Echosmith’s much-anticipated sophomore LP, Lonely Generation, hits shelves TODAY! It’s a fantastic listen, and in advance of its release, I was able to hop on the phone to Sydney Sierota to talk about how the band made sure to take time with this one in spite of a culture that demands immediacy. We also covered how Echosmith (now in its 13th year) went from modestly playing farmers markets to doing major long-haul tours, talked about the search for a healthy balance when it comes to being present online vs. present IRL, got into what it’s like to work with siblings, officially stated where to find the best lobster roll in Portland, Maine and MORE! Grab a copy of the record, internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and make sure to catch the band next month (in DC at 9:30 Club 2/12, in NYC at LPR 2/13):
So Echosmith has been in business for over a decade now, yeah?
So we actually started when I was 9, meaning we’ve been a band for 13 years now, which is kind of insane. Our band is a teenager now! [Laughs]
That’s crazy! Does it feel surreal?
It is very surreal, and it was very surprising to see what our first album did. When we first started, I was just a kid still going to school, practicing in our garage every single day (sometimes doing that instead of homework), and we were just playing wherever we could. We just had no idea where that would lead, and it’s so cool to think like, “Wow, we went from playing farmers markets and doing street performing to actually playing shows where people are coming to see us, not like they just walked by and took a little pause on some random shopping day they’re having.”
It’s pretty surreal to think about where it’s gone, and to think about how many people have actually heard our music and been affected by it. Because that was always the goal; we always wanted to have a purpose with what we were doing, especially with the music. So it’s amazing to hear all these people saying how a couple of songs of ours have really changed their lives and helped them through a really tough time. I had no idea when I was 9 that that would happen. I dreamed that it would happen, because I wanted to hear people sing along to our songs and connect to us that way, but I had no idea that it would actually happen and feel as amazing as it did. So it was a really rewarding process, and it took years to get there, but I’m so grateful. It made us really, really thankful once it did happen.
Totally. And I know you’ve been active since that debut full-length, but how did it work out that your sophomore record will be coming out in January 2020? Because I imagine there must have been at least some pressure to churn something else out following the success of the first one, so how did you combat that if you indeed were at all pressurized?
There’s definitely a lot of pressure when you’re making your sophomore album, especially if you’re lucky enough to have some success with your first one. So it’s obviously a good problem to have that we were feeling some pressure, and I’m glad that we had that problem, because it means that people cared. But we kind of just really explored what we wanted to do and say musically and lyrically as artists, and we really took our time with this second album, obviously. [Laughs] But I’m so happy that we did, because I’m so, so proud of the album that we’re putting out. We spent the time writing a million songs and trying a million different things musically, replayed certain parts and rewrote certain words, and just took our time with it. I think that’s sort of a lost art, in a way, because there really is a lot of pressure to put things out really fast, and just give everyone everything all at once. But I think there is a beauty in putting out a full-length album and having a real record cycle with that, and having a whole new era centered around an entire album. So we knew that we did want to do something that was full-length, even though we did release an EP, but I’m just so excited for people to hear it, because we really did take our time with it, and I think it’s going to be so worth the wait. We really did put in the work to make the album that we wanted to make, and say exactly what we wanted to say.
Yeah, and I love that you took the control there, because I think it can be easy to just cater to this very immediate and digitized way that people consume music now. And it’s very weird for me to think about when it was tapes and CDs; digital music started to take over only when I was in high school, which was also when the internet really started to go full steam with social media platforms and all of that. What’s it like having grown up a little bit more immersed in digital culture? I feel like some of that filters into “Lonely Generation”.
So yeah, I’m only 22, and I did have my first cell phone when I was in third grade, for example. Of course it only had a couple of numbers on it, and it was just to call my parents and grandparents, but I did have a phone on me in third grade. So it was a part of my life, and then middle school was when I think everyone had some sort of social media, and then in high school it was of course growing. And then we went on tour, so then it became part of my job, so I’ve had kind of an interesting relationship with social media the past…I don’t know how many years.
There are days where I’m like, “This is awesome, this is so fun! We’ll get to hear fans’ stories about how our songs have helped them out!” You know? And there have been amazing stories and great things about social media that I’ve experienced, but at the same time, because it’s been such a big part of my life for such a long time now, and in my really formative years, it’s really tough to figure out a good balance, how to live real life without being totally not in the moment, on my phone constantly. It’s definitely been interesting, and I have a love/hate relationship with my phone and the internet.
