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Concert Preview & Interview: Echosmith

Grant Walters Grant Walters Concert Preview & Interview: Echosmith
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The Sierotas will bring their 'Inside A Dream' Tour to Columbus Thursday Night to build momentum for their forthcoming studio album and latest single "Over My Head"

It’s been nearly five years since California indies Echosmith launched their debut album, Talking Dreams, anchored by the Top 20 sleeper hit, “Cool Kids.” Buoyed by the four Sierota siblings: Sydney (lead vocals, piano, keyboards), Graham (drums, percussion), Noah (bass, background vocals), and Jamie (lead guitar and vocals), the band found its commercial footing rather quickly after the single started to make an impact on radio. Before long, they were swept up by the 2013 Vans Warped Tour, and joined Owl City on his North American road trip.

But now a proper full-length follow-up to Talking Dreams is on the horizon (the band issued two EPs, Acoustic Dreams in 2015, and Inside A Dream last July), and the radio audience that turned their last record into solid gold is getting a taste of just how much Echosmith has grown up with “Over My Head,” their most recent single, which arrived on March 16. Sydney’s velveteen alto is still the epicenter of their sound, but the staccato keys and the oscillating melody line add a touch of dramatic theater. While the tracks on Talking Dreams weren’t tentative, “Over My Head” sounds defiant and assured.

Now a trio after the departure of eldest sibling Jamie three years ago, who wanted to commit more time to his fledgling family at home, the members of Echosmith find themselves contending experientially, and thus lyrically, with adulthood and all of its emotional tangles — a theme that is central to “Over My Head.”

“That song means a lot to me personally,” explains Sydney during a recent phone conversation. “I mean, every song that we write we want to make sure that we all can relate to it in some capacity, but especially for me as the singer I really want to make sure I relate to it. So, any story we talk about is going to be some variation of one of our stories.

But, that song especially I feel like is my story more than any of the other boys. And we just felt like that was an important song and an important subject to talk about because as I’m getting older — I’m about to be 21 myself — you start to have more mature relationships with romantic things, and also with friendships.”

Echosmith is also back on the road to amp up excitement for the new album, which still lacks a title and official release date. They’ll make a stop tonight at Newport Music Hall in the University District.

I gleaned that “Over My Head” is about some kind of relationship dynamic, but what specifically is it trying to communicate?

“This song really means a lot because you realize that relationships and friendships are very complicated, and they’re not exactly what you think they were when you were just a little kid or growing up. It talks about how frustrating it is when you’re not understanding each other, even though you may want to. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you still don’t [laughs]. That song is so relatable in so many ways, and I relate to it in different ways every day that I sing it.

My favorite part of the song that has the best takeaway is the bridge, because it’s kind of a saving grace moment, letting the person know, ‘Hey, this is frustrating, but I want to understand you. And I’m here for the long run and I’m not going to just ditch you because we don’t get each other right now.’ I think so many songs right now are just saying, ‘Yeah, I’m mad at you, and I’m over it, and I’m leaving.’ So, I think that’s a really important message that everyone can learn from.”

You mentioned the process of growing up and maturing since your first album. In what ways do you think you and your brothers have evolved individually over the past five years? I imagine being in the public eye must have had an impact at some juncture.

“I think it’s definitely a different experience than other people my age, for example, who are in college or who are trying to figure out what they want to do for work. That’s the advantage we have is that we know what we want to do and we’re getting to live our dream, and that’s all amazing. But then the little things in between, you know, are still really tough like other people our age experience — the growing pains you go through when you’re just trying to figure out, ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Why am I this way?’ Or ‘Do I have my beliefs because that’s how I was raised, or that’s what the media says, or that’s what I truly believe in?’

Those core beliefs, or even just the way I look or the way I see myself have been quite a journey figuring out, and I’m still figuring it out, obviously. I’m definitely not there yet, but I do feel like since we took a little break from touring to write the new album, I was able to go through a lot of those growing pains at home, which was nice. And I definitely had some time to analyze myself, not in a hypercritical way, but just in a, ‘Okay, who is this I’m becoming and do I like the direction I’m going in?’ And there are a lot of things where I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to keep doing and I want to stay that kind of person.’ But there are other things that you have to realize, ‘I’m not so great at this. I’ve got to work on my patience,’ and things like that.

You realize that as you get older, anyway, but I think having the ‘public persona’ definitely puts a little more pressure on because, you know, people are paying attention and they’re watching. And there are people Tweeting me saying I’m their role model, and I honestly don’t take that super lightly because I had role models and I still do. And it’s important to not live your life for other people, but also realizing that you’re an example and figuring out how to be a good example and have a good influence on people rather than taking advantage of it and seeing it as not a big deal. Because having an influence on someone else’s life is.”

I think it’s really fantastic that your entire family is so deeply invested in Echosmith. It must have been so great to develop yourselves in a space that was so musically nurturing. But are there also pressures or issues that come with being related and essentially being in business together?

“Yeah, it definitely can be complicated working with family, but obviously there are way more amazing things about that than negative things. That’s why we’re still doing it. Of course, there are challenging things that you come across. I love my brothers, and also our dad is our manager and our mom is our tour manager. We all love each other so much, but there are times we drive each other crazy also because we’re family. We know the jokes to say to bug each other, and…obviously the good outweighs the bad.

