Music Interview: Beija Flor

A new hope for a burgeoning scene

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The Calgary music scene is ready to burst. This isn't a contentious issue, lately it's being said everywhere. Yet, our scene is still overlooked by most while Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver bask in international acclaim. What we need is a band to come along and give Calgary the nudge it needs to be visible outside of Alberta. Beija Flor, the latest unclassifiable local band to emerge as legitimate contenders in the musical ring, wouldn't mind if they were the ones to fulfil this role. Offering a visceral sound borrowing elements from punk's fury, indie's confidant swagger and art-rock's less pretentious moments the band finds itself poised at the forefront of a challenging and multi-faceted scene.

"It's the diversity because Calgary has had a sort of weird non-diversity for a long time," Drummer Matt Baliff explains. Now there are bands like Chad VanGaalen, Vailhalen and The Dudes. All these bands are going in different directions and they're all getting pretty big."

"I think it's interesting because a few years ago if you went to an all ages show, skate-punk bands would always bring in the crowds and the 'weirdo' bands would always send the crowd outside," guitarist, bassist and vocalist Steve Vankampen elaborates. "We played an all ages show about a month ago and there was a skate-punk band that played and everybody left when they played but they came in when we and a couple other bands like Pants Situation played. People really seem to be sick of that cliche bullshit."

Though they might not have the most favourable things to say about punk now, Beija Flor share many similarities, both musically and spiritually, with the '70s most notable movement. In fact, the members of the band all got their start playing in punk bands, a characteristic evident in the explosive guitars and impassioned screams decorating their first full length, The Quiet One and the Lonely One.

"There's really a work ethic and a technical side to it that we learned," Steve states. "I think mostly what I took from punk rock is just do it yourself and a political consciousness that I still admire in punk rock."

The Beija Flor boys aren't just talking. The band employs a DIY ethic strong enough to make even the most ardent punks proud. Instead of limiting their art to the instruments strapped around their necks, every member has their hands in every artistic outlet the band allows.

"Matt designed our CD cover and we're each designing our own T-shirt," Steve lists. "We're putting together our own CDs, our own music videos, we made or own lightshow [and] we make our own banners. Everything that's artistic we do ourselves. We're creating the music and we want to make it a visual experience as well."

The band has succeeded. Though their recorded material is strong in its own right, the band's live shows are quickly becoming a thing of legend throughout Calgary thanks to exhaustive intensity and the emphasis on visual elements.

"I think what people do appreciate about our live show is that we're charismatic about our music because not a lot of bands are," says keyboardist and vocalist Paul Vankampen. "They're pushing things that they know other people will like and that they like but they don't really care so much about the music that they're going to try to find something deeper."

"I think its one of your priorities to make the live show," Steve adds. "When you're a small band all you have is the live show because nobody has your CD yet and that's really the only means of making it. If you're not good live, nobody's going to buy your CD."

If this is the case, Beija Flor shouldn't have too much difficulty selling their albums. Of course, the band's hard to classify yet easily likeable sound will also have a lot to do with it. Perhaps their greatest strength lies in the hard-to-peg-down nature of their music. Not conforming to any set genre, The Quiet One and the Lonely One hops around on an exhilarating aural rollercoaster palatable to fans of a wide array of styles. This musical buffet has left some listeners confused and grasping to fit the band's sound into a convenient category. One of the most common tags to come up is prog.

"I don't think that we're exactly prog-rock," guitarist, bassist and vocalist Jon Redditt explains. "We've got this spooky thing going on and I don't really think that's been done before."

This spooky vibe might be exactly what Beija Flor and this city need to finally catch the musical world's attention and the accompanying praise.