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Alberta Cross finds EPs are easiest way to stay focused 

After releasing their full-length album, Broken Side of Time, in 2009, Brooklyn-based rock band Alberta Cross spent much of the next two years on the road touring in support of it. While they're busy wrapping up the follow-up, the band decided it would be best to get some new music in the hands of fans as soon as possible. So, while they work on completing the LP, the band released a five-song EP, The Rolling Thunder, last month.

The band is currently on the road with Portugal the Man and stops by the Neighborhood Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 27. I spoke with Alberta Cross singer Petter Stakee by phone this week to talk about the new EP, the upcoming studio album as well as the band's new sound.

How's the tour going so far?

It's been really good actually. We've been out for about three weeks now. We've packed some theaters. Portugal the Man are really cool guys. It's a good one, for sure.

Does it feel like your own mini-Bonnaroo?

Yeah, pretty much. (laughs) We met at Bonnaroo. We met there in 2009 backstage as we were sitting there drinking beer.

You were both there again this year.

Yeah. It's one of our favorite festivals. It's good — when you meet a band at Bonnaroo, you know you're on to a good thing.

What was the thought in releasing a new EP — are you trying to get new music out before the next full-length album?

We've been working on the new album that we're going to release early next year for a while. We felt like it was good to put new music out and not leaving it too long before play shit for people. We took a little extra time to finish off the record to make it extra good and it's gonna pay off because it's starting to sound really, really exciting. It was good to put this out and it's a little bit different, too. It's a bit more spacey and a collection of songs — some of them are live favorites that we never released and two of them are newer that we just recorded at Electric Lady and another was recorded in Wales. It's a mix of songs but I think it's a good thing to show people our headspace right now. The EP was recorded more in the moment and almost live. The album we definitely put more work to perfect it a little bit. I wanted to release both. You want to take extra time with an album and then there's a real beauty in bashing shit down and it comes out really soulful and you can't take more than about five hours to get it done.

Do you think the EP is a sign of the direction the band is headed in?

I don't know if I'd say it's the direction we're going in. I don't know what direction we're going in. (laughs) We just try to write really good songs. It's always going to be us because I'm always singing them and writing them and the band is always playing them even though we're progressing in a different direction here and there.

How do you think the EP compares with what you're working on for the next full-length album?

I think the EP is closer to Broken Side of Time than the new album is. I think the new album is a departure — not a massive departure — with straighter songs that are more melodic. I was trying to come up with four or five melodies for every song — keyboard melodies and vocal melodies. The EP is more sort of spacey and soulful.

Do you play a lot of new material live to work it out before recording it?

We have been playing quite a few of them on this run. It's a good time to road-test the stuff. We also want to mix up the sets and do something different each night. The people who have been coming out seem to enjoy the new songs, but of course it's one or the other. If you play new songs, they complain that they want to hear the old ones. And if you play too much old songs they complain that you don't play the new ones. We've been trying to play a lot of new songs for our mental health too.

Your vocals get a lot of comparisons to Neil Young. I was wondering what your thoughts are on that — I assume he's an inspiration, but it's not like you can change the tone of your voice...

I love Neil Young. If I was being compared to someone I didn't like, it would be bad. It's not that bad to be compared to Neil Young since he's got one of the best rock voices of all time. For me anyway... he's got a trademark voice. I guess it's because of the high-pitched thing but I'm trying to mix that up a bit on the new record. I just sing. I don't think about what I sound like. I don't think I sound like Neil Young, but if people think that, why the hell not.

You have European ties, but you're based out of Brooklyn. Do you feel like you're "from here" now?

We live here, but we'll never be an 'American band.' Living in New York is really inspiring, but we're also pulling out inspiration from London and where we grew up. I think every big city is really inspiring. There's a lot of art, culture and cool characters wherever you go. I think a lot of my lyrics have been inspired by New York and what I see. Of course, you're going to write about where you live. That's probably why a lot of bands relocate here.

You're always seen with a hat. Have you gotten locked into that look?

The thing is... I'm wearing a hat on stage because I hate to have hair in my face. It's a convenience thing. I like wearing hats and I've been wearing them for a while. It's like a cowboy thing — a cowboy never takes off his hat and I don't either. [laughs] I don't overthink it. It's not my image. A lot of dudes like hats. Music is first.

Is the new album finished?

I thought it was finished, but I wrote four new songs that I feel are the best songs I've written. So, I think we're going to record them after this tour. We're hoping to release it late January or early February. I'm really happy with all the songs on the album. I think they're the best songs I've written in my life. I think we'll release some more EPs in the future. The record industry puts so much pressure on a record. You have so much more freedom with an EP. I know a lot of mates of mine also want to keep putting out EPs without as much pressure. I think the important thing is to put out more music. We haven't released as much stuff as we've wanted to. I think right now we want to release as much as we can.

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