Alberta Cross: Rise From The Shadows

We are very much a live band. We always wanna be out on the road playing for people. We can take songs out a bit. All my favorite bands create an experience where one song that's like three minutes [in the studio] will end up being like seven minutes. Just give people something different every night. I've seen a lot of bands that play the same things every night. I could never live my life like that.

-Petter Ericson Stakee

Music fans are so much more demanding these days. It's good that you guys wanna push the envelope every night and give the fans a little something different. Seems like the bands that are making it as live acts these days all stretch the boundaries in some way.

The industry's changed; it's all about the live show now. It's nice to throw out a record, but at the end of the day, our label really wants us on the road so we can get out to people. You don't really sell records in stores anymore, you go out and promote, like back in the old days. I think it's great. That's the world I want to live in. Playing keeps me sane.

ATO Records doesn't seem to sign anyone unless they can cut it out on the road. Bands like My Morning Jacket and Gov't Mule are road-tested and know very much what they're doing to give the crowd something fresh every night.

Yeah, definitely.

Alberta Cross
Who were you listening to on the tour bus this summer, as far as newer artists, and also what older artists have helped form your sound since you and Terry [Wolfers, bass] initially got together and jammed?

I really can't wait to hear the new Yeasayer album. They're really great and they're good friends of ours. I've heard some clips and stuff and it's really awesome.

Yeah, I loved the new stuff I heard at Bonnaroo.

I was standing side stage and thought it was fucking awesome! I think Yeasayer's newer songs are awesome, but I think the new MGMT stuff is fucking horrible. When I heard it I was like, "Oh no!" But who knows, it might be a good album. I like some local bands here in Brooklyn. I like the Black Angels a lot. There's a lot of great music out right now; it's a good time. I love Devendra Banhart. I think he's amazing. He's got a new album coming out. He's got a really good voice, can't wait to hear it. There's always a few songs on his albums I think are fucking fantastic, and a lot of crazier, hippie stuff that's a bit too much. He's definitely a great melody singer. Also, Silversun Pickups I really like these days.

And some of the older artists?

Sonic Youth, just the way they do harmonies with the guitar sounds is quite inspiring. We saw Dinosaur Jr. in New York just before we started recording. We also caught My Bloody Valentine around that time, too; their vibe is the best, amazing. We like the blues stuff, loads of Motown, the Stax recordings. Everyone in the band listens to so much different stuff, it's like a cocktail. Depeche Mode has always been a big one for me. If I just listen to one thing too long I just go crazy. I've been listening to a bunch of hip hop.

What in particular?

I like Wu-Tang Clan.

You heard the new Jay-Z?

Wolfers & Stakee - Alberta Cross
I like it, man. He's a cool dude. I went to see Grizzly Bear a couple weeks ago in Brooklyn and he turned up with Beyoncé. It was pretty awesome. He must be a cool guy.

If you could collaborate with a person or a band who would it be?

I don't know. It would definitely not be hip hop, because I hear The Black Keys are doing the hip hop thing. All the names are awesome, it might be great, but it could definitely sound weird with the blues and hip hop. Beck has been doing some really cool stuff releasing cover albums on his website, doing [Leonard] Cohen and Velvet Underground. I like all the people he got together. Beck is just fantastic. He got MGMT in there, Devendra Banhart. It's definitely something I would like to do, get together with some great musicians like that.

You mentioned earlier, if you weren't out there on the road doing something different every night you'd have to get a day job. What kind of job would you see yourself in?

I don't know, man. I suppose it'd be cool to be out in the middle of nowhere doing something cool, like doing art in the woods. Or if everything drove me mad, I could see moving to Japan and becoming an English teacher or moving to Argentina and do something random [laughs]. A lot of people I know in signed bands that are touring don't complain a lot; they feel blessed. The one thing people do tend to talk about is the lack of a regular, normal life; everything is weird. When you go out and do music, you don't have a normal pad. People are like, "What day is it? What month is it?" I went in to get a haircut today and said it had only been a month and the barber said it had been four. It had been a while; I started looking like a hippie. That's one thing that comes to mind when I think about what I do miss - the wake up at 9:00 a.m. But I'm guessing after two days of that and going to work I'd hate it and want to go back on the road.

So, you're telling me Alberta Cross doesn't have a hair stylist on staff yet?

[Laughs] Ha, NO WAY!

You and Terry Wolfer's hair were both looking pretty long at Lollapalooza.

Wolfers & Stakee - Alberta Cross
We were saying that we better cut our hair or otherwise we're gonna start looking like Metallica.

What do you think you'll think when you look back at this time 10 or 20 years from now?

It's really exciting, but it's been really tough at times. I've been literally broke for a year. We've had some amazing times and some really hard times. I think we'll look back on it and know that it really inspired the album. The album's really dark and soulful because of this; it's real. Maybe that's why the album sounds pretty strong because it's a reflection of the times we were going through and the times everyone was going through. I dunno, we'll probably look back and have some good and bad memories.

Random question: You grew up in Sweden at a time when the dance-pop world was revolving around your country with Ace of Base and such blowing up in the mid-90s. Did you ever get into any of that stuff at all?

No, not really [laughs]. Ace of Base came out when I was pretty young. My sister probably forced me to listen to it at some point. But, the music that I really got into in Sweden I'm still into. The older generation in Sweden, through my dad and the people he played with, were into the blues guys and the Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, old folk music and some great rock music. The new stuff in Sweden has never really been my thing. I know some people I kind of think are okay. We did a radio show there this morning and they were playing some pretty psychedelic stuff, which I kind of think is cool. But, I can understand the lyrics because I speak Swedish and it's some pretty horrible lyrics, but the music is cool. I've pretty much always hated dance stuff. When I was younger I listened to some crazy stuff, [and] Michael Jackson and Prince, the big time sort of people everyone was listening to. I think people are in desperate need of some real fucking rock albums.

The indie scene seems to have gone heavy on dance-oriented, electronic acts these days. A good jolt back in the rock & roll direction every once in awhile couldn't hurt. What do you think about the indie rock scene's current direction?

Alberta Cross
I really do love bands like Yeasayer; they're just amazing. They've got good, inspiring songs. This scene over here is so much better than at home in London, like awhile back when every band wanted to sound like Joy Division and it killed us. I love Joy Division but when there's 600 bands trying to sound like them just because it's cool to be like that it gets annoying. In New York everyone's got the big drums thing. I do like it, but it might be a bit too much at times, kind of overkill. That's why I liked the new Silversun Pickups when I heard it; sounds like some real rock music. I miss hearing that sorta thing. There's definitely a lack of true rock bands at the moment.

To wrap the interview, could you talk about your band's penchant for improvisation? How do you view bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish that really stretch the limits and create a new piece of music every night?

I'm not like a massive Phish fan or anything, but I love the Grateful Dead. Phish is pretty cool for what they do. As far as what we do, we'll never take it out as much as they do, but I think every band has to stretch it out a bit or every show and every record would sound the same. How boring would that be? Every great artist has to change it up. The Grateful Dead is a great band and look at David Bowie. His albums start up with folky stuff and progressed into something different each time. He's a massive inspiration and we're really working hard to do the same thing with our music. We want to take songs out and rearrange them, mix them up, just jam on them, especially when you're touring America and you're driving around. It takes forever because it's so big, but when you get to the place you definitely want to make it different for every person you play for, and also for yourself because otherwise you'd probably go mad. We're all about that for sure.

Alberta Cross is on tour now; dates available here.

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[Published on: 10/13/09]

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