ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 9, 1995
By Steve Newton
Some rock bands dream about being popular enough to play large venues but whine about getting booked in the little, out-of-the-way places on the way up. Not the Smalls, though. You won’t get any complaints out of them when they see locations like Kamloops and Fort McMurray pencilled in on their itinerary.
“That’s not to exclude the larger places,” says vocalist Mike Caldwell, calling from the band’s Edmonton rehearsal space, “but yeah, we have played more smaller cities than a lot of bands doing original music. We like it because we’re all from small towns to begin with, farms and stuff. Corby and I are from near Lethbridge, and the other guys are from northern Alberta, so it’s kind of cool for us to play small places, because in some ways it’s like our roots.”
The four Small guys, all aged 26, met while attending Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton, where Caldwell, bassist Corby Lund, and drummer Terry Johnson were taking music courses and guitarist Dug Bevans was studying art. Finding a common ground between such varied influences as Black Sabbath, speed metal, and country music, the band released its self-titled debut in 1990 (rereleased with new, Cecil English–produced tracks in ’93).
It followed that with 1992’s To Each a Zone, also produced by acclaimed Vancouver knob-twiddler English, known for his work with such alternative idols as D.O.A. and NoMeansNo. The group has managed to sell more than 10,000 units of those first two releases but decided to hire Joel Van Dyke to produce its third one, the new Waste & Tragedy.
“We liked our last one with Cecil English,” notes Caldwell, “but we thought that we wanted a bit more of a heavy-metal sorta sound instead of a punk sound this time. We just went around to some studios, and [Van Dyke] was recommended to us by some people. He did a really good job, actually; it sounds nice and chunky.”
The Smalls recorded one of Waste & Tragedy’s tracks in Berlin, and the 10 others at Vancouver’s Greenhouse Studio. They recorded away from their Edmonton home base for a couple of reasons.
“We wanted a really heavy, good sound on this one,” says Caldwell. “And also we like to record out of town because it makes it more of a removed experience, to get away and do the thing instead of being around everybody, girlfriends and stuff.”
Local Smalls fans—and devoted travellers from those tiny outlying towns—can experience the band’s latest sound for themselves at the Starfish Room on Saturday (November 11). That’s also the date of Caldwell’s 27th birthday, so he doesn’t feel guilty about asking for a small favour—kind of an early birthday present—before signing off.
“If you wouldn’t mind, maybe you could mention that our album is out on Cargo Records,” suggests the promo-conscious rocker with a chuckle. “You know how that works, eh?”