By her own admission, Lizzie Shanks is a wordsmith who happens to sing. In 1996, she was gifted with some vocal lessons, meant to nudge forward her obvious musical passion. Her then vocal teacher, Toronto-based jazz singer, Louise Lambert incredulously asked why she wasn't singing professionally mid-way through her first lesson. It's not that she hadn't forayed into music before - she had, auditioning for several well-known Toronto bands, and earning callbacks. On reflection, she just hadn't been interested in those musical projects, and never accepted the offers that came her way. She was without knowing it, holding out for a meatier musical experience. She became aware of that when she was introduced to the work of Canadian fiddle icon, the late Oliver Schroer. During a burst of inspiration, she wrote lyrics to all the tracks on his instrumental JigZup CD. His thoughtful compositions, complex time signatures, and knack for unique layering of instrumentation, allowed Shanks entry through a creative portal, the likes of which she'd not experienced prior. Through a friend, Schroer was passed a copy of Shanks, vocal and lyrical offerings on JigZup, for which he was duly impressed. It became the start of an ongoing friendship until his passing in 2008.
In 1997, through another musician-friend, Shanks was introduced to multi-instrumentalist/composer, Brandon Scott Besharah. Brandon called Lizzie up one morning after he'd given a listen to her demo, asking her if she'd "tour with him for the rest of her life". Brandon's work struck Lizzie for its intelligence and melodic strength, not to mention, musical chops. Besharah was formed, the name borrowed from Brandon's part-Arabic heritage to mean, "coincidental occurrence, fated to be". The pair has been writing, recording, and performing together ever since, producing the critically acclaimed, Cereal Suits in 1998, Earth School in 2005, and Heliotrope in 2009.