Andrew Wedderburn, Joel Nye, Matthew Swann and Aaron Smelski of Hot Little Rocket.
When Hot Little Rocket came to the end of its first reunion show at the Palomino Smokehouse last month, it was clear that the sold-out audience was keen to hear more material.So guitarist Aaron Smelski called out Vive Death!, the raging punk tune that opens the Calgary band’s 2001 full-length debut, Danish Documentary.“We did maybe an hour-and-a-half set or so and saw the crowd was wanting more,” says Smelski with a laugh. “We had another song in our back pocket. So I whispered to (singer Andrew Wedderburn) ‘How about this song?’ He gave me this look that was like: ‘I have spent every ounce of energy I can muster . . . ‘ His face was red, he was sweating.”The four-piece did not play Vive Death! on the particular night, but Smelski says they haven’t ruled it out for their second reunion show, which will be held July 6 as part of the King Eddy’s Stampede lineup. Smelski says that some of the band’s material from its 11-year career still fits like a glove. Some of the punkier material, on the other hand, can be a bit of an endurance test to get through.Smelski, Wedderburn, bassist Matthew Swann and drummer Joel Nye have a little bit of fun with the idea that they have aged in the past decade with the new band photo, which is made up of individual shots of the members looking suitably weary.“I think Matt had the idea of doing a photo-booth idea, with the four different quadrants,” Smelski says. “I think Andrew sent the first one and he had that tired, old look to it. So the three of us just followed his lead. I took a selfie with my cellphone and was like ‘No, I don’t look tired enough.’”This is not to say that the band sounds or looks tired on stage, of course. By all accounts, that night at the Palomino was a super-charged blast from the past for Hot Little Rocket fans. At the King Eddy, the band will be joined by Mark MacArthur and Pat May, who played bass in different incarnations of the band before Swann took over in 2006.Since Hot Little Rocket first went its separate ways back in 2009, Swann has gone on to front Calgary’s Astral Swans. Smelski plays in dream-pop band High Parade. Nye and Wedderburn play in Night Committee.Last Christmas, the four got together at Milk Tiger in downtown Calgary to catch up with each other. The conversation soon turned to a reunion.The band’s 2009 breakup was not acrimonious and all four have remained friends. Formed in 1998, Hot Little Rocket became one of the city’s most beloved bands. Mainstays at Broken City and the Night Gallery, they also released two EPs and four albums, including 2007’s Steve Albini-produced How to Lose Everything. The band toured the country and even played China during its 11-year run.But in 2009, when an opportunity arose to tour Australia, cracks in the foundation began to show.“With bands there is always that artistic, creativity fun side of things,” Smelski says. “But there’s always that part that goes along with it, which is the business part. The needing to play shows, the need to tour, the need to sell merchandise and promote the CD. Over time, the business side took over more than the fun, creative part of it. The stress and strain of that was building up.”When the prospect of Australia came up, there was no consensus.“Getting in the van again or getting on the airplane again started to lose its fun,” Smelski says. “It became work. I think we decided then that maybe it’s best to end it on a good note, on a high. The band was in a good place. We were doing well. It was better to end with the band being in a good space, also just in terms of us getting along as friends. We were still friends and if we kept pushing it there was a good chance things could have gone south.”Smelski says he has always been the “big idea” guy and admits he was less cautious than the others when it came to the reunion plans being hatched over drinks at the Milk Tiger.“I was like ‘What if we played a show? We could always record a 7-inch. We could record a couple songs,’” he says with a laugh. “I’m always going to the ‘Let’s-go-to-Australia’ angle. They said ‘Well, we can at least play a show.’”Beyond the two shows, though, the future is a little unclear.“We don’t know,” he says. “We even had an old record label (ask) ‘Do you guys want to record something?’” Smelski says. “I wouldn’t take it off the table. But it’s also hard juggling time now. Joel and Andrew are in Night Committee and they are busy with that and their families. Matt is really busy with Astral Swans. I guess time will tell. I kind of like that. We’re still good enough friends that we can do this.”Hot Little Rocket will play the King Eddy on July 6 at 11:30 p.m.