VIDEO: Meet GEM - Lake Forest's Professionally Recorded Teen Rock Band

GEM will perform this Friday at SUPERJAM 2; Proceeds benefit Ellie Burns Foundation.

A Lake Forest teen band with a professionally recorded album – GEM – will perform Friday (Dec. 9) at Side Door Studios' SUPERJAM 2.

GEM will perform some material from their new album along with other local bands starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $5 at the door and proceeds benefit the Ellie Burns Foundation.

attended by more than 150 people at Side Door Studios. “That was one of the best performances we've ever had,” said band member Etta Eckerstrom.

View the Intermission video from GEM's release party and listen to 'Fall Day' by Grace Royster.

GEM is 14-year-old Grace Royster (lead vocals and guitar), and 15-year-old twins Etta Eckerstrom (lead guitar and vocals) and Mattie Eckerstrom (bass guitar and backup vocals). All three are students at .

The group's sound, pop with a country twist, reflects their favorite artists with the heartbreak of Taylor Swift, boldness of Nicki Minaj and sweet honesty of Lady Antebellum.

Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch sat down with GEM after one of their weekly band class at Side Door Studios, where they practiced two songs for their new album.

  • What's the best thing about being part of GEM?

A lot of the fun moments we have. It's fun and rewarding.

Grace: Being able to express myself in a way not a lot of other people do – being able to express what's really hurting you in music.

Mattie: Being able to show people this other side of us.

  • Are you treated differently at school?

They didn't take us seriously before [the album release].

Etta: We definitely get attention for it. Sometimes we don't know what to say. But a lot of our friends come to our shows. I've carried a few albums to school if someone asks for them.

Grace: I got a lot of grief [in middle school]. A lot of people would tease me to the point where I hated school. You're the target because you're different. I feel like people are more accepting of it now that I'm in high school and there are other bands around.

  • Describe your personal style.

Musically I'm not the loudest or most outgoing. I like being a little different, wearing something a little nicer. (Mattie's signature piece is a black fedora she's rarely seen without. She got it from a street vendor in Paris.)

I like to surprise people, musically. I like colors. Well, not really. Nothing too outgoing. I love PacSun! It's my life!

I always want to improve lyrically. I want the lyrics to be poetic.

  • So you're low-maintenence?

Etta and Mattie:
Yeah, pretty much.

Grace: Not if you ask my dad.

  • Is it difficult working in a group with teen angst rearing its ugly head?

Etta: We defintely have our moments when we're disconnected or we're not even listening.

Grace: We never hurt each other physically. We're people. We have our moments.

Mattie: At the end of the day, we're all friends.

  • What is your greatest challenge?

Etta: Generating new songs. We'll have months of writers' block where we only come up with two songs. We only end up using a quarter of what we write. (The girls collaborate on all of their music.)

Grace: I come up with a lot of songs during math class. (Grace's favorite subject is English.)

  • Any favorite moments?

Grace: The whole recording process was so much fun. Once when we came in for a recording, there was a little girl having a sparkly birthday party. I was recording it, and I was showing “Look, there's sparkles everywhere.” I moved the camera and there were even sparkles on Nick (drummer and instructor.) It was great.

Mattie: Wearing a Darth Vader mask while listening to playbacks.

  • What are your aspirations for GEM?

Mattie: Find a drummer!

Etta: We're trying to figure out how to get our CD online.

Grace: Inspire and reach out to as many people as possble.

Shelia Christofalos, GEM's manager, said the trio have made Lake Forest history.

“They are the first kid band that took it from ground zero all the way to a full album,” she said.

Chrisofalos taught piano to twin sisters Etta and Mattie beginning when the girls were in the first grade. In the sixth grade, all three girls picked up guitar lessons after the Eckerstroms' father suggested they start a band.

“They soak [lessons] up like sponges,” Christofalos said. “For most musicians, it's blood, sweat and tears for a long time.You only learn after hours and years of never giving up.”

encouraged the budding rock stars to write their own songs. Nick is the girls' guitar teacher and also played drums on GEM's first album.

After a lot of hard work, GEM released their album, professionally recorded at Side Door Studios, a joint production of Activator Academy Music School and CROYA. Some proceeds from GEM's record sales help fund CROYA.

GEM is already working on its second album.

“We're working on eight songs but we need a few more,” said Etta.

“It's a lot of work but it's worth it,” added Mattie.

Contact GEM at facebook.com/GEMtheBAND.


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