By John Cody
Imagine a rock band fronted by three attractive sisters, their brother and a cousin as the rhythm section. All of them are Christians. Home-schooled Christians. They live together, travel together and eat together. But never argue. They’re serious about their faith, yet refuse to align themselves with the Christian music industry. The youngest is 16, the oldest 24. According to their lead guitarist, they’re regularly depicted by the press as “dorks.” Sort of a sanitized version of the Partridge Family. And they were a cleaned-up version of the Cowsills.
Welcome to the world of Eisley.
In fact, the real story is far more intriguing. They’re one of the most innovative groups to come along in the last couple of years. Chauntelle, Sherri, Weston and Stacy DuPree, along with their cousin Garron DuPree on bass have fashioned a signature sound that takes from both familiar and obscure elements. Ethereal, at times whimsical, with a underlying sense of innocence, reference points might including Sixpence None the Richer, the Cranberries, Innocence Mission and Tori Amos. Like those acts, Eisley is female-fronted, and deals with faith in a subtle enough way to appeal to mainstream audiences.
Sherri has described their music as “very honest…pop rock, but with a “darker…moodier current running through them.” Inspiration comes from “…our whole life. Our lifestyle when we were growing up and our relationships with each other, and how we see the world.” That world view incorporates fairy tales. Dragons, sea kings, bats with butterfly wings – and song titles like ‘One Day I Floated Slowly Away’ – recall the twee poetry of Donovan at his trippiest. Coupled with solid pop smarts, the hook-laden songs come across like classic hits from an alternative, hipper universe.
Through non-stop touring and internet savvy they’ve managed to get word out that they’re the real deal.
Their debut album, Room Noises continues to sell almost a year after it’s release, and their live show is remarkably solid, revealing a sense of confidence and maturity far beyond the individual player’s years. No wonder. The group has been together for almost a decade already.
|Chauntelle with Boyd DuPree|
I spoke with Chauntelle – at 24 the oldest member of the group – and Boyd DuPree, who in addition to fathering 4/5ths of Eisley, has been involved in a variety of roles since the band’s inception.
He began at the beginning; the Bluetones Coffee Galaxy in Tyler, Texas, in the spring on 1998. “It’s kind of where they got started. That gave them the venue, an opportunity to grow. It wasn’t called a Christian coffee house. It wasn’t even like a parachurch ministry. There was really no ministry. We wanted to give kids in our little town an opportunity to hang out and sort of merge the cultures and give them a platform to grow as musicians. It was more about creating a scene.
“Basically, when we started getting interested there was a group of kids that weren’t into drugs but were not really believers or anything. Straight-edged kids. The straight-edged kids were trying to create a scene, and doing music in a rented warehouse. They really didn’t have enough money, and it wasn’t going anywhere.
“So we met some of those kids, and [asked] ‘what if we were to do this at our Vineyard church, but not really make it a church? We would just do it here.’ And the kids said that would be awesome. So we formed it and branded it and built it ourselves and started doing shows.
“Consequently a lot of the bands that came through were Christian bands, but we also had bands that weren’t Christian that would come in. The point was to have influence and that’s been sort of the mode all along, from the very beginning. Eisley emerged from that.”
The group’s first public performances were at the coffee house. Before that, they had enjoyed a thorough education thanks to Dad’s record collection. Music was a constant, and they soaked it all up. Boyd comments “I think the ones they remember are Pink Floyd and the Beatles, but we listened to everything.”
“We grew up listening to the Beatles pretty much,” Chauntelle recalls, “and other things, like country.” Specifically, the Judds. “They were mostly an influence I guess, like as far as country goes. But yeah, the Beatles, and we listened to Christian music for a while – DC Talk and stuff like that. But then we heard OK Computer, and it was just like, we were really freaked out. That really inspired us.” She still remembers the first time she heard Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece; “A friend gave it to Sherry. And I just remember that very day, walking out of my bedroom and hearing OK Computer playing in the living room and I was just like
‘What is it?’ I’d never heard anything like it. I was just freaked out. We listened to it over and over again. And about that time we had started playing guitar and stuff and writing songs, so that ‘s a big influence.”
