Echosmith stress authenticity and growing up on ‘Lonely Generation’
From their debut album, Talking Dreams, in 2013 to their latest release, Lonely Generation, Echosmith have always keyed into personal feelings that fans can relate to. Made up of Sydney Quiseng (formerly Sierota) on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano and keyboards, Graham Sierota on drums and percussion and Noah Sierota on bass, backing vocals, synthesizer and programming, the family trio wanted to dive deeply and focus on what it’s like to grow up in this generation.
Frontwoman Sydney talked with AltPress about the inspiration behind Lonely Generation, how they’ve grown since their debut in 2013 and the message behind their recent releases.
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What's changed in your dynamic as a group since releasing Talking Dreams in 2013, and how has your message developed since “Cool Kids” and “Bright” were topping the charts?
SYDNEY QUISENG: We've all changed as people a lot since then. When we put the first album out in 2013, I was 16, Graham was 14 and Noah was 17. So obviously since then, we've gotten a little older, and we've had those years that, no matter what job or what school you're going through, are so important to growing up and who you're gonna become. And I feel like I'm still discovering what that means for me.
We've always wanted to have a message with our music and be driven by that and to share hope with people through it. But I think that fire was even more ignited because of our experience with relating to fans and also just going through changes—growing up and falling in love and experiencing the loss of a loved one and things like that. So I think if anything, we became more passionate about the same message that we had. Even when I was 10 years old, when we started the band, we've just grown into who we are now, which is an expanded version of who we were as kids.
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How long did it take to conceptualize, write and record Lonely Generation?
So, we rewrote and rerecorded our sophomore album three times pretty much from beginning to end. We have a lot of songs that we wrote over the past couple [of] years, and we had intended on releasing the album in 2017. We just didn't feel 100% right about it all. I mean, we love the songs that ended up coming out on our Inside A Dream EP. We felt so excited about them. But it still felt like we were just beginning the journey, discovering what we wanted to do next musically and what we wanted to say next conceptually. It just didn't feel complete yet.
I think whenever you put out an album, whether it’s your first, second or 10th, I think you need to be 100% behind it and feel like it's 100% finished and be so proud of it before you give it out to the world. You can never take that album back. You can never redo your second album. We essentially recorded Lonely Generation last year. There were a lot of last-minute additions to the album, even a month or two before it was officially turned in, that never would have existed if we didn't go through all the specific life things that we went through. Bringing that to the songwriting table is so important so you can just feel connected with your own music and feel like you're being 100% authentic with your lyrics.
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On your first album, your father co-wrote with you and helped you develop as a band. How did the writing and recording process work for Lonely Generation? What did you do differently this time compared to Talking Dreams and Inside A Dream EP?
Our dad has been involved forever; we're all a family. Musically, we've all been working together at our home studio for so long that it just feels normal. A lot of people are surprised that we work with our family, but to us, it’s just how it is, what we love doing and what works for us. It's really cool that stayed the same throughout this entire journey even though a lot of other things have changed around us.
We've had plenty of songwriting sessions with other people. We wrote with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, and they've been one of our biggest influences forever. And we also wrote with John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, and we even wrote with Gerard Way. We wrote with really cool artists and got to be inspired by how they make art and write songs. We still bring in other songwriters all the time to give us new inspiration and to bring a breath of fresh air to the songwriting. But we really focused on, “OK, what can we write? Just us and our dad. And then sometimes just us?” We got to our home studio and put our heads down and just wrote whatever came out naturally. And that was really the key for us. Just letting whatever wanted to come out, come out and not focusing on, “OK. We need to write a hit song and a song that people are going to get stuck in their head and something that's catchy. We just wanted to get away from that and write whatever we were feeling and make music that felt good to us and felt right.
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I really love the raw realness that you put into these lyrics, like you were saying, where you just wrote what came naturally. These tracks feel both deeply personal and relatable, because we've all been there, or we're currently going through it. Was it your intention to showcase the hard parts of growing up on Lonely Generation, or did the theme emerge as you all came together to write?
"Lonely Generation" was one of the songs that actually led the way for the rest of the record. When we dialed that song in and finished [it], which felt very natural for us, we had a lot of fun. When we were writing, it all came out so quickly, which doesn't always happen. And when that song was done, it led the charge for the rest of the album and gave us a better idea musically [of] what we wanted to do.
