Raw, rough, uncomfortably honest, fast and violent, then suddenly smooth and soaring. SAvK wears his heart on his sleeve, then throws it, still beating, at the audience. This Canadian act uses deep rooted western flavours and combines it with international inspirations to perfectly depict their home sound. SAvK’s debut self titled release is a study in vulnerable live folk rock. Now joined by an amazing team of musicians including Paul van Kampen (The Magnetic North, Beija Flor), Brett Gunther (Beija Flor, Buzzing Bees), Stefan Smith (Crescent Heights, Coldwater) and Matt Chaplin (Prairie of Prax, Joule). SAvK is now recording a louder more produced record to be released in 2013.
Major Performance Credits Include, but are not limited to:
2013 Sled Island Music Festival
2012 Feature Performer at “6 String Nation” concert at the Canada Music Centre.
2011 Calgary Folk Fest Songwriting Contest Finalist
2010 Sled Island Music Festival in Calgary AB
2010 Trans Canada Alberta Music Series at the Epcor Centre in Calgary
2009 Western Canadian Music Awards Festival in Edmonton Alberta
2008 Juno Fest With the Sadies
2008 Calgary Folk Music Festival (With Beija Flor, and collaborations with Jim Cuddy, The Weakerthans and Greg MacPherson)
SAVK's greatest inspirations: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Feist, Neil Young, Radiohead, Devendra Banhart, Nick Drake, Red House Painters, Animal Collective, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Billy Holiday, The White Stripes, Simon and Garfunkle, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, The Clash and everyone he has played with over the years. Confused? It’s best to just give SAVK listen.
"... A showcase of formidable musical talent... Will make an indelible mark on the nation's music scene."
-Spencer Brown BEATROUTE
"... His guitar weaves effortlessly around the beautifully constructed vocal melodies... van Kampen remains crisp and clear in the foreground. It’s a position he’d better get used to."
-Peter Hemminger, FFWD
"...van Kampen's distinct, raspy yet-soothing voice on the record strikes the same chord in my heart as Beija Flor did. However, SAVK Captures a much more intimate side of van Kampen, while still possessing the same precisely mastered songwriting."
-Sara Mohan BEATROUTE
"Armed with a small arsenal of acoustic instruments on stage as cover, SAVK offers a chance to explore his musical vision, sharing it with an audience that understands raw, honest emotion. Firmly rooted in folk, his simple melodies emphasize his old soul."
-SB, SLED ISLAND
Savk immediately pulls you in with the smoothness of his old-rock‘n’roll-infused style and the genius pace of his guitar strumming fingers. The talents of this man are generous, particularly when seen in a live setting, and his musical creations are an essential contribution to Calgary’s indie-folk-rock scene.
Steve van Kampen - Vocals and Guitar
Paul van Kampen - Vocals and Piano
Stefan Smith - Bass
Brett Gunther - Guitar
Matt Chaplin - Drums
SAVK: "savk" (Self Titled) 2010
SAVK: "Love Letters & Hate Mail" Coming 2013
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For his self-titled debut, former Beija Flor singer Stephen A. van Kampen (or, more briefly, Savk), ...For his self-titled debut, former Beija Flor singer Stephen A. van Kampen (or, more briefly, Savk), has built a sound by stripping down. Without his previous band’s kaleidoscope of noise to distract, the spotlight is squarely on van Kampen’s pleasantly strained falsetto and his intricate guitar work. Opening track “I Can’t Wait” sets the pattern that most of the album follows — its insistent acoustic rhythms and infectious energy belie the unadorned arrangement.
Unadorned doesn’t mean uncomplicated, though — none of van Kampen’s songs are anything less than intricate. His guitar weaves effortlessly around the beautifully constructed vocal melodies, exploring the middle ground between Nick Drake’s more sombre moments and the restless indie blues of fellow Albertans Ghostkeeper. Local uber-producer Arran Fisher adds just the right amount of background texture to keep things from becoming monotonous — a hint of trilling piano here, a bit of banjo twang there — while still ensuring that van Kampen remains crisp and clear in the foreground. It’s a position he’d better get used to.
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Beija Flor is far from dead. Though the band itself may be no longer, former frontman Stephen van Ka...Beija Flor is far from dead. Though the band itself may be no longer, former frontman Stephen van Kampen has kept the music alive with his new solo project Savk. Van Kampen is no fresh face to the Calgary music scene and his experience rings through in both lyrics and instrumentation.