She also mentions One Hundred Portraits, a far more obscure act that released two discs in the nineties that mixed roots rock with a spiritual focus; “[They] really had an influence and impact on us as far as inspiration for our songwriting. They’re a husband and wife couple, and they write worship songs together. His wife has a really beautiful voice, and they were a big inspiration.”
The coffee house offered a perfect setting to hone their craft, initially by opening for visiting bands. Boyd: “They played the very first show, grew, began to develop as a band and gain popularity, and then they eventually would headline. Then they created a little bit of a national buzz because all these other bands were out there [telling other bands], ‘there’s this awesomely great group of kids in this coffee house and you should get them to open for you when you go there because they’re amazing.’ So every time the bands would come they would ask my kids to open. And it grew from there.
“The next thing we knew they played at Cornerstone Festival [in 2002], and that blew the top off of it.” The festival is based outside Chicago and has long had a reputation for championing the best-up-and-coming alternative acts in the Christian scene. They began by playing an unscheduled set on the Impromptu stage opening night. “The first night there they have this amazing show that creates a buzz throughout the whole place, By the time they played their main event it was so damned packed you couldn’t even fit in the tent. Because of that someone invited them to play another stage. By the time it was over it was kind of a Moss Eisley blitz.” (The band was originally known as Moss Eisley, named after a space port in Star Wars, but trademark concerns necessitated the abbreviated moniker). “That led all these opportunities. Christian labels wanted to sign them, and all these Kumbaya moments out on the hills and everyone trying to sway us, and the band was like ‘what are you talking about? We didn’t come here to get signed. We’re just a little band. We need to develop and grow. And honestly, we wouldn’t sign with a Christian label. That’s not the route we’re going.’ So they’re all kind of disgruntled.” In fact, they had decided long before that they didn’t want to be part of the Christian music industry.
The band left without signing any deals. But they did make some valuable connections. “One of the right things that happened was that Aaron Sprinkle (producer of Starflyer 59/Hawk Nelson/MXPX/Project 86) was given a CD by a friend of ours who was recording with him right after Cornerstone. I put it in his hands and said I wonder if this could get to Aaron Sprinkle, because we were big fans of his.” Sprinkle was impressed. “We got a call two days later from Aaron saying ‘Hey, I heard this music and I’m really freaking out, and are you guys serious because I might be able to help. I have friends in the music business and I don’t think you should sign with a Christian label. I’m probably going to get killed for saying that, but it just feels like something special that needs an audience, a bigger audience…’”
His comments were remarkably prescient. These days the band’s audience encompasses and crosses a variety of demographic lines. And it keeps growing; “It’s been that way at shows on this tour more than ever. We’ve had young and old, every age. There’s obviously more (of a) college or high school crowd, but we’ve been seeing older folks, a lotta Moms and Dads. Everyone…”
Sprinkle – who would go on to produce a track on Room Noises – moved fast. “That night he met with a music attorney friend of his…and that guy called us that night, literally an hour later, and said ‘okay, I’ve heard this music, and are you for real? Are you doing it for a hobby or are you serious about this?’ And they were like ‘we’re serious.’”
Within days the attorney had flown to Tyler and met with the family. They played a show at the coffee house, he was sold, and went to work. “He started contacting the labels. I gave him images and MP3s and video clips of the best moments from the live shows.”
At the same time, opportunities were opening up in other areas. “Friends of ours in a band called Midlake said ‘you guys oughta play this show with us. It’s in a club, but it’s an all ages show.’ It’s at a club, it’s at a bar, but we jumped at the opportunity because we had always felt inclined towards that market and towards that [audience]. We wanted to reach into that market. So we did this show, and again, it just opened up this crazy opportunity to play every club in Deep Elum – that’s Dallas. They played this show at the Curtain Club, and during their show the managers and the sound engineers were running off to other clubs saying ‘get over here now, you’ve got to hear this band, and they’re asking where did you guys come from? We’ve never heard of you.’ And we’re like, ‘Well, we were down the street playing an all ages sort of Christian club called The Door, which is a really well run club. We have been here, we just never had the opportunity to play down the road…’ Literally within weeks every newspaper in Dallas – the Dallas Observer and all the rags and all the music scene magazines were putting them on the front page. And by the end of the next month they were the story – feature music story – on the Dallas Morning News.”
