Story by Mary McComish
X-Fest has always been my favourite event of the summer. You, your friends, the outdoors and two full days of music: what could be a better way to end your summer? I first started going to X-Fest in 2012, when it was still a one-day festival. It started hailing during Mutemath but the band continued playing as the storm pounded on the crowd. Later that day, I sang my heart out during fun.’s “We Are Young”. Yeah, it’s safe to say my love affair with the festival started there.
With the festival now in its fourth year, X-Fest has its biggest lineup yet with headliners such as Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys. But Alberta music fans were probably most excited when X-Fest announced the (slight) return of Alberta rock band, the smalls.
Being a fan of local music, I was incredibly excited to talk to the smalls’ vocalist, Mike Caldwell about the band’s past, present and future.
Caldwell grew up in Taber with bassist Corb Lund (who now has a very successful country career) and they both attended Grant MacEwan University where they met the other two members of their band, guitarist Dug Bevans and drummer Terry Johnson, who also hailed from small Alberta towns, Leduc and La Glace.
“We met each other and became friends and started jamming and writing eventually,” said Caldwell, talking about the band’s formation. “Once we got a bunch of songs written, we played a live show. We did a few of those and then we did our first record and that’s kind of how it came about.”
The smalls were going strong right until 2001 when they called it quits. They played two final shows and disbanded. “Overall, it had just kind of run its course,” says Caldwell. “It had been the biggest thing for ten years. We were still playing the same size venues and the same towns and selling the same amount of discs. It wasn’t really ramping up. We were happy with what we were doing musically and things like that but it just started to wear on all of us.”
But 13 years later, they’re back. Over the years, the band kept in touch and after planning years in advance for a reunion, they found time where everyone rehearse and make a reunion happen.
“We talked about getting back together and we nailed down a time frame when everybody could commit to being available to rehearse and play some gigs,” said Caldwell. “We hired a publicist and an agent to see what was available for gigs. Pretty much, it [X-Fest] just happened to be the first thing that came up.”
They’re calling it a “slight” return with only four shows announced so far. They’ll be playing X-Fest on Saturday, Edmonton’s SONiC BOOM on Sunday, Toronto on October 18 and Vancouver on November 7. The band has more shows planned for around the Toronto and Vancouver dates.
“I think we all think that we fit into being back together and relearning the songs and hiring the people, the agents and the publicists and all that,” says Caldwell. “It only makes sense to do more shows and try to reach more people. Make it a little bigger than just four shows. That’s what to come. They’re not finalized yet but it’s safe to say that a lot of the towns we visited back in our heyday, we’re gonna try to get back to.”
But while we have shows planned from the band, will we get new music?
“We don’t really have any plans to write new music,” said Caldwell. “I mean, you never know what happens when you get the guys together. There could be some creative juices that flow. We’re just trying to get the old stuff together.”
You can still get tickets for X-Fest on the festival’s website. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this piece of Alberta history in the making.
Mary McComish is a journalist born and raised in Calgary and is a freelance writer/graphic designer and full time music junkie. McComish is an animal rights activist, feminist and a fan of all things creative.