Having finally settled in Victoria, Canada, Acres of Lions still feel like kings without a home.
Acres of Lions is yet one more reason as to why Canada is fast becoming the mecca of talent as it seems to have a winning habit of producing bands with serious credentials in the quality department. Having produced two albums of consistently good melodic indie pop and rock, bringing to mind the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Acres of Lions is on the verge of releasing third album ‘Home(s)’ with early signs suggesting it’s going to surpass its predecessors by some considerable distance judging by the reaction in the FLW office. Therefore, a string of questions were compiled and dispatched with hast to band member Jeff Kalesnikoff who has since replied with similar hast due to the band’s impending touring schedule.
“Acres of Lions officially formed in the summer of 2006, after Dan Ball, our beloved bass/beard player, and I moved to Victoria BC from the quiet and quaint little town of Nelson BC, where we both had grown up. Coming from previous bands in Nelson that had toured, recorded albums and then sadly broken up shortly after, we wanted to start a new project in a new city that was a little more professional. Vancouver was the obvious first choice for the move, but we didn’t want to get lost in a sea of up and coming bands. So we chose Victoria; it was bigger than Nelson by far and wide, but still small enough for us kids to begin to establish ourselves as a group and it became our home quite quickly.”
Did the rest of the band get together after this transition to Victoria?
“We met our best friend and long-time drummer Lewis Carter through a friend of a friend (his brother, actually) and we just started writing songs in his basement before eventually finding a temporary bass player (Aden Collinge of Immaculate Machine). Dan played guitar back then and we had only been rehearsing for about three weeks when we were offered our first gig; a hilarious prompt to actually name the band so we could play it. The week before the gig, all of us attended a party and word got around that we were looking to name the project. One of our best friends to this day, Jory McKay, found out this information and shouted over the noise, and I quote: ‘You should name your band ACRES OF LIONS or I’m going to use it for my hardcore band.’ Needless to say, we played the gig under the name to about 700 people in Centennial Square and it stuck around. We’ve loved it more and more ever since, and even if we wanted to change it, it would have been a difficult and confusing process for everyone. The story of how we got the name is what I love most about it.”
How long was it though, until the recordings started to happen for Acres of Lions?
“The band was fully formed in 2007, and we cut our first EP which allowed us to become the Zone Band of the Month in Victoria on our local radio station, The Zone 91.3. From there we gathered more attention and support that lead us to record our debut full-length album ‘Working’ (2009) with local producer, Adam Sutherland and producer Warne Livesey (Midnight Oil, Mathew Good). Extensive touring of Canada began quickly after that and, to be honest, we never really stopped.”
FLW is in unison with this last comment as the band soon came up with second album ‘Collections’.
“Not too long after we cut our sophomore album ‘Collections’ (2011), and Lewis left the band to pursue his own career in Victoria. Of course there were no hard feelings and we still remain the best of friends. In the very current state of things, our wonderful friend and newest addition on the drums, Shane Deyotte, joined us in August (2012) and yes, he will be featured on our brand new full-length album “Home(s)” this April. He’s one hell of a guy.”
How would you describe Acres of Lions sound?
“I usually describe our sound as a bright, energetic and intelligent, emotional pop rock experience with a healthy amount of ‘anthemic cheer’ and just enough rock ‘n’ roll to keep you singing along with us. We have always stood by the philosophy behind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus…’ As for our live performance these days, we like our guitars loud, like to be very dynamic and promise to entertain you in any silly way that we can! We dare you not to have fun!”
FLW understands that there were a few upheavals for Acres of Lions prior to recording your new album. Can you elaborate further?
“We started the year (2012) by quitting our day jobs, moving out of our apartments, and oddly enough for a few of us, ending long-lasting relationships. We figured this was our chance to make Acres of Lions into a decent living for ourselves and in order to do that, to make it our life, we had to literally live and breathe it. During our tours we decided to create an album while travelling and use our environment as our inspiration. It was exciting, and for those of you who don’t know what touring is like, waking up in a different city every day, playing gigs to no one and everyone sporadically, homesickness, out of your comfort zone, it can be the best thing ever experienced or feel like certain doom. This was our way of turning our experience into something we could truly remember and feel and hear.”
Do you feel, therefore, that latest album ‘Home(s)’ has benefitted from this changing environment and experiences?
“After travelling and playing gigs for so long we got tighter and tighter, and after finally setting a date with Brian Moncarz [producer], we set out to create an album that truly captured our live sound and energy, something I feel may have been lost on our previous albums. That is not to say we are not proud of ‘Working’ or ‘Collections’, we just feel, collectively, this is the best representation of our sound and expression. The title ‘Home(s)’ came from the realization that we really didn’t know where to call home anymore or where we would end up when we were finished. Instead of letting that bother us, we came to the conclusion that our home was wherever we were together; the van, with our best friends in each city, a hostel we frequent because of the cosy pub adjacent to it. Wherever you find a moment of peace.”
What else can you tell us about your new forthcoming album ‘Home(s)’?
