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Smalltown DJs end wild, year long road trip in Whistler

Calgary duo traversed the country, hit the small screen and released more new tracks than ever in 2012



Sorry couch potatoes, Pete Emes has proved there's no excuse for lazy behaviour.

One half of the Calgary DJ duo, Smalltown DJs, Emes managed to prepare for an Arizona marathon while touring across the country this fall, vices of the road and all. "It's really tough," he said from Arizona a few days before the race last Sunday. "I've been trying to maintain healthy eating on tour, which is difficult. I'm looking forward to it. Just because of touring I haven't been able to train as rigidly as I hoped."

The pair (including Mike Grimes) hasn't had a normal schedule for the last five years as they've travelled around the world to DJ festivals and club shows. Their most recent break from the road was at the beginning of the year when they holed up in their home studios to craft their own electronic dance tracks, which they've slowly been releasing as singles throughout 2012.

"For me, the best moment (of the year) was having all our music come out," Emes said. "We've never had so many releases in one year. It's really fun to see it come through like that."

Though the pair has made their name spinning and remixing other artists' music, Emes added there's no other feeling like playing your own tracks for an eager crowd. "For Mike and myself and Grand Theft, as well, who we're touring with, we all way prefer playing songs we worked on. There's just that satisfaction that goes back to the reason I got into (DJing) and playing music from the start. It's so fun and rewarding to see people getting into something, an idea you had and made happen by creating it in the studio."

They've also enjoyed hearing one of those tracks on both the little and big screens.

"Boom Ha," a dance-inspired hip hop song they released as Smalltown Romeo, collaborating with Calgary producer Wax Romeo, appeared first on the Jonah Hill comedy, The Sitter, then on the HBO hit Girls. The latter was, arguably, the most-buzzed about TV show of the year, though Emes had never heard of it when the opportunity popped up.

"We got hit up by (our) record label and they said, 'We want to sync your song for an HBO show.' We said, 'That's cool.' HBO makes almost exclusively good shows. I kind of forgot about it after that," he said. "After the episode come out I had people hitting me up saying, 'I heard "Boom Ha" on Girls!'"

(His wife, a fan of the show, tracked down the clip to show him.)

International broadcasts aside, the pair has also benefited from the recent rise in profile of electronic dance meagstars like fellow Canadian Deadmau5 and Skrillex — though they've been at the forefront of that scene in Calgary where they've performed together for over a decade and co-own two music venues.

Over the years those gigs have morphed from background party music to "shows that are more like a concert," Emes said. "(The audience) is really invested in it and stoked on what you're doing. It's so much more fun to do it that way."

Whistler crowds have consistently fallen into this category, he added. Smalltown DJs are no stranger to the area, having performed at every event from the Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival to Shaun White's gold metal party with EDM giant Steve Aoki at the Olympics. They'll wrap up their cross-country adventure — dubbed The Good People Tour, which started in Newfoundland this fall — in Whistler at the GLC Dec. 15.

"I feel like when we play Whistler the crowds are pretty cool and open-minded and there's a Shambala element, a Burning Man element. It's a more open-minded spot that we play on a regular basis, which means more fun to me versus some of the biggest cities where people are a bit more serious and rat race-oriented," Emes says. "I don't remember not having a good time in Whistler."

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