The doors open to reveal a vehicle crammed with musical equipment and Eisley, a family band comprising members of the DuPree family and their neighborhood friend, bassist Jonathan Wilson. They've just made the drive from Tyler, and the band, their parents, and several friends hop out one by one to stretch their legs. The two boys in the band, drummer Weston DuPree and Wilson, grab the heaviest piece of equipment—the Fender Rhodes electric piano—and walk it into Clearview, where the band will play one of their first Dallas shows to date.
And it's a big one: The Dallas music elite has arrived. Most of the Polyphonic Spree's members are in attendance, and despite a few false starts in what turned out to be a one of Eisley's sloppiest sets, Tim DeLaughter and company seem charmed. And, hell, everyone is. These kids just ooze sweetness and innocence. And their music does too: Dreamy guitar tones set the foundation for impressive vocal harmonies that weave in and out of joyful-yet-melancholy pop songs.
Named originally Mos Eisley as an homage to the Star Wars planet, it's not surprising that the band's songbook thematically focuses on fairy-tale subject matter. But this isn't kid stuff: It's a mature sound that this band is producing, and one that seems destined for success. Better yet, the band's career is just beginning. That scene took place nearly 10 years ago, but even today everyone still seems to think of Eisley's members as kids. Reluctantly, though, they've all grown up over the years.
And they have the battle scars to prove it. Thanks to friends in bands like Midlake and Seven Channels who later became The Vanished , the shows got bigger, and the buzz surrounding the band grew legs of its own. It wasn't long until the bands that once brought Eisley under their wing were pining for opening slots on their shows. During that time, the Cornerstone Festival, a Christian music festival in Illinois, put Eisley on its new band showcase.
Among the several hundred people who showed up in front of the stage for that performance was Michael Barber, a lawyer who orchestrated a bidding war among several of the major labels for the band's services.
Eventually, Barber landed the band a management deal with Nettwerk Management home to Coldplay and a record deal with Warner Bros. It was hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind surrounding the band.
With a seemingly endless supply of money and a crack team of business-jargon-spewing industry hotshots on their side, it felt like Eisley had already made it. But reality set in quickly, and the band began to feel the weight of the label's demands on their shoulders—a burden that would only get heavier for years to come. The people at Warner Bros. The label and the band's management spent the band's money recklessly, shopping them around from producer to producer to try to find the right fit. But when the sales for Room Noises disappointed—despite prime opening touring slots for the likes of Coldplay, New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday—the band's interaction with its business handlers started becoming especially tense.
Suddenly, there was even more pressure to write hit singles. There was more pressure to tour, too. And, given the family dynamic of the outfit, there was pressure, too, for the band to make enough money to support its family. Everyone in the band felt it, but none more than DuPree-King, who spent much of her adolescence on the road. I started to close up more and more and more and more—until I was like a zombie, like a hermit. And it wasn't long before the band realized that the record deal with Warner Brothers wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Their personal lives were also spiraling out of control. 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 , less than a year after they were married.
Then we went on tours and he fell in love with someone else, and I couldn't do anything about it. The DuPrees had reached the bottom, and the failed relationships of the two sisters hit the entire family hard.
And after they finished touring in support of their second LP, 's Combinations, they had fulfilled their end of the record contract and were ready to cut ties with Warner Bros. But the people at Warner, who had all but disappeared when sales for Combinations were disappointing, were, surprisingly, not ready to let go.
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. If you guys want to get off the label, I think you should. 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.
The process would take them another year, right up until the fall of , when the band started publicly questioning their major-label ties, as they did in a interview with the Observer, and openly hoping for a new, independent label deal.
A few months later, the chops began to fall. In February , Eisley formally announced that they had split with Warner Bros. 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.
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.
It was very free, and there was not a lot of pressure. It was very joyful to play shows. Despite the excitement of having just signed a huge record deal, though, Wilson took note of the bad signs that he saw. But management was pressuring. With the exception of the Coldplay tour, Eisley was placed on the road with bands whose music and fans were a poor match.
The worst investment of all, though? The money spent on Room Noises. It was an indication to me that business was not being handled by competent, sensible people. And so was Wilson. The pressure was too much for him, but his reason for leaving had little to do with money or conflicts with the members of the band.
It was the result, he says, of an "existential journey" that Wilson had taken. He had returned to his Messianic Jewish background—a Christian faith that carries on in the Jewish tradition—and he felt like the band was conflicting with the Biblical commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.
I always wanted to continue relationships with everyone in the band, but all of those relationships basically dwindled. But even the fuzz that cuts in and out while DuPree-King speaks can't muffle her excitement about Eisley's next chapter. Over the last two years, she says, the band has sorted out both its business and personal troubles. More important, the band is back on the road, on their last tour before the March release of their third record, tentatively titled The Valley.
And, Dupree-King says, if there's one thing that's clear from these shows, it's that Eisley need to release more material. I would love to build back up to playing nice venues. Despite the somewhat odd fit, the band members believe that Equal Vision Records is the right place for them—even if they admit to being nervous about again signing with a label this second time around.
And that was different. The DuPrees have always preferred it the other way around: Their Tyler home is a revolving door of friends and family, most of whom are entertained by the DuPrees until well past the early hours of the morning. To have their business managers do business in their home spoke louder than any signing bonus they could have been offered. If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.