Trying to pigeonhole Eisley into one particular genre is a tough job. It would be like trying to fit a dodecahedron into a square-shaped hole. Some might be quick to dismiss this talented group of young musicians as just another artsy-roots-folk-indie-alterna-pop-rock group, but they are so much more than that. Simply put, Eisley makes music: beautifully haunting, emotionally riveting music.
The band’s genre-defying quality is indicated by the bands they have paired with on tours. In 2003, they were invited by alternative rock darlings Coldplay to join them on their North American tour. Later that year they were picked up by Long Island emo-punk band Brand New to open for their headlining tour. In 2004, they toured with British indie rock up-and-comers Snow Patrol. They are currently on the cross country “Back to Basics” tour opening for pop-punk bands New Found Glory and Reggie and the Full Effect.
In an industry where most of the music cranked out on the radio is prefabricated corporate fluff, it is finally refreshing to hear a good old home-grown band. That’s because Eisley literally was grown at home.
Made up of three sisters, their brother and their best friend, Eisley honed their craft playing anywhere they could in their home town of Tyler, Texas. The eldest of the Dupree siblings, Chauntelle, plays lead guitar. Vocal duties are shared by second-born Sherri, who also plays guitar, and younger sister Stacy, who plays keyboards and piano. The rhythm section is rounded off by the lone Dupree brother in the band, Weston, on drums and adopted band-mate and family friend Jonathan Wilson.
A quick listen to their full-length debut, “Room Noises”, and one might think of fellow Reprise Records label-mates Sixpence None the Richer. A longer listen will fool you into thinking that “Room Noises” does not sound like a normal band’s first, or even third album.
Yet Eisley’s debut is so full of wonder and whimsy, with sounds so lush and delicate, melancholic and quirky that it can make one forget that every member of the band is under 25. It helps to have seasoned producer Rob Schnapf, who produced Beck and Elliot Smith, at the helm; but a captain is no good without a talented crew.
Growing up together must have created a musical psychic link between the Dupree siblings. The band is so cohesive in their playing, with the girls’ marvelously overlaid guitar and keyboard melodies, backed by Jonathan and Weston’s steady, unobtrusive rhythm. This leaves room to shine for Eisley’s most valuable assets: the vocals and the songs.
With both Sherri and Stacy writing the songs, they are able to create marvelously layered vocal harmonies — a skill neglected by much of contemporary music. This, coupled with whimsical and adorably ambiguous lyrics sung by the sisters’ delicate, wood-nymph voices, creates an atmospheric, unforgettable aural experience.
“Room Noises” opens with the bittersweet piano-led “Memories,” with a lush, soaring chorus and the narrative lyrics of a husband and wife, with Stacy and Sherri pitching lines back and forth to each other.
“Telescope Eyes,” the band’s current single, is a more straight-ahead guitar-driven track, featuring Sherri on lead vocals. Keep in mind the second-voice harmony on the track isn’t a re-recording of Sherri, but younger sister Stacy providing a gorgeous overlapping harmony.
Being sisters, the similarities of their voices blend perfectly with each other, sometimes providing a confusion of who’s singing what, but that’s all just part of the Eisley charm.
The track “Brightly Wound” is one of the sunnier ones in “Room Noises,” with the pixie-haired Sherri declaring “I shall never grow up/Make believe is much too fun/Can we go far away to the humming meadow?”
The song’s second verse has the Dupree sisters singing separate, overlapped lyrics and melodies with such lovable naivetÇ that it’s hard not to sing along. The theme of love keeps a firm grasp on a number of the songs on “Room Noises.” They aren’t, however, the unrequited, I’m-not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman clichÇ that everyone has grown accustomed to.
“My Lovely” opens with a deceiving minor-key introduction, only to burst into prancing love ditty: “Here’s a song for you, lovely/Remember that it is for you only/My heart was caught in a landslide/And now it feels for you only.” The song itself is nothing short of lovely.
Eisley’s musical potential is unfathomable, being so young and already so talented. In such a disenchanted, hackneyed industry, they are a much needed breath of fresh air, and it would be a great shame for such talent to be ignored.
Eisley could either break through to the land of mainstream top 40’s, or continue on with their small grass-roots following and one day fade into obscurity. But one thing’s for sure: there is an Eisley-shaped hole in everyone’s record collection that needs to be filled, and luckily, they’re here to do just that.
Rating: * * * * (out of four)