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2012

CTV PERFORMANCE

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Vancouver band Behind Sapphire has big plans to perform on Ellen’s show.

LIVE REVIEWS
Vancouver Music Review

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Behind Sapphire and Guests @ The Dodson Rooms

Posted by Char

Saturday night saw the return of the incredibly lovely Behind Sapphire toVancouver after being on the road for the past 3 months. They are on the brink of releasing their new EP Diamonds which will be followed by a full length album in the spring. We had an opportunity to chat with Matt about the album and their tour, and also to check out their homecoming show which was hosted by all ages promoter 30:Live and featured In Contra, Halfway to Hollywood, Aardvark Robinson, and Behind Sapphire. The show was at the Dodson Rooms, located in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, which was an interesting location for an all ages show even if it was a really cool venue. It seemed like a really small crowd, maybe because not many under 19s are allowed wander down E. Hastings alone on a Saturday night.

In Contra was up first, and took me by surprise from the very first note which was delivered with no warning and made me almost jump off my seat. They were loud – in a good way! They kind of reminded me of Explosions in the Sky to a degree. My only complaint is that Jordan Bennet and David Gurtina could have been more synced in their vocals, or should i say wails. However, musically they were fantastic and I would definitely see them again if I had the opportunity.

We missed most of both Halfway to Hollywood and Aardvark Robinson because we decided to grab some dinner up the street at Save-on-Meats (they have excellent breakfast poutine if you are interested!). From what we did hear, Halfway to Hollywood sounded a bit too much like the typical pop-rock highschool band. In fact their music fit perfectly to what I would expect from their band name. We missed all but the last song of Aardvark Robinson, but from what I heard, they sounded pretty good, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again in the future.

Up next was Behind Sapphire, whom we have reviewed several times this year already. We love these guys a lot and have really enjoyed seeing them evolve since their first stint in the Peak Performance Project last year. You can really hear that maturity coming through in their new music, and even their stage presence has increased tenfold. They are always a treat to watch because they are able to convey the pure joy that they get from being on the stage. Their shows are always genuine and joyful. Tonight Behind Sapphire was missing Lindsay Sjoberg, which was sad for us as she brings so much to the band and balances them all so much, however they made do without her with the help of some friends. This night was a very special for the band as a friend who helped Grant out when he found himself in a rough situation in China this summer was in the crowd. The band dedicated their own rendition of a traditional hymn to her, which was an absolutely beautiful and heartwarming moment. That song was probably my highlight of the night along with their a song off their upcoming album which I failed to catch the name of and Christmas Nigh, which is one of my favourite songs off their current self-titled album. Overall they put on an interesting, fun, and touching show, as they always manage to do!

INTERVIEW WITH POLYPHONIC PIXEL

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The Polyphonic Pixel met up with Matthew Mazankowski and Grant Cassell of Vancouver’s Behind Sapphire to discuss their upcoming album, their latest EP and their eventful trip to China. The two boys were enthusiastic as usual, despite the fact that they’d been up early that morning performing a song on CTV.

Interview with Behind Sapphire from The Polyphonic Pixel on Vimeo.

Background: Behind Sapphire have been creating music around the Lower Mainland area over the past few years now, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they released their self-titled debut album. The song “Oh My, What a Fine Day” was featured in Degrassi: The Next Generation and had a very popular music video on YouTube, which was later picked up by Much Music. The band have also released an EP called Diamonds, which is available on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis. They have been working on a follow-up full-length album which they hope to release in the next few months sometime.

The band are known for their energetic live performances and their willingness to interact with audiences. They have toured across Canada more than once, and travelled to China in 2011 where they played a song live on national TV.

YELLOW RUBBER BOOTS CAMPAIGN
on the childrenswish.ca

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Yellow Rubber Boots Campaign
Local Vancouver Band, Behind Sapphire are teaming up with the Children’s Wish Foundation with their new Yellow Rubber Boots Campaign. The band’s new merchandise was an idea that came to lead singer, Grant Cassell, as he always sported his own pair of Yellow Rubber Boots to shows. Being from Vancouver (the Rainy City), the band thought it would be perfect – to equip not only Vancouverites, but everyone across the globe with the perfect feet warmers.As well, Grant’s sister, Amanda, has chronic kidney failure. Years ago, the Children’s Wish Foundation granted Amanda a wish; she got to travel to Hawaii with Grant and their family to swim with the dolphins. It was an amazing opportunity and a huge blessing to her. As well, many of the bands close friends, who have or have had health problems have been granted wishes. This made working with the Children’s Wish a perfect choice for the band. The boots cost $40 and half the proceeds go to the Children’s Wish Foundation, making children’s wishes come true.

ELLEN DEGENERES
“I like ‘em. They’re fantastic.”

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: BEHIND SAPPHIRE – DIAMONDS [EP]
More Than A Feeling – Dylan Redekop

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The story of Behind Sapphire goes back to the days of high school, as most great band stories do. Mildly rebellious student Grant Cassell was sitting in the same English class he had been bitterly attending day after day when his teacher told the class that they were going to listen to a piece of music. The teacher asked the students to close their eyes and concentrate on the music they were about to hear. Cassell reluctantly closed his eyes, and heard the song that would shape the way he would approach and composed music from that point on.

The singer was Billie Holiday and the song was Strange Fruit.

Cassell, along with guitarist/pianist extraordinaire, Matthew Mazankowski, formed Behind Sapphire, and have carved, shaved, shaped and grown quite an impressive, unique 5-piece band in a matter of only a couple of years. The Vancouver group released their debut, self-titled album in March of 2010 and it received some pretty solid reviews. This past December (2011) they released their EP, Diamonds, and in my opinion, it’s even better than the solid debut.

