By Deepa Lakshmin
A dramatic explosion. An '80s-inspired workout class. The Wild West. At first glance, the mismatched scenes in Echosmith's new “Lonely Generation" music video have little in common besides their stars: Sydney, Noah, and Graham Sierota — the talented siblings who make up the multi-platinum alt-pop trio, best known for their 2013 hit "Cool Kids." But when you look closer at their latest release, it's impossible to miss the moment in each adventure when the action stops and everyone starts mindlessly scrolling through their phones. It's anticlimactic but perhaps the most realistic part of the video.
"It can be so tough to figure out a balance of, 'OK, how much do I interact with people online and spend time scrolling?'... versus, 'How much time am I spending in real life without my phone or any type of electronics?'" lead singer Sydney Sierota told MTV News over the phone.
A conversation Sydney had with her brothers sparked "Lonely Generation," the band’s first independent single on their label, Echosmith Music, and the title track of their forthcoming sophomore album, due out January 10. "We're supposed to be so beyond connected," she added, "connected in kind of a crazy and sometimes scary way, but I find that I feel this way and that a lot of people I know feel like, man, I feel very lonely despite all of these different connections that I have on my phone."
Director Danny Drysdale depicted that emotion in the music video by stitching together visuals from future Lonely Generation clips Echosmith haven't released yet. In one whirlwind week, they shot videos for each of the LP's songs, filming across Utah, Los Angeles, and an "insanely beautiful" Malibu beach. As each shoot wrapped, the cast whipped out their phones to get a few texting takes for "Lonely Generation," which is why the end result appears so random.
"We would do the same setting that we were in for another song," Sierota explained, "and then we're like, 'OK, everyone grab phones and everyone in the background be on your phone and look like you're totally lifeless back there' ... It really showed, jeez, no matter what situation you're in, it’s so easy to be caught up on our phones and not be in the moment." The "Lonely Generation" lyric video follows a similar theme and takes place entirely on social media apps.
Writing songs about how phones are ruining real-life interactions isn't anything new — Lost Kings's "Phone Down" and Relient K's "Look on Up" tackle the same subject — but what makes Echosmith's take unique is how rosy it sounds, in the same way Paramore's "Hard Times" grapples with mental health while still making you want to hit the dance floor.
"['Lonely Generation’] is the representation of what social media is," Sierota said. "The song is very upbeat and actually sounds really happy with sort of a darker and more honest vulnerable message, and that's sometimes how it feels on Instagram. You see all these happy and amazing lives and highlight reels, and we don't really know what's going on behind that ... what's really going on in someone’s heart or their mind."
Navigating reality and "pixelated versions of ourselves" — to quote the painfully true "Lonely Generation" chorus — remains a personal challenge for Sierota. "There are some days where I feel like, man, I totally mastered the balance. Then the next day, I could be totally off balance and feel like crap and wonder why I feel so off but, oh, it's because I was on my phone way too much."
Her goals, she says, are to put away her phone more and to use social media for specific purposes, like interacting with fans. "We love checking all the messages and the comments on photos, and we try to respond to as many as possible," she said.
Keeping that line of communication open is clearly meaningful to Echosmith, as they host Instagram Q&As and more recently started a "Foodie Friday" YouTube series where they compare their favorite fast food treats. (The latest episode is naturally about pumpkin spice.) Of course, music is at the core of their social media presence, from covers of Top 40 hits to performances of their own tunes. They're excited to play "so many new songs" during their next tour in 2020, but Sierota promises fans will also hear old favorites from their 2013 debut, Talking Dreams.
Echosmith had more time to experiment with Lonely Generation, swapping out different instruments and composing multiple versions of the same songs. The LP was produced by their dad, Jeffery David, who's co-written many of their previous songs. "Most bands kind of become like family anyways," Sierota said, explaining that working with family has its perks because you can be completely honest and comfortable with each other: "We know each other so well, sometimes too well."
If "Lonely Generation" is any indication, that authenticity will shine in the full album — a reminder that even if you feel lonely, you're not alone.