On February 17th, 2017 Eisley released their fifth full length record, I’m Only Dreaming, via Equal Vision Records. Eisley originally consisted of only DuPree siblings: Sherri, Chauntelle, Stacy, Garron and Weston, but soon was left in the hands of Sherri and cousin Garron (bass). Throughout their career, the Texas act have been more than prolific with pumping out music, with I’m Only Dreaming being the band’s latest endeavor, and the first to not have Stacy or Chauntelle.
Eisley’s sonic sphere has always consisted of bringing together pop infused melodies with a rich atmosphere accompanying the compositions. Needless to say, I’m Only Dreaming continues to embrace that presence beautifully, with Sherri and Garron putting their heads together to lather the music with the same infectious qualities as before; regardless of any change. Opening track “Always Wrong” has enough ambience and space for each instrument to comfortably sit, with Sherri Dupree-Bemis’ vocals intertwining between the orchestration with heartfelt poise and a passionate barrage of heartfelt lyrics. This continues for the next ten songs, spiraling from more standard instrumentation (guitars, bass, drums) to experimentation with synthesizers, pianos and drum pads.”Sparkling” is the first track to cross a different path, settling in after three opening poppy tracks and wading through all the different moods that come with intimacy — a subject discussed often on the fifth LP. The song has electronic parts that seep with emotion and provide a firm foundation for the vocals to glide over. An acoustic ballad in “Rabbit Hole” is present on the record, featuring a stripped down performance from Sherri showcasing a soft break in the record’s unique and busy soundscape.
I’m Only Dreaming is another standout record from Eisley, produced by none other than Will Yip. This partnership help the dynamics in every track stand out, like the effortless transitions embedded within “My Best Friend.” The great attributes of the 45 minute experience come from the many layers that blossom a different way with each listen. There are moments drenched into the atmosphere that might be missed on a first play through. The chorus of “You Are Mine” is a detonation of sound in comparison to the verse — highlighting the work of Yip — with thick layering to weave every piece of Garron DuPree’s guitar work together into an elegant part. Garron DuPree was a recording engineer on Currents and a major writing component for the newest release. New Noise Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Garron DuPree on composing the sound of I’m Only Dreaming; Eisley’s superior record full of delicate love songs wrapped in stunning instrumentals.
What is your role in the band besides playing bass guitar?
I play bass and guitar for Eisley. I’ve been primarily a guitarist since I was 9 years old, and actually only started playing bass when I joined Eisley at 15. They needed a bassist, so I kind of just jumped right it. But I’ve always felt like a guitarist at heart. Throughout the years I’ve always done a decent amount of the guitar tracking for Eisley, but I’m Only Dreaming marked the first time that all of the guitar work fell on my shoulders.
With the lineup changing for I’m Only Dreaming, how did that shift looking at how this album would sound?
There were definitely some aspects that changed a lot, but in most aspects we really just kept ourselves super focused and didn’t let the chatter of the outside world get to us. With the lineup changes, there was of course a lot of pressure to prove ourselves to anyone who might have been skeptical, but we had such a newfound energy in us that we never second-guessed ourselves.
What was it like working with Will Yip?
Incredible. He’s a guy that has so much hype around him, and on day one of working with him, I immediately understood why. He has such an amazing energy and positivity about him. Constructive, confident, honest, but incredibly demanding of us. He’s notorious for having musicians record a part sometimes, literally, hundreds of times, until we get it just right. One of Will’s approaches is that, during the recording process, he wants to be a member of the band – and that was really the best way to describe how we functioned creatively.
As a fellow producer/engineer yourself, what did you take away from the experience?
I really just took away a lot of inspiration from his enthusiasm and work ethic. He often-times seems so enthusiastic about every band that he works with that you think he has to be BS’ing you, because no one could really like what they do that much. But when you get to know him, you realize it’s genuine. He doesn’t take projects that he doesn’t love, and in turn he loves the projects that he does. I think that really is evident in his work, and it’s something that I want to strive for in everything I do.
As with all of Eisley’s recordings, there seems to be a different amount of experimentation in each record, looking at tracks like “Sparking” and “Louder Than A Lion,” on I’m Only Dreaming, what was the thought process going into having a heavier symphonic atmosphere?
I’m a very detail oriented guy, and also heavily dense with my arrangements at heart. I think we started to see more of that shine through on on our album Currents, which was very dense and relied on a lot of textural vibe. I’m Only Dreaming continued some of that density and reliance on ambiance over instrumentation at times. I think that mindset is part of what brings out the honesty and transparency of I’m Only Dreaming.
Natalie Bisignano (publicist, Equal Vision Records) let me in on the fact that you came up with the title. I think it’s fitting, especially with the soundscape. How did I’m Only Dreaming come to you?
I came up with that title at the intersection of several thoughts that I was chasing down when coming up with a title. First, it is a reference to the Beatles song “I’m Only Sleeping,” from Revolver. I love that song, and that album – both of which were inspirations for me during the recording of I’m Only Dreaming. Secondly, I had been honing in on this aspect of dreaming relating to the album. This record was a very shaping time for me – it signified a lot of growth for us as a band, a very bonding experience making music one-on-one with Sherri, and it really was my awakening to the love and joy of songwriting. I truly fell in love with making music in a way that I hadn’t before. It felt like a lucid dream, one that I was afraid that I might wake up from, but I didn’t want lose that feeling. So I’m Only Dreaming sort of captured some of that hope, fear, and joy that I felt while making the record.
Also, as a little tidbit, I’m Only Dreaming is also a distant nod to our first album Room Noises, which was named after the Beach Boy’s album Pet Sounds. Having named our first album after the Beach Boys, it almost felt inappropriate to not have a title that related to our other foundational influence, the Beatles.
“Snowfall” is such an interesting track dynamically, mind discussing how that song came to be, especially when adding in each textural layer as the song builds?
That was a fun one, because it started with the opening keyboard melody that Sherri wrote, which has this semi-creepy yet beautiful sound to it that expresses Sherri so well, but then ultimately morphs musically into more of my brain-child by the end. It was a fun one to record. As another little tidbit (as you can tell by now, I’m a fan of trivial details), but in the outro of that song, when you hear the more low-fi piano, you’re actually hearing the original laptop recording of Sherri in her closet recording the piano idea for that song.
With such a dreamy atmosphere, what is one moment you hear listening back to the record that you are most proud of?
Haha, great question! It’s almost shameful to say, at this point, that my favorite part of the record is an embarrassingly small detail. It’s a guitar part that comes at the end of the bridge of the last song on the record, “Brightest Fire”. It’s this little arpeggio that comes in the last couple bars of the bridge, and it’s wholly insignificant to the impact of the song, but I love the part.
Photo by Bliss Katherine