When it came to the lyrics, I realized that I tend to put on a happy face and even tell my friends, "Everything is great. Don't worry about it. Life is good. I'm not going through anything hard right now." I didn't want to do that anymore. I didn't want to do that to my friends or family, and I didn't want to do that to our fans either. I wanted to get more real and honest and practice stretching myself and posting something that was more vulnerable.
So it was a very intentional thing that we did that, but it was also a really hard thing to do. I felt very back and forth about it sometimes. And there were days where I thought, “Well, is this lyric too personal? Does it share too much? I feel a little worried about what people are going to think of me, or are people going to judge me because this is not a popular opinion?” And I just had to tell myself to stop thinking that way because that's not what art is. Art is being honest and expressing yourself in an authentic way. I don't think there's much of a point in making art if you're not going to be real about it.
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In that vein, "Scared To Be Alone" is one of the most relatable tracks, and it's definitely a go-to on the album. It could represent being physically alone or emotionally alone, but it's up for interpretation by the listener.
That was right when I started going to counseling [and realized] that I am terrified to be by myself. And I tend to busy myself just to avoid that. It was so weird to realize that. And so embarrassing. I haven't really talked to too many of my friends about how I feel about that, but me and Noah were starting this idea at his home studio.
I had no idea if I wanted to put it on the album or not because it felt so personal. It doesn't sound that cool to say you're scared to be alone, whether it's emotionally or physically. But it's not about sounding cool anymore. That's not my goal. I don't care about being perfect and cool as much as I would have when I was younger. It was just documenting this point in time in my life of learning about myself and learning how to overcome that. And I'm still definitely not over it and not totally cool hanging out by myself. But I have been trying to practice that a little more in my everyday life.
In "Diamonds," there's a beautiful synthesized keyboard breakdown two-thirds of the way in. And because these lyrics really surround individuality and being “the diamond in a sea of glass,” are you hoping fans showcase their individuality through some dance moves and that breakdown? Because I did.
That would be so awesome. When we decided to put a keyboard solo in our song, which was sort of a last-minute decision, we were so excited about it. We just kept picturing the live show. So yes, I hope that people feel like they can just let loose and have fun and just be themselves—whatever that means—especially in that part of the song. I would love that, because that's what I'll be doing.
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“Cracked” is my favorite song on Lonely Generation. The lyrics “I know I may be cracked, but I let the light in” will really resonate with fans. What was the inspiration behind this track?
That song was earlier in the process of writing for this album. That one was our way of getting into being vulnerable, and that's what led to us being so vulnerable on the rest of the album. That song is so important for all of us to hear.
No matter what you go through, what you have been through [or] what you're going to go through tomorrow, I think we all need to know that it's OK to be cracked. You don't have to put on this perfect face or attitude because we're all cracked, and that's OK. And that's actually beautiful. And it's beautiful to accept the things about yourself that may be different. But then also to decide to work on yourself to become better and to be the best version of yourself.
You're kicking off 2020 with a new release and tour, and you've also released three music videos. Is there anything else fans should keep their eyes out for this year?
Well, we will release the rest of our music videos because it is a visual album. So keep your eyes out for the rest of the music videos. All of them turned out so beautiful and amazing. And we release them not too far apart from each other because a lot of [them] actually are connected and have some little nuggets in there that are connected to other videos. So I want people to be able to see that and feel that and go on the story with us. We're going to release these videos separately so they each have their own moment. But we're going to roll them all out over the next couple of months. So I'm really excited about that.
We're touring as much as we can on this album because we spent so much time on it. I'm so ready to actually play these songs live and bring them to life in a completely different way. And to create special moments with our fans where we can get more personal than ever. As personal and vulnerable [as] the album and the lyric content [are], we want that to be the goal with the live show as well while keeping it exciting and super fun and high energy and have drums and probably confetti and things like that.
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Is there anything specific you want fans to take away from this album?
I want fans to feel better about whatever they're going through and to feel a little less alone. Whether it's one song or the entire album, whether it's a fan that has been with us for seven years or if they are hearing us for the very first time, I want them to feel a little better about their life after hearing our music. Even if that's just a sliver of hope that they get to have, I'll see it as a goal accomplished.
I hope people can really understand that we all go through hard times, but we will get through it. We all need to be there for each other and check in on each other. I hope it inspires people to ask how their friends or family members are doing—or even a stranger. Ask them how they're doing, because you never know what someone is going through.
You can listen to Echosmith’s new album Lonely Generation below.