What do you get when you mix an East Londoner and a Swede who share a love of the blues, mix in some early sounds of Neil Young, add a dash of The Band, and sprinkle in a little Van?
I didn’t know until I listened to Alberta Cross’ EP, The Thief and The Heartbreaker, a self-produced mini-album, from songwriters Petter Ericson Stakee and Terry Wolfers.
This duo may reside in East London, but when you hear their album it’s easy to imagine yourself driving down Mulholland Drive circa 1970, with The Santa Ana winds blowing through your hair and some “wacky tabacky” looming in the breeze.
The band’s staggering debut seamlessly blends elements of blues, gospel, and classic rock, along with folk-inspired harmonies and bittersweet lyrics that ooze heartache. On first listen two things occurred to me immediately… the sudden need to go sit on my stoop with a bottle of Jameson, and the fact that Alberta Cross clearly belongs across the Atlantic with us. I sat down with the lads at an East London Pub after their triumphant return from New York City, where they had won over the CMJ set. They were still amused over their Big Apple adventures and were looking forward to writing more songs for their first full-length in the wilds of the Welsh countryside.
Have u been been touring for quite a while now?
Petter: Since January, so we’ve been playing on and off since then. We did all the festivals and various tours before that. This year we went out with loads of great bands,The Shins, Bat For Lashes, The Earlies, Albert Hammond Jr.… It’s been a lot but it’s been great. When you release a proper album you tour England, Europe and America. Since we’ve just got the mini album now we’ve toured England to promote it and have a foundation in various countries, so next time when the proper album is released, it’s going to be easier.
Who would you love to tour with?
Petter: Anyone good.
Any funny stories from the road?
Petter: Yeah, once I had to pull my brother out of a river in Glasgow, it was November. He got drunk and fell over a bridge with a bottle of whiskey.
You played every day at CMJ in NYC? Did u see any bands that you liked?
Petter: I saw Rosewood Thieves, they were great. I really like that band Yeasayer, too.
It was first time in New York. So what did you think? New York or London?
Petter: I love NY, I could easily live there, but you know, London is my home. Although the music scene in NY is more to my liking at the moment.
How long were you in New York for?
Terry: Nine days.
It must have been a busy nine days. How are plans to record your first album coming?
Petter: It’s going to be recorded in New York for about five weeks.
Why New York and not London?
Petter: It’s outside of England for one, I love England, but it’s good to get out of here.
Terry: New York is a fresh atmosphere. This band has been all about London from the start, and then we went to New York, and it’s completely different.
So you need a change of atmosphere.
Terry: Yeah, coming back from it, we’re tired from it, but it was so inspiring and we met so many artists out there.
Any plans to return to the States anytime soon?
Terry: Yeah actually, we’re doing a residency in New York late Jan/Feb.
[see show dates below]
You guys recently went to Wales to finish recording the album. How was it?
Terry: We were basically in this cottage in the middle of nowhere… no neighbors, just us and loads of sheep… we tried to catch some fish but ‘dem bastards didn’t bite. Lots of rain, ya know… definite contrast to London life.
I have to ask since you guys have great taste. What are your 3 favorite artists of all time?
Terry: Car, Lennon, Dylan….
Your debut EP “The Thief and The Heartbreaker” is like a bittersweet life journey. “Lucy Rider” in particular has a certain love-lorn vibe. What’s that song about?
Petter: I know people probably think it’s about a relationship, but it’s actually about a bird that destroys herself on drugs.
What direction will you be taking with the album? Will it be the same Americana-tinged blues rock mélange?
Petter: There’s no main inspiration. People always compare us to Neil Young and The Band. But I feel like I’m coming away from a lot of that stuff, and right now I’m into John Lennon and Nick Cave. I love Neil Young, but it’s not the main inspiration for the album.
Terry: I think we’ve got quite diverse taste in music reflected in the album. We listen to soul music, and stuff like Neil Young, etc… But they come together in the end. Rather than one sound, there’s blues, gospel and more soul influence coming in on the album. The mini-album feels quite one-dimensional, but we want the album to broader. We got signed so quickly, we have to grow with the record. It’s lucky but we’ve had to grow with releasing records rather than having a year and a half to gig around and find our sound. I really believe the album is gonna be amazing, five steps up from the mini album.
How did guys get signed? What’s the story there?
Petter: We split from our old band.. we were kinda in a bad way. We recorded some new tunes in Terry’s home studio, sent them out, played a few gigs and then we kinda had a label in no time. With this band, it happened pretty fast.
What does Alberta Cross mean?
Petter: It’s the name of Terry’s favorite Indian beer and my favorite Greek Pizza.
Aishah: So you’re not gonna tell me?!
Petter: It’s a secret.
Petter, you’re from Sweden.. Terry you grew up in East London.. How did you too find each other?
Petter: Terry was working as Santa Clause in ASDA and I went in to buy some chocolate. [laughs] No really, we met here, at Strongroom [a London pub].
Here, as in, this bar? [laughs]
Petter: Yeah. Our mates used to work here, and that was it. It was about four years ago.
Wow, what an appropriate choice for a venue to chat!
–Andrea D’Alessandro and Aishah Roberts, Photos by Tear-n Tan
NYC Jan./Feb. dates:
Jan 28 2008 7:30P
Mercury Lounge (early acoustic show) New York City
Jan 29 2008 8:00P
The Living Room (acoustic show) New York, New York
Jan 30 2008 8:15P
Union Hall Brooklyn (acoustic show) New York City
Feb 4 2008 8:00P
Bowery Ballroom New York City
Feb 7 2008 8:00P
The Living Room (acoustic show) New York City
…more shows TBA
LIVE ” RAMBLIN’ HOME” LEEDS FESTIVAL ’07