Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Sherri DuPree of MossEisley
by Greg Adams
Two teenage sisters attempt to write their own music, and suddenly their younger sister butts in, wanting to play too. After being refused a part in the sisterly “band,” the youngest songstress wannabe huffs off and creates a song of her own. It’s undeniably good. The three sisters join forces with their older brother and another teenage guy friend and form a band that debuts at the family’s coffeehouse: Brewtones Coffee Galaxy.The band is a hit and begin to play across the country, sometimes sharing the stage with their musical heroes.
Sounds like the premise for a prime time TV sit-com, but this is the true story of MossEisley, a fantastic young band rising out of the Texas music scene. They broke their Lone Star orbit this past summer to play a few different time slots at Cornerstone 2002. The band—Stacy (14, vocals/songwriter/keyboards), Chauntelle (the eldest at 21, guitar/songwriter/vocals), Sherri (who just turned 19 in December, vocals/guitar/songwriter), Weston (brother, 16, drums/equipment guru), and Jonathan (19, bass player and family friend)—produces what Aaron Willis of BlueBox Digital calls, “peacefully ominous” music—”beautiful, but in a very different way.” Wilis is a family friend also—he actually gave Chauntelle guitar lessons at one time—and provided some recording/engineering assistance for MossEisley’s first disc, EP2.
“What impressed me most was their humbleness,” Willis says. “I was working with some of the most creative musicians I have ever witnessed (minus the fact that they are all extremely young), but they thought that they weren’t any good. One of the things that I have learned over the years is that a technically skilled player is nothing compared to a good songwriter. And what the band lacked in technique, they make up for in their songwriting and creativity, many times over.”
MossEisley, with a combined age of 89, exceed their years in musical maturity and sonic sensibility. The tracks on EP2 show a band starting at a point few bands ever reach even at their peak. The members’ influences—ranging from Radiohead to Pink Floyd—flow through their lush arrangements but never overshadow the band’s originality. The recording is an impressive debut; however, Willis explains that the disc doesn't showcase the mesmerizing power of MossEisley.
“I don’t think any recording ever will capture the MossEisley experience, because you are only relying on one of your senses,” Willis comments. “I will never forget the first time I went to see them live. Everybody just sort of stood there, slack-jawed. Everyone was just glued to them. As a matter of fact, ‘experience’ is too light of a word. They just always transcend the environment that they are playing in and take everyone with them.”
Still, the MossEisley studio experience was fantastic for both the band and Willis. He claims that the band’s inexperience was an inspiration. “The Moss kids came in with open minds, and I don’t know many ‘experienced’ players would have been so open,” Willis says. “I think that allowed us to communicate more than if they had just said, ‘This is how we are going to do it!’ That kind of pattern leaves very little room for improvement.”
While others may argue to the contrary, even the members of MossEisley concede that they’ve got some growing to do. In her own bio page on the website, songwriter Sherri states, “My words are contrived, pathetic attempts at sounding artistic.” Every writer is his or her own worst critic. Good thing there are critics outside the band who see what MossEisley themselves at times may not—divinely gifted musicians and lyricists.
MossEisley had the chance to show their stuff this summer when they played several different time slots at the annual Cornerstone Festival. Their web diaries (http://www.mosseisley.com) reveal the band members were just as excited to watch their many of their musical mentors as they were to play for the huge crowds.
The band is anxious to share their love for music and their love for God with anybody and everybody. Sherri DuPree of MossEisley recently talked about what’s been happening with the band and their only recording, EP2, in a recent email interview.
Phantom Tollbooth: How long had you been playing live before you recorded EP2? Is this your first recording?
Sherri DuPree: Yes. We began playing live as a band in 1998; EP1 was recorded in 1999 at The Panhandle House studio in Denton, Texas, not too long after we'd started writing songs. In February of this year we were able to record three new songs ("Head against the sky" / "Over the Mountains we go" / "Telescope Eyes") at a studio near Dallas with some friends (Kevin Kirkwood, Dave Ozmun and a host of others). Engineering problems caused us to have to retrack the project so we began working with Aaron Willis with BlueBox Digital. All of the pre-production had already been done, so it didn't take too long. While all of this was happening, we met and became best friends with the guys in Midlake (which is an amazing band), and they helped us record the songs "Mr.Pine" and "Laughing City" for us at their home in Denton on their own equipment. We recently added these songs to the EP2 disc as a bonus.
PT: Tell me about your first live gig.
SD: I think our first real show was early 1998, way before Jonathan (he joined just last year). We were called "The Towheads." It was at the first show of the coffeehouse our parents started called BrewTones Coffee Galaxy, and we opened for 100 Portraits. I remember being scared to death, because a ton of people showed up to see them, and at the time they were our favorite band in the world, close friends and a huge inspiration to us. It was really fun, I remember. But mostly we were just really scared. When we look back at the videos of these shows, it was pretty scary...pretty silly.
PT: Aaron Willis describes the MossEisley "atmosphere/experience." Do you consciously try to create something more than a set of songs at your shows?