In early 2003 the group released an independent EP, Laughing City. (They had already released two different versions of an earlier, “unofficial” EP, that goes for big bucks on Ebay nowadays). Later that year they signed to Warners, and released another EP, Marvelous Things.
The group also signed with Coldplay’s management team, and were quickly thrust into the upper echelons of the music industry, touring extensively as opener for the band. Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin – a big Eisley fan – would warm up before each night’s performance by singing their songs. “It went crazy after that because Coldplay’s managers discovered them and then the whole thing kinda, you know, [exploded].”
They’ve since moved on to management. Opportunities and challenges continue on a daily rate, but at this point the band is far more experienced, seasoned road vets. “Now it’s just, life is normal. I mean life is real different now, that was all the entry process, and now it’s kind of grinding it out.”
Boyd comes across as a justifiably proud father. He cares about his kid’s well-being, making sure they’re grounded, and insuring things evolve as they should, rather than chasing after transitory showbiz dreams. He’s instilled in each of them an awareness of what’s really important, and they come across as remarkably mature for their ages.
He works under the catch-all moniker of band tour manager, but he’s responsible for far more than insuring things run smoothly on the road. His background is in design, and he’s been helping out since back in ’98 when they performed their first show. “Basically, I started doing their design, and identity on the web. I’m a career designer. I was at the right place – or the wrong place – at the right time, I guess. When things began to build, I started doing more work for them, web design, keeping up with all those portals, with their fans and communicating and answering every email…all this kind of stuff.”
His role continued to expand as the band’s popularity increased. “When they got signed [to Warner Brothers], they wanted me to kind of join forces with them…I was going out with them and catching media; videos and all the web stuff. I was with them on all the first tours, the Coldplay tour and all those. Subsequently, road manager was added to his list of duties. “They needed someone to go out with them, and their previous managers had brought out some people for a couple of different tours and they were really not happy with them…after a couple of tours they just said ‘Hey this is not rocket science, why can’t you do this? You’re here anyway.’ We had made a decision as a family that we weren’t going to turn over our kids to the music business – we had fourteen year olds in the band, so we were going to be there either way. So it just made sense to do tour management.”
Chauntelle says the best thing about being in Eisley is that it’s made up of those she’s closest to. “We get people asking ‘How do you guys do this with your family? Don’t you get sick of each other? Don’t you hate each other?’ And it’s like no, it’s like really perfect. We love it. I don’t think any of us could really imagine being in a band without each other. Like with other people, like friends or something, ‘cause we’re all so close and we just have fun together all the time. We do get in arguments every now and then, but nothing big, it lasts for like a minute and then it’s gone, it’s over with in like the next second, literally.” In other words, it’s just like at home? “It’s pretty much the same. We all live in one house and it’s kind of a small house, I mean it’s not very small, but it’s cramped because there’s ten people living in it, so we’ll stay in our rooms more and we’re not so much right around each other all the time. But it’s really not much different, because it’s a small house.”
That’s right. Ten people. While five members of the family are out on the road, an equal number – mother Kim (known as ‘forum Mom’ on the band’s website) – plus four more are busy keeping the home fires burning back in Tyler.
Band members have described their continual rise in popularity as ‘weird.’ Sherri has summed it up best; “Life is whack-o-mania.”
Is it what they expected back when they first started out? “I think so…people try to imagine what the future is going to be like, but there’s really no knowing,” observes Chauntelle. “I guess this is about right though, because I never imagined that we’d ever just like explode really fast and be making a lot of money really quick. I still see us doing this for a while, going at this kind of pace, unless the next record by some miracle just went crazy and did really well. But I’m not banking on that at all.”
