Home-School Heroes

Music Features Eisley
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Feedback is squealing through the speakers at soundcheck, and it’s only getting louder, more intense. Guitarist Chauntelle DuPree looks at her six-string-slinging sibling Sherri, horrified. Kid sis Stacy stops tinkling her ivories, and brother Weston stops slapping the skins. Even longtime chum/bassist Jonathan Wilson is mystified — where is that white noise coming from? Frustrated, 22-year-old Chauntelle calls out for help the same way she did as a toddler in small-town Tyler, Texas: “Daaa-aaay-yuuud! Dad, we’ve got monitor trouble!” And bespectacled Boyd DuPree leaps onstage to the rescue. With a few quick switch flips he’s got Eisley, his kids’ ethereal Brit-poppy family band, back on line. Only two EPs old (Laughing City and Marvelous Things on Reprise, with an eponymous debut just hitting stores), the little outfit has already opened for Coldplay at that group’s request, and—thanks to the lilting vocal interplay between Sherri, 20, and Stacy, 16—has already carved out a music-box delicate niche for itself. And the sound came together with little or no coaching, brags proud papa DuPree. “We didn’t build this; it wasn’t like there was some great parenting strategy to make this happen. It was just the chemistry in the house—we listened to a lot of rock in their early years, plus they got bored because we lived out in the country where there was little to do when you don’t have cable. So instead of watching a lot of TV, they started picking up instruments.”

The DuPrees lifted ‘Eisley’ from the original Star Wars film’s Mos Eisley Spaceport. And they got their education directly from their folks. “We didn’t really hang out with other kids,” cedes Chauntelle, relaxing in her dressing room later. “Because, no offense, they were just kinda weird. And we lived so far out of town, we basically had each other. We had one friend who lived down the road from us, but she was more involved with sports and stuff. So I guess she was really our only friend. So all we had was each other, which is why we started the band.” Truth be told, Sherri adds, the Tyler locals thought the DuPrees were kinda weird. “Every time we told people we were home-schooled, right away, they’d look at us like we were really strange, like we were these big dorks. There’s definitely a stereotype, a stigma for home-schooled kids.”

Nevertheless, the offspring wrote and recorded songs at home, then played them in a town coffeehouse run by their decidedly bohemian parents. The only drawback? Chauntelle sighs. “I wasn’t allowed to go on dates until I was 18, just because our folks felt like we were too young for that. I mean, sometimes you can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you’re dating when you’re pretty young.”

“But we don’t care,” shrugs Sherri, who’s now seeing a handsome steady. “I don’t regret anything, and I don’t think we’ve missed out on much at all.”

So don’t worry about Eisley, Chauntelle hastily tacks on. They won’t turn out like the Jacksons. “Our parents are really protective, but not overprotective, and I certainly don’t feel like they’ve kept us sheltered from the world,” she says. “They trust us, and we have a really good relationship with them—they’re sorta like … sorta like … our friends.” And really solid sound technicians.