Published on February 29th, 2016 | by The Editor


The Smalls: Forever is a Long Time

The smalls: forever is a long time is a new film about the legendary Western Canadian musical icons the smalls, capturing their long-awaited reunion tour.  

Forever whatever. Never say never. The door never fully closes. The smalls: forever is a long time is a testament to that sentiment.

The smalls were back, briefly in 2014, after a 10 year hiatus. They said, “Goodbye Forever” in 2001, bidding a decade of independent punk/metal dominance in the west adieu. In their absence it felt as though their legend and the musical myth only grew stronger. Their stamp on a whole generation of people that identified with their DIY prairie-stubborn music is indelible. The “Slight Return” reunion tour in 2014 allowed many fans to close the emotional loop, revisit their own memory triggers, and give new audiences a rare opportunity to see one of the greatest sounds and bands of the Canadian west one final time.

On The Couch

Filmmakers Trevor Smith and John Kerr, via Crowsnest Films, and an agile set of talented crew from Alberta shot a feature length documentary about the journey from rusty rehearsals and early Toronto jitters through to an inevitable teary farewell again in Edmonton. Both a loving smalls tribute and a current study of the complex act of looking back, the smalls: forever is a long time is itself touring the Canadian west in cinemas. And in true smalls’ fashion, the film team is doing it themselves as well. Fuck national distribution, fuck Toronto. Give ’em what they want. One town at a time.

John Kerr, one of the film’s producers and head of Crowsnest Films suggests:

“Toronto just doesn’t get it. I don’t know why, but they don’t. I think it goes beyond lyrics and music. There is a rural Western Canadian sensibility or something that the smalls are certainly dialed into and sometimes seem like they are channeling. Whatever it is, it seems to drop off the face of the earth somewhere just East of Thunder Bay or Sudbury and I think that for whatever reason, people in those parts of the country just don’t seem to relate to the smalls in the same way or identify with them and their music as strongly as do people of a certain generation from the West ….  The smalls embody something uniquely Albertan or Western Canadian. There’s something distinctly rural and real and raw about their music. Nobody can quite put their finger on it. It’s not metal and it’s not punk and it’s not country, but it is at times each of those things and more. Really, it’s art. And it’s beautiful and truthful and unique. There was always an energy at their shows that was unmistakable. They built a fan base town by town. And now a lot of those kids that went to their shows back in the 90s have kids of their own and never will forget the experience the smalls gave them when they were young.”

the smalls - forever is a long time

The film opens in Saskatoon at The Broadway March 4th for a week’s run. This is on the heels of a World Premiere at Calgary’s International Film Festival, a hometown celebration in Edmonton’s northwestfest, a carried over two week run in Calgary, a Nelson presentation by country star Corb Lund, Victoria’s Film Festival, and with the expectation of more dates in Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Fernie and anywhere else an art house cinema is willing to risk it. It’s been a tough slog, but the filmmakers would have it no other way.

“At this point we are almost embracing the underdog profile,” says director Trevor Smith. “This Kickstarted and self-financed project is punching above its weight in theatres right now, and we are thrilled to finally find and cultivate our audience. Smalls fans are making a statement one more time— this shit matters to people. It’s the stuff of prairie legend. It defined many of us.”

As the film’s synopsis summarizes:

We all had a tour shirt. At least it seemed that way. That easily identifiable patch on either the crotch or across both breasts. That standard square logo you instantly recognized as the one and only, guaranteed to tear-your-face-off, unique, voice bending, galloping sound of time shifting riffs from the band known as the smalls. In a time before digital visibility and worldwide web accessibility, this band set the Canadian standard for excellence in rabid curiosity and enigmatic reputation. Who were these giants in winter boots and John Deere hats? Small town enigmas. Metal. Punk. Country. Jazz. One of a kind.

The smalls were a legendary musical phenomenon in western Canada. After saying Goodbye Forever, and 13 years apart, they reformed for one last redemptive tour—closing the loop internally as bandmates, estranged friends, and with their long-adoring fans. Forever is a long time after all. From rekindled beginnings to a sold-out tour coast to coast, this film explores the journey of memory, age, and power of music to erase the years for player and fan alike.

This documentary is really about the wisdom that comes with time, and the recognition that the “glory years” behind us are not to be lamented and missed, but in the case of the smalls — celebrated for the great accomplishments and wide spanning influence on a generation.

They mattered to tens of thousands of young, alienated western Canadian youth — particularly in smaller markets — and did it with accessible grace, attitude, and a stubborn DIY work ethic. This is not a story of failure and glass ceilings, but rather of great success and self-actualization.

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