In fact, overnight major league success is something they’d prefer to avoid. Taking it slow is part of the plan. Boyd likens it to any other business strategy, and is happy with the pace; “I think it’s what always needed to happen. Where the band is now is in this wonderful organic slow growth process. All the promoters are echoing that and sending congratulations because it’s just growing on it’s own without any radio support. We’re selling out more shows, and we’re at the end of a record cycle, which is usually when things begin to drop off. But it’s [still] building.” He mentions the various internet opportunities; “Myspace is going crazy. I have to keep tabs on that, so I’m having to add sometimes five hundred kids a day to their Myspace page, which is at 83,000 now. All of that kind of stuff is building, it’s just momentum that spreads the right way, from person to person and building fans. I’m convinced of this. It’s one of my philosophies in marketing that the only real way to do this in the music business is to have fans really be engaged in who you are and your music, not just like something hype-ish, or even a radio song. Most often when they hear radio songs it’s (just the) song. And a lot of times these promoters say that bands will do blowout shows but the next time they come through when the song has died you can’t even sell a hundred tickets.”
Then there’s the problem too much success too fast; “Even if you become this big radio star, the danger with that – from what I’ve seen – is that overbranding, overexposure, can destroy you on your next record. The expectation is so enormous. Once Franz Ferdinand is plastered on the front of Spin and every other magazine, it becomes the beginning of the end. Because most people see that and just go ‘oh, I’m just kinda over that. I got blitzed with that.’ You get blasted with it, and then you’re like, ah. So it’s safer to me. A better way is to grow the right way, which is the way any business should grow. Just build it, slowly, then keep heading in the right direction. Keep practicing, and being committed to your art.”
And that commitment is where everything else stems from. “Right. I don’t know…it’s all tried and true. It seems to be working and I’m really pleased that it’s going the way it is, because in the beginning, when they got signed to the majors [it was] just a crazy thing. Initially it was a problem. Because the label didn’t really know what to do with them. The label loved them, but didn’t know how to pin them. You can imagine the whole thing of girls, sibling sisters, cute, young…what’s not pop about that?
“All the big publications tried to spin it, but none of it was accurate. It wasn’t who the band was, it was just that they needed a story. So once that had sort of died off I started becoming committed to plastering the web space with live videos to let people see who the band really was and what they sounded like, instead of anything that the media was trying to spin. I think that over time, just trying to broadcast who the band is has been a good thing. Because as that sort of seeped out, people are in touch with who they are now, no one really sees them anymore like ‘aw they’re some cheesy sibling Christian –you know – cute girl band.
“They get invited to go out on the best tours. I read somewhere they they’re every band’s favorite band.” In addition to Coldplay, they’ve toured with New Found Glory, Switchfoot, and Hot Hot Heat. “They’re getting so many opportunities to tour. We’re going back out to the UK with Taking Back Sunday. They’re madly in love with Eisley and they’re from a different planet rock wise, but the credibility factor has been rising.” In one case, ‘favorite band’ is an understatement: Sherri and New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert recently announced their engagement.
It’s been a challenge getting the image they want to project across. “It’s weird, because you’re dealing with real people, friends at that label who understand this, but they’re dealing with someone at Seventeen magazine.” He recounts a photo session with the magazine. “We arrived and the girls went in for makeup. Stacey, who was fourteen at the time, came out looking – excuse me – but looking like a whore. Oh, ridiculous. So Stacey went into the bathroom and scraped it all off, and made the guy really mad. And we just said ‘look, this is not who they are…’”
Sometimes it just gets plain silly. “Seventeen did an article on three different girl-oriented kind of bands. And they said ‘Eisley, what do you do, what’s your favorite hobby, what do you like to do…?’ ‘Well, we like to make music and we draw. We basically draw and paint.’ And they’re like, ‘Ah, Evanescence already has that one.’ ‘Well that’s really what we do. Literally from day one. We draw and make music.’ ‘Well we have to have something else. I read somewhere that you guys like to decorate your Converse tennis shoes. Is that true?’ ‘Well…we write stuff on them.’ ‘Okay, let’s do that, let’s go with that angle.’
