Written By Laura Curry
The indie folk/roots rockers, Alberta Cross, just returned home from their North American spring tour a week ago, and Petter Ericson Stakee and friends are gearing up for tonight’s show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn.
Stakee said that for tonight’s show, it’s going to be a seven-piece band. “We’ve got a whole horns section. It’ll be crazy. It’s always like that when I play in Brooklyn. It’s like a homecoming—all my musician friends are coming down. It’ll be a big old jam.”
Stakee has been piloting Alberta Cross since June 2013 and he released a self-titled album in October 2015 after spending nearly two years on it. The album combines plenty of new material along with songs from earlier records that they rearranged with horns, which was refreshing for Stakee.
Alberta Cross has more of an indie background, and combining that with the roots sound of the horns section on their third album makes for a nice cocktail, Stakee said.
In terms of sound, Stakee tries to mix up what he listens to, which means his music tends to integrate the genres of alternative, indie, and folk with a modern twist. His most recent self-titled album has more soul elements, he said.
Stakee explains why he decided to self-title this album.
“I had time to write this record by myself at home in Brooklyn and I worked on it with a bunch of musicians. We tried out a lot of songs and had a lot of secret jams in the East and West Village … we wrote all these soulful songs with no one getting involved. And we just played them with our friends. It felt like a full circle. The only difference is that I released three or four records in between and toured around the world a few times,” he said with a laugh.
The self-titled album is basically a journey full of different sounds like Americana rock and indie folk. While some songs tell stories, others simply fill you with positive vibes and warmth. Another great quality to these songs is that they are open to interpretation, and listeners can create their own meaning to each track.
“With this album, we tracked a lot of the album live in an old church up in Woodstock with all my close friends. We tried to make it very soulful … something that you could have as a soundtrack to anything—wherever you are or whatever you’re doing, it will work really well. I wanted it to be a full record, that people will listen to from start to finish,” Stakee said.
On the topic of specific songs, “Ghosts of Santa Fe” is upbeat with a lot of horns and tells a tale about someone escaping society. And then “Isolation” is about desolation and being in the middle of nowhere. Musically, the rhythm of “Isolation” and the color of all the instruments together create a modern sound, Stakee said.
When Stakee says modern, he means something that synthesizes older sounds and different genres such as roots and soul music with indie folk. Or even combining something like the elements of an M83 album with that of Bob Dylan’s music gives you a modern twist.
Generally with songwriting, life in general is a major inspiration to Stakee. Lyrically and musically, he is inspired by everything that’s around him—it all makes an impression. Living in New York City with so many different shows and musicians has an impact on him, he said.
As for upcoming albums, Stakee is working on a bunch of new songs for the next record. He is trying to figure out if he wants to produce it himself or co-produce it with someone else that he likes. Additionally, “I want to change in between records—I don’t want to stay the same all the time. I feel like I’m going through a different wave,” Stakee said.
Stakee stresses that it all comes down to the songs. “To make a record you need 10 brilliant songs. When I have those 10 songs and I’m happy with them, I go into the studio.”
As a solo artist, Stakee explains that, “I feel like I’m in a good place now. I feel like I’m working with people who are letting me do my thing. I think that’s the most important thing: that I can be a free artist,” he said.
When it comes to creating music, outside influences can be a hindrance. “Sometimes people around you try to push you in different directions and I feel like I don’t want that too much anymore, I want to do my own thing. The more it comes from me, the purer it is,” Stakee said.
Stakee made sure to include the following powerful words, which act as advice for any aspiring musicians:
“That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. It really has to come from the artist, more than the people around the artist. It’s important to stay true to that,” Stakee said.
CATCH ALBERTA CROSS TONIGHT AT BROOKLYN’S ROUGH TRADE AT 8 P.M.