life just outside Denver. He's between jobs right now, but he might take up work on a snow plow soon.
He's a simple, soft-spoken guy, who speaks slowly and chooses his words carefully. He remembers his time in Eisley with all the wisdom and humility of someone who's had years to replay it in his mind.
"There were several years of being on the road on our own, playing any crappy show we could, paying our dues," says Wilson. "That was the funnest part—when we were out on our own. It was very free, and there was not a lot of pressure. It was very joyful to play shows."
Wilson was always the level-headed one in the band, but even he got caught up in the whirlwind when Warner Bros. came around. Despite the excitement of having just signed a huge record deal, though, Wilson took note of the bad signs that he saw.
"There were certain business decisions that we look back and said we could have done better, but we were really ignorant of the industry," Wilson says. "There was a lot of spending in certain areas, and investments of resources in areas that didn't sit right with the band. But management was pressuring."