Now a proper critic does his best to not compare a band’s latest effort to their past work. Well, I’m not a proper critic so you can scratch that.

Where Behind Sapphire‘s debut album played stickball and hopscotch in the glowing summer sun, making friends with fellow classmates and abiding by the local bylaws that forbid graffiti, Diamonds breaks into abandoned houses, kicks down fences and climbs the local watertower for proof of authority. All the while in stark contrast, Diamonds ventures out in the pouring Vancouver rain to the local café, buys two coffees, knocks on a good friend’s door, shares a drink, and an ear.

Diamonds is the rebel with the heart of a saint—is more or less what I was trying to convey. Whether I did that successfully can be argued, but rests beside the point. Diamonds’ opening title track is a wint’ry ballad that begins with strings and Cassell’s distinct howl. The song is quick to build and leads into what is quite possibly the band’s most singable chorus to date. This track is an example of the gentler side of the band, but also foreshadows aspects of the album that possess a rebellious energy that was missing on most of their debut.

**Each song title links to their bandcamp page featuring that song for your sampling—and purchasing—pleasure**

The best part about Diamonds is that the Sapphires have successfully duplicated their fantastic performance energy onto an album. If there’s one thing the debut album didn’t do, it was that simple feat. The second track—and likely my favourite—is called Black Ties. The song is quick to expose that energy and in-your-face-in-the-kindest-of-ways style this album—and this band—possess. The track also introduces Cassell’s first documented experimentation with auto-tune! (I think)

If you haven’t heard this song, you very well may be thinking I’m kidding. Well, I’m not.

And believe it or not, Cassell does a fantastic job using the effect to his advantage. The energy in this song and the unique quality of the auto-tune effect are quick to turn an ear and demand attention, making it the most unique and perhaps most interesting song the band has recorded to date.

Following it is the popular, live go-to, Cocount Highways which has always contained a good amount of energy when played live, but this is the old version hopped up on steroids and energy drinks (and knowing Behind Sapphire, there’s a load of candy mixed in there for that extra sugar rush). Re-fueled by Mazankowski’s exchange of acoustic guitar for some dirty electric guitar action, Cassell’s inspired crooning are climaxed at the singable chant of “Bah bah bah!” Another album highlight, for sure. [The acoustic version here: Coconut Highways Acoustic]

Tahera is the rebellious step-child of the album, regardless of the lyrics “I came tonight to make things right.” Stabbing piano bass notes resonate and build tension in the intro and verse, leading into a plaintive release during the chorus. The mood and tone are telling you one thing and the lyrics another. Another fantastic song that brings more of the band’s talent and live energy to tape in the best possible way. It’s also a perfect example of positive band evolution.

Vancouver, Baby is a track the band composed for the PEAK Performance Project they were involved in this past summer. Each band in the project was to compose a song for Vancouver, as 2011 was the city of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. To be completely honest and forthright, I’m not a fan of this track. Not that it’s poorly written or recorded, but it sounds more like a high school cheer than a song that should be featured on this album. It also doesn’t help that it’s surrounded with 5 other tracks that are the best work—not including Oh My, What a Fine Day—the band has released.

Closing out the album is another contrast. The Saddest Part is a little ditty that features a ukulele and some quaint vocals. The song seems to be a cute little gift complete with a pretty bow tied on top. Until you hit the 2-minute mark. Then things get ominous. The final 47 seconds are a frightening outro that begins with strings, and build to include horns, drums, guitar and other odd, creepy noises. Yet another pleasant surprise to end off an album that is exactly that.

Although only a 6-song EP, this album is chocked full of material that will keep you interested from the first note and keep you coming back for more. The album was released in late, late 2011 but will surely see one or two of it’s songs on my “Best Of” list at 2012′s end.

Perhaps one of the best parts about this fantastic EP is that the band is offering a “Name Your Price” purchasing option on their Bandcamp page. That’s pretty hard to beat. Do yourself a favour and sample these tunes on their page and help these musicians make more amazing music by purchasing if you enjoy it. Even if you only pay a couple of dollars, anything helps.

When all those quarters are added up, I’ll be intrigued to see what kind of album the band puts out next as their full potential is only beginning to expose itself.

-Dylan

BEHIND SAPPHIRE: DIAMONDS EP (Review)
Discorder – Nathan Pike

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February 17, 2012

After a big year of overseas touring, and garnering much acclaim (including being selected as one of B.C.’s top 20 artists in the Peak Performance Project and receiving video spins on Much Music), Vancouver’s Behind Sapphire are set to take their success even further with the release of the Diamonds EP and a soon-to-be-released full-length follow up.

At first listen, what grabs my attention most is Grant Cassell’s voice, which is strong, clean and lilting, at times bringing a bit of Patrick Watson’s croon to mind. And then there is the music, which is rife with warm string arrangements, chiming bells and chug-along rhythms.

Diamonds starts off wonderfully with its title track and then it’s on to “Black Ties,” a sweet, straight ahead pop song that makes some good use of auto-tune, despite Cassell sounding as if he’d been possessed by a dirty old singer from a twisted ‘40s jazz bar in New Orleans.

There’s an ode to our fair city called “Vancouver, Baby!” complete with shout-out gang vocals and some inspired name-dropping that would make any local proud. The inspirations of living well, relationships and marriage steam this ship, and the rich melodies reverberating throughout keep energy high.

Between the punchy and immediate music with cool singing, interesting time changes and the production to back it up, it’s no wonder as to why this band has been having so much luck as of late.


