Catching Up With Alberta Cross
When I sat down with Alberta Cross’s frontman Petter Ericson Stakee at New York City’s Governors Ball, the young Swedish-English-New Yorker has just finished an impressively intimate mid-day show.
Stakee brought his southern rock-influenced songs to the 40-minute set, many of which appear on Alberta Cross’s sophomore album Songs of Patience.
We caught up with Stakee to talk the past three years and the new tracks he’s already eager to start recording.
Paste: Your new album titled Songs of Patience is the collective work of three years. So here, literally and conceptually, patience was the key to this record. What was that process like?
Petter Ericson Stakee: We toured for two years. God, we toured forever on the last record, which was interesting. So yeah, this is the second album and we’ve been putting quite a lot of EPs out but I guess it is like a classic, second album. A lot of people sort of hit a wall with their second record, I have a lot of friends in other bands who’ve hit it too. It was kind of a weird thing to drag down. We went through a lot of different people. We, [bassist] Terry [Wolfers] and myself, started with a different producer and had a whole different band in LA and we felt over the touring, the band began slipping away from us, what we were supposed to be. We started as a two-piece; it’s the view for the band. I write a lot of songs and Terry and I, we bring them together, bounce ideas off. It worked really well. Then we got some new guys in. That whole band thing, we didn’t feel too happy about that. So going into LA with new producers and everything, we just hit a fucking wall.
Paste: It would appear though, creatively, that’s what gave you the record you have now.
Stakee: It was like this weird ongoing struggle and it came to us taking it back to New York and called a friend, who is a great producer, Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Muse) and brought it back to the family. We went through all the songs and retouched them, put some color to them. By taking it back to us, though it took all that time, that’s what feels really great now. We made it our own album. It was something that previously we weren’t as happy with and then out of playing those old songs and new songs we were able to add our soul to it.
Paste: You made something organic and natural to yourself, it shows. The crowd today really seemed to dig the set.
Stakee: That’s what we’re about all the time. We’ve never really thought about what we sounded like. When we started up, people were saying, especially in London, “Oh, that boy bubbled up so quickly.”
And at that time, Terry kind of hit a wall and moved back to his parents place. He was like what, 26, and he was back in his childhood room you know. So we were recording a bunch of songs not thinking anything of it and realized it sounded pretty fucking good and is honest and organic and beautiful. That’s kind of what we’re about.
So it’s great. It took all of that to get what we wanted. The touring was good—good experiences and bad experiences along the way. I wasn’t crying for three years. I had a good time.
Paste: You said Terry was 26, back home, in this weird place personally and artistically. It’s good for other young people, people who are in pursuit to accomplish what you’re doing musically, to hear that.
Stakee: It doesn’t matter how old you are in life. Leonard Cohen was like 33 when he wrote his best album ever you know?
Paste: Of course. So, today’s set at Governors Ball is your 2012 tour opener. It’s a festival show but it’s unique because you’re back in your hometown. How was it being back on stage in New York?
Stakee: It was cool you know. We’ve got another whole new band now so it’s kind of early for us. It feels fresh and I’m really looking forward to seeing where we’re going to take it. There’s a very positive thing going on in the band. We’re jelling as musicians as well as people so it’s a good kick off. It reminds me of all the hot festivals of the past you know. It’s like, “okay cool. Yeah I get it now. Back to hot festivals.” But really, we’re all very excited about this year and this album.
And you know, me and Terry are the band but we flew a drummer from my hometown in Sweden. A guy that I saw him playing drums when he was eleven and I was fourteen, you know. It got back to the blood. He’s like my little brother. And then we’ve got a really good friend playing guitar. And Alec [Higgins] is playing keyboard with us so it feels really good. I can’t wait to crack open the tour in America, really grow as a band even more. And becoming awesome.
Paste: High hopes for you guys.
Stakee: Yeah, and this record took so long, I pretty much have the next record written. Instead of being behind, I’m very ahead. I just never wanted to feel like that again. Songs of Patience took us three years, I feel like the next one is going to come out like, next summer very soon. I want to put some new music out as soon as possible. I feel very hungry.
Paste: How was the recording process? Are you more partial to live performance?
Stakee: I love it. It kind of comes back to what I was saying before. I think why it took so long when we were recording and all that stuff when I write a song I write it with a clear idea of how I want it to sound. I am a producer myself, so I got a clear thing. And we had this big name come in who tells you how to do shit – well, we’ve never been a band like that. And that’s why Thief and Heartbreaker was so good because it was straight from the core. It was from the heart. So I feel like this album is back to what we’re about.
So coming back, I love being in the studio when it’s me, Terry and Claudius. He’s going to be with us forever, literally in my family in a way. He’s done a bunch of good stuff, he’s got a lot of experience and being with a guy like him is great.
I love being in the studio to sum it up. But I love to be in the studio when I can work with people I connect with. I can’t wait to get into again. I’m hoping to get into the studio this year. After the tour I’m going to try to convince all our dudes and girls and our team to go all in.
Paste: Your description of your crew is family-centric.
Stakee: Yes. That’s right. And I guess I kind of grew up with that, my music family. When we started my brother was playing the keyboard for the first two years and he is my brother, he’s family. So ever since, I’ve felt that. Me and Terry are like brothers, we’re blood. It’s an important thing. There’s no other way for me.
Paste: Tell me about “Create of Gold.”
Stakee: When I wrote that song, I knew it was going to be a stomper. I’m glad we have that one on the record. I write songs like “Lay Down” and “Magnolia,” I write shit like that all the time but then you have to have the break out tracks. The rock tracks that sort of break away. The lyrics in that one are a bit more like I’m writing about something. It’s more about the whole Wall Street thing a little bit. For me, it’s more of a groove.
But I love them all. The album really fits in the summer now. We’re doing July here in America and then Europe after for a bunch of their festivals. I can’t wait to see what the songs we’re not playing, what’s going to happen with them. We missed quite a few summer festivals here in America because they were so early and our record wasn’t out yet. I prefer to put the record out, let it build momentum, and then tour.
Paste: If you stick around for the rest of the festival, who are you eager to see?
Stakee: Devendra [Banhart]. I love Devendra. And Beck too. I don’t think I’ve actually seen Beck live. I really dig his band.
Paste: And after the festival?
Stakee: Oh, I don’t even want to look at my schedule now, it’s turning into madness. What happens is, you start and you know you’re going to be busy but it’s only, “oh, we’re going to be doing a month tour in July” and you’re like, “cool alright.” I look at my schedule and I’m booked up until the twentieth of December and I know it’s just going to keep on booking up. I produced some stuff before this with this guy Damien Peirce, he’s an amazing new artist, and you know, I love to do different things so who know what else will pop up. Right now we’re really trying to focus on the tour and the album.