Armed with a banjo and playful guitar licks van Kampen brings the best of Beija Flor to the table, and then some. Toe-tap inducing banjo licks on "Complex Inferiority" and "Red Eye" fit in well with van Kampen's signature scratchy, dynamic vocals. There are few among us that can pull of the high pitches that are reached by his tremulous voice.
The album as a whole swings between delightfully playful and seriously heartbreaking, all featuring van Kampen's quick fingered picking. There are fleeting moments that are reminiscent of Beija Flor's early, grittier days but for the most part this is a much softer van Kampen than we have seen before.
Most important of all, Savk has proved without a doubt that banjos are good for much more than kindling.
Stephen van Kampen discusses his past with Beija Flor and future with Savk
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In 2005, Beija Flor was poised to be the band to bring Canada's attention to Calgary's often overloo...In 2005, Beija Flor was poised to be the band to bring Canada's attention to Calgary's often overlooked music scene.
Unfortunately, it didn't unfold quite as expected. In April of this year, Beija Flor dissolved after six years of hard work. The band produced two acclaimed albums and played countless local shows, but a myriad of factors undermined their attempts to gain success on a broader level and ultimately led to the band's dissolution.
"We were our own worst enemies in a lot of ways," former frontman Stephen van Kampen says. "We definitely had some vibrant years. We put out that record in 2007, we sold out the Marquee Room, we played Folk Fest in 2008, we did collaborations with Jim Cuddy. All these big, fun things were happening and it was great."
But like any band struggling to make it, things get in the way, especially with eight members contributing to a six year run.
"Things started to deteriorate. We had a guitarist move to Vancouver, because he wanted his solo projects to do better, and then we lost our drummer of four or five years and things just started to chip away," says Kampen. "That's part of the deal. When you're trying to keep volunteer artists together and all working towards the same thing, there's no pay to keep them there . . . it just didn't happen quick enough and people started to lose interest and move on and do other things."
It isn't all bad though. Out of the ashes of Beija Flor new projects have risen. Former pianist Paul van Kampen- Stephen's brother- is the lead singer for The Magnetic North and former bassist Henry Hsieh is now a member of local up-and-comers Friendo. Stephen van Kampen has started his own solo project, Savk, which is continuing where Beija Flor left off.
"I had written an entirely new record for Beija Flor and it had been sitting on blocks for six or seven months and the songs were getting stale," says van Kampen. "I was thinking, 'Fuck, I want to put out another record, but these songs are losing fire for me.' That's where this [Savk] record came from. The songs were all pretty much destined for Beija Flor that just never materialized."
It may sound like van Kampen's new project is just Beija Flor 2.0, but that definitely isn't the case. Those familiar with Beija Flor may recognize certain elements, but van Kampen's newly acquired freedom has lead to a stripped-down approach. His self-titled album, Savk, is worlds away from the sound the band was known for.
"The songs have been really minimized down to their core message," says van Kampen. "One of the things I liked about Beija Flor was that we were able to reach pretty epic arrangements because we had so many people in the group. But one of the things I didn't like is that, I love epic arrangements, but I like minimalism sometimes too. We had a bad tendency to have
everyone playing at the same time."
Savk is only six months old and van Kampen already has the aforementioned album out, but he's still putting together pieces and fleshing out his live performances. Most of his shows have been acoustic sets- him and his guitar or banjo- which can be somewhat problematic. Despite a riveting performance during Sled Island at the Arrata Opera Centre, Van Kampen laments that he finds it more difficult to capture attention in crowded bars without the energy and volume of a full band. With his Beija Flor experience in mind, van Kampen considers adding a back-up band for live performances.
"If I did bring in a back-up band, I'd just have to be ruthless with saying, 'There are times when everyone needs to shut the fuck up.' There are times when I need to shut the fuck up. You have to be economical with what you are doing and make sure the shoe fits every time. You listen to bands that have been around forever like Wilco . . . from a songwriting perspective and an arrangement perspective they all know how to serve the project.When they should be playing, when they shouldn't be playing."
Despite the occasional gripe, van Kampen is not at all negative about his time spent with Flor. He recognizes and appreciates that the band had the liberty to avoid one of those tragic clichés of the music industry- they escaped with their dignity intact.
"I look back at those heydays of Beija Flor with a lot of fondness and there was some promise there, but that's partly why we called it quits when we did. We were still strong and still pretty well-respected and I said, 'You know what? Let's cut this while we're decent, rather than fizzling.' "
"Hooks and Crooks"
"Do Mi Ti Fa Re"
"Bag of Bones"
"All Saints Day"
"I Can't Wait"
"Gyprock V Plaster"
"The Morning Comes"
"The Saddest Song"
"The Red Eye"