2011

INTERVIEW IN LETHBRIDGE
LaBeat.ca

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Vancouver’s Behind Sapphire is looking forward to returning to Lethbridge, Dec. 9 with the Nix Dicksons.
Guitarist/ vocalist Matthew Mazankowski is really excited about the band’s last tour of the year and the slight shift in musical direction on their latest EP “Diamonds.”

“ We’re really pumped about it. We’ve be
BEHIND SAPPHIRE RETURN TO LETHBRIDGE THIS WEEK. PHOTO BY RICHARD AMERY

en listening to a lot of Daft Punk and the Tron movie soundtrack,” enthused Mazankowski from Windsor, Ontario, en route to a gig in London.

“We’ve experimented a little more with our music,” he said, adding combining listening to Daft Punk and the Tron Soundtrack and taking some time off in the summer to write the new album, while basically living in a cave in Sombrio on Vancouver Island inspired the change.

“ We were in Sombrio Beach, which is where all the surfers go and we basically fasted for three days and slept in a cave because our tent blew down. But it was really beautiful and inspirational, listening to the water. The ocean is dead but so of life,” he said.

The new EP is a precursor to their sophomore full length CD which is due to be released in early 2012.
They will be playing the new songs from the EP plus much their debut CD as well as a few tracks from the upcoming record.
Mazankowski observed there are a lot more synthesizers in the new record.

“There are a lot of cool sounds. I’m really excited about it,” he said.

They are looking forward to returning to Lethbridge.

“There are lots of good people there. It was a real positive experience,” he continued.

“We were last there in the summer and we did a lot of thrift store shopping,” he recalled.

“We just love to share our music. It’s been a real blessing that we are able to,” he said adding they are looking forward to sharing a stage with Calgary based quirky indie-pop band the Nix Dicksons again.

“We did two shows with them last time in Edmonton and Lethbridge. They’re great guys and good friends of ours,” he said.

BEHIND SAPPHIRE in FRECKLED MAGAZINE
page(s) 100-110

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SINGING FOR ELLEN PRESS
Castanet

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Update: BC Band busks for Ellen!

by Ryan Donn

Behind Sapphire with Ellen.
In the City of Kelowna we may have asked them to move to a busk stop but the boys from Behind Sapphire achieved their goal. They performed for Ellen Degeneres! They came up with the concept, made a video, shared it on YouTube, and in the end reaped the success of a well crafted plan. By the looks of the video it also seems they also have a new fan! A testament to anyone with enough vision and commitment to implement a unique creative endeavour.

SINGING FOR ELLEN PRESS
Streaming Cafe Blog

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Ellen Degeneres Votes for Behind Sapphire
by Michael Donley

A few weeks ago Vancouver’s Behind Sapphire performed at the cafe as they continued their journey on trying to become the next Peak Performance Project winner. Shortly after their performance the Band crafted a Youtube video Behind Sapphire Wants to Meet Ellen Degeneres, in hopes of connecting with the American talk show host icon. That post lead them to perform for Ellen while she was in Vancouver mid August. Not only did she give the band her approval but also gave them a plug, prompting viewers to vote!

Nicely crafted and executed promo.

Kudos to Ryan at Castanet for posting this and showing off some BC talent.

INTERVIEWS
Fistful of Sound

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OH MY ON DEGRASSI
MuchMusic

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Oh My, What A Fine Day by Behind Sapphire
Jake and Clare’s first kiss!

This song had been on our radar for a while and this perfect moment came up and it just felt so right. The beautiful imagery behind the kiss, the nighttime air and the flickering lights in the background, coupled with this song, all became the mystical cloud around the budding love of these two characters.

CMW REVIEW 2011
Strength Through Music

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BEHIND SAPPHIRE HAS BROKEN ARMS, BUT NOT BROKEN TUNES

I was really really blessed and got to see Behind Sapphire play two sets during Canadian Music Week this year. A real treat considering the lot are from all the way out in Vancouver. Even more so we are all lucky that Grant (lead vocalist of Behind Sapphire) is a total trooper. A few days before the show Grant and the rest of the group were playing a game of dodgeball and in his dedication to the game he broke his arm trying to break his fall. Thankfully he’s alright, and also that he doesn’t play any two detrimental two handed instruments such as the drums, etc. Being right handed he showed his skill by playing the trumpet one handed with his left hand. The only thing missing was the glockenspiel portion of their song “Christmas Nigh” which Lindsay thankfully played during their acoustic set for the “Live Near Bellwoods” sessions that were put on at the Toronto Institute for Enjoyment of Music by The Musebox.

Behind Sapphire were left with a not so favourable slot during their show at the El Mocambo. They played at Midnight on a Wednesday immediately following the headliner. Thankfully we had some dedicated fans, some curious girls, artists from all the other bands, and some folk from the earlier set who were interested enough to stay. Most of the people who were in the audience up front dancing, and the rest were clapping along and had giant smiles on their faces.

I think what caught the audiences grasp second to Grant’s voice and the bands ultimate energy was when the band pulled out dismembered teddy bears. When they were in Ottawa they had purchased a bunch of teddy bears, cut out the faces, pulled out the stuffing, and wore them as hats. Most of them had fallen off throughout the set because of all their dancing. And the next day at the TIFEM showcase Brayden (bassist) decided to sport his still, saving a bit of a laugh for the audience there as well.

