The title of Alberta Cross’ new album, Songs of Patience is, in many ways, literal. “It's been three years since we last released a full-length album,” says singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee, a Swedish-born musician who has spent a big part of his life abroad in London and now Brooklyn, NY. “It was a crazy ride that ended on a positive note. Three band members and five producers later, the record is now ready.” The highs and lows of the band’s journey raised a grander set of ideas, infusing the disc’s title with additional universal meaning.
After touring extensively on their debut, Broken Side Of Time, with bands like Them Crooked Vultures, Oasis, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and stopping at festivals like Bonnaroo and Sasquatch, Alberta Cross headed to an old, abandoned house in the middle of nowhere near Woodstock, NY. There, they braved the freezing winter and embraced a sense of the building’s haunted past to envision ideas for a new record. Initially, the motivation was to get back to the songwriting quality of the band’s 2007 self-produced EP The Thief & the Heartbreaker—a blurry forethought that would later become clearer. “Bringing other guys into the band on the last record changed things,” says London-born bassist Terry Wolfers. “I think we became aware that we wanted to bring back some of our original sound. That was the basis of our intentions.”
The Woodstock session opened the doors for Wolfers and Ericson Stakee, who formed the band seven years ago after they met in a London pub, to craft the songs that would appear on Songs of Patience (ATO Records), but the group needed more inspiration. Petter moved across the country from Brooklyn to LA in early 2011, intending to spend some time writing on his own again and searching out new creative motivations. But after Wolfers and the rest of the band members joined him in LA, where the group went into the studio with producers Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Young the Giant), Petter hit a wall.
“I love LA, but the combination of relocating and straight away hitting the studio made me spiral out of control.” Ericson Stakee says. “I needed to let go of everything around me and close to me, so I could discover what I missed and what I really needed. I partied too hard, and I blew my newly earned money. Once I hit rock bottom, I visited home in Sweden and plummeted back down to planet Earth. I knew exactly what I had to do.”
This meant that Ericson Stakee and Wolfers, unhappy with the album they’d finished in LA, had to find their way back to what inspired Alberta Cross in the first place. The two were forced to look their new album in the face and admit that it needed revision, a step that allowed them to open up their creativity, pen additional tracks and re-mix/re-track a few songs from the L.A. sessions once they’d returned to New York. There, they laid down new songs with producer and friend Claudius Mittendorfer (Muse, Interpol), rounding out the original album to be an expansive, thoughtful portrait of their experiences—as a two-piece.
“We always wanted to be two,” Ericson Stakee notes.
Wolfers adds, “It took all that to realize the only way this band will work is as the way we started it.”
In the end, Songs of Patience is both a throwback to Alberta Cross’ roots and a progression forward. The album veers from the melodic sprawl of opener “Magnolia,” a track Petter wrote in L.A. about “too many late nights, for better or worse,” to the pensive provocation of “Lay Down,” which was penned in the back of a van in Tampa when he felt “beat down by the road” after a two-year straight stint on tour. Petter’s self-defeat and subsequent self-discovery are apparent on hook-laden rocker “Wasteland,” a track about “our generation being lost and sometimes in need of guidance,” while the fuzzed out layers on “Crate of Gold” reveal his growth as a songwriter, leaving himself to explore the motivations of the Occupy movement. The focus throughout the album’s songwriting was strong, engaging melodies, as well as Ericson Stakee’s poetic narrative sensibility, both of which allow the listener to inhabit a new place for the span of the album.
“Everything we have been through is present in our record, and it's my proudest work yet,” Ericson Stakee says. “For the first time ever, I wanted to print my lyrics because it’s important that people form an idea of what each song is about. At the same time, I’d like my songs to be more open, so people can incorporate their own experiences and give them their own meaning. Although the songs are serious, the whole album feels more colorful than ever.”
In the end, the record is the sum of three years’ worth of parts – a struggle that concluded in victory. It opens new possibilities for the band’s visceral live show, a notable facet of the group defined by their raucous, gritty onstage performances that swell the tracks into bigger, more expansive versions of themselves. Songs of Patience has also, in many ways, become a decided source of inspiration for the band members – one they hope magnifies the personal battles and upsides of their fans.