There’s no room for Sherri DuPree-Bemis to hide. The stage at the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square, a small artsy district just south of downtown Indianapolis, is small, just like the venue itself, and sits at the front of a tiny room packed shoulder-to-shoulder with onlookers. Unfazed by the mission at hand, the woman now tasked with leading one of indie rock’s most charming bands steps up to the mic and belts out the opening notes of an 18-song set.
Sherri is no stranger to the stage, but recent events have changed the dynamic. Earlier this year, it was announced that Tyler, Texas, outfit Eisley would continue on without two of its founding members (and two of Sherri’s sisters): Stacy King and Chauntelle D’Agostino. In preparation for a fifth full-length album coming in early 2017, Eisley is back on the road in their new formation.
For a band that has relied heavily in the past on whimsical harmonies and team vocal duties from each sister on stage, Eisley has a new feel with Sherri’s edgy delivery taking the spotlight. In an effort to retain the multi-vocal feel of the band, younger sister Christie DuPree now flanks Sherri onstage, providing her own unique twist to the songs.
Before Eisley’s performance, Christie and Remington DuPree took the stage as Merriment, a stripped-down indie pop act that resembles a lighter side of their older siblings’ music. Merriment debuted with Sway in 2014, an effort full of promise and light. As the duo prepares for their follow-up, it’s clear that Christie is more comfortable than ever on stage, whether performing upbeat indie folk tracks like “Backwards” or slow-burning acoustic ballads like “Patterns”.
On stage with Eisley, Christie offers range for the band, especially as they perform older tracks like “Brightly Wound” and “Trolley Wood”, serving as a soothing harmony to Sherri’s bite. Even so, the night’s set finds Sherri fully embracing the role of front woman in all the right ways. She owns the stage during performances of “Smarter” and “Many Funerals” and even sounds strong taking the lead on tracks that were previously piloted by Stacy, like “Ambulance” and “Shelter”.
As wonderful as it is to hear these tracks performed again after the band’s brief hiatus, the night’s best moment belongs to a rendition of their latest song, “Defeatist”. Here, Sherri sounds more confident than ever as she belts out the pleading chorus of, “You know I want to / You know I will fight / Down in the trenches / Holding your hand tight”. It’s a song of determination – one that fits the current mood of Eisley quite nicely.
The wait for more new Eisley music is likely to feel lengthy, but despite past trials, the band has never failed to deliver. As odd as it feels to gaze upon the stage and not see Stacy behind the keyboard and Chauntelle with her guitar, it’s still inspiring to watch Sherri carry on. On the band’s latest track, she labels herself a defeatist. It’s a bold self-assessment, but from our view on the floor, her demeanor is one of strength and resolve.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.