Alberta Cross’ music has been labeled a lot of things. “Brooding blues” (NME). “…haunting melodies of rural American music” (Rolling Stone). “South-of-the-Mason-Dixon guitar chops recall the Followill Bros” (Spin). “A British take on Southern Rock” (The New York Times).
That last one makes lead singer Petter Ericson Stakee cringe.
I bring up said cringe-worthy analogy to Stakee, and he replies with a sly and knowing, “Uh-huh…” He knows what’s coming next.
The first band that comes to mind when southern and rock are mentioned together in a sentence is usually someone within shooting range of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I don’t think we sound anything like that,” Stakee says. “I’m from Sweden, and when people say I sound like Southern Rock, that sounds like a bit of a joke to me – that sounds like comedy.”
And while there are leanings toward Kings of Leon, I’d venture to say that the Fallowills have a sound influenced more by Stakee and bassist Terry Wolfers’ side of the pond than the other way around. “Someone called us ‘Mutt Rock’ once,” Stakee says, “I kind of like that because we bring in stuff from everywhere. My dog is a mutt, and I reckon we are, too.”
I spoke with Stakee as he walked around in the blistering July heat during Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wolfers, the other half of Alberta Cross, met in London in a pub housed behind a music studio. The owners were mutual friends. “We sort of met because we got free drinks there and then started a band. That’s pretty much it,” Stakee says with a laugh. The name Alberta Cross is an anagram out of London. When pressed to reveal its meaning, Stakee’s cheeky charm returns, “Nay.”
Stakee, if pressed, puts Alberta Cross in the genre of rock but says their influence comes from all over – both old and new – and they love the freedom to inject whatever they like into their own sound. The result is a label busting mash-up of My Morning Jacket meets Oasis meets Crazy Horse meets…Depeche Mode.
“My brother was into Depeche Mode and came more from the synthesizer world,” Stakee explains of the music that surrounded him growing up, “I think that sums up our sound in a way. There’s organic stuff, but Depeche Mode, as well, with a lot of melodies – not just one melody but a lot of colors. This new record is definitely more colorful. We really worked hard on getting that stuff out.”
Songs of Patience, the band’s third album, is the result. Songs like “I Believe in Everything” and “Bonfires” display a more bluesy, stripped down vibe, which is something Stakee credits to his father, a singer-songwriter in his own right. “That’s also why I’m inspired by so much stuff because my dad was into bluesier rockers. So I got that darker, synthesizer vibe with the blusier and the rootsier side.
Those colors and those blending of influences perhaps show most, however, on “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame),” a blistering, straightforward tune with a fuzzy bassline and synthetic undertone. The song was inspired lyrically by the London riots in 2010 stemming from a college tuition hike and musically by Keith Richards.
“The first name was ‘Me & Keith,’” he says and drew from Richards’ discussion on open tuning in his biography. The song has been featured in a nationwide Ketel One campaign, of which Stakee says, “When something like that comes along in this day and age you can’t really say, ‘no.’”
Stakee doesn’t believe putting his music in a commercial or TV show or on a soundtrack is considered selling out. In fact, in a musical climate heavy with corporate sponsors, Stakee thinks you’d be hard-pressed to find an indie band who thinks it is. “If people download our music for free and don’t pay for our records…people need music out there, so we kind of have to do shit like that in order to survive. I’m for it,” he says. “It’s a weird scene. It’s definitely changed since I started. It’s changing every day. As long as I stay true to myself and write the stuff I want to write and be able to play the music that I want to play then I’m fine.”
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez