Sisterhood of the traveling band

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A band of six sisters, newly minted Malibuites, may be the newest and hottest family music act.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

A sextet of singing sisters who now call Malibu home are on the rise to becoming one of the country’s biggest teen pop groups, with a knack for multi-part vocal harmonies and melodic hooks.

The Internet and industry buzz around the band Cimorelli has been so significant that the group, made up of Christina, 19, Katherine, 18, Lisa, 16, Amy, 15, Lauren, 11, and Dani, 10, has drawn comparisons to legendary sibling groups like the Jackson 5, the Bee Gees and the Osmonds.

Born and raised in the Sacramento area, the Cimorelli family, with its nucleus of six sisters, five brothers and both parents, relocated to Malibu last year to take advantage of a recent record deal. The sisters are currently recording their debut album of all-original material.

“We wanted somewhere that would be good for the whole family that wasn’t fast paced,” Christina said of the choice to move to Malibu. “They [our parents] looked at a lot of different places they could go.”

The girls’ predisposition for music came from their mother, a singer and vocal teacher. She taught them how to harmonize in two-part by practicing classical music and traditional hymns. When the eldest sisters, Christina, Katherine and Lisa, entered high school intent on forming their own band, they decided to look no further than their own sisters for help.

“We already know each others’ personalities really well,” Katherine said. “We can just kind of lay it on the line and we know how they’ll react already. It’s not like you’re going to leave each other.”

In time, each sister subsequently joined the group, filling out the band’s vocal-inflected sound; the youngest at the time, Dani, was 5 years old. They took on playing as well as singing: Christina and Lauren man the keyboards, Amy slings on rhythm guitar, and Katherine and Lisa handle the rhythm section, playing bass and drums respectively. Their older brother Michael often joins them onstage as a lead guitarist. Their hard work has resulted in headlining a number of important concerts and shows, including an 11-day gig at the 2008 California State Fair.

But instrumentation aside, it was the girls’ a cappella skills that ultimately got them noticed by professionals in the music business. Cimorelli’s one-camera, plain-backdrop video performing a cover version of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” was posted to YouTube in August 2009 and quickly racked up four million views. Gone viral, it was later posted to OceanUp.com.

Through 2010, a series of similar cover videos followed, as Cimorelli took hits by Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry, and put their own stamp on them. What they decide to sing is a democratic process between the six, Christina said.

“Sometimes we just pick a song we all really like or we’ll look at iTunes or the charts and find a song that’s appropriate for the group, and we all seem to agree on it,” she said.

Their videos caught the attention of British manager Sarah Stennett, who arranged to sign Cimorelli to their Universal contract. Since then, they’ve been hailed as a successor to the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, with a touch of “Glee” thrown in for good measure. With Sacramento singing their praises, including appearances on local TV and glowing reviews in Sacramento magazine, the sisters now find themselves immersed in the big time scene of L.A.

Like the Jackson 5 before them, the sisters find that the writing and recording process comes together more easily and collaboratively for the simple fact that their sororal bonds are strong. “Writing is something we always did and was a passion of ours,” Christina said, with Katherine adding, “Sometimes they [producers] want us to be separated, but we really do our best work when we’re together. It almost feels like a body missing parts when we’re not together working on a song.”

Christina described the band’s forthcoming CD as an eclectic mix of new songs that put to good use their diverse vocal ranges, and unlike many of today’s artists, Cimorelli has no use for auto-tuning. “It’s all in the big umbrella of pop music,” she said. “They have tons and tons of harmonies and they’re high energy songs.”

Their parents are behind the girls, every step of the way. “I’m very excited for my daughters,” their mother Lynne Cimorelli said. “The fact that they all have talents in the same area and want to work together as a group is a beautiful thing. I love that they love what they are doing; if they wanted to quit tomorrow, that would be fine with me, but they are having so much fun writing, recording, and performing, that I don’t see that day coming for a long time.”

Asked what their advice to budding singers and musicians is, Christina answered, “I would say practice and practice and practice and work on your craft,” Christina said. “Stay true to yourself and believe in what your vision is.”

More information on Cimorelli can be found on the Web at www.cimorellimusic.com