“Our new full-length album ‘Home(s)’ will be our third album released on Cordova Bay Entertainment in Victoria and we simply cannot wait for you to hear it! It’s a very exciting time for us to be releasing something new now that we have some international connections; relationships we’ve solidified over the last few years of touring. ‘Home(s)’ was recorded in December of 2012 at a combination of Revolution Recording Studios and Rattlebox North Studios in Toronto ONT. It was produced by Brian Moncarz (Moneen, Circa Survive, The Junction) a wonderful and talented man we met during our performance at Edgefest 2012 in Toronto. ‘Home(s)’ is an endeavour that was written entirely on the road; over 9 months, and is comprised of 10 tracks regarding our thoughts, our joys, our sorrows, our longings, our friendships, our entire experience that year. You see, we toured almost 9 months out of that year, in Canada and in the UK, spanning from the shores of Haida Gwaii and the Alaskan border overseas to Great Britain and the heart of Central London. We witnessed the profoundly beautiful to the utterly horrific, all the while writing a record in the van, in hotel rooms, in the sky, on the sea, on mountaintops, anywhere there was a second of opportunity or an idea that needed to be expressed.”
It sounds like you are more than smitten with the outcome of ‘Home(s)’?
“I’d have to say the band is thrilled with the outcome of ‘Home(s)’. Not only is it the album we hoped to achieve after all these years, with many hours of ‘backseat writing’ in 2012, it is the first of what we hope will be many recording experiences with our new drummer Shane Deyotte. Search far and wide and I don’t know if you’ll find a more solid mate and internal meter. He made the recording process very exciting and interesting for all of us seeing as how it was his first time in a recording studio of this magnitude, and he nailed it! He’s a very musical person and a great fit from the start. He’s family now, and there’s no escape for him, no matter how ashamed of us he might be!”
So definitely the Acres of Lions strongest work to date?
“I do believe we feel this is our strongest work to date. Although a lot of 2012 was dedicated to playing gigs, media, networking and ‘some’ partying. The year was also spent concentrated on writing good music and honing our craft. Unlike our previous efforts on ‘Working’ and ‘Collections’, this was our first time writing the entire album from start to finish together in the same room. We’re people with very similar musical tastes. We like our punk, classic rock ‘n’ roll, and the stuff we were raised on, the very feeling of it. The nostalgia of that, combined with a more modern indie and pop feel, is what we aimed to inspire with ‘Home(s)’ and in hindsight, for us anyway, that is what we accomplished with Brian Moncarz and he was an amazing pleasure to work with. We wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe the glockenspiel. Once you start with that thing, you really can’t stop!”
Can you provide a little insight in terms of what some of the songs are about on ‘Home(s)’?
“As far as what the individual songs are about, I could explain pages worth, but the theme you may discover on ‘Home(s)’ is one of constant longing, a desire you can’t explain, the effect of distance from security and long term exposure to an abstract lifestyle has on a person. It’s a very sad feeling album, but I believe we’ve balanced that with songs like our new single ‘Bright Lights’, which is directly about my longing to be as brave and ambitious as I was when I was a kid and hoping that I can be that person again with the strength of a new year.”
What are your forthcoming plans in terms of the new album?
“There will be lots of touring to come this year in Canada, with hopes of returning to the UK later on in the year. We have already begun a very heavy rehearsal schedule and will be hitting the road with a tour out to the east coast of Canada with two American bands, Thunderhawks and a band called Kingsfoil, which features former Malcolm In The Middle Star Frankie Muniz. It should be a great tour, and it will be nice to finally return to the east coast. It’s been awhile!”
Finally, is there an Acres of Lions philosophy?
There are four. I don’t know if they qualify as philosophies, more mottos, really, but it’s what we believe in:
Love and be honest with everything you do.
Nobody ever got anywhere by just sitting around and waiting.
Turn it up. The sound-tech will forgive you if you’re good.
Do not GAZE at the beard. Look and appreciate, but do not lust.
‘Home(s)’ is an album not to be missed this year as Acres of Lions look poised to be on the tip of something very special indeed.
'Home(s)' came from the realization that we really didn't know where to call home anymore"
Jeff Kalesnikoff, Acres of Lions
FLW - From the Tapes
Jeff Kalesnikoff shares a rather bizarre incident with FLW that happened when out on tour with the rest of the lions.
“One of our strangest touring experiences was in 2010. We were touring Canada with a band then from Victoria now from Toronto called Theset. We were driving to Calgary from Winnipeg in the summer when Theset’s drummer Tristan had to make a stop before he soiled himself. We were in the middle of Saskatchewan and there was nothing for hours, so we turned off the road following a sign that said “Piapot, 3KM, No Services.” This “village” consisted of nothing but boarded up shacks and discarded rail-cars except for a saloon at the end of the road which miraculously said ‘OPEN’. Tristan sprints inside for the bathroom and comes out minutes later to reveal that this place is actually awesome inside and that we should check it out. So we do, and was it ever! All ten of us pile in and essentially drink the barkeeps stock of Pilsner dry while playing shuffleboard, watching Kull The Conqueror on a big screen and playing with his two lovely dogs in the backyard. It turns out that he was a computer analyst from Calgary who wanted a change of pace and so he bought the old saloon to restore it. It’s not on the map, and we search for it every time we’re out that way but never find it. Somewhere, out on the prairie, there sits a lone jukebox, with Acres of Lions on it…”