Eisley, whose full-length album Currents is their fourth, is a Texas-based indie-pop quintet. With their recent transition to indie label Equal Vision Records, the band was given the opportunity to record in a home studio, as well as produce the record themselves. Straying a bit from their usual whimsical, melancholy sound – yet keeping their signature vibe – Currents explores a more enchanting side of the band, both lyrically and instrumentally. We caught up with Sherri DuPree Bemis, guitar player and singer, to discuss the new album, their upcoming summer tour and her latest role: parent.
How is Currents different from all your previous albums?
This is the first record we’ve ever completely self-produced and recorded, which was a big step for us. But also, it was a completely natural one to take at this point in our lives. We were completely isolated from the outside world. It’s just pure, unadulterated Eisley.
With most of the band having or expecting babies, what was it like to be able to record the album at home?
Necessary! It’s not what drove us to build a studio and track the record at home; we had already decided to take that plunge but on this project, with three pregnant girls in one band, it definitely made recording so easy on us. In L.A., we were jammed into apartments, living out of suitcases and fighting traffic to get to some ridiculously expensive studio. Here, we feel so very blessed to have been able to work in the comfort of our own home without all that insanity. We might work until late at night, but when we close the door, we drive a few blocks to our homes.
What was a typical day like writing and recording Currents?
For me, it was honestly just wake up, go downstairs, make coffee, play music … Repeat the next day. It was the most fun ever.
How was the experience of producing the album as a band?
The best word I can use is “liberating.” We’ve been a band for over 10 years now, and we have been writing music for longer. Having the freedom and trust from our label (Equal Vision Records) to just do what we do was the most exciting feeling.
Producers are great, and there are incredible ones we dream to work with one day, but for this project, we just needed to have control. We were like kids in a candy store. I think producing might come as natural to us as songwriting. Having a vision for a song while you’re writing also means having a sense of how you want it to sound in the end. So you’re always working out parts, exchanging ideas with bandmates, figuring out who’s going to sing which song, scrapping ideas and starting over … All the stuff that producers do.
Thankfully, we have these smart, talented guys in the band like our brother/drummer (Weston DuPree), cousin/bassist (Garron DuPree) and our long time friend/live sound engineer (Mark Schwartzkopf) who, not only designed and build the studio from scratch, but also engineered the record. They figured out all of the technical, pro-audio stuff like microphone placement and how to track drums. They also did all the editing on our super Hack-intosh.
Also, just because our guys are the rhythm section and are naturally more technically minded than us gals, they’d just take a song, break it back down, re-track their parts and add all kinds of weird, cool stuff late at night. Sometimes we’d come back in the morning and they’d have completely rebuilt a song. We’d hear it and almost cry because we loved it so much.
I think, for us, producing was all about sharing ideas, not worrying about egos and just working hard to write and create songs in the way we envisioned them instead of how someone else did.
Describe what it was like to have your younger siblings’ band Merriment make a guest appearance on the track “Wicked Child”?
Family means everything to us, and our whole family is very musical. Merriment breaks my heart; they are so talented and their music is so pure – we just had to get them on our record (laughs). By the way, their new record is coming out this year on Rory Records (that’s my husband’s imprint on Equal Vision Records) and it will melt your hearts. Having them be a part of our record, even in a small way, was very special to us older siblings. They’re coming up behind us – writing all these amazing songs that are blowing us away. We’re just so proud of them!
What are you most excited about for this new record?
It really opened up new doors for our creative minds as a band. In the years to come, I think we’ll look back on this album as the fork in the road that led down a better path. We want to be a better, stronger, more imaginative band. The thing that has excited me the most, personally, is to see and hear our fans’ reaction to the album. These first few weeks have been so mind-blowing, exciting and humbling because our fans have been universally pleased with it, and that brings me so much joy. In spite of what anyone thinks, it is not easy to get a record right. It’s difficult to please yourself, much less your fans – and especially the industry. I could die happy at this point in my life.
How has becoming parents changed your roles as musicians?
When you have a child, you start seeing and hearing everything through their eyes. You start viewing life from a new perspective. I’m really curious to see how our next record will sound. All our babies were born after we tracked Currents and now they’re all here. It’s amazing. We love it.
But to answer to your question, I think it will influence our songwriting for the better. I know I definitely want to make a timeless record that my daughter will be able to put on when she’s my age and listen to it the way I listen to Abbey Road and think, “That could have been recorded today.”
I think children are the best influence for music because they’re such pure, little entities. My daughter (Lucy Jean) is currently only three months, but every night when I’m feeding her, she gives me this certain look that I know means she wants me to sing to her. So I do, and she just smiles and smiles! Her face lights up and that’s all I could ever hope for in this world, is to keep making music that does that.
You are all very open about sharing your new lives as parents on social media outlets such as Instagram and Vine. Being in the spotlight as a band, what made you choose to allow your fans as well as other people have access into your personal family lives?
It’s just how we’ve been, since the beginning, with our fans. Transparent. It’s obviously very important to keep your personal life guarded, and you always want to guard your children no matter how old they are, but I know for myself, I’ve always loved connecting with our fans and sharing in their lives and letting them share in mine. It’s an amazing (and sometimes painful) feeling. I’ve made best friends because of it.
