Lions share of themselves
Victoria band Acres of Lions tell the ‘Flec what it’s like being almost famous
Embarking on yet another Canadian tour this month, and a stop in Calgary, Victoria alt-rockers Acres Of Lions are preparing for a milestone that is significant for any band, especially one that’s just released their sophomore album. The latest addition to their discography, Collections, marks some growth within their sound and a new perspective for a band that is breaking out of the garage and into the international music scene as they prepare to release Collections in Europe and Japan this spring.
Jeff Kalesnikoff, singer for the band, spoke with The Reflector recently to explain how the group functions and where they see themselves going as a band.
‘Flec: What has been the driving force behind Acres Of Lions since its inception?
JK: I think the driving force behind Acres of Lions has always been our work ethic, together as a creative group. We have always worked well together as a team and can’t really remember a time when we didn’t treat each other like brothers in a family business. We’ve all been best friends since the beginning, and together we feel that being in this band, performing live, writing songs, rehearsing, touring for months on end, has to be a group effort or not at all. We all bring integral, unique things to the table and we’ve always supported each other through everything that has come our way, for better or worse. It’s a relationship. The thought of one day growing old, honing our musical skills and seeing the world together is what has always kept us going and happy.
‘Flec: What is the biggest difference between the first album Working and sophomore album Collections?
JK: Working was something we did without really knowing what we were doing. It was our first time ever in a real studio with songs that I (Jeff) had mostly written solo, and we spent a lot of time figuring out the songs as they were being recorded and applying a lot of studio “wizardry.” We still laugh about how unprepared we were to this day. But that’s not to say that we weren’t proud of the finished product. It was definitely a huge learning experience for us and it helped us to rethink our process when we finally started to write a
new album. We found Collections to be a bit more calculated and a lot more organic than Working, a direct representation of what Acres of Lions really is: simple, catchy, anthemic and an honest portrayal of our love for pop music. We spent almost all of 2011 writing the songs on Collections together and making sure we knew exactly what we wanted the record to sound like when entered the studio, a more refined, classic sound.
‘Flec: Collections is being released in Japan and Europe this spring. Is this a logical next step for the band and what do you hope will come of it?
JK: Absolutely. Collections will be released through Bullion Records in Japan and Fierce Panda Records in the U.K. on March 7 of this year, and we couldn’t be happier! We will even be flying out to London
(U.K.) at the end of our Canadian tour this month in support of that release to play a few shows and make some new friends. To be completely honest in the beginning, back in 2006, when our band was
just something fun to do on the weekend, we would always joke around and say things like could you imagine if we ever got to release or play music overseas? It all seemed like a farfetched, childish dream. But now, with all the support over the years from our friends and family, and all the good people in the music industry that have worked with and believed in us, pushed us to do more, we plan to tour the U.K. extensively in the near future and hopefully in Japan after the album is released there. I mean, we will always be touring Canada, every vast, beautiful and breathtaking inch of it, but if there is a chance to expand our audience overseas and reach our new friends and fans, we will definitely take it. It is a tremendous feeling and there are not enough thank yous in the world to describe how grateful we are to have this opportunity.
‘Flec: There seems to be a theme threaded into Collections, can you expand on what that is?
JK: Every life is a collection, whether you’re aware of it or not. It can be anything, material, sentimental, memorial. In our case, it’s our collective experience in the band together. As I mentioned before, Dan, Tyson, Lewis and I have always treated each other like we were family, and over the last five years of being so close, our band started to feel a lot like a book we had all written together. It’s a collection of the life and memories we’ve shared in the band this far, our tour stories and bad jokes, our sorrows and nostalgia.
The postcards and pictures, our endless array of worn out rock-band t-shirts, stickers and pins that adorn our bodies, the interior of our filthy ‘96 Chevy Beauville (named Van Halen) and instrument cases. It’s a collection of every little detail right down to our lowest and most embarrassing, our “I quit music” moments, up to our happiest and most
vulnerable, our “Remember that time we played a show to 20 kids in that haunted Bowling Alley?” moments. It’s a simple idea that we all fell in love with and made sure to include in every song on the record.
‘Flec: What do you think the most important aspect of the player’s dynamic within the band is?
JK: Like any good rock band, who isn’t using computers, samples or a click track to enhance their live performance—‘old school’ as we call it—the most important aspect of the player’s dynamic should always be knowing your role in the band. You should know every part of every song you play every night like the back of your hand and keep it that way. You should know when to bring the energy up and when to bring it down. You should know how to read each other on stage and
together be able to make the song into a living, breathing thing. There really is no room for sloppiness these days, especially when it comes to a live performance. Oh, that, and facial hair. Facial hair is important if you’re a band of dudes who look like us when they’re clean shaven, hideous. Facial hair covers all of nature’s cruellest mistakes.
‘Flec: If you had to choose a favourite track from the latest album which would it be and why?
JK: Our favourite track from Collections would definitely have to be “Narrow Miss.” We wrote this song back in 2009 within weeks after finishing up our first album Working, and we even toured with it in our set that entire year. Back then, it was kind of this thrashy pop-punk song with a million different riffs and arrangements that didn’t really make any sense, just kind of a shout out to our punk rock roots, but hot damn, was it fun to play. After awhile, we retired it, all in agreement that if we were to continue to include it in our sets we would have to give it a bit of revision. Almost three years later, during preproduction for Collections, we decided to give it another chance. We slowed it down, added a couple new parts, kept it simple. It’s basically the same delayed guitar riff, vocal melody and lo-fi drum beat through the entire song, but with subtle changes to
keep it interesting. Our producer on the album, Adam Sutherland, contributed a lot to the song as well and we just all kind of had fun with it. We’re happy to have it back.
‘Flec: Can you write a haiku describing AOL’s sound please?
JK: But of course: teenage angst at play high school was no fun at all the kids get up fast
Acres Of Lions will play The Palomino on March 15, so check them out in a small venue while you still can. You might be able to brag about it one day soon.