The two audiences were vastly different, but everyone sang and clapped along when they had the chance. The TIFEM set was much more intimate with most of the crowd sitting cross legged at full attention on the floor and with the exception of the bass, it was an acoustic set. At both shows Matthew took a break from being on the guitar and sat down at the piano and played “Oh My, What A Fine Day” which is actually being used in the namesake for their current cross country tour. Sadly this was their last Toronto show, but there are going to be a few more shows in Southern Ontario before they start to make the trek back out west. I have a feeling they’ll be back soon and I’ll be there with bells on.

OH MY VIDEO PRESS
Exclaim!

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By Alex Hudson
Behind Sapphire’s “Oh My, What a Fine Day” has already garnered an impressive amount of attention for the Vancouver act — almost 23,000 views on YouTube as of press time. This is probably thanks to the fact that it stars Jodelle Ferland, who played Bree Tanner in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

The video shows the Canadian actress running through a rural landscape that’s littered with kites, horses, couples drinking tea and gun-wielding commandos. These surreal, dream-like visuals are the perfect accompaniment for Behind Sapphire’s cinematic, string-laden piano rock track.

The song comes from Behind Sapphire’s self-titled LP, which came out last year.

INTERVIEW WITH THE ARGUS
Thunder Bay

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Behind Sapphire, oh what a fine band

Genre-blending newcomers play the Study

February 8th

Jayal Chung

Last summer, my friends and I were at Boulevard Lake, where we unexpectedly met two charming, hard-working, talented musicians from an unsigned band. We were treated to music by Matthew Mazankowski and Grant Cassell. They had been playing all around the city that day, parking their van and starting impromptu performances to get the word out about their show that evening.

Certainly, my friends and I were new listeners who were open to their unique sound. It’s not everyday that this sort of thing happens. While Grant sang and stomped his yellow rain-boots, Matthew melded together soft chords on his acoustic guitar and sang too.

Their sense of improvisation and openness to engaging with new people is very endearing. They didn’t only share their music with us – they told us stories about Vancouver, touring, their artwork in their first self-titled album, orchestrating romantic gestures, Craigslist, and thrift shopping.

Behind Sapphire is made up of Mazankowski (Guitar, Vocals), Cassell (Vocals, Glockenspiel), Steven Ward (Drums, Vocals), Jeremy Ferland (Violin, Vocals), and Isidora Nojkovic (cello). It’s challenging to describe their “sound,” but the band’s own biography says their self-titled debut album “is carried by rollicking backbeats, sweeping orchestration and outsized arrangements.” Really, it’s more fun to watch and listen and experience their songs than to try to categorize them.

Matthew and Grant are from Vancouver and have been friends since high school. To give an idea of their ever-evolving style: “We started off playing punk rock, to Thrice, to some screamo music,” they told the Peak (Simon Fraser’s student paper).

“We’d done the whole spectrum. Then we did a 180 to The Beatles. And then Matt’s friend introduced us to Jason Mraz… His album Mr. A-Z is really diverse and unique. He had a whole bunch of different genres, so the way we wrote music changed quite a bit. Then we settled on something we [were] comfortable with and had fun writing.”

It’s looking to be an exciting and busy year for Behind Sapphire. They’re gaining a lot of attention, especially with their new music video for the song Oh My, What A Fine Day, starring Nanaimo actress Jodelle Ferland, who has appeared in the movies Twilight: Eclipse and Silent Hill.

So if you’ve heard of Library Voices, Sigur Ros, We Are the City, St. Vincent – or if you like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Patrick Watson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Andrew Bird, or Sufjan Stevens – then you will probably like Behind Sapphire.

WRITTEN INTERVIEW/PRESS FOR OH MY VID
TheModline

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Exuding melodies and alive with warms hearts and cheers of loving support, the St. James Community Hall was the place to be on the evening of January 28th. Even though it was chilly January evening, inside the ninety-eight year-old church was a scene of great juxtaposition; filled with young, hot-blooded spirits swaying to the rhythm of the music against the backdrop of one of Vancouver’s oldest landmarks.

Among the youngsters and hipsters were three collectives of amazing local talents – Dave Vertesi, Treelines and Behind Sapphire. It was Behind Sapphire’s tour-kick off show and it began with Dave Vertesi serenading the crowd with an up-tempo number and as the night progressed and people got closer to the stage when more started to trickle in, Vertesi’s set grew more heat-felt and the atmosphere became more sophisticated. As a member of several established bands, this was the first time Vertesi had show-cased his creative chops as a solo-artist. Leaving the crowd wanting more, I’d say Vertesi and his new band is well on their way towards garnering the same level of recognition as rest of their contemporaries.The break between sets was brief and while people were still humming the chorus of the last Dave Vertesi song, Treelines was set to win over the crowd with their energetic stage presence and folksy resonance. Fronted by Matt Lockhart, the boys sweated through one heart-felt song after another and the crowd loved every moment of it. Interestingly, none of the sweat they shed that night was for the band’s own promotion as they mainly wanted to show their support for their good friends from Behind Sapphire. With that being said, Behind Sapphire took the stage shortly after my brief interview with Treelines and that’s when the crowd went absolutely manic and things go really interesting.The usual three members from Behind Sapphire solicited the help of two friends, and the five-piece cohort for created magic and played their hearts out amidst the “oohs and ahs” of the adoring audience. Just when I thought any additional fan-love Behind Sapphire merits would only spoil the good-nature and authenticity of their music the humble musicians were just as personable on stage than in person and sounded twice was charming than they do on records. Sporting a pair of golden, elf slippers with curly toes (totally something Grant would wear on a daily basis), Grant Cassell waltzed from side to side on stage while belting in perfect harmony with every element of the music. The musicians poured their hearts out on stage and literally played their faces off as Matthew Mazankowski’s glasses flew off his face at one point during the middle of a song. Capping their set off with a crowd pleaser, the evening ended in glory as the boys said their farewells and sailed east to spread the love and music.

