When Los Angeles rock quartet The Eeries' brash song “Cool Kid” was played on KROQ last month, it was the first time in two years the influential Los Angeles radio station had added an unsigned band to its rotation. After discovering the cheeky ode to outsiders via tweets by Courtney Love and My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way, KROQ Music Director Lisa Worden said the song's '90s influence and snarky lyrics (“You're so hip it makes me sick”) make it “totally 'KROQ'.”
Almost immediately, The Eeries, who have also received public accolades from Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx and Oasis' Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, were snatched up by Interscope Records.
California native Isaiah Silva, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, says he is somewhat overwhelmed with how rapidly The Eeries' career has moved forward. Though the band's lineup was solidified a year ago, their debut single, “Cool Kid,” was released just a few months ago as a free download via the band’s website. (On July 22, it was released on iTunes as a digital single.)
“To be quite honest, it feels so surreal,” says Silva, who is sitting on a couch with bandmates Brandon Sweeney (guitar), Eliot Lorango (bass) and Nadir Maraschin (drums) at a West L.A. recording studio, where the band is finishing their debut record. He’s wearing jeans, boots, a camouflage jacket and a Pebbles Flintstone baseball cap. “I almost don't understand what is going on. There's a glossiness over everything where I almost feel detached. Not that I'm ungrateful. I'm so fucking grateful. It's absolutely exciting.”
For years, Silva played with The Rambles, a roots rock band comprised of his best high school friends. Several years ago, when he got engaged to his fiancée, Frances Bean Cobain, Silva says he became uncomfortable with the attention he and his band began to receive.
“I don't need attention predicated on who my family is. I understand the curiosity. I get it. But it made me more introverted and kind of not want to publicly release music for a while.”
When he grew disenchanted with The Rambles, who have since disbanded, Silva began to write songs which he initially kept private before playing them for selected friends. Gathering a new set of musicians, Silva formed The Eeries (named for Silva's affection for early '90s TV show Eerie, Indiana), and recorded “Cool Kid.” Still wary of the fascination with his personal life, the band members' names were not listed on their official website.
Silva is protective of his private life for another reason: He says he was raised in a “legitimate Jonestown-style cult” called The Assembly, based in Fullerton, California, until he was 18. His counter-culture hippie parents joined an initially well-intentioned “peace and love” commune called “House of Christian Love,” but years after its establishment, a new group leader steered the commune from a hippie form of Christianity into an abusive religious cult.
When he was about 11 years old, Silva learned to play guitar as part of The Assembly’s band, touring various California coastal cities and playing inside a tent affixed with a “Jesus Is Coming Again” banner. Silva shudders, visibly, at the memory. “I felt like a fucking marionette on stage.”
His love of music, however, turned out to be one of the only escapes from his oppressed existence. Often, he would tell The Assembly that he was going out for lunch, but instead he'd sneak off to a local record store, where the owner provided him with an in-depth music education.
Silva says he suffers PTSD from his years spent with The Assembly, while others with whom he grew up have committed suicide due to the trauma of having been molested and abused. He claims the excessive media scrutiny of his personal life exacerbates his already sensitive condition.
“I grew up in a situation where the first 18 years of my life made my world very small, and it was controlled by other people.” Of the media attention focused on his relationship with Cobain, he says, “What I felt when that happened was reminiscent of my upbringing. It brought up heavy stuff for me.”
Though he and his family left The Assembly when he was 18 years old, Silva says it was only within the last couple of years, close to a decade after his departure, that he was able to begin to process his experience. During that time, he wrote “Cool Kid” in a three-minute, stream-of-consciousness outpouring.
“I think ‘Cool Kid’ may have had something to do with tapping into a lot of repressed feelings towards my upbringing and, quite literally, having an outsider's view of the world. And the irony of what it means to be 'cool' or 'in' or 'hip' or whatever, because it's trivial. People put such an emphasis on it and it doesn't matter. As long as you are happy and the people you love are happy, that is all that matters.”
Silva says he derives the most enjoyment from the success of “Cool Kid” when he sees kids posting it on social media with the hashtag #underdoganthem. He hopes that those who feel like outsiders may find solace in identifying with him and his music.
“With social media, one thing I really enjoy is being able to chat with our fans. If someone feels I am 'cool' and identifies with the song and sentiment…well, I would have loved to have talked to a band I was into growing up.”
“When every other house on my street had Christmas lights and ours didn't, because we were not allowed to celebrate holidays, neighbors would ask, but I couldn't say, 'Well, because my family's fucking crazy.' I, quite literally, was an outsider. Reaching kids who, in a sense, are perhaps similar to me is really great. I remember being a kid and how music affected me. It saved me from the cult.”
KROQ Presents The Eeries September 24 at The Troubadour.