“When we showed up they had buckets full – like a whole floor full of pink and blue and green, like bright Converse tennis shoes, and they’d gotten all of this paint, and things to stick on them. And the girls were like, ‘Well what are we supposed to do?’ And they posed them sitting in this sea of Converse tennis shoes, drawing and painting on the tennis shoes. Since they didn’t have time to do it themselves, all the other stylists and whatnot were writing stuff all over the shoes, sticking bright sequins and buttons on them. They even made up lines. They quoted Sherry as saying something stupid like, ‘Collect them all! There’s one for every color of the day!’ or something equally silly. She never said that. At that point we became kind of jaded…”
Chauntelle agrees it’s been a struggle changing public perception. “Sometimes people know that we were all home-schooled, and that we’re brother and sisters, and that we were raised in a Christian home, so they’ll play that up really big, like it’s almost a dorky thing about us – BUT – they’re still good and you should listen to them. That’s the only thing that’s kind of annoying. Because they want a story and that’s the story. And it’s true. We’re dorky kids that come from a Christian home and we’re related and we were home-schooled (laughs).” But she could live without the ‘dork’ label? More laughter. “Yeah.”
I wondered how Boyd had avoided the once prevalent mindset within some denominations that equated listening to rock music with venturing down the highway to Hell. “Maybe because I’ve been in the creative business, and it’s just really hard to stereotype, to conform if I don’t think something is bad for them. If I don’t think it’s bad for them then I just wasn’t opposed. Certainly we listened to a lot of Christian music and raised them kind of traditionally like every other Christian family coming up in the 80s. But when I was growing up my parents let us listen to whatever was happening. They would listen to the lyrics with us and we would kind of like talk it over and we’d go ‘what does this mean, is that really bad for me?’”
Growing up in a Christian home informs much of his thinking. “Maybe it was just me, but my brothers and I were never really adversely affected by all the stuff we listened to. We were just listening to everything, and were being influenced by it musically. Just jam bands, garage bands that never did anything, but we played enough hours to get it out of our system, and still all play.” Boyd is a drummer, and continues to play on a regular basis. “We’re still on worship teams and stuff like that. But we never got on drugs, or nothing. It never was a thing that pulled us under. It was just music. So I guess I just came into this family with that same grid, you know, had a lot of vinyl. I think the ones they remember are Pink Floyd and the Beatles, but we just listened to everything.”
And when they formed Eisley, was there any concern around the material they played? “There was a little pressure when my kids started writing songs that weren’t – you know, whatever – Christian music. I kind of had to just go, well, their lives are evident, there’s no danger signs, and they’re writing this really creative music. And I just liked it, and I was like whoa, I can’t deny what’s happening.”
In the few years since the band was signed there’s been a paradigm shift in thinking regarding Christians in mainstream bands, both within and outside the church: “I think it’s changing. I’m seeing it. There’s more and more good bands and more and more, non-Christians are just not caring, because the quality and integrity is going up. So they’re just like, ‘Whatever, who cares what the belief is.’”
That’s a big change from a decade ago when an a us-vs.-them mentality pervaded much of the scene. “Unfortunately I think we as Christians have just really sort of fallen short. I don’t know what kind of road we were on. It was some sort of isolation chamber where we created our own little genre and thought that was the most important thing that we could do.” Perhaps it was a necessary – if embarrassing – phase whose time has come and gone. Now, thankfully the emphasis is on the quality of the music. “Exactly. That’s so true. That’s becoming more evident even in the last several months, with bands like Mae getting signed to Capitol from Tooth and Nail. Mae is a great kind of indie pop rock band who are all Christians, and no one even cares. I mean they’re even on a Christian label. And no one even thinks ‘Oh, you know, they’re kind of like this, you know…’ Because they haven’t really tried to use Christian music as a platform. Because who they are is evident of how good they are and what they’re about. I’ve seen that a bunch lately.”
I asked Chauntelle if Eisley ever comes under criticism from church members who refuse to believe the sacred and secular can coexist peacefully. “I can’t say that we get too much pressure. Actually we don’t really do that many interviews with Christian magazines. Because we’re just trying to make sure that people don’t start thinking ‘Oh, they’re a Christian band. I don’t want to listen to them because they’re probably going to try and preach to me or something.’ Because our faith and our Christianity is a very personal relationship with God, and it’s not like something we’re trying to sell to people. We’re not trying to say ‘Hey, we’re in a band and we’re Christians and you should be a Christian too.’”