OH MY TOUR ST. JAMES PERFORMANCE REVIEW
3amRevelations

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Finally was Behind Sapphire, who were playing their last Vancouver show before heading out on tour. They hit the stage with a half dozen members (including one new), and while they may not have the same intensity as Treelines before them, they are no less energetic live. Between their soul-funk-pop songs, lead singer Grant singing into his trumpet bell — not to mention his cape and genie shoes — and natural joking around between songs, the best way to describe their show would be whimsical.
Starting with “Oh My, What A Fine Day” — which has a new video out by the fine folks at Amazing Factory — they definitely had the all ages crowd engaged. Playing mostly from their self titled album, they also had a new song, which showed the band was stretching their musical wings — while most of their songs don’t necessarily sound repetitive, they definitely all have a distinctive sound to them, so it was nice to hear them expanding their repertoire.
I have seen them a few times over the last few months, and I would say they are doing nothing but getting better.

OH MY TOUR PROMO
VanMusic.ca

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Vancouver is full of bands. They pop like mushrooms after rainy days. This band Behind Sapphire, I never heard of and they have been playing for six years now. Their sound is rock pop full of instrumentation wooing with jazz and folk a la southern USA. I like the vocals and the versatilty of the band, it should be a good show to see live, these guys look like a lot of fun.
They are touring around Canada starting this January 21st at the James Hall with David Vertesi 3214 West 10 Avenue. Great times to kick out their tour. Behind Sapphire were *Peak Performance Project finalists*, and also just released a video for their single Oh My, What a Fine Day that you can watch at the end of this post.

VANMUSIC WILL BE GIVING AWAY TWO TIX AND A CD TO THE FIRST PEOPLE THAT TWITTER US @vanmusic

Jan 21 – Vancouver BC – St. James Hall w/ Treelines & David Vertesi
Jan 22 – Kamloops BC – Artists Way Music w/ Fields of Green, Buella etc.
Jan 25 – Revelstoke BC – The Last Drop
Jan 26 – Lethbridge AB – The Owl Acoustic Lounge w/ Nix Dixons
Jan 27 – Calgary AB – The Marquee Room w/ Nix Dixons
Feb 2 – Moose Jaw SK – 23 Main Street w/ Dallas Bryson
Feb 3 – Regina SK – The Club w/ Me and My Anatomy
Feb 5 – Winnipeg MB – Le Garage
Feb 8 – Thunder Bay ON – The Study (Lakehead University)
Feb 16 – Toronto ON – The Supermarket w/ The Elwins
Feb 17 – Kingston ON – Clark Hall Pub (Queen’s University)
Feb 24 – Fredericton NB – Capital
Mar 3 – Ottawa ON – Mercury Lounge

BIO
Six years ago, the then-four-piece Behind Sapphire squeezed into a dusty crawl space in Vancouver, British Columbia with nothing but wide-eyed ambition and embarked upon their first flirtations with writing music. Inspired by Billie Holiday’ s ‘ Strange Fruit,’ they wrote and recorded their first song within weeks of their voices dropping.

Matthew Mazankowski, Grant Cassell and Matthew Tomkinson came together as an after-school pop- punk experiment, unsure and full of awkwardness. Jump to now, with more than a half-decade’ s worth of musical exploration under their belts, and Behind Sapphire is an unlikely artistic outpouring of folk- pop with a fantastically woven live show that spills over with quirky energy and intense celebration. Think: “ Patrick Watson backed by Hey Ocean!” fused with the grandeur of Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros.

In early 2010, Behind Sapphire recorded and released a self-titled CD, with drummer Steven Ward coming aboard to fill the group’s rhythm section. Built upon hundreds of home recordings, they reached out to Tom Dobranzski (The Zolas, Said the Whale, Hey Ocean) with the best of them. One by one, friends and family jumped into the fold with their own musical talents and tastes, adding layers of surgary harmonies, brother and sisterly spirit and a sense of improvisation and collaboration that marks the record in a truly positive way.

The album is carried by rollicking backbeats, sweeping orchestration and outsized arrangements that borrow the nostalgia of Walt Disney, nod to The Beatles’ flights of fancy and carry the croon of Billie Holiday and Jason Mraz.

In celebration Behind Sapphire took to the stage, backed by a 35-piece orchestra composed of their old high school band, good friends and family. The CD release marked the start of a summer of touring as the band traveled across BC, Canada and as far north as Alaska – making a stop at the Southeast Alaskan State Fair.

Currently in 100.5 The Peak’s: Peak Performance Project, Behind Sapphire was chosen along with 19 of BC most talented artists (out of 470 applicants) for a chance to win $100,500 towards career development.

Focused primarily on their child-at-heart agenda, Behind Sapphire’ s ambition to capture your imagination will surprise you with every new step into their world. With an upbeat, quirky and fun-loving nature, Behind Sapphire is certain to find a home within your heart.

OH MY VIDEO PRESS
Vancouver Sun

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Vancouver pop band Behind Sapphire teams up with Twilight’s Jodelle Ferland in new video

Vancouver popsters Behind Sapphire, who ended up making it into the Top 20 in last year’s Peak Performance Project following the release of their lovely self-titled debut, have just released their new video for the song Oh My, What A Fine Day, starring Nanaimo actress Jodelle Ferland. (You can watch the video below.)

Ferland, 16, is well known for her role in the movie version of the Silent Hill videogame (2006) and for appearing as Bree Tanner in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse last year.

