Many remember the last time Alberta Cross played in Santa Barbara for the insane crowd it drew to our itty bitty Muddy Waters Café. But those who were there for either of the two sets the band played that night can also remember just how hard they rocked it.
Since that fateful eve, Alberta Cross (collectively, frontman Petter Ericson Stakee, bassist Terry Wolfers, guitarist Sam Kearney, keyboardist Alec Higgins, and S.B.-born drummer Austin Beede) have done more than their fair share of touring, circumnavigating the globe with everyone from the Dave Matthews Band and Ben Harper to rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, all in support of their breakout record, Broken Side of Time. This Thursday, Alberta Cross return to Beede’s home — and move on up to the more adequately sized SOhO — for a night filled with high-intensity, Southern-inspired, guitar-driven rock. I recently chatted with Beede en route to one of the band’s final stops with Matthews and Harper, during which time we talked about everything from gigging with Dave to the band’s bad luck streak in Santa Barbara.
You guys are on the road with Dave Matthews now, then on to do these headlining dates. What’s it like to make the transition from huge amphitheaters to club shows? I don’t know. I guess we’ve kind of gotten used to it. We do it a lot, play the big show and then play in front of 100 people. [Laughs.] But the biggest difference is just the sound. When you’re playing on a huge stage, all the sound goes away and you need the big monitors. Smaller stages, the sound is right there. Then with the audience, you can see the people right in front of you and kind of interact with them, whereas a huge audience is always like 20 feet away. It’s like playing to a sea of people. They’re there, obviously, but you can’t really see them. It’s just a bit different.
Do you have a preference at this point? Not really. I guess I kind of decide after each show whether I liked it or not. It doesn’t really mater what size audience there is or what size the venue is. But we definitely play a lot of club shows, so I think we’re a bit more used to that. When we play these huge shows there’s a little bit of nervousness, even though it’s subconscious. We’ll play a looser show when it’s a club. You can kind of interact and get a vibe as to what everyone’s thinking, what they’re enjoying.
Our own show is way different than a Dave Matthews Band show because we’re playing to their fans. They’re all really good fans, but they go crazy for Dave. He’s like their superstar father figure.
You grew up in Santa Barbara and played with a bunch of bands here. How did you ultimately hook up with Alberta Cross? Our guitar player, Sam, went to UCSB, and he and I played together in a band called Gravity Willing in 2002. He moved to London, met the guy that owned the label that Alberta Cross was on, and then he moved back. Then they moved to New York and they needed drums and guitar and keyboards, so me and Sam flew out and tried out. It was just my connection with him from before — which is all everything is in music. All the other bands I have ever been in stemmed mostly from that first band, Gravity Willing. It’s pretty trippy.
You flew across the U.S. to, for all intents and purposes, start this musical life with a group of guys you barely knew. Were there any hesitations or concerns in the beginning? It’s funny to think about it now because I know them all very well, but when you first meet someone you want to give them the best impression of you, you know? When I first got up there, though, it didn’t really matter because we all got along really quickly. We just kind of jammed out the songs and it felt very comfortable. The hardest part was just transitioning to living in New York, which is a whole different story. But it’s pretty amazing how well we all get along. It’s mind-blowing, really. You hear about so many bands where the members just hate each other, but that’s definitely not the case with this band.
Are you guys all still based in New York? Yeah. I’m kind of nomadic, I guess. We’re on tour a lot, but this month is going to be the end of this cycle, so after this tour we’re going to go write some more songs and record an album, and hopefully have that out by springtime.
And some of that is done, or at least being worked on, correct? Yeah, we have about half a dozen or so. We’re probably going to write about 10 more, and then pick and choose whatever we want to put on the album and record it.
Can you already notice a difference between the new stuff and songs on Broken Side of Time? I think the stuff we’re working on now is a little more, maybe, modern-sounding. We’re using some different sounds, some synthesizers, a lot of keyboards, different guitar tones. There’s one song where Terry, our bass player, is playing a melodic lead line, rather than just the standard bass line. There’s some different roles being played in the band. It’s going to be different sounding, definitely.
Touring-wise, you’ve literally been around the world. Are there any moments from the past few years that stick out as especially memorable? There’s moments of, like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here,’ for sure. We were just in Norway, like above the Arctic Circle, for this music festival, and I got to go paragliding. We had this tour guide that met us when we got off the plane, drove us up a hill, and we jumped off a cliff. [Laughs.] Then we landed and they took us to the harbor and we rode around on a speedboat where there were all these fjord-like things. This day was like 40 hours long. It was pretty crazy. Then, sometimes, there’s [the sensation] of waking up and not knowing where you are and trying to figure it out for a few minutes. That happens fairly often, especially in America because all the hotel rooms look the same.
Lucky for us, you guys have gotten to play up here more than your fair share of times now. What’s the best thing about coming back? I think our booking agent knows that we like to play up there. But that last show we played was crazy. It was really cool to see all those people come out, but it sucked that it had to get split into two different things. It made the night a bit weird. I felt bad for people that couldn’t stay. It puts a weird mood on the whole thing when things get broken up like that. But I think SOhO is big enough for a crowd of that size. It certainly won’t be as thrown together as it was last time. It seems like each show we do up there something weird happens, though. That last show the cops came, then the time before that… it was just a weird show.
Everyone was really drunk, if I remember correctly. Yeah. There was one point where Petter just decided not to sing a whole song. [Laughs.] I think that was supposed to be our warm-up show for Coachella.