The last time Eisley put out an album, they were signed to Warner Bros./Reprise records, and had just put their sophomore album into the top half of the Billboard album charts. Just a few weeks ago, the band managed to repeat the feat—but on an indie label.
Yes, much has changed for the Texas dream-rock quintet in four years time, not just in the switching of labels, though. Singer Sherri DuPree has now added Bemis to her last name as well, having married the frontman of noted emo-rock outfit Say Anything in 2009, their courtship even manifesting itself musically, as she gave an unaccredited guest appearance on Max Bemis’ Two Tongues project (a collaboration with Chris Conley of Save The Day).
That mixture of both new love and newfound independence has manifested itself wonderfully on The Valley, the band’s third full-length and arguably their best yet. Shortly before the disc’s release, Sherri DuPree-Bemis took some time out of her day to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing the importance of “Sun King”, how awesome Abraham Lincoln was for rocking that beard, and why she’ll always choose lightsabers each every time ...
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The King’s Speech. Nothing like a classic tale of someone overcoming their personal roadblocks and living up to their potential. My husband is bi-polar; which is nothing like having a speech impediment, but every day of his life I see him battle and triumph over what his brain has chemically dealt him (and he’s brilliant!), so that story really struck a chord with me. People like them make me feel like I can do anything.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s second born out of a crap-ton of siblings (like me). And I can be a stubborn little beast, but I’m loyal, also a dreamer and tend to genuinely not care what people think of me because I’m very comfortable in my own skin. She’s described in the book as a having “a playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.” That’s pretty much me. Also I’m a big reader and a complete romantic with a bit of a brash sense of humor and I will always calls out the “elephant in the room” and I think Mrs. Bennett had that vibe.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Abbey Road by The Beatles. I will never not use this answer for this question. As a kid I would put that cassette tape on and flip it continuously. I listened to it while falling asleep, listened to my dad sing every word, learned how to harmonize to “Because”. Fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll because of “Oh! Darling”. Realized I could write about whatever I wanted thanks to “Sun King” ... without the drugs of course. I’m actually listening to it right now. Paul McCartney if you’re reading this ... you are my hero.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, duh! Is it even a contest? Our band name is taken from Mos Eisley, which is a Star Wars reference. No offense to Star Trek or its fans ... but as a kid it seemed more silly to me than Star Wars. Plus, what little girl doesn’t instantly fall in love with Han Solo? Solo’s sense of humor beat out Captain James Tiberius Kirk’s any day of the week ... plus Solo had that cool rockstar space cowboy style going on. Luke was kind of a whiner though. I just think the story was so great and so different. Also ... lightsabers! Who can compete with that? They’re my weapon of choice ... every time.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Books! The ultimate brain food! I’m a big reader and so is my husband, between us we own at least 3500 books, easily. I learned to read when I was four and never looked back. My love for the written word hasn’t changed. I read a lot of science fiction, and absolutely love fantasy. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman constantly keep my brain a swirling, whirling eddy of thoughts, ideas and inspiration. Films like The Fall, Pan’s Labyrinth, Amelié and any Hayao Miyazaki film are close seconds. Sometimes just the way a film is lit can cause my heart and brain to want to explode.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Being a loved wife, daughter and sister. There are people in the world (my family and husband) who are literally the most important thing to me in the world. I would jump in front of a train, take a bullet or even just a good solid punch to the throat for any single one of them at any given moment. They inspire me and make each day absolutely genius and the fact that they all actually love and want to be around me makes me feel like I must have done something right and accomplished a great thing. I’m not trying to be overly cheesy here, but it’s really the thing I’m most proud of.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
For inspiring people; for taking life’s brutalities on the chin, getting back up and swinging back until I’ve conquered life’s demons. I would be dead if there weren’t other artists and people who inspired me and kept my brain and heart full of hope and wonder, and all I can hope is that when I’ve kicked that bucket I inspired a few people to do something great and be the best version of themselves. Also I’d like to be remembered as being a kickass songwriter and artist.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Abraham Lincoln. Rocking that weird beard had to take guts. Max Bemis from the band Say Anything ... OK, OK, he’s my husband! But like I said, he suffers from bi-polar and has been through some super dark stuff before he started taking care of himself. I mean we’re talking some intense manic attacks, stays in numerous mental hospitals etc. ... but it’s because he was smoking weed and not taking his meds and wasn’t taking care of himself. This was before we met and he had already cleaned up his life by the time we met, but hearing his stories I’m always blown away by how he came out of that. If you could see a portrait of his life then and now it would just be shocking. Now he’s this healthy, happy, completely brilliant, loving, a hardworking man who is my cornerstone. He takes care of himself so he can take care of me. It just goes to show how strong humans are and that they can endure so much and come through it even stronger. If he had given up he would of missed out on so much, but he persevered.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The Dr. Seuss books. I think those books really planted a seed of creative thinking for me as a small child. I still see the illustration style work itself into my art all these years later. Also, I am exceedingly envious of anything that James Jean paints or draws.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I can wiggle my right ear ... though I posted a video blog of it on my tumblr a few weeks ago so I guess it’s really no longer hidden. I’m quite good at interior decorating. I suppose it comes from being an artist of sorts. Also I have a very vivid picturesque memory. If you need to know where something is, what it looked like, etc, I can always tell you. My husband loses things constantly (keys, cell phone) and I always know exactly where they are because I can picture the exact last place I saw him with them or where he dropped them or I remember what the surface that he dropped them on sounded like (the countertop, living room table, different floor surfaces) all have different tones and they stick in my head so I can remember them hours later when he’s asking where his cell phone is and I remember that I heard it hit the kitchen floor when he got down to pet our dog, so check under the cabinets ... I guess I would make a good super sleuth.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“No use crying over spilled milk.” My mom always said that growing up and I have never once cried when I spilled my milk. No, but seriously ... I think regret is a real buzz-kill. It can really eat your soul if you let it and I think it’s so futile and pointless. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life right now if I hadn’t made every mistake I’ve ever made and I’m proud of where I am now because of my mistakes or what should be “regrets”. So I try really hard not to look back unless it’s to learn about how to move forward.
