Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Entangled in the emotional pop of Eisley

Eisley are a bunch of damn hypocrites. Ever since the 2005 release of "Telescope Eyes," with its excruciatingly pitiable plea of "Please don't make me cry," they've been making their fans do exactly that. You'd have to be a hardhearted bastard not to feel the romance in the love-besotted harmonies of singers Stacy and Sherri DuPree, who form the photogenic Texas quintet with siblings Weston and Chauntelle and cousin Garron.

On new album The Valley (Equal Vision), the tears continue to fall, but they've taken on a decidedly more bitter context. Perhaps that devotion to heartbreak is what's made the band fit in so well with the emo company they keep. Over the years, they've toured with Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Say Anything, and New Found Glory. But Eisley (yes, their name is a Star Wars reference) aren't necessarily a clear musical match to the bombastic, overwrought punk of any of those bands whose scene orbit and fan base they often share. Rather, with their open expanses of vocal beauty, piano balladeering, and guitars dripping in rivulets of melancholy, they have more in common with the earnest, vaguely Christian power pop of past tourmates like Switchfoot and Snow Patrol. Maybe it's because all the sad boy men keep falling in love with the three DuPree sisters: a member of Eisley has been romantically linked with, married to, divorced from, or gone through an aborted engagement with the frontman of each of the above-mentioned first four bands.

It seems boorish to filter such an accomplished, and talented, trio of strong young women through the lens of their romantic paramours, but that personal gossip has a lot to do with the record. "If I sound angry, I'm sorry, this body can only cry for so long," Sherri sings on "Smarter." Stacy gets in on the banged-up-heart business on "Watch It Die," singing, "My love for you has died tonight."

"That's one of the first songs I wrote after I went through my divorce," Sherri explains of "Smarter." "It's dealing with the bitterness but knowing you can't hang onto it. It's about trying to juggle those two emotions, kind of a portrait of those two emotions battling. For some reason, when we write songs, musically, sadness is always easier to write songs about, maybe because it's an emotional release to pour your pain into a song. Artists always joke that they can't write unless they have something sad to write about. Any emotion that you have that's an overpowering emotion will pour into the song."

There's such a palpable sadness to the DuPree sisters' vocals, they could make a rainbow of kittens sound brutal. "I feel sad for you . . . you'll be left alone and broken, bleeding from the heart when he doesn't come home," Stacy sings on "Sad." I don't know any of the personal stories here, but let me officially declare myself as Team DuPree. Print up the T-shirts and point me to the douchebag responsible. I'll take him out back.

It's entirely possible I'm overstating the downtrodden angle. But even "Better Love," which is exuberant by comparison, still claims its power from the jaws of romantic defeat.

"It's not all gloom and doom, 'My feelings are hurt,' " Sherri notes. "This is our most concept-like record. It follows a story, goes through the heartbreak section, then there's the redemptive part, and you come out on the other side of it toward the end."

Maybe so. Sherri is now happily married to Max Bemis of emo-pop wiseguys Say Anything, and so far, she still sounds ecstatic about it. Bummer.

EISLEYROONEY + THE OLD CEMETERY | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | February 16 @ 8 pm | all ages | $15 | 617.864.3278

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