Boyd agrees. “We’re always a little cautious, because you never know, sometimes Christian writers are wanting to validate, and pry and find out whether you’re real or not. I mean, I understand that, if you’re writing for a Christian publication it makes some sense, to kind of dig and see what’s there, how people’s lives are. I don’t blame them, but it’s a weird thing.”
He mentions – without naming names – the curious phenomenon of bands “that are obviously Christian, but when they hit this wall, they freak out and start dropping the ‘F’ bomb, and doing everything they can to come off like they were never Christians, you know, like ‘I never knew him.’ (laughs). And it’s so weird because you can’t really deny your faith, so you might as well be who you are. At the same time Eisley is who they are, they are very much like artisans who are believers, but the same way that any Christian artist might paint a landscape painting, the outcome of that expression wouldn’t be either evangelical or, you know…[worldly]. Certainly everything we do is to glorify God.”
And the fans respond accordingly, well aware that this is far more than just another flavor-of-the-week pop act. “That happens a lot with us. The opportunities just to be out there in the world where there’s so much darkness. I mean a very small light illuminates a very dark room. It’s not like you to be out there blasting them with a beacon.”
“We just try to not freak out and say no we’re not going to talk to any Christian writers or publications because we’re trying to make sure no one thinks that we’re a Christian band. They’ve largely sidestepped that. Most of their fan base are just indie kids who like their music. Some are Christians. If you were to ask them they would say Eisley is just a really cool creative band, who are Christians.”
While they don’t solicit coverage, the band has received whole-hearted endorsement from the Christian media. Christianity Today even named Room Noises one of the ten best releases for 2005.
According to Chauntelle, more and more bands are simply ignoring the whole Christian music scene. “It’s not to snub them and say we’re better than that because we’re doing it our way or we’re doing it a new way which is better. It’s just really living your life walking with love and integrity and living, trying to walk in Christ’s footsteps… we’re just trying to be a light and love people, just like Christ would. We’re not perfect. Obviously we mess up, but I guess there’s a lot of Christians that still have a different way of going about that – in the way that they think – and it doesn’t seem to work for us.
She cites a recent occurrence that stands in stark contrast to their approach as believers. “We were on this tour, a few shows back. We had just finished playing and we walked outside. We were loading up and all of our fans were waiting outside to talk to us, and all of a sudden this girl – she was about my age – she approached me and she was like ‘Chauntelle can I have a word with you for a minute?’ And I was like, ‘sure,’ and I got this feeling like okay, here comes something weird.
“And she was like ‘I just want you to know that God loves you and that your sins are forgiven’ and all this stuff, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, thank you, that’s really sweet, I know, that’s awesome.’ And she was like, ‘I’d like to pray with you right now if you’d let me’ and I was like ahem, okay, I don’t know. It was right in front of all of our fans and I was like okay… I didn’t know what to do.
“And she said ‘now Chauntelle, repeat after me,’ and she said ‘repeat this prayer,’ and I wanted to stop her and say I’m sorry but what makes you think that you know me well enough to judge whether or not I need this prayer right now? But I didn’t because she seemed really nervous and I didn’t want to embarrass her and be rude, and there were fans all around watching. So I just did it and I said ‘thank you very much, I’ve been a Christian all my life actually, and to let you know that I really appreciate you being bold.’ “But the weird thing was, I don’t even think that she knew much about our band. Not only that, she came with a group of people, and Stacey was approached, Sherri was approached, Weston and Garron were approached. They approached Eisley because they wanted to save Eisley. Again. They felt we needed to be saved.
“The weird thing was that they didn’t say we love your music, how are you guys doing, or anything. After that they walked away and they were done. ‘Have a good night.’
“I’m just talking about that kind of method of going about being a Christian. That is so different to me. It doesn’t seem to work. You know, I could have been anybody and if I’d not been a Christian she might have really offended me. I guess that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Early on, the band got a first hand look at the questionable business ethics employed by some in the Christian music scene. Boyd relates; “When we were playing Christian coffee houses, back when they were starting out, just going around to little towns in Texas and whatnot, we were playing like three times a week, once each weekend night, and maybe once during the week, and those were the worst experiences. Those were where they said they would pay us and feed us but didn’t, or cover gas money but didn’t.