Now, if you kill a guy or actually spill someone else’s milk ... then perhaps you can have regrets. But until then ... shrug it off and learn from it.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
The best thing I ever bought was Radiohead’s OK Computer. I was 14 and had no idea who they were (I was mostly listening to Christian indie-rock/punk) but a friend suggested them. I had a $10 Christmas gift card to Target from a great aunt and uncle, so I spent it on OK Computer. I remember the first time listening and realizing there was a whole world of music out there that I was missing out on. It really blew my mind. I had never heard anyone play guitar like Johnny Greenwood played guitar. I fell in love. It’s my favorite record after Abbey Road. I think moments like that really define your life. So see how important inspiration is?
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
The bathtub. If I could just drive around in a bathtub all of the time, I would. Of course I would need some sort of swimsuit so as to not be arrested, and waterproof skin so that I didn’t turn into human rot, but otherwise, I think it could really work. Other than that, a dress and Converse chucks. I own at least 10 pairs of chucks but they’re all threadbare. I buy one pair and wear them down to the bones before buying a new pair, and then I have a hard time getting rid of the old ones. How could I ever throw away the ones I wore when I first met my husband or wore when we toured with Coldplay? Nah’ bra’. I keep those babies. Dresses because I think being a woman is pretty cool and no matter how hard guys try, they’ll never look as good in a skirt as I do.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
June Carter-Cash. I just think she would have had so many words of wisdom! As a songwriting woman in the music industry who was also married to a man in the music industry but also made being a wife and mother a number one priority—she was awesome. I just think she was a funny little southern firecracker and would be so fun to talk to. Plus she was married to one of the most legendary songwriters of all time. She had to have some good advice and great stories. Alive would be sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. That man is a superhero! He’s 90 and he’s still sharp as a wit. I watch his speeches and lectures on YouTube all of the time and he just cracks me up. He’s a mastermind. A true pioneer of thinking.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Never the future. I don’t want to know. But the past would be fun. Gosh, there are so many ideas that come to mind. One of the first would be to go back to 17 December 1903 (80 years and 13 days before I was born) and see the Wright Brothers realize they’d just successfully created and flown a man on an airplane. That had to be a pretty big “Wow” moment. I’d like to high-five them on that.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Remember that bathtub thing I mentioned earlier? Yeah, pretty much that’ll do it. But there are a lot of scuzzy hotel bathtubs on tour so other things that help me are zoning out with my laptop, killing time on Twitter and tumblr. That sounds dumb, but it really does help me to relax. Also listening to musical soundtracks (Edward Scissorhands, Ponyo, Pride and Prejudice). Also when I’m away on tour listening to my husband’s band and hearing his voice really calms me down.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Not alcohol, but definitely coffee. I am in love with it. Particularly iced and with whole milk (fat kid alert). I always look forward to my coffee every single day. Also essential are Ambien, earplugs, and an eye-mask since I literally battle to shut off my brain every night to fall sleep. Touring is rough on your sleep schedule. And don’t dare try to get me to put down my iPhone for one minute or you will have a brawl on your hands. Yes, I am that person. I may not be big but I’m scrappy and if you take away my iPhone ... just watch your back.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
A mixture of both. That is why I love Tyler, Texas where my husband and I and my family live. It’s a small city by most standards, but it has everything you need (coffee and a movie theatre!). But it’s in a very lush, beautiful part of East Texas and surrounded by a lot of nature and parks and in Spring it is covered in blooming azalea and rosebushes. It’s a great place to raise a family. We just bought a new house there (right down the street from my parents) and we plan to do just that in a few years. I gotta have my huge starry skies and cicadas chirping in the summertime. It’s like therapy. The East Texas mosquitoes and fire ants can go straight to Hell, though.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Thank you for devoting your life to trying to make the country a better place for all of us. I think no matter who is President and no matter if you agree with all of their politics or not, they deserve your respect.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Well this interview sure took me a heckofalot of time ... but it was really fun! Our album The Valley comes out this week, so we’ll just be touring all year long to support it and bring it to the fans. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s going to be imminently more fun. Thanks a lot!