A self-titled record can serve as a moment of introduction for an artist or band, especially as a first release. However, for indie-pop group, Echosmith, their newest record, Echosmith, provides the band the opportunity to show their fans how much they have matured and grown throughout the years with incredibly bold instrumentation and introspective lyrics. With the self-titled album being the band’s third major record release, Echosmith has peeled back the curtain to show a glimpse of their personal lives, steering away from the communal perspective they once used to write from.
The family band, consisting of siblings Sydney, Noah and Graham Sierota, found initial success with the massive hit “Cool Kids” back in 2013 which led to many incredible opportunities such as touring with Neon Trees, Twenty One Pilots and performing the song with Taylor Swift as a surprise guest on the 1989 Tour in 2015. The success of the song has been long-lasting, even having a resurgence over the last year because of TikTok, which led to the group to release an updated and more self-referential version of the track, “Cool Kids (Our Version).”
As they begin to gear up for the release of the new record and an upcoming European tour in the fall, Echosmith members Sydney and Noah Sierota talked with mxdwn about the self-accepting creation process surrounding the new album, how it feels to have viral success on social media and what they hope to provide fans at their upcoming shows.
mxdwn: First off, how are you and where are you currently in the world?
Sydney: I am great! And I’m in Los Angeles, California. Noah is too, but we’re at our own homes. Just about 15 minutes from each other. We’re actually home right now which is nice.
mxdwn: Are you guys enjoying your time at home before this album release?
Noah: It’s been good. It’s been nice to slow down. We spent so much time and so much travel getting this record done. But also mixing that out with doing shows and doing some touring. We’ve just been going, going, going for a while. But as we get ready for this album release, I feel like our schedules lined up a little bit and hopefully that can allow us some space to really enjoy this moment. Enjoy this process of putting out an album. Because we’ve spent a lot of time, poured our hearts into these stories. So I think it’s important to give ourselves space to enjoy that.
mxdwn: For sure. So, starting with the new album which comes out very soon and is very exciting. This feels like a record that’s a moment of reintroduction for the band. What is the significance of releasing this as a self-titled album and having the name Echosmith be the front and center at this point in your career and what do you hope fans take away when listening to the album?
Sydney: Yeah, it feels like a very fitting time to do a self-titled album because like you said, it’s sort of our reintroduction to our listeners who are consistently listening to us now or even people who listen to us randomly, or hear us at a grocery store, or have come to a show but it’s been a couple years. It’s a cool moment for us to literally introduce everybody to who we are as a band but also as a family and individuals. So I think it’s really cool that we get to have this opportunity to let people in on, during interviews, let them in on the process to get here. But also let them in on what’s been going on in our lives the past couple years, or maybe since our childhood and give them a chance to get to know us better.
I think also our fans and listeners have really let us into their lives and had Echosmith songs be the soundtrack during really pivotal moments. And they’ve shared those stories with us, so I think the least we could do is do the same in return and let them know the things that we struggle with or the things that we care about, the things that we’re excited about or the things that scare us.
Also, of course, there are some things that you could write down of why we named it Echosmith being that it’s self-produced and most of the songs are written just by Echosmith. And we’re more involved in every single detail than we ever have been and that’s been really rewarding even though the album hasn’t even come out yet. But we still get to feel that sort of reward in knowing that we really put our best efforts in and really had opened the door to get to know us. And people can take it from there and take ownership over the songs once they’re out. It’s a really special time and I think it’s very fitting to do this now. We kinda figured a self-titled album is sort of now or never as we are reintroducing everyone after such a crazy time in all of our lives.
mxdwn: I love that. Sonically, the new album sounds more creatively freeing with heavier grooves, gorgeous vocal melodies and a lot of crunchy guitars. What were some of the influences that helped shape the musical landscape of this record?
Noah: We’ve listened to a lot of records. For me, always going to our roots of the Talking Heads and The Smiths. I like the way the Talking Heads worked with rhythm, especially with bass and drums and the way the vocals sat on top of that has been super influential. But then there’s records I’ve listened to… like heavy guitar wise, there’s an album I heard from a band called Young Fathers called Heavy Heavy. It’s a totally different thing, it’s a totally different world of music. It’s like this cool, shouty, alternative thing. But the fuzzy guitars on that stuff I thought were so sick. But also even like the fuzzy guitars and the way the preamps work with the mid Beatles stuff.