I think it’s just a matter of thinking about it, and that’s why we wrote that song; we were having a conversation and I just felt so frustrated, and there was this weird tension there. It’s a complicated situation that I think all of us feel, because whether you’re in the public eye or not, there’s so much pressure that’s really unhealthy. So it’s really just us opening up the conversation to find a balance and think about how we’re spending our time instead of just mindlessly living through our phones every day. Before you know it, years will have gone by and we’ll have made no personal progress, you know? So it’s us trying to be more intentional, but I’m still trying to figure out the balance and how to do that the right way.
Absolutely. It’s such a complex thing, and it’s just crazy to think how it’s affecting all of us and the way we interact with each other and the world! I’ve definitely noticed certain patterns in myself that I think I’ve developed because of social media and the internet, and it’s totally bizarre. It’s a weird time to be a human. [Laughs]
I know, it’s so hard! And I feel so bad for kids who are literally growing up with it being part of everyday life right now. It’s so tough to figure out who you are while presenting whatever version of that is to other people online. That’s so hard. It’s hard without phones, so I can’t even imagine.
For sure. Alright, now I also wanted to ask you about the evolution of what it’s been like to work with family members on this project. Do you feel that as you get older it’s easier? Or maybe more difficult?
It’s something that evolves and changes as we change, of course. It’s been really interesting to see. We’ve grown up as best friends, so that’s been really helpful for when we’re making music, having to spend really long days together where we’re working from early in the morning until late at night; you’re feeling a little agitated because you’re tired or whatever it is, but because we’re family, and because we’re so close, we’ve been able to be really honest with each other and feel that comfortability of being together in those really hard times. So that’s actually been really helpful for us as we’ve tried to navigate working so hard so young. It was nice to have that support system there.
But then of course we have times where we drive each other crazy, or we’ll make fun of each other too much or something like that, because we are family, and we do like to tease each other. But it’s nice that we can be so honest and say, “Hey, this is a little too much for me right now. I’m tired, can you please stop?” And you can say that to your family members, so it’s really nice that we can be so honest and comfortable. I can’t imagine spending this much time with a bunch of random dudes. I just couldn’t do it. [Laughs] For me, this is probably the only way I could ever be in a band, so I’m really glad that we’re doing it this way, even though a lot of people say, “I couldn’t imagine doing this with my family!” Now it just feels so normal and natural to us that I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Well, obviously I don’t know you personally, but you all seem super well-adjusted, and I imagine it must have been really helpful, especially considering how young you were when you started touring.
Yeah, it was. We had our moments where it was so amazing, and then times when it was really hard, but family is really important to us, so we were sure to make that a priority.
Totally. And I noticed you guys post Foodie Fridays from time to time, so I wanted to ask if there’s been anything amazing you’ve eaten recently that hasn’t made it into a video that you feel like shouting out!
Yes, actually! I was just thinking about this since I’ve been craving it ever since the first (and only) time, but we went to Portland, Maine, and I just had no idea how beautiful that city (and the whole state) was going to be. We had the greatest time doing a lot of radio promo and things, and then we tried real lobster rolls for the first time. And I fell in love. There’s a place called Eventide in Portland that’s the best lobster roll ever. It melts in your mouth. [Laughs] I was just thinking about it a day or two ago, saying how I wanted to go back and have some, so hopefully we have an excuse to go back! It’s amazing, I’m so impressed. [Laughs]
Oh my god I KNOW! I went to Portland this summer for the first time and I pretty much ate lobster rolls the entire time. INCREDIBLE. Alright, I’m gonna let you off the hook here in a minute, but before that, the year is wrapping up, so is there anything on your 2019 bucket list that you still need to tick off before heading into 2020?
I think generally I just want to keep working on myself until the end of the year. (Well, forever, but definitely until the end of the year.) Because we’re about to put out this album, go on tour, promote the album like crazy, be away from home a lot, and I just want to be so mentally and physically prepared for that. I want to feel ready to go out there and work, so I’m really just taking time. Obviously we’re still working and rehearsing and planning out the set list and things like that, but in between, I’m really trying to be intentional about actually resting and making sure that I do things that make me feel good and filled up. I really just want to work on what that means to me, and then incorporate whatever I can when I’m on a million flights or on a tour bus or wherever so that I can make sure I’m presenting the best version of who I am to whoever I meet or sing in front of. So that’s something I want to work on until the end of the year, and just feel good and feel prepared for everything, even if that’s just me getting a lot of rest. That really makes a big difference when your job requires you to not rest very much! That’s my goal, and then we’re just going to spend a lot of time with family and outside family for the holidays. I’m just excited to have this really nice time at home, and then get ready to not be at home for probably a long time! [Laughs]