The Next Big Apple
Crimson Apple bid aloha to Hawai‘i several years ago to take advantage of the LA music scene. Now, with a ripe sound, a shiny new EP and a homecoming concert planned for this week, this all-sisters band appears ready for the juiciest apple of all: pop music stardom.
It wasn’t long ago when the Benson sisters, who make up the fast-rising alternative-pop band Crimson Apple, and their parents faced a life-changing decision. Should they trade in their piece of Hawaiian paradise for a chance to lay down roots in one of the world’s great music capitals? Or, should they simply stay put and allow the neophyte group to find its own way in the local entertainment landscape?
Naturally, transplanting the family had its inherent risks, as music meccas such as The Big Apple and The City of Angels have long been places where many aspiring artists go to figuratively die.
But parents David and Rebecca Benson also knew their daughters — Shelby, Colby, Carthi and Faith — had an amazing gift that could best be shared only if they were working their magic in a major music hub. And they firmly believed the girls’ easy-on-the ears sound and fashion-forward image would flourish in whatever town they set up shop, and in due time, ripen to the point of bearing fruit for pop music lovers everywhere.
So David began applying for jobs across the nation, and soon one opened up for him in a metropolis that births stars: Los Angeles. A family meeting was called and the question was posed to all: Do you really want to do this?
Curiously, the young apples just hung there in indecisive fashion, vacillating between staying and going.
“We couldn’t really come to a clear decision,” says Colby, the band’s statuesque lead singer and keyboardist. “We just didn’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, their father did. Turning to the computer, and in a total boss move, he pressed the employment-acceptance button.
The swiftness in his decision stunned the band.
“We were like, ‘What!?'” Colby recalls. “And he said, ‘We’re going. We’re moving. We’re doing it!'”
The sisters should have known their dad was an allin kind of guy. After all, he once tried persuading them not to form a family band, only to realize his pleadings were in vain. So rather than continue fighting their decision to unite musically, he morphed into one of their staunchest supporters.
“My dad was the drummer in a family band when he was a kid, and he had said that he wasn’t going to let his kids be in one,” explains Colby. “But when we started talking about forming a band, he was like, ‘You really want to do this?’ And when we kept saying, ‘yeah,’ he finally said, ‘OK, let’s go!'”
Clearly, apples never fall too far from the tree.
Since putting down roots in California in 2015, Crimson Apple has been almost relentless in pursuing music stardom. And in many ways, their ultimate goal, like dangling fruit, appears within grasp.
To their credit, the Benson sisters have realized that although their parents could replant them in a music garden rich in possibilities, they were the ones who would have to roll up their sleeves and dig in. Specifically, they had to mature as artists and effectively utilize all of their musical talents; they had to gig like crazy and become more polished in their live performances; and they had to find a capable and committed management team that shared their vision.
In other words, it was up to them to become the shiniest apples of all in star-studded LA.
“We’ve grown up a lot,” confesses Colby, 24. “When we moved, Faith and Carthi were still kids, and we didn’t have those life experiences. But coming to LA has definitely impacted our music and our sound. We’re surrounded by so many different bands and artists who have really influenced and inspired us.
“Working with other professionals always brings your game up, and we’ve definitely been able to add more tools to our toolbox, that’s for sure.”
And when unexpected opportunities have presented themselves, they’ve pounced. Both last year and this past spring, for example, they immediately accepted the invitation to be a part of High School Nation Tour. Traveling with other acts, the sisters were able to perform before thousands of teenagers in Illinois, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and other states.
Not only did the festival experience provide them with ample opportunity to expose their music to larger audiences while honing their chops — it also afforded them the valuable chance to learn up close “what audiences around the country really like,” says guitarist/vocalist Shelby, the band’s oldest member at 26.
That included gauging the crowds’ reactions to their carefully cultivated sense of fashion.
“We always wanted to look really cohesive,” explains Shelby about the band’s chic attire, which almost always features the colors red, white and black. “But we also wanted to present ourselves with a look that was clean and strong.”