So a bit of music history, some contemporary albums as well like Absolutely by Dijon is an album I’ve listened to a lot. There’s a few different bits of music that we’ve taken things from. I also think, in a lot of ways, we didn’t listen to a lot of music while we were making these songs specifically. We really wrote the songs and then we made music. And of course, we’re listening to music all the time and that’s influencing us and what we’re putting out. But I think we try to have our songs dictate the direction of the music as well.
mxdwn: Were there any moments when you found a new appreciation for creating music with all the life events that have happened over the past few years? And what have you learned about yourselves as artists and as people in general through making this album?
Sydney: Yeah, I think we’ve gone on this really crazy journey of finding ourselves again. When we started writing this album, the first song we wrote was “Brother, Sister,” and if you listen to that song, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a very raw song. It’s basically a conversation between Noah and I talking about our worst fears and “What if we don’t get to do this anymore?” It was in the middle of COVID but aside from a pandemic, you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
Especially being in the music world, you’re not guaranteed literally anything. You do have to have that appreciation deep down for the fact that you’re in a position to have time and resources to make music. It takes a lot to make an album and we’re very hands-on with this one, so we’re feeling it more than ever how much it takes, especially of your time to create something like this, put it out and try to get it heard.
The first song we wrote is “Brother, Sister,” and the last song we wrote was “Sour.” So it’s interesting because from the time that we wrote that first song to when we wrote the last one, I think we truly were on this journey, in the personal sense, of “We feel really lost right here and we don’t know what the next step is. But let’s keep talking about it and diving into our ‘why’ and finding inspiration again.” Because we did feel like we lost a lot of that and lost our identity. But then as we made the album, I feel like we truly found ourselves again. I think you can hear that in the music too, especially the lyrics.
It’s not like “Sour” is a perfect, happy ending song of everything in my life is perfect now and I have the right amount of appreciation for what I do. It’s actually about some of the things that I worry about. But I’m in such a different place now, and I think we all are. I think we’ve changed a lot, but I think we’ve found our footing and found not just who Echosmith always was, but who Echosmith is now. And how have we changed and why are we even doing this? Is it just to feel cool that we do music? Of course, there’s part of it that feels awesome to do music and it’s a really, really fun job. But it’s also one of those things that you have to really believe in because if you don’t believe in it, really what’s the point and who else really will?
So it’s been a really cool process that I think you can hear in the lyrics and you feel that reflection even with who we are now. We sort of are different people than who we were when we first started this and I’m glad to report that. Not that I’m perfect and everything is great now, but I feel a lot more at peace with what we’re doing and more appreciation, like you said, because we knew what it felt like to not be able to do it.
mxdwn: I love that. Listening back to older stuff too, I can definitely see the progression of the band and everything because I feel like you guys, from what I saw, songwriting was from a more collective perspective like with “Lonely Generation” or “Everyone Cries.” And with this new album, it’s definitely a lot more personal. It’s very interesting to see that progression. What helped you with becoming more comfortable writing from a more personal and vulnerable place?
Noah: That’s a great way of putting it. That’s something that Sydney and I have talked a lot about. Even today, we were creating a setlist and talking about our old music and the dynamics we have internally of the songwriting process of how we did things back then versus how we do things now, and how we connect so much more to these new songs. I think in a lot of ways, like Sydney was talking about, we talk about the “why” of what we’re doing. And that is to tell stories that mean something to us and the hopes that it could mean something to other people. And that if we’re able to be honest with ourselves hopefully that can encourage you, the listener, to be honest with yourself too and to be able to open that up to other people. Because in a way, when we’re putting this music out, we’re creating a community of people that see us and see our struggles and see what we’re feeling or what we’re talking about.
My hope is that we can continue to grow in that and in our songwriting, and I feel like this album captures so much of this very specific season of our lives. It’s not conceptual, it’s not some meta artistic thing. It’s really just journal entries. It’s just our story, laid out. Our feelings, our experiences. It can be joyful, it can be sad, it can be everything in between. I think we just encouraged ourselves. I think we’ve seen just how much more beautiful something can be when it’s more introspective, when it’s more honest.
