“‘Mercy’ is an achingly gorgeous indication of what’s to come…” BILLBOARD
“..the seismic guitars and high vocals look to My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon and Crazy Horse.” – New York Times
“It’s all topped by Stakee’s sweet, high-lonesome voice, which recalls both Jim James and Neil Young.” – Rolling Stone
“Familiar and refreshing… Alberta Cross has taken incredible strides to earn global recognition.” – NPR
Alberta Cross will be releasing their seventh album ‘Sinking Ships’ on March 31st 2023.
The group were formed by Swedish-born lead singer and guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee and his London pal Terry Wolfers in the mid-00s. Their anthemic Americana-tinged songs possessed a vulnerability and earthiness, and it soon showed in how hugely their debut record ‘The Thief & The Heartbreaker’ began to connect. What followed was success on both sides of the Atlantic and the relentless grind of US touring that comes with it. They embarked on high-profile jaunts with Mumford & Sons, Portugal. The Man, Neil Young, Them Crooked Vultures (Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones) and Rag N’ Bone Man and performed on distinguished TV shows around the globe, appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman, Last Call with Carson Daly and more, whilst their tracks were featured on hit TV shows such as Million Little Pieces, Sons Of Anarchy and Californication.
Petter comments, “I guess I never paid attention to how I felt since I got signed in 2006,” he explains. “It was just a whirlwind, which was fucking amazing but also you don’t care about anything – you’re in your early twenties, who gives a shit?”. What he realised as the world ground to a halt in 2020 and 2021 and everyone had a lot of time to reflect was that he hadn’t been treating himself very well. Now the repercussions came knocking. “My mental health wasn’t great, I had all this anxiety and depression and all this stuff just hiding under everything,” he says. “I parked it somewhere and didn’t want to think about it, but along the way it still affected me massively. I probably drank more and did more stuff that was harmful because I didn’t feel super awesome. That’s where this record came in. It was like, ‘who am I?’. I’m Swedish but I’ve lived abroad for longer than I lived in Sweden. It’s weird when you’ve been away from where you come from and then you find your new homes everywhere. As much as I love that and couldn’t see myself living in Sweden, it definitely does stuff to you.”
In many ways, everything that is wonderful about ‘Sinking Ships’ is wrapped up in its opening song and first single ‘Mercy’. It’s all there: the expansive, panoramic rock atmospherics, the melancholic majesty, epic and simplistic at once, bombastic but never overblown, an indelible hook giving the song its uplifting swell. “‘Mercy’ deals with mental health and that feeling when you stop, getting back on your feet,” says Stakee. ‘Sinking Ships’ is made up of songs that look back in an attempt to try and plot a way forward.
The album first began to take shape in the north Sweden studio of Stakee’s old friend Johan Zeitler. It was there, working on formative versions of the title track and ‘Mercy’, that the frontman realised there was a horizon of sound to lean into on these songs. “Johan is incredible,” marvels Stakee, “He’s like Brian Eno, he’s amazing at all that landscape-y stuff. I got him to add all these layers.” With the vibe established, he brought some songs to Luke Potashnick and in the producer’s basement studio in London, they began to build ‘Sinking Ships’ sonic world.
It was when Potashnick left London for the West Country, purchasing Van Morrison’s old studio Wool Hall and renovating it, that they began to make real progress. “It was an incredibly inspiring spot to record in,” Stakee remembers. Based in the village of Beckington, Wool Hall was where Morrison recorded a number of albums as well as being used by Tears For Fears for their 1985 classic ‘Songs From The Big Chair’, The Smiths, Paul Weller, Joni Mitchell and more. The studio has been brought into the 21st century by Potashnick, who works in the original control room but has built a bespoke live tracking facility inside one of Wool Hall’s bigger rooms.
Luke comments, “I adore the feeling of this record – when writing together, Petter and I always end up somewhere on the same page – maybe it’s the Scandinavian in us, maybe it’s the life-stage we both share. I am particularly fond of ‘Mercy’ and ‘Sinking Ships’. A lot of the landscape of these songs were set up back in a basement in Sweden…the main reason I single out these two songs is in how Petter’s voice soars on these recordings. I feel they are truly unique to Petter’s way of singing and I’m always very excited when we manage to capture that”
Along for the ride were a crack team of players who’d worked on the last record – Tom the Lion on drums and Richard Causon, who has appeared on records by Kings Of Leon, Laura Marling, Ray Davies and more, on keyboards.
Each component both expands and insulates the distinct sound palette that you get from listening to ‘Sinking Ships’ from start to finish. Writing in the UK, too, was another essential factor. “I loved being in America but living here brings something out in me,” says Stakee. “It’s almost more real in a way, songwriting-wise it’s more serious.” Crucial too is his relationship with Potashnick. Stakee considers it amazing to have met a new creative sparring partner this deep into his career. “Luke is an outrageous guitar player but also so good with sound, his ears are nuts,” he says. “I trusted him very quickly, his references are always bang on so it was easy to take him in. All the people I’d worked with in America were big, and big-headed, producers and I was sick of that vibe. Me and Luke were how me and Terry were in the beginning, we’d sit and chat over a coffee and start to jam a bit and write together, producing it as we went along.” The songwriting spark between the pair was there from the first time they worked together, he remembers. “We had the same music tastes, we were at the same place in life, when it comes to subjects, we get to the same place with things. It just felt very organic straight away.”
After a record of intensely personal contemplation, it’s surprising that the final track is a cover, a lilting, beautifully woozy rendition of Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’. “We just started doing it and didn’t think too much about it but it ended up being too good not to do anything with,” explains Stakee. “I’ve never released a cover on a record ever, but it’s also like, ‘why the fuck not?’. Sonically and production-wise, it fits really well.”
It’s an approach that perfectly sums up what makes ‘Sinking Ships’ tick quite so elegantly. Everything just fits, the sound of an artist working without any interference disturbing the transmission. Everything he’s done so far has been leading to this. “I’m freer and purer, I feel more inspired than I’ve ever been,” says Stakee. ‘Sinking Ships’ begins an exhilarating new phase for Alberta Cross.
Sinking Ships’ will be released on Friday 31st March 2023 through Dark Matter / AMK distributed through Kartel Music Group, pre-order here.
‘Sinking Ships’ tracklist
- Sinking Ships
- Glow In The Dark
- Between You And Me
- Come To A Place
- Morning Drum
- Near Misses And Defeats
- Every Time The Sun Comes Up
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