Who is Alberta Cross? Let’s clear the air with a few quotes. The New York Times describes their guitar-work as “seismic,” Rolling Stone called them “Brit-pop grandeur,” and everyone from NPR to Esquire have showed them some love. We are also big fans — we placed Alberta Cross in our 25 Best New Bands in the World feature.
Fronted by Swedish rocker Petter Stakee and UK bassist Terry Wolfers, with Sam Kearney on guitar, Austin Beede on the drums, and Alec Higgins on keys, the band is currently on tour promoting their debut full-length Broken Side Of Time. Alberta Cross seems to us like a slow burner band—one not necessarily poised for smash hit breakthrough success, but one that will build a strong, steady and loyal following of blues enthusiasts.
Despite some early label problems, Alberta Cross’ strong composition, incendiary blues riffs, and lead singer Petter’s wailing Jack White-esque voice are all big selling points that have made us fans. Petter recently was busy on a hectic tour but found some time to chat with us over the phone about what’s been going on with the band.
Hey Petter, how’s it going?
Good. I’m out in Florida this week – I’m walking along the beach. First day off in like, two weeks. We’ve been touring for awhile.
Aren’t you touring with Them Crooked Vultures?
We’re doing a week by ourselves now, then we’re doing a week leading into the Them Crooked Vultures gigs, and then we’re doing10 dates with them.
Tell me about the name of the band, Alberta Cross, and how you guys came about.
The name is an anagram…
What’s it an anagram for?
Can’t say… it came up as an anagram thing. We started up the band in London probably about four years ago now, me and Terry the bass player. We recorded an EP, went touring, had a bit of a breakdown, and wanted to get out of [our label]. So we flew to NY and did the CMJ festival and fell in love with the place, and we decided within like two weeks to move to New York.
That’s a pretty spur-of-the-moment decision.
Yeah, we were kind of tired of the London scene and there was not much going on, we felt like there were too many bands sounding like Interpol or the Libertines.
You’re originally from Sweden and were in London for a while right? What was missing in those scenes that made you come to the US? When people think of Sweden for example they think of ABBA or Ace of Base, which are very polished sounds…
Yeah, that’s kind of why I moved to London in the first place. I lived in London for ten years. I moved there when I was in my midteens or whatever. It’s good music coming from Sweden, it’s a lot of good stuff. I can respect a lot of what’s coming out of it. But for me, personally, it’s a bit too polished. It’s more of a pop industry there, you know?
Were you consciously fleeing that then?
Yeah, I was never too into it. I grew up in a music family as well. My dad was playing the rock, the blues and my brother was really into Depeche Mode and synth stuff so since birth I was brainwashed and it led in another direction you know? I moved to London because I was really into the brit-pop bands, and there was a lot of original, great stuff coming out of England but in the last few years we’ve grown a bit mental, like the scene was just… pushed in a horrible way. And everyone tried to be in that scene, you know?
The big difference in all the bands that come out in New York or a lot of places in America, they just do their own thing. Every band sounds super different, which I find more inspiring.
Do you think there’s now a Brooklyn music scene that people are starting to get lumped into the same way there is in Sweden or London?
There’s some sort of scene going I guess. I don’t mind that much, because I feel like it’s in a way, better music. But we’ve never been a part of anything, we’ve always been off doing our own thing. We’re never really in Brooklyn because we’ve been out touring since… I don’t know when, like a year probably [laughs]. So when I’m in New York I’m there for like two weeks and then I’m out again for like three months.
What do you find about the blues genre that is appealing?
I think when I started getting into it, it was so honest and heartfelt. It’s like soul music… it’s just really real. But as a band we listen to so much music. People say we’re like blues which is cool, but this album’s inspired by loads of English music. We listened to My Bloody Valentine, and also New York stuff, we listened to a lot of Sonic Youth and stuff like that. Just a bit of everything, really. There’s a bit of blues in there but I think it’s a lot of other stuff, it’s like a cocktail.
What bands do you find exciting now?
We’ve been touring with a band from Athens, Georgia called Dead Confederate. They’re pretty much our favorite band at the moment, they’re really awesome, they’re going to come out with a new record soon. I like the Black Keys a lot. The new MGMT record I like, I thought that was pretty awesome. I’m thinking about the bigger releases but I also like a lot of smaller bands. There’s another band called Hacienda from San Antonio, Texas who are one of our favorite bands as well.
What are some things you’re into outside of music?
I’m reading quite a lot. Living this life, you don’t really… I got things I like to do, I like to sleep late, I like to read whatever you know? On the road you don’t really have time to do anything and I’ve been on the road for awhile now. When I’m not touring I’m in the studio, writing new music. And that’s what my work and my life is about you know?
Are you and your bandmates kind of sick of each other now, having been stuck in the same van for so long?
[Laughs] We try to find a balance, give each other space. So far, so good.
Wouldn’t that be better? If you hated each other or something, it would probably translate into a better live performance.
We’re kind of lucky we’re a band, because we’re like a family. We’re all in the same situation, we enjoy each other’s company.
Where were you as a band two years ago, and also now, and where do you see yourself in the next two years?
OK, well starting from two years ago till now, we were doing a lot of festivals in England. And two years ago we moved to New York, we met new friends and a new group of people, and we started up our New York life and it was really quite exciting. We were new to New York as well, so it gave us a lot of inspiration. We were just getting started then.
Now, we’re building. We’ve been touring, Europe, here, Australia and Japan, we’ve been touring everywhere really. We’re doing exciting tours like Them Crooked Vultures and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, plus we’ve got some more festivals coming up. Right now we’re still playing a lot and I’m trying to write… we’ve been touring this album for awhile, so we wanna get some new songs to go in. So now we’re trying to write as much as we can.
In two years time hopefully we’ll have one or two more albums out, and hopefully we’ll be in a good place. We’ve had two years of playing and getting to know each other, and two years to get better so the future looks pretty exciting.
Is the goal of the band to crossover to mainstream radio?
We definitely don’t have an aim to be on mainstream radio. I don’t want to have a smash hit and tour song for the rest of my life, you know? I think that’s the good thing with America as well, you can tour and do local gigs, and build and build on your fan base.
Photo Courtesy of Alberta Cross