Photo Credit: Mehreen Rizvi
Sydney: Yeah, and I think also it’s a lot easier to take the big picture approach, kinda like what you were talking about this communal thing of “we’re the lonely generation.” That’s a lot easier to admit even to a friend or in your lyrics than to say “I feel really lonely and I really struggle with feeling content. Or I struggle with feeling anxious.” Or fill in the blank, whatever it is for you.
I think for a long time, with our music, we were always trying to be really personal but sometimes we didn’t even know how to be because I also have a hard time even knowing how I feel. And I have to sort through my feelings and that’s just how my mind works. I think the more I’ve gotten to know myself, and I think Noah would agree, the more I’ve gotten to know myself, the more there is to talk about. I think we’ve really taken that a big step further than any of our music before.
A really good example of that is “Cool Kids” and how we did a new version, “Cool Kids (Our Version),” last year because it came back on TikTok and it made us rethink that song and wonder, “How do I feel about this song right now?” We’ve always appreciated and loved it. But when we first wrote it, we took this outside narrative approach saying there’s this girl who feels like she’s not good enough and she’s left out, or there’s this guy in the second verse who doesn’t feel good enough. “And they said, and he said, I wish I could be like the cool kids.”
But with the new version, that’s the first time I brought myself into the story and used pronouns like “I feel this way.” It’s really interesting to see how we’ve grown and I think those two examples are great examples of where Echosmith is now and how personal everything is. Where if we were going to write a new bridge to “Cool Kids,” there’s no way it wouldn’t be admitting the things that I’m still struggling with. So it’s been really cool to really do that. And we’re kinda just trying it out as we go and forcing ourselves to be like, “Okay, let’s write a song about it.” And we can always decide later if we don’t want to put it out. But a lot of the songs that were scary to write are on this third album.
mxdwn: Talking about things that are scary to write about, do you ever find it difficult, since this is a family band, if there’s things that are off topic to write about. And what would you say is the most difficult part about creating music with your family?
Sydney: It’s funny because nothing is really off limits when it comes to writing now. I think before we got to this place of really diving in deep and talking about all of it, we did feel nervous to maybe even just write songs about our own family dynamics. Yes, not everything is perfect all the time, and we’ve gotten better at communication and we do love doing this together. We’re in a better place than we’ve ever been. But it doesn’t mean that there weren’t growing pains along the way. And I never even thought to put that into a song before.
But I think as we stepped into this new season of making the third album and being really transparent with our lyrics, somebody on our team was like, “Why don’t you write a song about that? You should write about all of it. You should write about the street you grew up on, you should write about every piece of it.” And it was really awesome to hear that from our manager because it was really encouraging to be like, “Okay, I guess we should and someone thinks that they’d like to hear that so I guess we’ll try it.” And that’s how a lot of these songs started.
And “Sucks 2 Be Us” captures a lot of that. So I think nothing is off limits now. But as time goes on there might be things where it’s like, “Ah, I don’t want to talk about that.” I don’t know what it’s like to be a mom yet or anything. I assume I’m going to want to talk about it but I don’t know how I’ll feel one day. But as of now, everything is written about and we get to decide ultimately later if we want people to hear that or not.
mxdwn: It definitely feels like a very therapeutic session being able to write music from your emotions in the moment. I love that. I know you touched on it a little bit, but the “Cool Kids” song had a resurgence on TikTok. Did this virality create any momentum for the new album or spark any natural creativity seeing your song used in this new context? And what would you say is the biggest misconception about having a song go viral on TikTok?
Noah: I think I can answer the first part of that question. I think for us, we were in the middle of working on our album when all that stuff was happening. So we took a break from that to work on “Cool Kids (Our Version).” I think for us, we talked a lot about this, that gave us a lot of time to reflect on the song itself and also what that song did. And how that song connected to people. Because obviously that out of all our songs was what did it. That obviously had the widest reach. Not everyone knows the name Echosmith, but most people know that song which is kinda crazy.
