Well-travelled Acres of Lions embraces emo
It’s hardly a shock that when the Straight gets hold of Tyson Yerex, the Victoria-based musician isn’t at home. He’s on his way there, on a ferry from the mainland, but the Acres of Lions keyboardist and guitarist won’t be staying long. His band has been on the road for the past four months, almost solidly. “We’ve only been back to Victoria two or three times,” Yerex says, “and only for a day or two.”
By the time this article sees print, Yerex and his bandmates—singer-guitarist Jeff Kalesnikoff, bassist Dan Ball, and drummer Lewis Carter—will be off again, playing a string of festival dates, including two gigs on the North Shore. After that, they’ll close out the summer demoing songs for the follow-up to their sophomore album, Collections.
That 2011 release is a thoroughly impressive effort, balanced delicately between tightly surging guitar rock (“Narrow Miss”) and electric-piano-driven sing-along pop (“Reaction”). Kalesnikoff’s soaring vocals and soul-searching lyrics push numbers such as “Kids” and “Celebration” squarely into the realm of emo. That’s a word the band quite unabashedly uses to describe itself, showing an admirable disregard for whether it’s fashionable or not.
“You gotta be who you are,” Yerex says. “For us, we’re guys who came from a punk-rock background where we played in faster punk bands. With Acres of Lions we still have a bit of that vibe, but it’s with a bit more of a pop-rock approach. When I’m describing our band, I want people to know what we sound like. We do sound like Jimmy Eat World and Motion City Soundtrack and some of those bands. I think we do have maybe a little bit more Canadiana indie rock mixed in there. But people are going to label you what they label you, and at the end of the day it’s just words to describe your sound. I just want people to check out the tunes. Maybe emo isn’t cool anymore, I don’t know. But things go in cycles, and maybe by the time we’re super-famous it will be cool again. So we’ll just wait that one out and we’ll see who’s right.”
In the meantime, there’s more touring to do. The fall will see Acres of Lions re-upping with JobFest, an initiative of the provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. JobFest is a travelling rock show and career-exploration fair that the group was already a part of from April to July, visiting areas of northern B.C. that Yerex never thought he would see.
“We were over on Haida Gwaii for about a week, the Queen Charlotte Islands,” he says. “We were all the way up to Dease Lake, to Fort Nelson, Fort St. John. Pretty much every dot on the map in B.C.; if you point at it, I’ve been there at least a couple of days and found out what it was about, and made a lot of new fans.”
Seeing far-flung corners of the province and meeting great people weren’t the only advantages of that three-month trek. There was also the opportunity to go off the grid. “The cell companies don’t have the best coverage in some of these places, so I would go for literally a week at a time where I couldn’t even check my email, let alone have somebody call me,” Yerex says. “And that was a vacation in itself.”
Acres of Lions plays West Vancouver’s John Lawson Park on Sunday (August 5) as part of the Harmony Arts Festival. The band also plays at North Van’s Lonsdale Quay Market on Monday (August 6) at 1 p.m. as part of SummerFest.