Hanging with the Cool Kids
by Jay S. Jacobs
The Sierota family, which makes up the buzzworthy new band Echosmith, may not have to worry about being like the cool kids for that much longer. Not when their hit single “Cool Kids” has them topping the charts.
The band is made up of three brothers and a sister – guitarist Jamie Sierota is 21, bassist Noah is 18, lead singer Sydney is 17 and drummer Graham is 15. Echosmith grew up around music – their dad Jeffery David is a songwriter and musical producer – and have been performing together since they were children.
They became an official band in 2009 and started getting notice early on, in recent years touring with Neon Trees, American Authors and on the last two Warped Tours. They also released the single “Tonight We’re Making History” in 2012, which was used for a promo for the Olympics, as well as recording a song for the soundtrack to the film Endless Love.
However, things really exploded for the group this summer, when “Cool Kids” – a single they had released the year before, but at the time had barely charted – suddenly took on a second life and stormed up the pop charts. With “Cool Kids” as their calling card, they re-released the album Talking Dreams earlier this year, which has also been embraced by fans.
Leading into Echosmith’s first headlining tour, we sat down with bassist Noah Sierota to discuss the band’s amazing ascent and what it’s like to have a hit single.
Your father is a songwriter and producer. What are your first musical memories?
Early on, growing up, we always had instruments in the house. Instead of toys we mainly had guitars and drum sets and keyboards – fun instruments to play. Those are some I remember most. We were all very young when we started playing. We were very small. We had all these really great, usually pretty high quality instruments sitting around the house. It was pretty cool. I was always back there. I was like oh yeah, let’s play some of these really cool instruments around the house. That was a big part of our childhood.
How did the family get together to form a band?
We decided seven years ago. We knew a friend that her daughter died of cancer.
Oh, I’m sorry…
She wanted to start a walk/run benefit to raise money to fight that. They wanted a young band. We all played instruments. We happened to play the same instruments that would make up a band, individually. We got together and we had one or two band practices. We worked on a Rage Against the Machine song, a Cure song and a Rihanna song. We went out and played. That was our first gig.
You were only like 16 when the group got signed to Warner Bros. What was that experience like?
That was cool. I was in my Geometry class, actually, when I got called in to the office so I could sign part of the record deal, which was pretty fun. Obviously I’m out of school now, but it’s been a few years and I was in school then. I literally signed the record deal on the office steps. That was really amazing. I knew I loved music and growing up, I knew I wanted to do that. All of us. We all have that mindset. That’s what we’ve always wanted to do. And obviously, Warner Bros. is a big label. They brought up a lot of really amazing bands that we love. We’re just very thankful for them. We’ve been with them ever since.
Who are some of the musicians that inspired you to perform?
Growing up, our parents showed us bands like The Police, The Cure and U2. The music of their time. Those are big bands for us. Especially for myself, The Police are like one of those [groups] where I like all of the music. It helps shape everything. And other bands like Coldplay, The Killers, The Bravery and a lot of really amazing bands coming out when we were growing up. There were all these very melodic bands that were really great instrumentalists. They also wrote really great songs. That was a big part of our music development.
What are the good and bad parts about touring with your brothers and sister?
(chuckles) Probably the best part is that we know each other really well. We know how to handle each other and we know how to give each other space and all that stuff. The bad part is also that we know each other very well. We know every single button to push with each other. Obviously, that happens with a family. But, really, any band becomes a family over time. It’s like we’ve been a band our entire lives. We’ve gotten to know each other very, very well.
You always used to hear about musical brother feuds – The Kinks, Oasis, Kings of Leon, The Black Crowes, Crowded House. What do you do to keep the peace?
Basically, one of the things we do is remember the big picture. We are very passionate. We’re very passionate about the music and passionate about the songs. We do the songs that we get to write about our lives and about our experiences, but also to bring out to the world. We’re very thankful that we get to do that. Whenever things are going crazy – really, really long days and we’re fighting everywhere and we’re getting really tired – we remember the sound. That’s what keeps us together. It keeps us together a band and as siblings.
Now that you have a big hit single, do you finally feel like the cool kids?
(laughs) It’s been pretty amazing to see what that song has done. You still kind of go through the thing where you wish you were like other people. But we are very thankful for what that song has done, I’ll say that.
I was reading that “Cool Kids” almost didn’t even make it on the album. What happened?
It was all these months of going in and out, back and forth with this song. Working on new parts of the verse. Changing the chorus. It just didn’t set for a long time. It just didn’t work for some reason. I don’t remember why it took us such a long time. It was a long process. When we were writing it, we didn’t think it would be a huge hit and that would be the song that people know us for. We just went back and forth with it. Eventually in the very early part of 2013 we finished it and were like, okay, let’s go. We had a few more songs to record for the record. We needed like four more spots. We recorded this song with the others to see what happened. We liked it. It worked. It finally worked, which we were very thankful for. I’m pretty happy that we kept it. Eventually…
How does the band work on songwriting? I know many songs are credited to the band in general and your dad. Does anyone specialize on lyrics or melodies, or do you all pitch in on all levels?
