Alberta Cross’ new record ‘Songs Of Patience’ is aptly named. Forged over two years with three different producers and a revolving door of bandmates, the Brooklyn rockers' ‘difficult second album’ almost broke them completely.
“We’ve copped a bit of bad press recently because when you look at the album credits and see all the studios and producers [we used], people think we were just throwing a ton of money at it,” bassist Terry Wolfers tells us. “But it was literally what we had to do to save the album.”
After weathering the storm, he and singer/guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee emerged as a duo, stronger and more resolute in their music mission than ever. Four days before Moshcam's set to film their New York homecoming show, we called Wolfers for a very interesting chat...
We’re filming your Bowery Ballroom show this Thursday. What can we expect?
The show’s sounding fantastic at the moment. The response to the new songs has been great and the Bowery will bring a ton of energy. Plus it’s the last night of our tour and we’re in New York which is our home turf. We’ll have our friends and girlfriends there.
We get to have a few nights sleeping at home before so by the time we get to Bowery, I’ll have had two nights in my own bed and more energy than I’ve had in six months. It’s going to be unbelievable.
Your second studio album ‘Songs Of Patience’ sounds like it had quite a tumultuous birth…
Yeah definitely, we had a very rough time getting it made. There was a lot of stopping and starting. We’ve copped a bit of bad press recently because when you look at the album credits and see all the studios and producers [we used], people think we were just throwing a ton of money. But it was literally what we had to do to save the album. It was a struggle…
Watch Alberta Cross performs 'Magnolia' live
What was the root of the problem?
[pause] I think businessmen are a massive problem being involved with artists and you have to deal with that.
In what sense? Your label was pushing the songs a particular way?
Yeah, you have management and a label and some times you don’t see how eye to eye. They’re the people with the money that are actually paying for it and then you get into arguments and the whole process slows up until you can make an agreement.
So a lot of the songs that Petter had written weren’t being represented in the right way by various musicians or producers… Basically, we were like ‘we can’t let this come out’ so we wanted to take some songs off and go back to Brooklyn [to finish it].
You started writing songs in an empty house in the middle of nowhere, near Woodstock. How was that?
The place is this kind of artists’ community that these people go to during the summer – poets, photographers, musicians and they all go there to be in the country. We managed to get it in the winter when it closes. No one else was there. The first two weeks were fantastic but then it got bitterly cold and it was just an old wooden house. It was quite the experience. We were there for seven weeks.
Why did you choose such an isolated place?
I don’t think any of us realised how cold it would be and how isolated it would be. It took you an hour and a half to walk into town, but it was also a stunningly beautiful place.
And then you went to Los Angeles to record with producer Joe Chiccarelli (who’s worked on My Morning Jacket, Boy & Bear)…
We went into the studio for seven days to track some songs.
But ultimately you weren’t happy with the results?
Half of the songs, yeah. Its really tough, some songs worked and some just didn’t come across in the way we’d envisioned, whether that be the sound of it or the musicianship or production. It was a combination of a lot of things.
How was Joe?
He was great, but again we were very rushed. It was ten songs in seven days so we didn’t have the time to experiment in the studio… so it was hit and miss.
After working with producer Mike Daly (Jason Mraz, Jimmy Barnes), you headed back home to co-produce it with Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Franz Ferdinand). Why did you choose him?
Claudius is actually going out with Petter’s lady’s sitter and his name had come up a bunch of times. The man’s an absolute angel and fantastic to work with. He’s got a great ear for sound and there’s no dramas, no arrogance. He knows what you want and how to get it. It was very much a collaboration.
You also lost a few band members along the way and are now effectively a duo when it comes to songwriting. What happened?
When we first moved to the States, we brought people into the band which caused no end of problems. We had members stepping in all of a sudden and telling Petter that a song that he wrote was wrong.
Now we’ve realised that hiring musos was the best way to do it. So we went back and chose musicians that get paid so there’s not going to be any arguments and you go and play a great show.
This band works the best with just the two of us. Matter of fact, we’re working on a new record already and we’re hoping to get it out as soon as possible. I think we’ll go with Claudius working in a team with Petter and me. There’s not going to be anyone with 30 years more experience telling us ‘oh, that’s wrong’.
Petter’s already got ten songs. It’s been far too long between releases and we’re not going to let industry or anyone get in the way again.
Despite everything, this album sounds more upbeat and brighter than the last, especially on songs like ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Lay Down’?
Yeah, the last one was much more about aggressive and angry and dark, [as we were] coming out of England and moving to New York. This one was ‘we’ve had a ton of shit happen to us because of that last record but we’ve got to see a helluva lot of great places’. The last thing people want to hear is a bunch of musicians who get to run around the world being dark and miserable. We wanted to focus in on the positive.
On a final note, when will see you in Australia?
As soon as we can. We’re just waiting to hear when it can happen. You Australians are a fuckin’ fun bunch so we’re waiting for the news to come through about a tour.
Listen to several songs from 'Songs of Patience'