No mere echo: Echosmith rises on pop music charts

So much of today's pop music targeting the youth demographic is dominated by manufactured stars and lip-syncing singing groups that it often comes off as utterly flavorless and predictable, but the teenage Toluca Lake siblings of musical quartet Echosmith are unquestionably the exception which proves the rule.

Pop music isn't rocket science; simplicity and honesty are the order of the form, yet its commercial arbiters seldom seem to manage either. Echosmith, comprised of Jamie, Noah, Graham and Sydney Sierota, effortlessly wield these tools of the trade, creating accessible yet elegantly contoured songs like “March into the Sun” and “Cool Kids.” Richly melodic, chronically catchy, these kids' compositions employ equal measures of musical dynamics and understated simplicity.

“We grew up and live in Toluca Lake and we've been playing and singing most of our lives,” said 17-year-old Sydney. “We grew up around music, there was always someone playing music in our house, our dad is a music producer, songwriter and musician and his having a studio in the house made it a lot easier for us.”

“We started the band about six years ago, playing covers, just random stuff — at our first show we did a Cure song, we did a Rage Against the Machine song. We did everything, middle schools, elementary schools, benefits, county fairs all over the place. We played at a Chick-fil-A once — I mean, who would even imagine a band could play at place like that?”

With half a dozen years of experience, the youthful foursome (ages range from 14 to 20) has developed formidable skill, and it is finally starting to pay off. Last month, the bands' debut album “Talking Dreams” entered the Billboard Heatseekers Chart at No. 3, and their “Cool Kids” is currently one of the 10 most-shared songs on Spotify and was recently an iTunes Single of the Week.

Quality songwriting can never be counterfeited, and the siblings have developed an effective modus operandi: “The songwriting is equal and collaborative,” Sydney says. “It never starts the same way. Like Graham will come up with a melody and we all just take it from there; we work together very well that way. It's always different. We have influences — we grab from everything — but we make it like us, our own music.”

Making the leap from talented amateurs to chart-topping pros is never easy, but Echosmith had an ace in the hole. “Our Dad and [noted producer] Mike Elizondo are old friends. They'd worked together years ago, before I was even around. They had reconnected a while ago and my Dad sent him our stuff, but he didn't tell him that it was his kids playing, didn't really tell him anything about it.”

“But Mike understood what we're doing and he liked it. A few days later we met with him and the whole thing just happened: we signed to Warner's. It's funny — that happened so fast, but there had been years of work before that.”

Under Elizondo's guidance, they released a series of singles and hit the road to further sharpen their skills, landing a spot on an annual big time rock ‘n' roll roadshow, the Warped Tour.

“Touring is hard work, the Warped Tour was fun, yes,” she said, “but you still have to go out and walk the line there, meet the kids and tell ‘em ‘Hey, our band is playing at 3:45 today, come check us out.' And you have to deal with the weather. That can make a big difference in your show, all kinds of things. But you make friends with the fans and the other bands, and you get to meet and hang out with the bands that you really like. So it is a lot of work but we had a great time.”

For Echosmith, things may just be getting started, but they don't take it for granted. “We've had a lot of cool things happen for us in the last two years and we are very grateful for all it,” Sydney said. “Because we've been through a lot already — we've had those shows where only two people came out, and that's not easy. So we are very thankful.”


JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank and author of “Ramblin' Rose: the Life & Career of Rose Maddox” and “Cry: the Johnnie Ray Story.”

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