Up at Night, is the name of the first album written entirely by the band themselves, a collection of songs about things that gnaw away at you at night, mainly things about boys, or family, particularly if you are a 14-year-old girl.
Cimorelli is a girl band from Sacramento, California. They are 6 sisters ranging in age from Dani aged 16, to Christina aged 26 - who writes many of the band's original songs, their mother and father also manage them so this is a true family affair. Cimorelli first became popular via You Tube where they would cover songs from other artists such as One Direction, or Justin Bieber, to date the bands combined views on You Tube alone total nearly 1 billion. You might say that they are a true product of this social media age and you would be right, the band demonstrates their savvy and ability to market themselves to their audience online flawlessly, on a daily basis.
I first met Cimorelli in 2014 when they were touring on the back of their Renegade EP in a sponsorship deal with Subway where they visited the U.S Army troops based at Wiesbaden. I interviewed them for my radio program and was completely won over by their honesty, openness and their co-operation with one another. The sisters ranged from 14 to 24 at that time and it was funny to watch their playful bickering between one another, with the older members of the group shouldering more of the responsibility in the interview, only by virtue of a slightly more mature obligation to duty.
Cimorelli toured Europe again in 2015 and again in 2016 where I was invited to watch their headlining tour on the back of their debut self-written album Up at Night. At 34 male and married, I am probably slightly outside of their target audience, but I was still very keen to go and see the band in their element and to get the opportunity to meet them again after a couple of years. My first meeting 2 years ago will live long in my memory for a couple of reasons; firstly it was my first “celebrity” interview and secondly because after a 10-minute interview with the band in my studio, I had forgotten to press record and we had to start the whole thing over! Rookie Mistake!
Fast forward to the night of the gig, my wife and I (who was just as curious to see them live) traveled to the legendary Batschkapp arena in Frankfurt, Germany. We were invited to arrive at 16:30 for a meet and greet with the band and to watch the sound check. Arriving at 17:30 and missing both of them, we stood somewhat awkwardly in the hall, watching many of the fans who did manage to arrive on time, huddle up with each other as close as they could get to the stage, as though the stage was a source of heat in a cold room. Some of these young audience members (though more presumably their parents) would have paid upwards of $300 for the privilege to be there this early. The rare opportunity to get to see the band, is made all the more enticing by actually getting to meet the band, demonstrating the “money no object” passion of the “CimFam” (Cimorelli Family) as their most ardent supporters are dubbed.
Chatting with Lynne Cimorelli, mother and manager of the band and apologizing for being late, I asked how the tour was going and how the girls were getting on. All was well in the camp with the girls getting a short amount of time to explore the cities they were playing in – Amsterdam, Paris, and Munich just to name a few. Frankfurt may not hold quite the glamor of those other cities, but Frankfurt repeatedly pulls in big-name bands and acts, owing to its wealth and size. For instance, one of the biggest acts in the world, if not THE biggest name in world pop performed the same night in direct competition with Cimorelli, the one, and only Justin Bieber. Co-incidentally, Cimorelli indirectly owes some of their fame to Mr. Bieber, their cover of his track “boyfriend” gave them a national audience when they won a “Bieber off,” a contest by Ryan Seacrest to find the best cover version of a Justin Bieber song. Bieber and Cimorelli target the same age group of fans, something youngest member Dani referenced in the show when she applauded the fans for being at the Cimorelli gig and not the Bieber gig, laughing to say that she might not have been quite so dedicated to the CimFam had she been given a choice between the two.
Seven PM is an early start for a gig, so it’s possible that this was done to take into account their young audiences bed times. Outside the queues were long when the doors opened and the fans continued to trickle in right up until the start. A crowd of around maybe 500 plus had decided against Bieber and for Cimorelli. The fans walked in and immediately joined the huddle with each other as close as they could get to the stage whilst my wife and I hung back to take everything in.
The show started to huge cheers, the “CIMFam” getting to see their You Tube idols and role models in the flesh, some of the first time, many for the second or third time. The passionate crowd was a fair split between American teens and German teens, despite being in the middle of Germany, the American presence in the area is large, owing to the large military bases in the area, for many of these youngsters the opportunity to see a band that tours heavily in the states and visits Europe only once a year is an opportunity not to be missed. The band have covered many songs and built their fame on their amazing harmonies covering popular pop songs, but this show was about the material they had created and recorded themselves.