SD: I don't think so...not consciously. When we get up there, we just play our music the best we can. We're passionate about our music and what God is doing through us and try our hardest to let that show. We just try to be ourselves and let our personalities come out on stage so that people can see we're just a bunch of regular kids like them. We’re not rock stars.
PT: You sound like you all had a great time at Cornerstone. What was it like to play in that setting?
SD: HOT. Stacy and I almost barfed and fainted on stage...really. (It was 112 degrees—you’re performing in what feels like a hot air balloon on the hottest day of the year at the hottest time of the afternoon.) Other than that, it was amazing. It was our first time to go to Cornerstone, and we ended up getting to play three times. It was a real blessing getting to play for so many people and then having them really like our music. It was definitely a really fun and amazing time. We didn’t expect to stir up such a fuss, but we got to meet a lot of really cool people from all over the U.S. We made some good friends with some people who run the indie labels, and they were super nice to us.
PT: Who at Cornerstone did you REALLY want to see play?
SD: Well, I can't speak for the others, but I was most looking forward to Luxury, Pedro the Lion, and Ester Drang. We went to so many shows—Bleach, StarFlyer59, Aaron Sprinkle, Denison Marrs, Poor Old Lu, Holland, 238, Living Sacrifice, Over the Rhine, Sixpence was during our show :-(, The Violet Burning, Viva Voce, The Huntingtons, Roadside Monument, Ramsie Shick, Cool Hand Luke, and tons more that I can't remember.
PT: Which discs from the shared Dupree Family CD case get played most on the road?
SD: Right now? All Radiohead discs, both Coldplay discs, Midlake, Kent, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, Travis, Avril Lavigne (you think I'm joking)...over the summer, it was all the above plus Jimmy Eat World, Ben Folds, Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate and many others.
PT: You mention on your site that bands that played at your parents' coffeehouse/club sometimes stayed at your house. Any bands we'd know? Any that really had a big impact on your decision to pursue music as a passion?
SD: Having BrewTones every weekend was definitely a huge help to us when we were just starting as a band. Being able to see bands come in every weekend and talk to them really helped us gain an understanding of what it was going to take to do the band thing for real, and do it seriously, which is how we we wanted to do it or not do it at all. We became good friends with many of the bands who came through. Some that really inspired or encouraged us were the guys from Seven Channels. Gosh, others that influenced us and encouraged us —already mentioned 100 Portraits, Ester Drang, Bleach, WaterDeep, Animal Couch, Spin 490...too many to remember. Many of these are still great friends.
PT: How did your older siblings feel when Stacy came up with song ideas at such a young age?
SD: Excited. Chauntelle and I were in a sort-of band with some friends, but it wasn't anything serious. Stacy always wanted to come in when we were trying to write songs, but she was eight, you know, so we were like "No way—go play with your roller skates!" So one day she came to us, and she had written this song, and it was GOOD. So the three of us started sitting down together and writing songs more and more and it really clicked between us.
PT: Do you ever try to outdo each other with playing or writing?
SD: As far is it being a competitive thing, no way. Most of the time Stacy or I will have a song idea: a verse or a chorus. And when we get stuck we'll show it to the other and be like, "OK, see if you can add anything to this, I'll be back in 20 minutes." That may sound dumb, but a lot of the time it's worked, and it's been a perfect fit.
PT: What are the strengths of having a "family band?" How about the weaknesses.
SD: There are definitely strengths...whenever people find out most of us are related their first question is always, "Wow, don't you guys fight all the time?" We do argue, of course. But there is also an upside to that because since we are so comfortable with each other, it makes it easier to really tell one another how you're feeling and not be afraid you're going to step all over someone’s toes. It's also nice to have someone who isn't related in the band (our bassist Jon), because it really evens things out, and Jon is so even tempered. He’s just like a brother to us.
PT: How does school fit into the MossEisley picture?
SD: Well for those of us who are still in school, we're home schooled so it makes it really easy as far as being able to play shows and stuff.
PT: When do you feel closest to God?
SD: Again, I don't know about individually with the rest of the guys, but as a whole, all of us are on the worship team at our church (Weston runs sound), The Vineyard in Tyler. So that is always really cool getting to come together on Sunday morning to pray and worship God together.
PT: What is your most common prayer?
SD: As far as the band goes, definitely that God would use us and our music to reach people and love people.
PT: Have any labels been contacting you for deals? Is a major label deal what you're working towards?
SD: There are a lot of exciting things happening right now with major labels that are interested in us. I wouldn't say a label deal is what we're been working towards...I mean, it's never been our goal to get "signed" and become big rock stars or whatever. If that happens, then that is awesome, and we’ll meet the challenges as they come. We could give you some scoop right now, but we'd rather wait—it just feels like too much hype. Anyway, if this path helps us spread our music to more people, that would be so great. If it never happens, then nothing changes. We'll keep playing anyway.
PT: What's in store for MossEisley in the next year?
SD: To be honest, I do not
know...but definitely more music. Always more music. It’s likely to be
a pretty crazy year... there’s a bunch of stuff going on that could effect
our lives dramatically. But for now, we’ll just do one day at a time.