CMW Preview: Acres of Lions (Interview)

Acres of Lions @ Sneaky Dee's, 07-12-12


I had the pleasure of chatting with Dan Ball of Acres of Lions back in December. Acres of Lions had just finished playing their set at Audio Blood’s 4th anniversary and holiday party at Sneaky Dee’s.

When we chatted, the band had just finished up day 4 of recording at Revolution Recording, a room that Ball referred to as, “just the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in.” The band, at this point, was ahead of schedule, as they had allocated 4 days for drums and drummer Shane Deyotte was able to hammer out his parts in 3 days. The band apparently took advantage of it by recording grand piano. Acres of Lions had enlisted Brian Moncarz (Moneen, Circa Survive, The Reason) to produce the album and Ball was obviously very excited about the beginnings of the album taking shape as he was practically talking a mile a minute.

If you’re unfamiliar with the band, Ball actually gave me a rundown of the band’s history. “The band started in September 2006. We had our first show. And we had our first release out in 2009 – Working. Working was a collection of songs that me and Jeff [Kalesnicoff], our lead singer, had worked on. Our next album Collections was a follow-up to that. We did them both with the same producer, so they have a similar sound. This one is going to be a departure, not a radical one, but a departure nevertheless. It’s going to be a little bit more raw, a little bit more rockin’. I think the tunes have kind of grown with age with us as well. We’ve been in this band for 7 years now. The tunes are not the same tunes we would’ve written when we were 19 years old when we started the band. There’s a little bit more thought going into them and I just think they’re all just really quality, good rockin’ tunes. Emphasis on the rocking.”

Ball continues to emphasize their live show. “The last 2 albums, the albums were super, super studio-like albums. We went in there with that intention with our producer Adam Sutherland. We sat down together to create a whole concept, a whole album or feel for the album, whereas our live show is a little more raw and rockin’, but I feel like there’s definitely a gap to be bridged with this new album, that’s going to have the elements of our last albums but also elements of our live show. I believe that we’ve always been a live band first and a recorded band second. We love to tour. We’ve been on tour for 10 months, played 125 shows in 2012. So we love playing live, that’s where we just get our kicks and we love doing it. We don’t go into the studio for great lengths of time, not that it’s an afterthought, but definitely we enjoy being a live band and enjoy people seeing us play live.”

Acres of Lions is from Victoria, BC and Ball describes the music scene as “unique.” He discusses the difficulty of playing outside of Victoria. “It’s about 100 km from Vancouver, Vancouver being a big hub of BC. So that 100 km turns into – let’s say you wanna go see a show – it’s 90 minutes on the bus, 2 hours on the ferry – if you catch the ferry on time – and then 90 minutes to downtown Vancouver. So you’re looking at 5 hours to get to Vancouver. Last boat leaves at 9:00, so you gotta find a place to spend the night – call up your buddies, do whatever. And because of that, it’s prohibitive to bands from Victoria to go over and play the mainland unless you’re willing to put in the effort to do it, which isn’t a big deal. But also, we could play Victoria on Saturday night and everybody could wake up at 7am to go to work on Sunday. In Vancouver, it’s more difficult. If it’s a Tuesday night show, everybody works on Wednesday. It’s like we’re showing up late. We’re catching the first boat at 7am, getting up at 6am to make that boat hopefully or sleeping in the terminal. So because of that, Victoria has its own culture, its own venues, its own bands.”

There is a bright side of being from Victoria and that is the tight-knit group of friends and fellow musicians that support each other. Ball shouts out Current Swell, Aidan Knight and Jon and Roy, as well as JP Maurice and Steph Macpherson.

And while Acres of Lions is proud to be from Victoria, Ball also remarks, “At the same time we feel like we’ve travelled so much and we’ve enjoyed travelling. This is probably our 3rd or 4th time in Toronto this year. And it’s like every place we show up dubs us as, you know, home town people. I don’t feel alienated in any place in Canada. We show up in Regina, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax… they take us under our wing. Canada is our home, not necessarily Victoria.”

