Any musician will tell you that chemistry between players is the most important component in creating a band. When the right musicians find each other, there’s lightning in a bottle. And, when they happen to be siblings, the connection is even more powerful.
So maybe it’s not surprising that Echosmith would receive so much attention after the release of their first album. Drummer Graham Sierota (15), guitarist Jamie Sierota (21), bassist Noah Sierota (19) and lead singer Sydney Sierota (17) have watched their song, “Cool Kids,” plucked off their debut, Talking Dreams, go platinum with over 1.2 million sales in the U.S. alone. The photogenic youths have made a splash appearing on TV’s Conan, The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Steering the ship is their father, Jeffery David, who manages Echosmith along with management consultant Kimberly Knoller.
Like most overnight successes, this one took years to accomplish. And to learn all about it, MC spoke with the articulate, ebullient teen who fronts this indie pop group. She reveals the secrets to working with her brothers, writing songs that connect with listeners and the burdens of sudden fame.
Music Connection: Tell us how the band came into existence. How did Echosmith find its style?
Sydney Sierota: We were individually playing music. We didn’t really think of doing this whole family band thing. I started singing at two, and my brothers picked up instruments super-early as well. We each started to master our own craft without any intent of becoming a band, but we happened to pick the perfect instruments to become one.
Seven years ago, we played together for a benefit concert. We played a bunch of covers––“Love Song” by the Cure, Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In the Name Of” and “Umbrella” by Rihanna. So it was very eclectic and random, but it was enough to think, “Wow, this is fun. We could maybe do this.”
We started to write our own songs and figure out who we were. I was 10 then and now it’s very different, obviously. There were a lot of life changes that happened and that led to musical changes as well. We went through so many phases. We were in our electronic phase, our super pop phase, then the rock, and then the experimental and then the folk phase. We tried a bunch of things out. As time went on, some songs started to feel better for some reason. They started to feel like they connected more or that we had more fun writing them or they felt more natural and more easy.
The first song that led to the sound we have now is “Let’s Love.” It was just so natural. It was like, wow, this is easy to play. This feels right. That was kind of the point we started writing more songs in that direction. We wrote close to 80 songs. Most of the songs on the record came after “Let’s Love,” which was only in the last part of our writing. That’s kind of how we discovered our sound.
MC: What are the dynamics of playing with your siblings? Does it make your job easier or more difficult?
Sierota: It depends. Obviously, depending on our mood and how long we’ve been with each other, it’s going to change. But generally it is a lot better being siblings. I’ve never been in a band with anybody other than my siblings. It works to our advantage and our disadvantage, but mostly it works for good because we know how to deal with each other. We’ve had years and years of practice in getting along. We know how to settle fights really fast and get over things really fast. And start fights really fast. (laughs)
But because we’re related, we have so much that we’ve already covered as we were growing up. A lot of bands don’t understand each other and don’t know how to deal with each other. And we definitely do.
MC: You signed with Warner Brothers in 2012. How did that deal come about and why did you choose them?
Sierota: There were many opportunities that came up, a lot of close calls of, “Oh, so-and-so might sign you,” or, “This other label might sign you.” We had so many celebratory dinners, thinking, “We’re getting signed by fill-in-the-blank.” But it didn’t happen. So we were just kind of like, “Whatever, I guess we’ll keep doing our thing, street performing and playing any place we can.”
Then (Warner exec) Mike Elizondo heard our music, instantly fell in love with it and showed it to (label head) Rob Cavallo. They all listened to it in a meeting and I got a text that day––it was our dad saying, “Hey, you’re leaving school. You’re going to meet with Warner Brothers.” So I left my geometry class and I was happy to. We went over there and it happened to be five minutes from our house. We met with everyone, played a few songs acoustically and Rob Cavallo asked us to sign with Warner Brothers right there.
Read More: Signing Story: Echosmith
It was crazy, because Mike had heard our music on a Friday and we met with him and Rob on Monday or Tuesday. Either way, it was four years of work and [success] happened in four days. It was so unexpected and wasn’t even something we knew to hope for.
Going with Warner was a pretty easy decision, because they have some great artists and people who work there. But everything is democratic with us. We literally vote on everything. Unless it’s something that’s huge, then we’re going to find a compromise. But it’s not one person making every decision or one person making something happen or not happen, which is nice because I feel that imbalance ruins a lot of bands.
MC: Tell us about your hit, “Cool Kids.” How did the song come about and were you surprised by its success?
Sierota: We wrote that song toward the end of the writing process. That song took us the longest to write. It was annoying, because for some reason we couldn’t get it right. We couldn’t get the phrasing right, we couldn’t get the story right. After a few months, we found something that was natural for us. It’s about how everybody, at some point, feels that desire to fit in or be like somebody else. And that includes us. That’s why we wrote this song.
That song may have taken the longest, but it’s one of the ones that means the most. It’s an interesting song, because it’s talking about that desire to fit in but at the same time accepting yourself. When we put it on the Summer Sampler for Warped Tour, we had no idea that song would take off. But that’s the song people started to sing along to and it was really fan chosen. We had no clue and neither did the label. We all had our guesses of which song would be the single. It was a big surprise to us, for sure.
MC: How do you handle legal issues? Do you just hand those issues over to your parents?
Sierota: It depends on what it is. I’m almost 18, so that won’t even matter for me soon. Even though Graham’s younger (he’s 15), we look over everything and, of course, our parents look over it, too, but we have a great lawyer who knows what’s good and what’s not and we’re able to collectively decide on things. It’s not like, “Here’s my contract, Mom and Dad––deal with it.” We’re all very involved with the business side, too, because we want to understand it.