But with that, we talked a lot about why did that connect? Why did that do what it did? And why is that something beautiful? Why is that something that people connected to, emotionally? Because of that, those conversations, we got to bring that to our new music and ask ourselves, does this song capture, not necessarily the same spark, is it going to be the same hit. No one can measure, no one can know whether or not that will happen. But does our new music capture more, hopefully, or at least the same amount of connection? Does it provide the same amount of opportunity for people to hear and experience themselves and are like, “I felt that way too.” So I think for us, that’s probably what it did more than anything.
Sydney: I think a lot of people think that, to the other part of your question, misconceptions about something going viral. They also think that, and I’ve been part of this too, “they” meaning all of us. I think we can all get caught up in the idea of going viral because so much of our worlds revolve around it. No matter what job you have, if you end up going viral for your “day in the life” or “get ready with me,” or your song, it makes you think, “Oh my gosh, everything is changing.” And sometimes it does. And for us, it did create a lot of momentum. And it was perfect timing for us because we already made new music and we already knew what we were doing instead of just, “Oh my gosh we should write a new song to capitalize on it.” It was actually a very natural, organic progression of what we were going to do anyways.
But I think a lot of us put so much value into the idea of going viral or having success online. It’s so harmful to find your value in numbers online because it can go away at any time. Or it could never happen again, or it could. But if that’s where you find your value, your level of joy and contentment everyday is going to change so much minute to minute. And I’ve fallen into that trap so many times. And I have to remind myself constantly this is not where I find my value. This is part of what I do and it’s important that we put our best efforts and our best foot forward online.
I run pretty much all the socials for the band. We create stuff together, but I’m executing all that stuff, and trying to come up with ideas and thinking of the best way I can do it. But also, I can’t just put my identity in that either because I’ve learned from experience that it feels terrible when you do that. You just need to do your best, put things out there to hopefully get your music to reach people. And just let the results be what they are and not be result driven because otherwise that’s a very dangerous trap.
And I think a lot of us feel that literally no matter what you’re doing. Because it’s seen as really cool if you go viral. And it is cool but it’s also not really a good testament of who you are as a person always. We can all be appreciated in different ways and I think it’s way cooler to have your dad say he’s proud of you than, “Oh my gosh, you went viral! And you look so pretty!” You have to be able to realize what the difference is and have fun with it but not make it our everything. And that’s coming from somebody who’s fallen into that trap so many times, of course. I think we all have, if you have social media. But I think that’s a big lesson I’ve learned. People ask me how it feels all the time, and I try to make sure it’s not the thing that’s making me feel great.
Photo Credit: Mehreen Rizvi
mxdwn: Yeah, and I think the way you guys went about it, creating “Cool Kids (Our Version),” I feel like that was very mature, recontextualizing the song. It reminds me of what Taylor Swift is doing with her discography and how she’s updating her music. Do you feel like there’s any other songs in your past discography that you would reimagine or update to channel where you are in your life right now?
Sydney: I haven’t really thought about it too much with anything else. If it comes up and we feel naturally inspired to do that, then I think it would be awesome to do. I don’t know. You never know what the future holds.
I think now we feel most excited about new music that we’re creating. I mean, we’re only on our third album. It’s not like we have ten albums even though we’ve been a band for seventeen years or something. We don’t feel too much like, “Oh, I really want to redo this or add something to our song ‘Bright.’” That was another one that a lot of people heard. Right now, I’m happy with where it is and maybe one day I’ll change my mind and decide, “it would be so fun to do one with a country feel.”
So, you never know what the future holds but as of now, “Cool Kids (Our Version)” was such a fun thing to do. And it felt very fitting and natural for the time. Right now, I feel like we’re in the place where it feels most natural to keep making new music and letting that live out in the world, and going from there and decide what we do in the future. If we want to do some re-recordings, I’m totally down for that. It’s super fun. But I think we’re in the place of focusing on new music right now.
mxdwn: With this new era of Echosmith coming to the limelight, what are you most excited for bringing this self-titled era to audiences and live shows? What kind of story do you hope to tell with the live show?
Sydney: We’re sort of dreaming up the new live show now because we do have a European tour coming up in the fall and of course, there will be more things in the US and everywhere. Because an album is coming out and that’s what you do. So, we’re kinda dreaming up the live setting now and we’re very much in the first baby steps of that.
