Some bands ride on major labels for years and have no problems. On the reverse end, others experience a good bit of trouble and are released or dropped from their contracts almost instantly. For Eisley, it's been an uphill battle for them for a little less than a decade. As of a few months ago, they are officially split with Warner Bros. Records and are currently sitting on a new album. It's one that they believe in, but at the moment, have no means of sharing it with the world. With an opening spot on Say Anything's Hate Everyone Tour last Fall and a string of shows, the band is intent on releasing their new material to their fans this year-- even if it means for free. While playing a few shows at this year's annual South by Southwest, the band took time to sit down and talk about everything that was going on, and everything that will continue to happen, in the Eisley camp.
Okay. So the big topic is the split with Warner Bros. Records. What was the deal with that, and how has it evolved into the now?
SherriDupree: We try not to speak of it as slightly bitter. It's kind of hard. What happened is we signed with Warner Bros...
Stacy Dupree: We signed with them when we were kids.
Sherri: It's just been a hard road with them because we're not the kind of band that plays on pop radio, so we don't technically make the label money. [They] don't have any reason to give us attention.
Weston Dupree: Years of that basically. It's just something that never got attention.
Sherri: The radio people were like, "We never really got you guys to be honest." Great. Why didn't you say that in the beginning? Anyway. why we're kind of frustrated is that our contract was done, and we were finally going to be done. We were going to part ways, and they begged and begged us. "No. We want to resign you. Please don't leave, we'll do anything." No. We don't want to resign.
Weston: We had people there that did care about us and believed in us. That's great. It stopped there. A few people believing in your band at a label isn't going to help. You have to be creative. Every band isn't going to work the same. You can't apply the same formula. You have to have creative ideas.
GarronDupree: We tried to separate for awhile. We went a year going back and forth. At the time, our A&R switched to a subsidiary label, and we decided to go with them. It was probably at least nine or ten months at least, going through contracts back and forth. We signed. Everything was done. We started recording our new album last summer. It was a relatively good experience. We recorded in Tyler [Texas]. After that, it was sort of [from their end,] "Nevermind. We don't want this." All our friends and family and fans think this is our best album. We played it for Warner Bros. and they were like, "On second thought, we don't get it."...They were saying, not that we had to go, but they were giving us the option pretty much. The few people at the label [who cared about us, told us] if you stay here, nothing is going to happen.
Weston: Our A&R guy loved it. He named his daughter after our band. He was like, "Nobody at the label cares. I'm not going to hold you back. It's going to go nowhere."
Garron: With that warning, we said, "Great. That's basically what we wanted in the beginning." Now we unfortunately lost a year, but we have our record. So good and bad. So the reason we're kind of bitter is being out of the market for about a year and a half. But we're back. We're doing stuff again. We have to figure out now, in this time, how to get the record out.
So now you did the tour with Say Anything. You're doing one-off shows.
Garron: We still have good crowds at our shows, which is encouraging.
Sherri: That's kind of the only thing that's kept us up right now. When we're having these shows, all these kids still come. They still care about us even though we've been out of the market and things have been weird with the label. [The fans] don't care. They just want to come to the shows.
Weston: At [one] show, the venue said they hadn't sold out in months. That night was awesome.
Chauntelle: That's so encouraging. We've been out of the market for so long. We feel like people have probably forgotten about us. To have fans come up to us and say, "We're so glad you're finally off the label. Hopefully you guys...
Sherri: ...Find that niche."
So what does that speak about Eisley and the progress made so far?
Weston: I think it means our fans will finally be able to hear our music more. It will be more free. We'll be more accessible. We can do weird, fun stuff and not have to have everything approved by the big man saying "no."
Garron: We don't have to form to an exact mold a label had predetermined.
Weston: We're just not that kind of band. We love music and hanging out. It's not about money and fame. I mean obviously it's not about that. [Laughs]
Sherri: We have neither...[Laughs]
Stacy: It's pretty inspiring. We don't have anyone telling us "You can't play with this person or put this song online because of this contract."...It feels like a new life has been breathed into our band. It feels like where we started.
Sherri: It feels kind of like starting over. It's good that that happened.
Do you feel a bit more natural now? Do you feel like that past few years were very constricted in your songwriting?
Stacy: Especially with our last album. I'm not going to dis[miss] it. I'm proud of it. There were pressures.
Weston: With the last record, you guys wrote like 20 something songs. Then you have to send them to the label and they're like, "Not this one. Not this one." There are so many songs that are so good that never get recorded because they're considered crap. For us, we know what songs our fans like. Sometimes they get looked over.
Garron: Not that our album is going to pick songs our fans don't like, it's just that there are so many...
Weston: Yeah, it's sad that songs that you love...
Stacy: It's like something died inside of you when someone tells you that.
Sherri: Definitely with our last record, there are songs I would have not put on Combinations had the label not been like "This one. This is the one." I understand they're trying to do their job as a label and help us create a record that makes us, well them, money. We've never been one of those bands. We're not going to have a song on the radio. We don't think we will. We turn on pop radio and nothing sounds like us.
Garron: Not that we're opposed to being on radio, that's great. But as it stands right now....
Weston: We definitely feel more free. Write it. Release it on the Internet. If you like Eisley, and you're an Eisley fan, [know] now we can do what we want.