“Jodelle has actually been a longtime friend or ours,” guitarist Matthew Mazankowski said in a phone interview. ”Her brother Jeremy recorded violin on the album. She’s a big fan of the band too. Grant [Cassell, vocals] and the guys at Amazing Factory came up with the video concept and we thought we’d ask Jodelle and she loved the idea. It worked so perfectly for us.”

In the beautifully shot video, Ferland is seen running through a field before falling asleep and waking up in what seems to be a strange dream world.

Behind Sapphire: Steven Ward, Grant Cassell and Matthew Mazankowski

“I think it’s very open to interpretation,” Mazankowski said. ”People are going to come up with different ideas than what we first thought. It’s more thought-provoking. The general idea is that Jodelle’s character is trapped in the regular world and looking for an outlet for her imagination. She falls asleep and goes back in time and sees the history of her backyard in the field: A Victorian couple, the modern day farmer and a war.”

Considering how the video never comes full-circle with Ferland’s character coming back to the “regular world” and the last line sung being, “There’s nowhere to run/The storm has just begun,” could it mean the video for Oh My, What A Fine Day is the first chapter in a series?

Mazankowski does not want to reveal too much at this point, but he already has an idea of what the “sequel” song, which has yet to have been released, could be.

In a way, Mazankowski said, this is “the end of the beginning” for Behind Sapphire.

The band will be finishing its “debut album chapter” by going on tour for the next few months, starting with a show in Vancouver at St. James Community Square on Jan. 21, before returning to the studio to begin recording its sophomore album.


2010

TRIED & TRUE
The Peak – SFU Newspaper

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By Xu Wang

Before indie folk made a huge splash in mainstream music with the immergence of bands like Fleet Foxes and Beirut, and before “experimental pop” was just another fancy hipster term synonymous with “music nobody really understands,” the guys from local band Behind Sapphire were already well on their way toward becoming an established sound within their own style of experimental folk pop. The genre might be a mouthful and even slightly pretentious sounding, but it is precisely because of this hard-to-pigeon-hole form of music writing that made Behind Sapphire so intriguing and special. Perhaps my take on whether or not Behind Sapphire is worth listening to could be slightly biased due to my previous friendship with one of the band members, but those who know them can testify that they are truly talented and their music needs no sycophantic promotion.

The core members of Behind Sapphire are two friends who made acquaintances in high school and quickly found a common language in music, Matt Mazakowski — currently an SFU student — and Grant Cassell. Despite living in the suburbs and far away from the epicentre of the “indie scene,” Behind Sapphire’s fast-growing recognition within their own community eventually captured the attention of many throughout Vancouver and other parts of Canada. However, finding a sound hasn’t always been easy when a band is first starting out. The duo initially experimented with just about every type of music under the sun. But as their repertoire expanded and style evolved, other talents joined the band and transformed it into an experimental collaborative project. But, working with so many different musicians hasn’t always been easy. Even though Mazakowki and Cassell have been playing music together since high school, coming up with a polished and finalized aesthetic for Behind Sapphire at one point seemed like an everlasting struggle.

“There was three of us — me, Grant, and our good friend Matt Tomkinson, and we would write music every day,” Mazakowski told The Peak. “We started off playing punk rock to Thrice to like some screamo music. We’d done the whole spectrum. Then we did a 180 to The Beatles, so then we started playing a Beatles-esque kind of music. And then Matt’s friend introduced us to Jason Mraz . . . His album Mr. A-Z is really diverse and unique. He had a whole bunch of different genres, so the way we wrote music changed quite a bit. Then we settled on something we [were] comfortable with and had fun writing.”

Having crossed so many hurdles in their musical journey and learned so much about who they are as artists, the boys of Behind Sapphire’s self-titled debut album is a true reflection of the band’s diverse musical musings, undeniable talent, and hard work. Chock full of folk instrumentations and soul-moving vocal melodies, the album is a painting of experiences, faith, and nature. It begins with a short but sweet introductory track called “The Call of the Wild” followed by “Waiting by Satellites” which immediately sets the album in full motion as soon as the vivacious guitar arrangements pick up the pace. The songs flow seamlessly into one another and as one fades out and another chimes in, I find it harder and harder to believe that the band ever struggled with finding an identity. Aside from the soft and steady progressions and laid-back yet invigorating musical aesthetics, the most defining element of their music is Grant’s singing: his vocal deliveries exist beyond the confinement of any instrument backdrop.

“Back in grade nine in English class, we were talking about the ‘black times’ and slavery,” Cassell said. “Our teacher showed us a song by Billie Holiday called ‘Strange Fruit’. The song blew me away, I sat in class and I was looking at everyone like, ‘Are you guys idiots!?’ I’ve never heard anything like [it] . . . I went home right away and wrote lyrics to our first song. Ever since then, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald are the two that I draw from all the time. For them, there was no structure, they can just sit there and scat and just have so much fun. So the [improvisation], for me, are my vocals. At every show, I don’t have a way I do the vocals. I try to do something different every single time.”

Like all artists who find creative strength in their inspirations, Behind Sapphire draws much of their musical essence from their beliefs. This may be surprising to some, but the three current members of the band are proud Mormons. Yet, despite, their devout faith, the songs inspired by their beliefs are never preachy or alienating. To them, music acts as a medium to share their lives with those who care to listen. The sentiments within their songs are open to interpretation, and they create new experiences every time with different people. When asked if they are ever concerned about their religious beliefs skewing people’s view of their music, they responded with confidence — as long as people are supportive of who they are and understand what’s important to them, they are not worried.

“Our beliefs are who we are; it’s what we represent when we come out and play our shows, and when we play our music,” drummer Steven Ward said. “It’s really expressive, but it’s important to us.”