The album Up at Night out for around 6 months at the time of writing, was written by all of the band using their own experiences and heartaches for inspiration. The lyrics for some of these songs are mature well beyond their years and some force you to identify with the band as you remember what it was like to be a 14-year-old at school. Things like unrequited crushes, feeling misunderstood by family or friends, or just feeling lonely and helpless. Material that even a 34-year-old guy can associate with, because some of these struggles are universal regardless of age.
The concert is an emotional one, with the girls at times visibly moved by the power of their own words and the audiences reactions to it. At one point, it definitely got a little dusty in the room as Lisa Cimorelli, belted out a song about family. I quickly laughed at myself for getting caught up in that moment and it is a strong compliment to the skilled song writing of the girls.
The band play's their own instruments, to a backing track of rhythm section, Dani contributes occasionally with an electric guitar, Amy contributing regularly with Acoustic guitar and Katherine on bass. All the girls contribute to the vocals in every song and at times, the spectacle of 6 girls singing simultaneously can get a little overwhelming. Each of the girls individually has a wonderful voice, together their harmonies are angelic, but after an hour or so of watching, there were times when I realized, I just didn’t know where to look anymore. Sometimes I wished I would’ve had a singer who was leading through an entire song that I could focus on. The Cimorelli style means that the lead singer can change almost every verse and sometimes for me it was a little overwhelming, particularly when the song writer explains why they wrote a particular song, Lauren, for instance gave a moving anecdote about heartbreak and frustration, only for the person singing it to be one of the other sisters.
This does not detract however from the overall experience and at one point they take a break from the music for Christina to give what is akin to a motivational speech, she pulls members from the audience up to the stage who sit around in a circle with the band with all eyes on Christina who has now built an “Arena” around herself where she gives a speech pulling from Theodore Roosevelt's “Arena” quote. I found this the most moving part of the concert, she was honest, open and inspiring, here’s an excerpt from that quote "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood".
Much like their songs, this performance inspires the young audience, to go out and get things done, live life, don’t sit idly by and watch if you want to get on in life, sometimes you need to get into the arena. After the show I was allowed back stage to meet the band where they were all gathered around a table eating, they were all happy and charming and some of the girls even remembered that first interview from a couple of years ago that I managed to mess up so badly.
Duty meant that I conducted a formal interview with them for my radio station, but after that, we basically hung out and talked about their show, and life in general whereupon the talk turned to politics such as "Brexit" and Trump. I found that these girls, pop stars with hectic lives spent largely on the road, demonstrated more substance, intelligence and wherewithal than many adults I have discussed these topics with that are twice their age.
Whilst I was frustrated about “Brexit,” believing the world to be stronger together, united and following common interests, Christina asked if I had considered whether or not these countries and their leaders had become complacent, overly reliant on one another and as a result lazy, and that the opportunity to stand on your own two feet, to face the world alone and to have to roll up your sleeves was also beneficial for a country and it’s citizens. I was hard pressed to find an argument to counter it. It might have been the first time someone gave a reasonable argument for the pro’s of “Brexit” so long had I been cursing my fellow countrymen for voting to leave, I hadn’t really been open to the opposite side of the argument whilst I still believe the country to be stronger in Europe, I could at least consider it a possibility that it could be the very thing the country and Europe needed to become stronger.
I had never expected to have a conversation with the band as in depth as this and secretly I hope that it was a chance for them to talk to a journalist about something other than boys, social media and each other – a topic I am just as fascinated with hearing about, but had already covered a few years before. Europe has not seen the last of Cimorelli; their next album is already in the wings, with the band promising an album that will hold true to their style of teenage angst, inspiration and their faith in the lord.
I get the feeling that in years to come as the band matures, so will their music and lyrics – it will grow from being catchy pop with a teen focus, to being catchy pop and of the zeitgeist, a word the band chuckled at when I used it in a question. In a world of Iggy Azalea’s, Miley Cyrus’s and Kardashian's, the sisters of Cimorelli are the kind of role models kids need, if your son or daughter asks for a Cimorelli album, buy them a concert ticket as well.