Crimson Apple sows seeds of success

Jan. 29, 2015 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
The four Benson sisters of Mili­lani, with band “sister” Rachel Look, comprise Crimson Apple. (Courtesy Benson family)

The four Benson sisters of Mili­lani, with band “sister” Rachel Look, comprise Crimson Apple. (Courtesy Benson family)

BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

The sisters in the Benson family of Mili­lani, core of the Hono­lulu band Crimson Apple, all share a passionate love of music.

Siblings Colby (20, lead vocals, keyboards, guitar), Shelby (22, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals), Faith (14, drums) and Carthi (16, bass, vocals) Benson, and band “sister” Rachel Look (20, lead guitar, vocals, flute) took this interest and created an all-female alternative rock group.


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At an interview and jam session at the Benson house last week, the band members greeted me with warm smiles — and a big hug from Faith. Sitting with the girls in a circle on the living room floor, I got to know them a little better.

Colby has always had a strong vocal interest and has auditioned for “American Idol.” The judges liked her voice but said she needed to overcome her shyness and get out there and perform. They suggested she form a band.

She took their advice to heart. Over time, as her siblings developed an interest in music, the family band was born.

Crimson Apple recently has found success, last year placing second in Star 101.9’s Battle of the Bands and this year taking the title.

Far from the shy girl of her “Idol” days, Colby has become a go-getter, a Type A woman who has no problem meeting people and reaching her goals. She hustles for the sake of the arts.

Aside from the Battle of the Bands title and “American Idol” audition, Colby placed second in the 2013 Grammy Foundation and MusiCares “Teens Make Music” national songwriting contest, which afforded her and her composing partner Haley Michelle Kagi­moto the opportunity to attend the Grammys backstage.

Crimson Apple already has an album in the works. The project initially began as an EP, but the material kept flowing and the group ended up recording a full set of songs.
The debut album’s name? “Hello” — fitting for a band making its first mark.

After talking story, the band and I checked out the jam room, a soundproof setup off the living room. Set up for full-time practice (using electronic drums so as to spare the neighbors), the jam space positions the band as though the players are onstage, facing an audience.

The in-house rehearsal space is evidence of some hefty parental support for the sisters’ endeavor. It’s something I can relate to: When I was in high school, somehow we convinced my parents to have our band’s rehearsals in the living room, which led to our drummer, Mike, having his drum kit set up in the middle of our house all the time. I have no idea why my parents said yes to that to this day.

All artsy kids can attest to the immense value of family who approve of their oddball lifestyle.

We quickly figured out that I didn’t need a microphone in their jam room, and we worked out the details of a cover version of Kings of Leon’s “Closer.” The song is one of two we’ll play together Feb. 7 at Anna O’Brien’s for an event celebrating music manager and friend Bran Apeles’ birthday.

During practice I was impressed with the level of detail from the girls’ performance. They had the song down, from the keyboard part to the flipped drumbeat and the slow howl of the guitar.

“Closer” is a haunting song; the tone is like a tumbleweed rolling down a dusty road, right by a man on his knees, lost in dark thought and anticipating the worst. This feeling tends to be understood more readily by people far older than this group of girls, but they got to the root of the song.
Lead guitarist Shelby pulled her guitar up to her mouth to howl into the strings, a quirky yet cool technique that re-created the guitar howl of the original song nicely.

Next up for Crimson Apple is a performance at the Doris Duke Theatre on Saturday as the opening act for singer Will Champlin, from the reality show “The Voice.” Champlin is also the son of former Chicago vocalist Bill Champlin — a member of another family populated with artists.

After we rehearsed and I met the sisters’ father, the Bensons asked me to stay for dinner and have lasagna. I couldn’t stay; I had to get home to dinner with my boyfriend. But family warmth is something the band and the Bensons clearly know how to impart.
Erin Smith, a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based band the Throwdowns, writes Heels & Picks for the Hono­lulu­ Pulse.

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