There’s nothing quite like coming across a singer-songwriter with a voice so unique you crave it like candy. The uber talented Vancouver-based musician and songstress Cassandra Bangel just released her sophomore EP, Four Chambers, and we’re already obsessed with songs like “Still Afraid of the Dark” that feel like grownup lullabies for old souls. We caught up with Bangel to find out more about her life in music and in Vancouver, as well as her upcoming South Pacific tour…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I am a singer, songsmith, multi-instrumentalist and looper, navigating the dusky labyrinth that is life while using words and music to help light the way. I have an old soul, being fond of classic literature, 40s/50s vintage style, and film noir. I am also enamoured with the moon.
I recently released my sophomore EP, entitled Four Chambers, which conceptually riffs off of the four chambers of the human heart. Each of the four songs on the EP embodies a highly distinct emotion, from fear to doubt to hope and, finally, to love. At present, I am already beginning pre-production for my next release…
While I can at times be soft-spoken and a little shy, I lose all inhibition and truly find myself onstage. Playing live is one of my favourite aspects of being a musician, as it is the point where I can witness my songs having an emotional impact on people. Live music weaves audiences and performers together, fostering a sense of belonging through shared experience. I’ve brought this passion for connectivity to venues and festivals here in Vancouver such as the TD Jazz Fest, YVR Take Off Fridays, and The Harmony Arts Festival, and will continue to do so when I tour and sail the South Pacific this fall.
What are some of your early memories of singing and when did you know this was what you wanted to do?
When I was little, before I’d ever set foot onstage, I would regularly interrupt my dad’s practices at home by jumping up and down on the couch and singing over him. (He used to play professionally back in the 80s.)
One time, in fact, my dad took my older brother and I to a local record shop and I picked out what I’m pretty confident was an S-Club 7 CD to sample in-store. I inserted the disc, threw on some over-sized headphones and broke into song. I must have been loud — scratch that — I know I was loud, because within moments, my brother ran towards me, yanked off the headphones, and exclaimed, horrified, “Sandy, everyone can hear you!” Sure enough I emerged from my reverie to find dozens of amused faces looking my way. Completely unashamed and unapologetic about the incident, I continued to express myself vocally in elementary school choir, voice recitals and, later, local coffee shop open-mic nights.
Around the age of 16-17, the desire to want to pursue music professionally settled in. One “a-ha” moment occurred when I started listening to Jeff Buckley. My mother, a huge fan of Jeff’s dad, Tim Buckley, bought me a compilation that was released for the 10-year anniversary of Jeff’s death. It took me a while to warm up to the music, but I eventually sensed something uncanny and profound in it that encouraged me to take my craft more seriously. I think that’s how it goes: artists invigorate other artists, oftentimes handing inspiration down through generations and keeping the creative process alive. A few months later, I went into a professional recording studio to record my first EP and sparks flew. Now I am on that path, for better or worse.
What are three things you can’t live without?
My voice (for singing!). My impulse to translate inspiration, curiosity and experience into song. My family, friends and all those who form my support circle. Without these three things, I’d be living a very different life from the one I’m enjoying now.
Finish this sentence: I love Vancouver because…
…the city’s natural landscape is as diverse as the people in it. We are fortunate to encompass many different cultures from far-flung corners of the world, driving a sense of connectivity that goes beyond borders. We also have the best sushi.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
There are so many to choose from, but one of my favourite hidden gems in downtown Vancouver is The Copper Chimney, adjacent to the Le Soleil Hotel on Hornby Street. The service is top-notch and the atmosphere is superb, striking the perfect balance between refined and inviting. And let’s not forget the food – seriously delicious Indian fusion. Plus live music from Thursday to Saturday… you couldn’t ask for more!
What products are always in your beauty bag?
I have never in my life bought another brand of mascara besides Maybelline Great Lash. That product continues to be as infallible as the day I first tried it. And since I’m all about the eyes, I will always keep liquid eyeliner and a brow pencil on hand. There’s nothing quite like a bold arched brow à la Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall or Ava Gardner.
What’s currently on your iPod?
I recently got my hands on the new Phantogram album, Voices, which I have been enjoying. Their dark, atmospheric, echoic sound naturally appeals to me. I’m also currently reveling in the symphonic beauty that is Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians.” The entire piece sounds like it belongs in a dream.
Go-to karaoke song?
I have never been invited to karaoke. I’ve been told it’s because I’m a singer…