As admirable as their unwavering morals and outspokenness of their beliefs, the band’s diligent effort in establishing themselves as a positive example for youths is also commendable. Behind Sapphires ensures that whenever they play shows, they are always at all-ages venues.

There is so much more to Behind Sapphire than just their loveable genuineness and heart-warming music. It is without a doubt that the band has what it takes to make the grade and truly make an impression within the Canadian music scene. They are a new generation of young artists who have a clear vision of who they are and what they want to do. And these days, that is one of the hardest things to achieve for any bands breaking into the scene.

BEHIND SAPPHIRE CD REVIEW
Vancouver Sun – Francois Marchand

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May 22nd, 2010
Behind Sapphire; Behind Sapphire (Independent)

Rating 4 out of 5

On their self-titled debut, Vancouver indie popsters Behind Sapphire conjure the breezy, feel-good vibes of every children’s TV show you can possibly imagine. Recalling the lighter side of Belle and Sebastian, the album oozes with pop goodness, flowing with a disarming ease that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The trio’s live framework may be acoustic folk-pop but, on record, Behind Sapphire is buoyed by an exuberant use of strings,

bells, horns, glockenspiel, nature sounds and candy-sweet vocal harmonies, giving the music a whole new precious-but-never-cloying aura. Though the band’s sunny disposition could make for a pop album that’s over-the-top sweet, Behind Sapphire provides nary a gag moment here.

If you were looking for a soundtrack to your summer, Behind Sapphire may have just made it.

Francois Marchand, Vancouver Sun

BEHIND SAPPHIRE’S SOUND IS SERIOUSLY EASYGOING
The Vancouver Observer – John Tanner

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by John Tanner
May 15, 2010

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/indievan/2010/05/15/vancouver-band-behind-sapphires-sound-seriously-easygoing

Try not to think of “easygoing” in the context of meditation, but rather in the context of cruising at 90km/h on a scenic cross-country highway. Behind Sapphire’s self-titled album is the perfect summer music. Current members Matthew Mazankowski, Grant Cassell, Steven Ward, and Dylan Murley produce fun, catchy and intelligent output. What else can you want from your music?

Proper strings supplied by Isidora Nojkovic and Miho Matsuo on tracks such as ‘Know It Alls’ and ‘As For Us’ allude to The Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ at times while maintaining their originality.

Both ‘Waiting By The Satellites’ (embedded at the top of this article) and ‘Christmas Nigh’ (is that Old English?) have videos available for viewing on YouTube. My favourite moments from the album include a theatre of the mind plunge into water accompanied by guitar, which surfaces into a choral-driven interlude in ‘Yellow Chalk Fish’, as well as Grant Cassell’s powerful vocal climaxes in ‘Somebody Come Save This Sunshine’ and ‘Growing Tales’ (audio embedded at the bottom of this article).

Actually, the guitar and percussion throughout the entire album are noteworthy. Behind Sapphire’s music is also great because it doesn’t always follow the standard 4/4 time signature everyone is so used to hearing in pop music. The album makes great use of horns and group singing so that listening is an adventure. If you catch Behind Sapphire live, singer Grant Cassell incorporates props into his performance to create cool, organic voice effects. A toy megaphone and metal vase to expertly aim his voice into the mic without being overly loud or feeding back. The group consists of true entertainers.

Behind Sapphire’s liner notes are a work of art. This is a subtle way of providing the fan with more value by purchasing the physical product. I have great respect for this band as they have a fresh sound which literally puts a smile on your face. Behind Sapphire is great for any occasion and will especially strike a chord with fans of Walt Disney, The Beatles, John Mayer, Sufjan Stevens, Patrick Watson, Andrew Bird or St.Vincent.

Visit their MySpace and follow them on Twitter.

Do your mood a favour and give these guys a good listen. See Behind Sapphire perform live with Jasper Sloan Yip May 28th at Heritage Hall.

CD OF THE WEEK: BEHIND SAPPHIRE
The Province – Tom Harrison

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Tom Harrison
The Province

CD of the week: Behind Sapphire

As well as an attractive package, this duo has made attractive pop. Sometimes cinematic in scope, Behind Sapphire employs instruments as diverse as trombone, ukulele, glockenspiel and vibraphone to create uniquely arranged ’80s influenced post new wave songs. Bright not brooding.

BRAMBLES COOKS UP AN EXCELLENT NIGHT OF MUSIC
Merritt News

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Dean Morrison
News Reporter

Every seat was filled Thursday night as Behind Sapphire played their first show ever in Merritt.

The sound was great inside Brambles Bakery and the show attracted a diverse cross section of patrons who came out to see this young quartet play.

The mostly acoustic quartet served up an imaginative set that had the audience clamouring for more.

The band started their tour with a stop in Penticton on Wednesday, and was happy to experience a much more lively and appreciative audience here in Merritt.

“Tonight was in my top ten favourite shows ever and we have played about 50 so far,” said Matt Mazankowski, Behind Sapphire guitarist.

The band has recently added a new bass player and hopes to add a violinist, cellist, trumpet and cornet for future shows.

They are planning a cross-country tour starting in June, which will be the first time they have traveled across Canada.

“This is such an awesome venue and Bramble’s have been so good and generous to us,” says Mazankowski.

“We will definitely come back and play in the summer.”

Behind Sapphire immediately won over the capacity crowd with a set that was heart-felt, upbeat, and timeless.

Lead singer Grant Cassell had an engaging stage presence as he employed a megaphone and played a child’s xylophone, which at no time came across as gimmicky, but added an element of fun and passion to the performance.

