(From left to right) Paul van Kampen, Stephen van Kampen, Stefan Smith and Dan Wilson will be playing their last show as The Magnetic North at the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
courtesy The Magnetic North

A new beginning for The Magnetic North

The Magnetic North and SAvK reunite to form Dark Red Dark Blue

Publication YearIssue Date 

This year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival will serve as the end of an era for The Magnetic North. The beloved local band, helmed by brothers Paul and Stephen van Kampen, will go through both a change in direction and a change of name, becoming the more driven and coherent Dark Red Dark Blue.

After breaking up their previous band Beija Flor in 2009, the duo started their own separate projects — Paul started The Magnetic North, while Stephen started SAvK. Each project was defined by the respective brother’s unique vision despite both siblings playing in each of the bands. Over time, however, this split became more hindering than helpful.

“It got to the point where we were splitting our focus,” says Stephen. “We were doing two bands okay instead of one band awesomely.”

This sparked the decision to merge the new projects, creating a band that combines the best aspects of The Magnetic North and SAvK while still being something entirely new.

“It’s kinda like a TD Canada Trust situation — it’s a merger where we take each other’s visions and put them together,” says Stephen.

“There’s no money though, that’s the big difference,” jokes Paul.

This melding of visions is reflected in the group’s new name, which encapsulates the different emotions each brother brings to their music.

“Paul’s stuff has always been very aetherial, dark and brooding, and if it was summed up in a colour, it would be blue,” says Stephen. “My stuff has always been more fierce and raw and angry, and . . . it would be red. So we settled on the name Dark Red Dark Blue as a band name.”

Joining Paul and Stephen will be percussionist Distance Bullock from Reuben in the Dark, along with The Magnetic North’s bassist Stefan Smith.

“It’s kind of a dream lineup for the new group, and we’re hoping it will do well,” says Stephen.

With The Magnetic North’s current drummer Dan Wilson leaving the group to focus on his other band, Geist, the group’s upcoming July 29 Folk Fest performance may be the last chance for fans to see the band’s original lineup in action.

“Folk Fest is our last big thing with The Magnetic North, and with drummer Dan Wilson as a member of the lineup,” says Paul. “So I think we’re going to celebrate in a big way, we’ll play all of our best stuff and leave the schlock behind. This will be the last hurrah for The Magnetic North, as The Magnetic North.”

As for the festival itself, the brothers are looking forward to playing at one of their favourite Calgarian events.

“Our first time playing Folk Fest is still in my mind as one of the most blissful things I’ve ever done,” says Paul. “It felt like Christmas or something.”

“It’s strange, the people there are so good to you that you keep expecting something bad to happen or for someone to be a jerk, and it just doesn’t happen,” adds Stephen.

The newly formed Dark Red Dark Blue will be recording their first album at the end of August, with local musician Lorrie Matheson as their producer. With a new lineup and a new direction, the van Kampen brothers look forward to a future that will hopefully be much brighter than their group’s new name.

“Now we can go and play shows, and we can take the best of The Magnetic North and the best of SAvK,” says Stephen. “Paul and I can co-write again, which is the best part, because when we co-write it is always better than when we write on our own. We’re not losing any songs, we’re not changing any visions, we’re just making it bigger and better. Our hope is that we don’t lose any of our momentum.”