And it’s no secret that there aren’t many positive, young parental role models around these days for kids. That’s really something that’s always been on my heart. My family is so close-knit and that has really shaped who I am as a person, for the better. I’m sure as the children grow older, we’ll only be more and more calculated with how much of them we share with the world until they’re old enough to make that decision themselves. But babies bring such joy to people. Lord knows the world needs more of that.
You had created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a baby-friendly touring vehicle. What made you decide to want to tour so soon versus taking a break to raise your children?
I think, for us, it was just that having kids came so naturally to us as individuals. I know parenting isn’t for everyone, but having the sort of environment that we do, it made the decision to tour our new record seem like a no-brainer because our little entourage, our traveling unit, is all about family and safeness. Honestly, it’s been that way from the beginning. Plus, by the time this tour starts, all of the babies will be about four-plus months old. They’re already starting to become these little humans with their own personalities and likes and dislikes, so it’s really only making it more exciting to take them out to share other places, surroundings, music and people with them. They have already been sewn in this crazy fabric of our family so seamlessly that I really don’t think it will be that much different to tour with them. We think it will only make our tour better.
Seeing that the Kickstarter campaign was not funded, what is Plan B?
To figure it out as we go a long. That’s really all we’ve ever done! Just roll with it, get up, try new ideas, look ahead and keep moving! We decided it was time to start our families. That’s so important to us. The rest of this is just business economics. The truth is, if you’re going to release a record and are on a label, you really have to tour it. It’s definitely not impossible. Anyway, we had a big creative session the other night to think and pray about it. We’re seeing answers.
Looking back at the Kickstarter amount you were asking for, do you think it was not fully funded because it might have been an unrealistic goal to start with?
Tons of bands have launched Kickstarters with decently high numbers. The difference might be that they were trying to fund a new record, which is very tangible. Our situation is unique. Thankfully we have a way to record, but we can’t just throw four babies into a van and hit the road anymore. We’ve been touring in large BandWagons and RVs and have to continue doing that.
Anyway, yes, touring is a bigger challenge for us. It’s also less tangible, which is possibly why we didn’t reach the goal. We’re not disappointed at all. I guess in the end, we were actually amazed and thankful that the Kickstarter hit the 60% mark.
What are you most looking forward to on the upcoming summer tour?
Playing live shows! Singing brings me so much joy. Singing along with people that are inspired by our music really puts it over the top.
You guys have been touring as a family forever. How are you preparing for the little ones to go on tour with you? Are you guys bringing a nanny with you? Or are the grandparents coming along?
There is a hoard of us going to be sure. Yes, we are bringing sisters and wives to help out while we’re playing! We’ve packed about 4,000 diapers, and we’re ready to go.
Why was the announced vinyl split with Say Anything for Record Store Day this year cancelled? Are you guys going to release it for this tour?
Interestingly, that happened because vinyl manufacturers are overrun and were slow to get product out on time. Our distributor, Sony RED, worked so hard to make it happen but at the end of the day, couldn’t get the product to the outlets on time. We love record stores and were so bummed. But yes, we’ll have them available at our merch table at every show on this tour, starting June 6 and ending July 14. I guess it makes sense to have the 7″-split with us since both bands are also sharing the stage. That project was kind of a last-minute thing we threw together, so I’m really excited about how it turned out. Plus, I love vinyl.
Did you do the artwork for the split? What is it like being an artist as well as a musician? Do you often find yourself wanting to do the album artwork or merch for Eisley or your husband’s band, Say Anything?
I did the line art illustrations for the split and for the Currents cover. My dad (band manager/career graphic designer Boyd DuPree) has always taken my illustrations and made them look amazing for album artwork, merchandise, and more.
Drawing has always just been something I absolutely love to do, so the fact that the band lets me use my illustrations for our branding has always meant a lot to me. I feel like the designs go hand-in-hand with the feel of the music. I’ve never really had a strong desire to branch out and use my illustrations for other bands, though I have had offers. My style has been such a big part of Eisley’s visual side since the beginning.
Being full time in Eisley, new parents, you doing art and your side project, Perma, as well as Stacy’s side project Sucre with her husband, how do you all find the time to manage so many things?
We’re doing all the things we love so much and are passionate about, so it never truly feels like work. When you love what you do, it almost becomes second nature to just fit it all into your life. There is still way more that we want to do: illustrate books, make children’s records, work on more musical side-projects. I think it really always will be endless because creating art is too much fun.
With all the kids around the same age, any plans/hopes of the cousins forming a band in the future?
(Laughs) We get this question a lot already (“Eisley 2.0”). It’s so funny to me because all I can picture is a band of tiny babies playing instruments in their diapers. But honestly, we just want our kids to do what they become passionate about in their lives, whether it’s music or not. I’m sure this crazy environment will have an impact on their lives, and hopefully they’ll love music since all of their parents live and breathe it. There is probably no avoiding it, but we would never push for it. If it happens naturally – that would be awesome! If it happens, hopefully, they’ll take their old codger parents’ band on tour when they’re big time.
What is the set list looking like for this tour?
It’s a good mixture of old and new. I think it will really please the long time fans, as well as the new ones. There is a little something for everyone in this set list.
What is a fun fact about you or others in the band that no one knows?
We are the biggest group of total dorks you could ever meet. On the other hand, that’s probably common knowledge.
What can we expect from Eisley after this summer’s tour?
Hopefully, and God willing, more touring! And now that we’ve got this studio set-up? Music. Any time, all of the time.
Eisley was posted on June 3, 2013 for HM Magazine and authored by Melissa Sanchez.