“The sound was excellent tonight,” said Cassell.

“We are working on another album all ready which we can’t wait to get into the studio to produce.”

The band conveyed a comfort with each other as they jumped between lilting melodies and raucous backbeats, always maintaining an element of originality that was refreshing.

At the end of the show, there was a steady lineup of appreciative audience members waiting to buy CDs, and get them autographed from the obliging band.

“Merritt has a lot of good music going on,” said Markus Guerr, who is visiting Merritt from Germany.
“These guys were really good.”

SAPPHIRE’S IN THE ROUGH
North Delta & Surrey’s Leader Newspaper

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Grant Cassell can’t help but sing as he prepares to sit down for an interview at his friend’s house in North Delta.

In a distinctive tenor voice, Cassell belts out part of a song the public may be able to hear early next year during its release on CD.

Cassell and Matthew Mazankowski, the other half of Behind Sapphire, are surrounded by a phalanx of instruments and amplifiers in the living and dining rooms as they describe their genre.

“We call it a mixture of folk, pop and jazz,” says Mazankowski.

“And new age folk,” adds Cassell. “Because old folk (has) really generic melodies.”

Indeed, the energetic music, when in full-band form in the studio, is accompanied by violin, piano, alto and tenor sax, flute and accordion – manned by guest experts on the respective instruments.

Nominally a duo composed of acoustic guitarist/vocalist Mazankowski and vocalist Cassell (he plays the trombone and has recently picked up the trumpet and glockenspiel), Behind Sapphire also includes regular musicians for live gigs.

The rest of the full band includes guitarist/pianist Joseph Ward, drummer Steve Ward, bassist Eamonn Singleton and Victoria Symphony Orchestra violinist Jeremy Ferland.

The band alternates between two-man and full-band live performances in their regular gig scene: Lugz Coffee Lounge on Vancouver’s Main Street, the Backstage Lounge on Granville Island and locally at the Firehall Centre for the Arts in North Delta.

Cassell and Mazankowski have come a long way since they were booted out by security a few years ago for busking at Metrotown mall.

The two met six years ago at Seaquam Secondary School and within a few years, they were practising singing, playing and songwriting together, and collaborating with a variety of local musicians.

In the home stretch putting together their first, self-titled CD, the pair practises about twice a week while juggling their post-secondary educations – Cassell is working on his Child Youth Worker diploma at Surrey College while Mazankowski is at SFU Surrey taking arts courses.

Since they started playing together about five years ago, Mazankowski’s guitar skills have “improved tenfold,” while the xylophone-like glockenspiel has become the “weapon of choice” for Cassell.

Mention the instrument and Cassell laughs.

“We just played on Streaming Café and they interviewed us for an online segment of their show. The girl went on and on about the glockenspiel. Twenty minutes about the glockenspiel.”

The two have a solid understanding of their style as they play three recorded studio tracks from the CD, which will be released around spring break, 2010.

“Every one of our songs was written on guitar,” explains Mazankowski. “All the orchestral parts… either I wrote them or (violinist) Jeremy (Ferland) wrote them. We just add layers and layers of whatever we feel like.”

The two explain that their two-layer style – that is, duo-acoustic or full-band pop – allows them more flexibility when playing live shows.

“Basically, we can provide two different shows and that’s what we’re gonna try to do once our CD comes out – a bit of acoustic… warmth and (then) a bit of energy to the performance,” says Mazankowski. “We love the energy that comes from playing with a band.

“It’s unique that our songs can be portrayed in two different aspects.”

Behind Sapphire will play on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Firehall Centre for the Arts, 11489 84 Ave. For more information, visit www.behindsapphire.com

BEHIND SAPPHIRE: A HEART WARMING SUMMER DAY WRAPPED UP IN LYRICS
How I Killed The Scene Blog

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So, not sure if you have heard of these guys… but you should most def take some time and give them a listen. I had the pleasure of attending highschool with one of the members of Behind Sapphire and I have watched them grow and transform over the last couple of years. If you dig happy, soothing music… this is the band for you.

Behind Sapphire is a two piece acoustic band based out of Vancouver B.C. Their live performance consists of singer Grant Cassell and guitarist Matthew Mazankowski with occasional violinist Jeremy Ferland. They have been playing together for five years and are in the midst of finishing up their first full length album with Producer/Engineer Tom Dobrzanski (Hey Ocean!, Said The Whale, Lotus Child, We Are The City). These young, heartfelt and entertaining boys have influences ranging from old Disney Soundtracks and composer Yann Tiersen to The Beatles and Ella Fitzgerald. The duo have a friendly, uniquely melodic sound that hits home. Singer Grant Cassell’s velvety voice is full of character and poise with distant reminders of Jason Mraz and Louis Armstrong. Furthermore, Matthew Mazankowski and Jeremy Ferland create encompassing instrumentation and orchestration to support and brighten their defining sound. Genre-wise, Behind Sapphire provides a wide range of genres from melodic pop to crooning jazz. In December, the duo released their first EP entitled “Lest Ye Stay,” featuring four originals and an a cappella cover of “The First Nowell.” In the past few months Behind Sapphire have been busy, performing many shows in the Vancouver area, sharing about their gentle music and kind hearted spirits. Recently, the boys appeared in Vancouver’s Forty-Four Magazine (www.fortyfourmagazine.com), who quoted their sound as “magical.” You can check them out on myspace (www.myspace.com/behindsapphire) or hit up their homepage (www.behindsapphire.com).

Anyways, check them out – they will make your heart feel happy and you will catch yourself humming their tunes for the rest of the day (if not longer).