But we do have moments where it’s really hard to separate business and family and make time for family things. Because it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, well I’ve been with you guys on tour for three months now. We don’t have to hang out.’ But my mom will remind us, ‘We were working together. We didn’t have any quality time! So, let’s still have a family dinner.’ There are things like that you don’t really think about, so I’m glad we have our mom there to remind us we need to continue to have a good relationship with each other. That means we have to do that intentionally, too.

I love it. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else, and I couldn’t imagine just being a solo artist or just being in a band with other random dudes all the time and not having my parents there. I start to think about that and it makes me extra grateful I’m doing it with them.”

And now you’re getting closer to releasing your second studio album, which you’ve been working on for quite some time. In what artistic direction has this project taken you and how might it be distinct from what we heard on Talking Dreams?

“The first album, nobody knew who we were except literally only the people at our label and our friends. We just did whatever felt right. With this new album, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations people have for it, you know, the Tweets we get every day asking when we’ll put out new music, or what it’s going to be like, or ‘It has to sound like ‘Cool Kids,’ but it has to be different!’ and all these things. It’s easy to get caught up in that, but I think we just had to constantly remind ourselves that we are making music we love and that we feel passionate about and that tells our stories.

And that’s what worked the first time. It wasn’t because we were trying to make a hit song or something for fans, necessarily. But it was because it was our story and people related to it. if I’m going through something, there has to be someone else somewhere with a similar experience. So, we just had to tell ourselves that there are people waiting and we want to make it for them and acknowledge our fans, of course. But to also make this album for us. We had to do a lot of rediscovering of who we are, especially since Jamie left the band. He was just such a huge part of the band songwriting-wise and music-wise.

So we had to figure that out, and that’s why it took so long, honestly. And a sophomore album, anyway, is a really hard experience for a band, because you have to figure out who you are and who you’re turning into because you start to have difference influences as you get older and you’re touring more. And you find out about artists that might influence you more than the ones that did on the first album. But after a lot of trial and error and trying out a bunch of different songs…we wrote so many songs for this album!

I think we really found out who Echosmith 2.0 is. It’s still us, and there are still organic instruments, but just like the first album we have a lot of keyboards and synths, and Graham uses a drum pad. You know, we kind of went a little more in that direction — more than the first album because we had to fill some holes where Jamie would be playing a guitar line on every song. There’s still guitar, obviously, but it’s not leading the charge like it used to. It’s still the same band — we’re still band — but, we’re five years older and talking about different kinds of things. Deeper things. Really discovering who you are and that struggle, and also love and all the different components of it.

I’m really excited about it, but we now just have to decide which songs are going on the new album out of the million that we’ve written [laughs], and what we’re going to call the album. There are so many things to decide! But we have the music, and that’s what’s most important. This is all just trivial stuff, comparatively. We just added a bunch of songs, too, really recently, which is why we had to push the album back.

But I’m glad we did because it’s better that we feel so completely comfortable and confident in this album coming out than feeling half-confident and doing it for someone else. It was good we took the time to wait, and it will definitely be worth it.

Putting together a tour at this stage must be a markedly different experience than when you went on the road for the first time in 2013 and you didn’t even have an album out yet. What’s been your vision for this new set of shows?

“It definitely is different planning a tour right now where we know, you know, that people are coming. When we started touring with the first album, we didn’t know. We were just going for it — we didn’t know if people would show up at the shows. Of course, they eventually did and we did have some headlining tours, too, and there were people there as well. So, it’s not like there wasn’t anybody there, but we were also in the middle of touring and then started a headlining tour, and we didn’t have time to even rehearse for it or plan anything for it because we were on some other tour right before or doing promo.

That’s what makes this so different is that we now have time to do things we never did before. This time, we actually have a lighting director on tour. We never had that before, ever — we just used what the venue had. And now we hired this awesome girl and she’s planning on show right now and we’re getting to rehearse with it. It just makes such a difference. We’re getting to fully plan out every moment of the show, and we’re obviously leave for improvising and feeling in the moment and being with the crowd. But we’re able to just plan so much more, give an even better and more intentional show now.

It’s nice getting to have that time, but it’s also going to be great to have more material, also, to play off of. We’re not just playing the first album, we’re also playing the new song and the whole EP that came out last year, and another song from another EP we put out. There’s just so much more material to choose from, and it makes it more exciting for us that we’re not necessarily playing the same 10 songs we’ve been playing for five years. But, I’m excited to see everyone again — I get to see these fans that have come to eight or 10 shows already, and I get to see them again after almost two years. It’s pretty cool for us knowing that there are…you know, we’re friends with our fans.

I just can’t wait to get out there again.”

Echosmith, along with guests The Score and Jena Rose, will be in Columbus tonight (Thursday, April 19), 6:30 p.m. at Newport Music Hall,1722 N. High St. in the University District. General admission tickets (standing room only) are $24 plus taxes and fees and are available through TicketmasterNew single “Over My Head” is available through the band’s official website.

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