Coming off the EP, you guys are sitting on a full length now. So what now?
Sherri: That's kind of why we're here [at South by Southwest]. We're talking with labels, even though we're weary now. Whether it's an indie label [or not]...honestly, we have the record right now and we love it. That's great. We're just trying to decide if we're going to go the label route, because there are labels interested, but we don't know if we want to do that. We may want to do something creative and weird like Radiohead did with their last record. Just try to release it ourselves or make it ourselves. I don't know.
Weston: Ultimately we care about our fans who are so loyal. If it's better for us to release the record and tour and be that band, then we'll do it. It's about music and about our fans. Involving a label may not be the best thing for us right now. That's what we care about. If there is a cool label that works for us, that's great. If not, let's just get it out there to let kids get a hold of it and tour.
Sherri: We're in a good position right now for the kind of band that we are...
Weston: And we don't care. [Laughs]
Sherri: Whatever feels the best, feels natural. We want to get the record out this year. That's the goal. If it's looking like a label doesn't want to put it out, then we'll just have to put it out.
What seems to be an option at the moment for some bands is a digital release with an opt for a physical one later.
Sherri: That's what we're looking at too.
Garron: Technically you don't have to have a label. You can pay printing and distribution, which is an option there too. We're keeping all that stuff open. Maybe release the album digitally now, and as money comes in, pay for distribution.
Sherri: Or you can order something special. Special art or a book. Something like that.
Weston: Porcupine Tree does that. They give this random art thing with a CD.
Sherri: Basically the record industry is upside down right now. Everyone is trying to figure out creative ways to keep playing music.
Chauntelle Dupree: I think if you love music and art in general, [fans] eat that stuff up when you put out a gift or a booklet or an artwork or something cool. I know I do. So it would be cool if we could do that direction.
Is it fearful now to do something next coming off an experience like this?
Stacy: There's a tinge now.
Sherri: There's definitely a fear that we may not be able to do this the rest of our lives. That really sucks. Ultimately, that is not even true. No matter what, even if no one comes to our shows, we're going to keep writing music and there is going to be some fans that want to hear stuff. Even if we release Garageband tracks for the rest of our lives and work at Wal-Mart....[Laughs] Whether that happens or not, nothing can stop us [from writing music],
Weston: Now, I'm an electrician. On the weekends we play shows. I love my life.
Sherri: We don't have to be a giant band.
Weston: After being on a label, for eight years? Obviously that didn't work at all. So it can't be any worse. All we did was tour.
Garron: All the success we've had so far hasn't been because of a label.
Weston: Other bands call and ask us to tour.
Garron: Nothing is going to change.
It seems like there's a bit of self doubt. But you are still doing well on the road and bringing fans to tours you are opening, just to see you. What does that mean to you guys? Is that one of the big factors pushing you along?
Weston: I'd say yes. It's definitely a huge factor. I wouldn't say the only factor. Obviously we love making music and writing, but the fans are still a big presence and encouragement.
Sherri: I mean, if no one was coming to our shows, if we showed up [anywhere] and there was going to be 40 people there...
Stacy: It would probably send a big signal, like why...
Sherri: Why are you still doing this? Your music isn't effecting anybody.
Weston: But people are showing up, so...
Garron: I think a lot of our self doubt is because we have had three weddings and been off the market for a year and a half.
Stacy: If anything, we feel more ashamed. Letting get to this place and letting people dictate our band. We should have taken control.
Weston: Yeah. But with that self doubt and coming out of this, it gives us self confidence and more control. It's give and take. There are times when every band has self doubt.
Garron: We toured for nine years. We were gone six, maybe nine months out of the year. Then we had this break, and it felt so weird to have this time where we weren't doing anything. We were like, "We're done. I think everyone has forgotten about us. Let's start playing some shows." [Laughs]
Stacy: We feel like we lost touch with the fans and just being out there. [It felt like] surely people don't care about us now because we've been away for so long.
Sherri: Also, I know for me, as a songwriter, after we did this whole [new] record and then played it for the label, they were like "Nope. We're dropping you." Even though I know in my head that I love this record and that it's a great record, despite knowing that, there's still this "Woah. They don't want this. I created this. I poured my life and soul into this and they don't like this." I cried...I don't know about Stacy, but I felt pretty devastated.
Stacy: I don't know. Just observing the people that we were working with, it was hard as an artist to observe [their actions] and respect what they had to say.
Garron: [The past few years] was a crazy time. But I think the most important thing is that we've come out swinging.
Weston: We don't care. We hit rock bottom. We just want to play music again.
Sherri: You can't hurt us anymore. [Laughs] We love our music and we still have fans that love our music. Who cares about the industry stuff right now? It's not worth wasting your energy on.
Last words to your fans.
Sherri: Thank you. Thank you for not caring about all the business aspects and still supporting us.
Weston: Thanks to the fans who are liking a band that's been practically invisible for a while. Thanks for coming out to shows.
Sherri: We don't want to let our fans down.
Stacy: Thank you so much for just showing up. Singing the words to our songs, it's like an old friend that stays consistent. No matter what you do, even if you don't talk to them for a while, they're still going to be there for you.
I feel like a few certain bands can truly benefit from putting out music however they want. I don't feel Eisley is established enough that if they were to put their album out for (pay what you will), that they'd see big returns.