If your ears work, you can’t not have fun at a Smalltown DJs gig. That’s a scientific fact. Look it up. The Canadian duo’s uncanny ability to make crowds feel like schoolkids at recess stems naturally from their focus on maximizing fun for themselves.
‘We’re just out to consistently have the best time possible,’ says Pete Emes, who shares space behind the decks with partner Mike Grimes. This fun maximization philosophy is the unifying force be-hind the Smalltown’s genre-warping club sets, which tend to cover vast musical territory but never veer from the good times vibe.
In their focus on music as a means of letting loose and having fun, Smalltown DJs are like the KISS of dance music. Actually, KISS are too theatrical. They’re more like AC/DC. Meets Raffi. At a water-slide park. With a lot (a LOT) of beer.
The Smalltown story goes like this. Emes and Grimes met in the late nineties and discovered a shared interest in funky breaks and baggy pants. Emes at the time was moonlighting as a deejay while working full-time as a geologist for an oil company. Grimes, a former snowboarding prodigy (he’s on the inside cover of the very first Transworld Snowboard mag) was toiling in a skate/show shop. Joined by a love of imposing their musical tastes on others, the two started playing records out together.
Before long they had launched Hai Karate, a weekly Thursday smash-up that’s still going strong. Now in its tenth year, Hai Karate is a free-for-all dance party that borrows a little from each of the scenes that shaped the Smalltown sound – community hall punk rock, block party hip-hop and early nineties rave.
The long-running night is now hosted at HiFi Club, the Calgary nightspot that the Smalltowners opened with a partner in 2005. The HiFi is but one part of the indie empire that Emes and Grimes have built in their homeland. They also own a record label (Bigfoot), a record store (Phonics) and a clothing store (Giant 45).
The way the deejay thing is going, it’s hard to grasp how they have time for anything else. Aside from weekly residencies at HiFi and EyeCandy Soundlounge in Las Vegas, Smalltown DJs have showcased at SXSW in Austin, toured Canada with Brooklyn’s The Rub, played Thievery Corporation’s club in Mexico several times, performed at a bunch of festivals including Lollapalooza and Shambhala, and toured Europe on a swing that included a gig at Fabric in London.
That was just 2008.
Equally at home playing intimate private jams or massive festivals, Smalltown DJs have have hosted and played alongside a huge array of talent, including Afrika Bambaataa, Dj Assault, Jeru the Damaja, Diplo, Tommie Sunshine, Spankrock, Chromeo, The Rub DJs, A-Trak, XXXchange, Low Budget, James Lavelle, Z-Trip, Fort Knox Five, and more.
On the production side, the duo has released several blends, remixes and re-edits that have been getting play all over the world. Recently they teamed up with Wax Romeo to create Smalltown Romeo, a new production supergroup focused on making fun dance music with a sense of humour. Not surprisingly, Smalltown Romeo’s production style resembles the squad’s approach to deejaying – polymorphous, party-focused and pretension-free.
Smalltown DJs’ quest to maximize fun for themselves and others is an ongoing saga. They continue to tour relentlessly. Look for them in your town soon.