Currents, the latest from indie darlings Eisley, is the sound of a band that's free at last. At least, that's the subtext — not just a sense of freedom from Warner Bros., after a brief major-label stint, but also the freedom of having gotten 2011's bitter, angst-ridden The Valley out of its system. You can almost hear Stacy King — one of three sisters in the band, which also includes their brother and a cousin — sigh with relief when speaking about the experience of recording Currents by themselves.
"It was much-needed," says King. "We had always worked with producers, or somebody who was coming in and giving opinions and breathing down our necks. Some bands do well with that, but we've always been at our best as a band writing and doing things how we want, so I loved it. We built our own studio, and it's pretty much in our own backyard, so that was great. We had a lot of free time to sit and think and work songs over a couple times if we wanted. We just had a lot more freedom. It was definitely the most positive experience we've had in a studio."
Currents marks a return to the dreamy, fantastical rock sounds of the band's early material, particularly Room Noises. The title track is vintage Eisley, with ethereal guitars leading the way on a sexy, groovy alt-rock number, and "Blue Fish" effortlessly combines throbbing rock music with lush keys to great effect. But they expand their horizons on this record, too, with touches of jazz on "Don't Drink the Water" and the pairing of hypnotic beats and lush strings on the spine-tingling "The Night Comes." There is a confidence and beauty in this record that could not be found on The Valley, but King acknowledges that going through that experience helped pave the way for this one.
"That experience absolutely influenced this one," King says. "This record had such a fluidity to it in the way we were working as a band with our writing and everything. There was just so much more clarity to it, as opposed to The Valley, where it was like we were in our mid-20s and were just frustrated and tired of being bossed around. So this time around it was much more relaxed."
And as for the new sounds that Eisley fans might be a bit surprised by on the record? That's an extension of the freedom they felt to be able to express themselves however they wanted to.
"We just wanted to experiment more," King says. "With our other albums, each time it was hard to take the time and work on sounds and dig for things. We were always being pulled along in the studio and never had time. We would write the songs, track them as best we could, and hope we would get a good picture. For this album, though, we didn't want to just get a picture of the songs; we wanted to work with them, develop them, and try to find cool sounds that we were excited about."
The decision to go their own way is proving to be the right one, judging by early reaction to the record.
"People are responding to what we're doing as a band," says Stacy, "not to what we have felt like we needed to do based on somebody else's input. So that's been the most rewarding thing."