Alberta Cross Interviewed by the intrepid Leon Kuebler for indieberlin
After years of touring and the recent release of their self-confessed ‘difficult’ second album, Brooklyn-based rockers Alberta Cross are feeling fresher than ever before. indieberlin caught up with lead singer Petter Ericson Stakee to discuss inspiration, curses and the Occupy Movement.
indieberlin: You’ve recently finished a European festival tour – how did you find it?
Petter Ericson Stakee: It was actually pretty brilliant. We did an American club tour and then went to Europe for the festival tour, which was quite different. I like them both – the festivals are pretty great because there’s such a good vibe as everyone’s in a good mood as they’ve got a weekend off to just go crazy. But I like to do them both. We try to mix everything up – it makes everything a little bit fresher.
IB: Did you have a particular favourite festival in Europe this summer?
PES: They were all really good. I just have a good memory from Europe in general really.
IB: How did Alberta Cross get started? Is it true that you met Terry [Wolfers, bassist] in a pub fight?
PES: Ha! I always hear different stories in these interviews. The pub fight is quite a popular one which could’ve been true. We used to go to this bar in East London and we had friends in common who were managing the place. We used to just go there, hang out and get free drinks for quite a while. After a while we started to speak about music and I asked him to join my old band. On the side I’d started to write a lot of stuff and that just turned into Alberta Cross, I guess.
IB: You’ve been compared with The Band, My Morning Jacket, Kasabian, Kings of Leon, etc. Which bands, if any, do you feel most akin to?
PES: We’re closest to Queen, I think! I think people just like to compare you because…
IB: Because it makes our job easier?
PES: Yeah. I think it’s about journalists just being a little lazy, maybe. Comparing us to Kings of Leon, I mean, is quite hilarious really – probably because we have electric guitars and that’s about it. All of them are good bands though; it’s harder to compare us to Steps!
IB: I remember seeing Alberta Cross at Reading 2007, where the programme notes had described you as being ‘Britain’s answer to Kings of Leon’, and thinking that was pretty inaccurate at the time…
PES: Yeah. I think the same with Kasabian, I don’t think they sound anything like us. I guess it’s rock music, so nothing is miles away, y’know, but nothing is too close either. I think we’re inspired by so much different kinds of music, so I find it very hard when someone asks me what bands have really inspired us. We try to leave it as open as we can.
IB: Talking of influences, you’ve been described as a ‘Brits-in-Brooklyn’ band. Where do you view your home as being? Do you feel a mix of influences from all the places you’ve been in?
PES: We’ve been in Brooklyn for 4 and-a-half to 5 years now, so it definitely feels like home here. But Terry was born in London and I lived there for half my life, so of course that feels like another home. And I’m Swedish, so… We tour a lot, we’re quite restless really, but we’re happy in Brooklyn.
IB: When you’re thinking up your music and when you’re performing, do you feel like it evokes any particular imagery or is intended for any particular environment?
PES: We don’t have one particular source of inspiration, it’s kind of open. It fits in a lot of different places. We tour around the world and it feels good to play it anywhere, really: America, Europe… We toured Japan and Australia, places like that, and those felt like a good place to play too. Bit of Fuji rock in the middle of the mountains in the north of Japan was an amazing place to play!
I feel like our music is quite universal, it’s hard to put a finger on us. Americana is definitely an influence, but our music is also very European.
IB: Do you have a special song-writing process?
PES: I’ve been writing a lot of stuff now – we just got off tour a week ago, and there’s a bit of time before we’re on tour again. Generally if I’m feeling a good vibe I’ll just write a lot of stuff and see what happens. Music and melodies come first, lyrics a little after, but it’s hard to control really.
IB: Your new album, Songs of Patience, came out ‘three band members and five producers later’. Why do you think it was so difficult to make?
PES: I think it was the classic second album, we wanted to try a lot of different things. Over time we realised we should take it back to me and Terry and our friend Claudius, who’s producing it with us. I think it’s always good to try different things and this was a good record to do that on, to find out what we could do. But looking back on it now, I feel like the next record we do will be with Claudius – we’ll take one month and then be done. I already have about 20 new songs and I feel for the next record I just want to bash it out. I don’t want to spend this much time on a record ever again!
IB: Is the record a return to a more authentic Alberta Cross sound then?
PES: Yeah. The record made us a better band, it put us in a better place. We made it sound a bit more organic and we’re proud of the record. I mean, we weren’t in the studio all year, we were touring as well – it wasn’t like we spent five million quid on the record or anything.
IB: When you started coming up for ideas for Songs of Patience you went to old abandoned house in Woodstock, New York. Do you think it cursed you a little?
PES: It cursed us? Haha! Probably… No I think it was actually a good place. I enjoyed it as I was born in a northern place and I can relax like that, but I think Terry really hated it!
IB: “Crate of Gold” off your new album is said to be inspired by the Occupy Movement. With Occupy just passing its first birthday, what are your thoughts on the movement at the moment?
PES: Well our keyboard player Alex has been involved with it a lot. The problem is a lot of people are involved with it and, like anything in politics, no one seems to think the same! So it’s hard for people to agree on anything.“Crate of Gold” for me is one angle on the whole thing, it’s almost a comedy about a Wall Street guy looking out on the people protesting and feeling sorry for himself, but actually being the bastard!
In general, the movement is a good thing. People don’t want anyone else to nick their money! The intention behind it starting was a good thing and when it first came out it was quite exciting to see people not take that much shit. The last thing I heard from Alex is that people are now starting to agree on things more, because there’s a lot of different movements involved. I’m sure it will stick around for a while and keep on growing.
IB: When are you next planning on coming back to Europe?
PES: We’re planning a month long tour of Europe in November, there are just a few things left to be finalised. It felt really good the last time we were there; we were doing the biggest shows we’ve ever done, so it was quite exciting.
IB: Will you be coming back to Berlin?
PES: Definitely. We’ll probably do more of a German tour – hopefully five dates in Germany.
IB: Finally, if you were to describe Alberta Cross as an animal, what would it be?
PES: As an animal? Err… Either a mellow elephant or a lion. I’m a Leo myself so I’d say a lion, but I get the feeling that Terry would say something completely different, like an elephant or a giraffe.
IB: I like the image of a mellow elephant quite a lot.
PES: Yeah, it’s a pretty good life.
Alberta Cross’ new album, Songs of Patience, is now available throughout Europe.
Review by Leon Kuebler.
Photo by Cavie78.