In truth, the band has never been stronger than in recent months. Since signing a record deal with Amuse Group USA Inc., the group has released two powerhouse singles: the K-popish Can’t Get Out Of Bed and the Japanese rock-influenced anthem Somebody. Along with those songs’ stylishly produced videos, the Bensons have watched their popularity soar both in America and abroad.
And with the scheduled June 7 release of its EP Somebody — the group’s first collective offering of new material since its 2015 debut album Hello, which garnered Nā Hōkū Hanohano nominations in three categories — Crimson Apple can almost certainly count on a legion of new fans in the coming months.
“We’re slowly conquering the U.S. and, hopefully, we’ll be able to visit Europe and Japan soon,” states Colby.
“Our management team already has plans for us to perform in Japan.
“From the very beginning, the band has always had this vision of what we wanted to be,” she continues. “It’s taken some time for us to grow into that vision. But signing with our management company Amuse and collaborating with different producers, stylists and music video directors has been amazing. We’re watching our dream come true.”
If there was a moment of truth in her life, that critical juncture between fight and flight, Colby’s happened eight years ago as a contestant on American Idol.
Back then she was somewhat of a gifted but shrinking violet of a vocalist. But did she ever prove she could take a punch to the gut after the judges cut her and, at least temporarily, crushed her dreams of becoming an instant star.
“They told me I was too shy,” recalls Colby, who was 15 at the time. “They also said I needed more experience performing, and recommended that I put a band together and start performing.”
To her credit, she chose to fight by doing what they advised her to do. Upon returning to the islands, she marched into the family’s home in Mililani and, after spotting Shelby, who had only recently begun learning to play the guitar, asked, “Hey, do you want to be in a band with me?”
“Yeah, sure,” came the reply. Initially, the girls called themselves The Colby Benson Band and recruited their father to play drums and Shelby’s friends to handle the other instruments. But after bandmates began leaving for one reason or another, Colby and Shelby turned to their younger sisters, who had quietly developed their own passion for music on the side and, coincidentally, just happened to play the same instruments as the group’s departing members.
With Carthi, 20, on bass and backing vocals and the baby of the family, 19-year-old Faith, dutifully following in her father’s footsteps by laying down the beat, the building blocks for this all-girls band were finally in place.
All that remained was finding a new name for the group and figuring out what its sound would be. The sisters quickly accepted their mother’s suggestion to rename the group Crimson Apple, a lyric pulled from one of the band’s cover tunes, Wine Red by The Hush Sound. As for their musical direction, the Bensons chose to experiment with their individual musical interests until they finally settled on an alternative/indie rock foundation with a pop-music veneer.
“We all had our own passions and journeys and it just spontaneously came together at the right time,” says Colby about the band’s organic origins. “And once we started collaborating and jamming together, we realized that, well, this was what we were meant to be doing.”
RIPE FOR A CONCERT
Crimson Apple will debut brand-new music from its forthcoming EP Somebody at the band’s pre-release homecoming show Friday, May 24, at Hawaiian Brian’s in Honolulu.
The show marks the group’s first performance in the islands since the Benson sisters moved to LA in 2015. Concertgoers will be able to hear fresh material — including the singles Somebody and Can’t Get Out Of Bed — as well as purchase the group’s EP a full two weeks before its scheduled release June 7.
“We’re going to be doing all of our songs on our upcoming EP,” says guitarist/vocalist Shelby Benson. “It’s brand-new music, and Hawai‘i is going to hear it first. That’s why we wanted to do this show, so that we could first make the EP available to our original fans who supported us while we were in Hawai‘i.
“We think it’s going to be a great show,” she adds. “We want it to be the best show we’ve ever done.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. Hawaiian Brian’s is located at 1680 Kapi‘olani Blvd.
Pre-sale tickets are $8. To purchase, visit crimsonappleband.com or universe.com/events/crimson-apple-somebody-ep-pre-release-home-coming-show-tickets-honolulu-5V8CBK.