How to write songs… we knew parts of it, but never learned. Sydney sings, I play bass, Graham plays drums and Jamie plays guitar. Lyrics were something very important for how we created music. So usually it was all four of us sitting down with my dad, working on a song then singing lyrics to each other. We usually start with one or two [of us] to get what the song was, then we all eventually come together. Bring a song in, work on it. Work on the melodies and the music parts. So it’s all very collaborative. We’re a part of every little bit.
What are some of the songs you are most proud of on Talking Dreams?
Obviously, “Cool Kids,” because of the attention from the people. I also love the song. I think it’s such a great song. It’s kind of proven that with what it has done. Songs like “Surround You.” I really love that one. It’s our record album closer. We’re very happy about that one. It means a lot to each one of us.
How surreal has it been hearing your music all over the radio and TV and the internet?
Pretty strange. It’s getting a little more normal with time. In the beginning, when we first heard it on the radio, we always thought that someone else was playing it for us as a joke. Eventually we got more used to that, obviously, because it’s been happening a lot. We’re just extremely thankful for it. We wrote it in our bedrooms. [It’s amazing] that we’d be able to see people kids around the world, in every country and all these different places, singing that song. Seeing videos of it. Seeing it live. It’s really amazing. We’re very, very thankful for that.
What is the next single?
We’re not super sure yet. The fans really seem to love “Nothing’s Wrong” and also “Tell Her You Love Her,” so you never know. We’ll see.
I really liked the Acoustic Dreams EP. How do you feel stripping down your songs helps them?
When you are doing an acoustic EP or album, or doing anything acoustic, you are stripping it back and taking away a lot of the things that somewhat cover up lyrics. That’s something we try to avoid as much as possible. When you’re dealing with an acoustic instrument, you get to really tell a story in more of a clear way. That was really important for us. That’s what we really valued about that. I really loved going back to that and showing people. It’s something I’m really proud of.
You have also released an array of covers of songs such as “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons, “Lights” by Ellie Goulding, “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, and “Princess of China” by Coldplay and Rihanna. How do you pick a song to cover, and do you find them easier or harder to play than originals?
First thing in the beginning was covers. We had to use them as a way to try things musically. Perhaps if there was a song we liked, and we thought we could cover it, we’d just do it. Didn’t really depend on what other people thought. We could do “Set Fire” like you said, or doing really poppy songs. There is a song a song by Beck that we cover. We like to cover a lot of different things. Those are just ways for us to try new things. Particularly before we worked on our record, that was how we threw out different ideas musically to a small group of people, because we didn’t have a big following back then. It was a good way to test the ground.
The band was named Band to Watch by MTV earlier this year and this month you are VH1’s You Oughta Know band. How surprising has all this acceptance been?
It’s been very surprising. I mean, we worked really hard. We’ve been trying for a long time. So we do now give a little thanks for what we get. We’re always just very thankful for all the things we receive. That’s how we’ve got to see it. We’re just thankful for every little bit of it. We’ll have to see what happens next.
You did the Warped Tour earlier this year and last year too. What was that like?
That’s a wild event. There’s lots of different kind of bands. There was a big metal scene going on there, so that was very interesting to feel it. That’s how they draw in a crowd, even if it’s a crowd that you’re losing with half your the music, which happened a lot of nights. We had to work really hard to get people there. We had to go out – especially the first year we did it – we had to go out every single day and talk to these kids. Be out for eight hours a day and had to convince them, hey, come watch our band. You might like us. That teaches you to be able to talk to people to get the music out there.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love food. We all love food, really. We will try just about anything. We’ve had some pretty exotic meals. We’ll try a lot of strange things. We love ping pong. We love trying new things and getting new hobbies. Just trying to do some wild and crazy things.
When you’re on tour, do you get a chance to see any of the towns you visit? If so, which ones have you particularly liked?
It depends on what our schedule is like. Sometimes we can be doing like four different radio visits in a day. But we’ve seen most of the cities. We always usually have at least two or three hours for the town or to eat or a good coffee shop. Explore in that kind of way. Making time to do that is something that is very important to do to us. We don’t want to just wake up and be in every city and think it’s all the same because we didn’t get to explore it. We want to see the culture and meet the people everywhere we go.
Jamie is 21 and the rest of the band in their teens – how has recording and touring affected your life, schooling, friends and all?
Most of us got to do prom and homecoming and stuff. We had those experiences. But we’ve always been doing this music thing. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. I’d say it’s a bit more fun than sitting in class. I got to finish high school. So did Jamie. You can’t really complain too much about missing out on things when you’re out seeing the world, playing music and people actually care about what you’re doing.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 4, 2014.
Photos ©2014 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.