The band travelled outside of Canada in 2012, as well, with 2 trips to the UK. Ball says, “We just got back from London, actually. That was an amazing experience. We got signed to 2 labels – Fierce Panda and Alcopop! Records. Collections came out on November 23rd over there. So we went over there to support that and played about 7 shows. We went over in March and played about 4 shows. It was a great experience, a good time. We met a lot of cool bands, a lot of cool people, and we’re just really looking forward to making it back there, especially because I have at least 10 pounds in change that I don’t really want to exchange. Next year we’re planning at trip back over there with the new album.”

Acres of Lions is also signed to Bullion Records in Japan, but they have yet to make it out there. Ball says, “Fingers and toes crossed, we get to go over there, but we’re not holding our breath either. We’ve been so lucky and so happy to be doing what we’re doing that we’re not counting out chickens. We’re just so happy that we’ve managed to get the support we have and stuff like that.”

After all their touring, I press Ball for a drunken story, knowing that some fun stuff must come along with their travels. After some debate as to who to embarrass, Ball decides it’s best he embarrasses himself rather than his bandmates.

He starts, “So this one time we were in Edmonton and we were doing pre-production in August for our new album. It was just 2 weeks off we had after a couple of festivals and Tyson’s brother went on vacation with his 3 little kids. His house was open, so he’s like, “you boys live in this.” So we’re living in it and we get up at about 10 o’clock in the morning and go to work at 11 until about 9 o’clock at night, writing songs, playing, jamming, recording… just having a good time. This being 9 o’clock at night, I decided I feel like I could use a drink. So I head out to Philthy McNasty’s in Edmonton, one of our favourite bars. We played there a few times and we know all the guys. The beer is just $2.75 a pint, plus guys buying them for me. And I’m feeling the effects, right.”
Already, I know the story is about to take a turn for the worst.

Ball then describes what happens when he leaves the bar. “I see this bike on the side of the road and I’m like, “that would get me home so much faster.” I pick up this bike and I’m just cruising. I burn it on this bike and I finally make it over to the street that connects over and it’s downhill. And then I realize that this thing does not have any breaks on it. I manage to clip my handlebars on a lamppost and start tumbling… I left the bike there, walked the other 5 blocks home and just do not feel good. I get home and Jeff is just finishing up some vocals or something downstairs and he goes, “What the fuck happened to you?” He takes a bottle of Caesar vodka and rubs in on my elbow and I just go to bed. I’m just like, “oh no, I’m fine.” I wake up in the morning – bruised ribs, just dying.”

Ball then adds that he was okay, other than the bruised ribs, but that he wanted to clarify an important point in that he did not steal the bike. He found it.

As far as the band’s shot of choice, Ball quickly says it’s whiskey.

You can connect with the band on all their social media sites, but I highly recommend you check out their YouTube channel to keep up with their antics, as well as great acoustic covers from Kalesnicoff.

There are many opportunities for fans to check out Acres of Lions at Canadian Music Week. The band has 2 main showcases: Thursday at The Dakota Tavern at 11pm and Friday at The Tranzac (backroom) at 8:30pm. There are a bunch of other times you can catch the band, too. On Thursday you can catch them at CBC Lounge (Marriott) at 3pm (delegates only) and at June Records at 5pm. On Saturday, you can check them out at Of A Kind at 2:30pm, Sonic Boom at 7pm, and the Concierge Lounge (Marriott) at 10:15pm.

We recommend you give Acres of Lions’ new single “Bright Lights” a listen to get you amped up for the release of Home(s) on April 2nd via Cordova Bay. Also, check out the video for “Reaction” below, their big hit from Collections, which is actually a finalist at the International Songwriting Competition.

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Categories: Canadian Music Week 2013, Interviews

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