Career fair to connect youth with employment counselling
Jeff Kalesnikoff knows about working tough jobs. As a teenager growing in West Kootenays, between Nelson and Castlegar, he worked at the family lumber mill – first on clean-up crew on weekends and then in the sort yard, hauling lumber.
“I did that for three years and every day it was awful,” said the lead singer for the band Acrs of Lions. “It was probably one of the worst experiences because I was still a kid working with guys who were twice my size, twice my age, lifting 50 pound boards over my head every single day.
“I hoped I would get somewhere with, like I would run some machinery and get ahead in the lumber industry. Then music took over and I moved out of town with Dan and started the band.”
Kalesnikoff’s tale is one of a young man eschewing a blue collar career in search of dreams of playing music. After leaving the mill in 2006, he and his friend Dan Ball packed their bags and moved to Victoria where they met drummer Lewis Carter and started the band Acres of Lions. Tyson Yerex was later added as the band’s second guitarist and keyboard player.
The band has been together for six years and their dedication is starting to pay off. 2012 has been a year of constant touring for them and they were chosen as the headlining act for the B.C. government’s JobFest tour.
The JobFest tour has all the trappings of a concert tour, including T-shirts, souvenir drumsticks and guitar picks, and two inflatable tents that look like giant amplifiers. Stops in 50 B.C. communities will include a rock band, local community performers and speakers, with the tents serving as mobile career resource centres.
“We’re going into some of the smallest communities in the province, First Nations communities, non-aboriginal communities to really share with the youth of the province what sorts of careers are available to them,” said Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell when the tour was announced.
Job resources that are part of the tour include iPad apps that guide users through a four-stage questionnaire to narrow down their possible career choices, and computers to link users to a network of websites for detailed information.
For Acres of Lions, JobFest represented a chance to tour full-time and earn a regular paycheque. “It was a chance for us to play music full-time,” said Kalesnikoff. “Go out on the road, get paid a small sum for playing music every day and that’s what we always wanted to do.
“It got us in the headspace to continue the constant touring and full-time job aspect of being in a band.”
Acres of Lions played mostly local shows for its first three years of existence, and the band members worked various jobs in kitchens, construction and offices to make ends meet.
In 2009 the band released its debut album, Working, on Victoria’s Cordoba Bay Records. They billed themselves as an emo band, with influences like Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids and Death Cab for Cutie.
It’s 2011 follow-up, Collections, saw the band’s music go in a more indie-pop direction. “We definitely wanted more of an indie sound,” said Kalesnikoff. “But we still take direct influence from all the bands we grew up listening to. We like to include that nostalgic field in our music.”
Their efforts garnered them a spot in Music BC’s ‘Top 20 Bands in BC’ rankings as part of the Peak Performance Project.
When I spoke to Kalesnikoff they were in Edmonton working on songs for a third album between stints out tour with JobFest; the band took part in JobFest’s northern B.C. stint in the spring.
The band has global aspirations – Collections was released in Japan earlier this year and will be issued in the U.K. by Fierce Panda records in October. The band is planning a tour there to coincide with its release. After that, they’re planning a cross-Canada tour to Toronto where they will record their third album.
“Being in this band, this is our job now, this is what we’re trying to make into our career,” said Kalesnikoff. “It takes a lot of sacrifices but it’s very rewarding to be in this creative position.”
Are you not sure what to do with yourself after school? Come out to JobFest in Queen Elizabeth Park on Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 2-8 p.m. Acres of Lions will be headlining the career fair.