Ultimately, we want our show to be more of an experience than a show. Similar to what I was saying about social media, it’s so easy to get caught up in the show aspect of it. Again, going to a show is so cool as a fan, as a listener, and it’s so fun to perform. I cannot deny that. I feel some of my highest highs on stage. It’s so amazing to experience that. But I also don’t want it to feel like this thing, “Oh my gosh! You’re such a far away thing that I’m looking at but I’m not a part of it.” I want our fans to feel like they’re a part of it and feel like they can reach us and touch us. Where I can grab their hand and have that moment.
Our main goal is connection with everything that we do. And we want the live show to have connection as the throughline more than, “Wow! They’re so cool! They’re so untouchable!” I don’t want that to be the takeaway. I want it to be, “I feel a little bit changed after going to their show because I got to connect with the artist or I got to connect with the person next to me because Sydney said to put my arm around the person next to you.” We’re trying to create these moments that are beyond the music but using music as a vehicle to do it and create more connection.
Our last tour in the fall this past year was a great taste of what’s to come because there were so many special moments. It felt like an experience more than anything has for us in the live setting. We got custom fortune cookies made and did a surprise song every night. We picked someone random to dig into a bowl, open a fortune cookie and tell us what we were playing. That was such a cool moment no matter who. Sometimes I would choose a fan I recognized and sometimes I would choose someone that I’ve never seen and I knew it was their first show. You can’t replace that kind of memory. So I think it’s going to be a lot more of that stuff where it’s super fun but also really meaningful. I’m excited to build this new show around these new songs because they mean so much and I think it will be cool to give them life in the live setting.
mxdwn: I love that. It seems like you’re trying to add the audience to the show. They’re not just passersby, they’re more involved in the show. I think that’s really cool.
Sydney: It’s more fun that way, for us too!
mxdwn: With this new era of Echosmith coming to fruition, what parting advice would you give to other artists who might find it difficult to reinvent themselves creatively especially in this age of social media where it feels like everything an artist does is heavily critiqued or scrutinized?
Sydney: Something I would say is to really spend time alone in the quiet as you’re creating, before you’re creating, and after. It’s so easy to be influenced by people around us even if it’s just from comments on your post or something like that. I think it’s really great to have a core group of people that can speak into your life and encourage you, and help believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself. That is absolutely necessary.
But I think it’s also really necessary to spend time by yourself in the unseen places to really figure out why you’re doing this. Because that helps you feel inspired to try something new because you spent that time thinking about why you’re doing it instead of just, “I need to create something hooky and catchy.” Like Noah said earlier, we don’t know what’s going to work. And we don’t know what someone’s going to connect with because there have been so many “number one songs” or successful things that are nontraditional that you would not think, “That’s so catchy!” right off the bat.
I think having a great core group of people who believe in you when you don’t, because we all have those moments as artists. But also giving yourself the space to figure out why you’re doing it and to reflect on your life. “How am I feeling right now?” I love journaling and I think it’s so great to journal about what’s going on in your life. And then you’re like, “Oh my gosh! I need to write a song about that because now I know what’s actually going on in my mind.” I think having time in the quiet places is really helpful for inspiration. And then naturally you’re going to try more fun things with a guitar part or a keyboard sound or whatever. But I think that’s really helpful with the songwriting part of it.
Noah: Yeah, and I think I would add just always being honest with the art and to yourself in the process. And yeah, having people around you to support you in that pursuit. Life is complicated and hard, and sometimes joyful and sometimes really painful for a lot of different people. And I think art is the thing that we all get to go to feel some kind of connection to other people. And I think music really has the greatest capacity for helping people feel less alone. So for us, it’s something I want us to keep growing in. And I’d encourage other artists to consider that too.
We’re not doctors but I do think we’re giving a sort of medicine to people. And I think that is really beautiful. We can’t provide every answer but we can be in it with you. Through art we get to tell that experience and that story. And I’ve seen how that helps me, I know Sydney could speak to that too. I think every artist should take that call very seriously. If the answer to that is to write fun, party music, then write it with that in mind. Not everything needs to be so serious or dark. There should be a purpose to what we’re doing. And it should be to bless people. Let the fruit of it be love. Let people experience something good and true, and lovely and beautiful out of what we’re putting out. That’s what I hope to do and I hope other artists can join in on that vision.
All photos by Mehreen Rivzi