“And conversely we were running a Christian coffee house and catered to so many Christian bands and they were coming in all beat up and couldn’t believe that we were paying them. Couldn’t believe we were fixing barbeque brisquit meals for them every evening. They were like, ‘What’s the deal?’ and they were like, ‘You don’t understand.’ We learned it over time.
“But that became kind of our biggest calling. Just feeding people and being a little bit of a blessing when they were making a pit stop thru Tyler. And that in and of itself sort of caused our dumb little coffee shop to have a national presence. We used to hear that every band in the country wanted to come and play.” All because they treated their guests with respect. “Yeah. It didn’t seem like such a big deal.“
He’s frustrated by the fact that these sort of stories are more the rule than the exception. “Since we’ve been in the ‘secular’ market we’ve really never been screwed over, shorthanded, cheated. All the promises have been fulfilled. Isn’t it weird? It’s hard to know how to feel about it, because you don’t want to just be jaded and down on the church, and just stereotype it. Because I know there’s exceptions.”
The group’s upcoming album was written under decidedly different circumstances than past efforts. Sherry and Stacey – who write the bulk of the material – had the luxury of writing Room Noises at the family home – hence the disc’s title. Since then, they’ve been on tour almost non-stop, and finding time for the creative process has been a bit more tricky. “This tour, it’s been a fun tour but it’s really kind of hectic because there’s not any days off where you just get to be somewhere like at a hotel,” comments Chauntelle. “All the days off are driving days so it’s kinda hard. But they’ve been doing the best that they can…it’s really, really hard. The only place you can write is at a hotel at night, at like maybe four in the morning when you finally get there. Or if you can find a quiet place in the venue or if you can go out in the van, whatever. It’s not very convenient at all.”
Considering the circumstances, they’ve been prolific. “They’ve already wrote almost all the songs. We gave them to the label, but they want us to keep working on writing. Labels always do that, no matter what. They loved what we gave them, they’re like ‘it’s great, but keep working just in case there’s more that come about that we wanted to use on the record.’”
There are great expectations for the disc. Alternative Press has named it as one of the fifty most anticipated releases of the year, and they haven’t even started recording. Judging from the material they’ve been previewing in concert, no one will be disappointed.
Boyd says they’ve been inundated with offers for more shows, “but the band has to make this record. That’s become the biggest piece, as far as the plan this year. The label is wanting the record really bad. They keep getting all these opportunities to tour, but I don’t know if that will happen.”
The biggest issue right now is finding the right producer. In addition to one track with Aaron Sprinkle, Room Noises utilized a number of different producers. “That’s a hodgepodge there, because Rob Schnapf did a bunch, Rob Cavallo did a bunch. John Shanks did one. Eisley did two.”
This time, they’re hoping to find just one individual who will helm everything. “They’re working on that really hard right now. Probably within the next few weeks, before we get finished with this tour they’ll have a producer all fixed. There’s a lot of them coming to the shows.” There’s an additional wrinkle; “They really want to record at home in Tyler, and it might require someone coming there, so I don’t know if that will be a big limitation or not.” The idea of recording at home appeals on a number of levels. “Oh, they’re so into that. They didn’t like L.A. They just hated being over there and wasting so much money.”
In closing, I asked Boyd how he deals with the myriad of temptations inherent in the entertainment industry. “We sort of entered this world within our own little bubble in a sense. That’s kind of metaphor, but we’ve been able to maintain that protection.
“And it’s not really just coming from me. It’s the band. They really aren‘t interested in the lifestyles of other bands that we meet are into. They’re just really solid. They’re not interested. Pretty much they’re the antithesis of the culture that we find ourselves in. And yet they seem to find the greatest acceptance, just because there’s such a hunger.
“It is the atmosphere of God on the band. They’re just not pummeling people with that. It’s very evident. And people in other bands know that. They’re always interested, like ‘what’s going on with this band Eisley, they’re not really into the same stuff we do but they seem to be cool. We love their music, they’re creative. They don’t fit the mold for what we know about Christianity.’ And that leads to a lot of opportunities. That kind of defines the goal, or the mission, if you want to use that term. It’s always been there.”
© John Cody 2006