The Magnetic North are Safe and Sound

A new band rises from the ashes of Beija Flor with a debut album

Growing up in a poor family Paul Van Kampen singer and keyboardist of the Magnetic North had very little as a child but he credits his father with teaching him the value of imagination and love. Throughout his youth that was all he required to have fun. The statement still holds true only now his voice a piano and a few friends round out the mix.

The Magnetic North began as a solo project when Van Kampen’s previous band Beija Flor an epic-sounding band loaded with strings and choirs broke up. It presented an opportunity he gladly seized.

“My songs weren’t coming out like Beija Flor and it was an opportunity for me to branch off and get going with something else” he says. “I basically just recorded an EP with [producer] Arran Fisher and released that and suddenly the ball was rolling pretty fast. I wound up needing supporting musicians pretty quickly and lots of shows came our way then the record came along.”

The supporting musicians came in the form of his brother Stephen on guitar and Dan Wilson on drums both of whom he had worked with in Beija Flor. Van Kampen once again found himself with a full band that was able to add its influences to his songs transforming them from a soft singer-songwriter style to a more full sound.

“Dan is a major influence on the band” says Van Kampen. “We were quite minimalist before but he brought a real heavy-handed and rock and roll feel to it. It does amazing things for the group. And Steve is best known for having real soul in his guitar playing. You can only go so far with your own writing and you have to entertain other people’s ideas. The ideas that Dan and Steven have brought to the table have completely changed everything. I’m adopting their style and they’re adopting mine. We’re working together.”

What followed was nearly 40 hours of studio time at Fisher’s studio Acoustikitty spread out over three months with plenty of gigs in between to fill the gaps. The band wanted to make sure they were laying down everything exactly how they wanted it returning to the studio only after they had digested and mulled over their latest contributions to the tracks. Eventually lapsteels violins horns and plenty of other instruments were added for a fuller sound.

The result is Constellations an ambient and cold-feeling album with heavy inspiration taken from Van Kampen’s childhood memories and family. There’s a song written for his father and plenty written for his wife. Van Kampen says the intention of the album is to give people insight into his subconscious and pull them into their own childhoods.

“I hope it blows people’s minds” says Van Kampen. “I think that people are really going to hear something that is so intimate. I’m hoping they understand some of the triumphs and challenges that they’ve had.”

Though their debut album has been painstakingly crafted and the trio is happy with the final product Van Kampen believes they have yet to hit their full potential.

“I don’t think any artist could bravely say that they’ve achieved what they set out to achieve” says Van Kampen. “Any time you listen to your last record you think ‘Man I’m really excited about this new one it’s going to be so much better.’ I’m fully confident that our next one will blow this one out of the water but of course this one blows everything else that I have ever done out of the water.”