Heels & Picks: Crimson Apple says ‘Hello’
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But what about several apples falling from the same tree? Often, siblings couldn’t be more different from each other, with disparate interests and strengths.
When it comes to Mililani’s Benson family, the family interest is unanimously music. Sisters Colby (lead vocals/keys/guitar), Shelby (rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals), Faith (drums) and Carthi (bass/vocals) Benson, and official “sister” Rachel Look (lead guitar/vocals/flute) took this interest and created an all-girl alternative rock band called Crimson Apple.
I stopped by the Benson house last week to interview the girls and jam with them for an upcoming show where they will be backing me up for a couple of songs.
I was greeted with warm smiles from the crew of rocker girls and a big hug from drummer Faith, who is adorable.
Sitting on their living room floor with the girls gathered around, 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 that she form a band.
She took their advice to heart, and over time as her siblings developed an interest in music, the family band was born.
Certainly, the band has been getting out there, performing and getting in front of audiences; last year they placed second in Star 101.9’s Battle of the Bands, and this year they took the title.
It seems like Colby is a go-getter, a Type A girl who has no problem putting herself out there to meet people and reach goals. That’s my kinda girl – I like someone who hustles, especially in the arts. Aside from the Battle of the Bands title and “American Idol” audition, Colby also won the Grammy Foundation’s And Musicares’ Teens Make Music contest, which afforded her the opportunity to attend the Grammys backstage.
As we chatted, the girls told me about their upcoming album. Their first full-length release, the project initially started out as an EP, but the material kept flowing and they ended up recording a full album.
So what’s the name of the Crimson Apple debut album? “Hello.” Fitting for a band just making their first mark.
After the interview, the Benson girls and I took to the their jam room, a soundproof room off their living room. Set up for full-time practice, the jam space positions the band as though they were onstage, facing the audience. After some of the neighbors had enough rock ‘n’ roll, the Benson girls switched the set up to electronic drums to damper the sound and practice with the volume on low.
I can relate to this – somehow we convinced my parents when I was in high school to have our band’s rehearsals in the Smith house 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. But all artsy kids can attest to the immense value of supportive family for your 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.” This song is one of the two we will be playing together at Crossroads at Anna O’Brien’s on Feb. 7 for music manager and friend Bran Apeles’ birthday.
As we started to take our first run-through of the song, I was impressed with the level of details from the girls’ performance. They had the song down, from the keyboard part to the flipped drumbeat and the slow howl of the guitar. It’s a haunting song, and the tone is like a tumbleweed rolling down a dusty road, right by a man on his knees, lost in dark pained thought and anticipating the worst. This type of feel 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 Theater on Saturday as the opening act for singer Will Champlin from television show “The Voice.” Champlin is also the son of former Chicago member Bill Champlin — another family populated with artists.
After we rehearsed and I met Mr. Benson, the girls asked me to stay for dinner and have lasagna. I couldn’t stay as I had to get home to dinner with my boyfriend. But the familial warmth is something they clearly know how to impart and share.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.