By Shannon Carlin
A lot of young people in the spotlight don’t want to deal with the pressures that accompany being a “role model,” but Jamie, Noah, Sydney and Graham Sierota—the four siblings who make up the band Echosmith—say they’re up for the challenge. In fact, the California sibs, who range from 14 to 20 years old, hold themselves up to a higher standard because of their younger fans—many of whom aren’t actually younger than the band members themselves.
“I think it’s fun to have fans that are our age because we’re not home a ton and we don’t get to see our friends all the time,” Sydney, the band’s 16-year-old lead singer, told Radio.com. “I like to think I’m making a couple of hundred friends every night. And after the show we get to have these conversations with these kids our own age and for some reason because we’re musicians and close to their age they feel a certain openness with us. I don’t really understand why, but it’s really cool.”
This past summer Echosmith held a spot on the Warped Tour, where they were exposed to a much different crowd than they were used to. “It’s a very eclectic tour…we wouldn’t have been a natural pick,” Jamie, the guitarist and eldest in the family, explained. “At first we were a little hesitant, but we said, ‘Let’s do it, but let’s see if anyone will like us.'”
People did and many of those new fans starting coming up to the band after shows to chat about their music. Most often they talked about “Cool Kids,” a dreamy song off their 2013 debut, Talking Dreams, that tells the story of a boy and girl who just want to be noticed, hinging on the lines: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids/’Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.”
Jamie says the message of the song is simple: the coolest thing you can be is yourself. But more often than not, fans tell the band that they relate to the kids they’re singing about. That they feel like the outsider looking in.
“This cry to be like the cool kids… it’s something that everyone kind of goes through whether you want to act like it or not,” Jamie said. “There’s always somebody out there that you kind of wish, ‘If only I could do this, or do that.’ I think that’s why it connects with people so well.”
When fans aren’t talking to the Sierotas about the meanings behind their songs, they’re asking about what it’s like being in a family band. Their dynamic is not that much different than other non-related bands, they claim, barring the fact that they once shared the same womb. “There’s some arguing,” he explained. “But we’ve been around with each other longer than most bands have been a band.”
Thanks to their music producer/songwriter dad, the Sierotas grew up on a steady diet of exceedingly cool ’80s bands, like The Smiths, Echo & The Bunny and The Cure. (These influences are obvious in Echosmith songs like “Come Together,” which was fittingly accompanied by a Breakfast Club-themed video.) Their father even booked their first gig nearly five years ago, enlisting his kids to play a benefit concert for a friend’s daughter. At that point the siblings had never actually played together in public, and ended up playing covers of Rihanna‘s “Umbrella” and Rage Against the Machine‘s “Killing in the Name” because they had no original work.
“It was a little all over the place,” Sydney said. “But it was enough to be like, ‘This sort of fun, we could do this!'”
Following the show, the Sierota sibs immediately started writing their own music. But, in hedging their bets, they also put a few covers on YouTube, including Mumford & Sons “I Will Wait,” Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place” and Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” which helped them net a record deal with Warner Bros. Records and later a cameo in Hunter Hayes’ YouTube mash-up video for “Everybody Got Somebody But Me.” (“I had the hugest crush on him for years,” Sydney said of Hayes. “When he asked us to cover his song I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ He was so nice.”)
“What we wanted to do with our music is write songs that have messages,” Noah explained. “I guess at the core of our songs they are pop, but we wanted to embrace the pop song with real and raw music… We wanted to make something authentic.”
‘Authentic’ is a word that comes up a lot when you talk to the Sierotas, who kick off a month-long tour later this month. As in, they want their image and, more importantly, their sound to always be genuine.
“Musically, it’s important for us to not be someone else or try to do something because it’s popular or because it’s in right now or because people tell us to do it,” Jamie explained, echoing the message of “Cool Kids.” “We’ve never been about that. We want to do what we want to do. For us, that’s all there is.”