Everest, Aaron Lee Tasjan
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
The title of Alberta Cross’ new album, Songs of Patience is, in many ways, literal. “It's been three years since we last released a full-length album,” says singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee, a Swedish-born musician who has spent a big part of his life abroad in London and now Brooklyn, NY. “It was a crazy ride that ended on a positive note. Three band members and five producers later, the record is now ready.” The highs and lows of the band’s journey raised a grander set of ideas, infusing the disc’s title with additional universal meaning.
After touring extensively on their debut, Broken Side Of Time, with bands like Them Crooked Vultures, Oasis, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and stopping at festivals like Bonnaroo and Sasquatch, Alberta Cross headed to an old, abandoned house in the middle of nowhere near Woodstock, NY. There, they braved the freezing winter and embraced a sense of the building’s haunted past to envision ideas for a new record. Initially, the motivation was to get back to the songwriting quality of the band’s 2007 self-produced EP The Thief & the Heartbreaker—a blurry forethought that would later become clearer. “Bringing other guys into the band on the last record changed things,” says London-born bassist Terry Wolfers. “I think we became aware that we wanted to bring back some of our original sound. That was the basis of our intentions.”
The Woodstock session opened the doors for Wolfers and Ericson Stakee, who formed the band seven years ago after they met in a London pub, to craft the songs that would appear on Songs of Patience (ATO Records), but the group needed more inspiration. Petter moved across the country from Brooklyn to LA in early 2011, intending to spend some time writing on his own again and searching out new creative motivations. But after Wolfers and the rest of the band members joined him in LA, where the group went into the studio with producers Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Young the Giant), Petter hit a wall.
“I love LA, but the combination of relocating and straight away hitting the studio made me spiral out of control.” Ericson Stakee says. “I needed to let go of everything around me and close to me, so I could discover what I missed and what I really needed. I partied too hard, and I blew my newly earned money. Once I hit rock bottom, I visited home in Sweden and plummeted back down to planet Earth. I knew exactly what I had to do.”
This meant that Ericson Stakee and Wolfers, unhappy with the album they’d finished in LA, had to find their way back to what inspired Alberta Cross in the first place. The two were forced to look their new album in the face and admit that it needed revision, a step that allowed them to open up their creativity, pen additional tracks and re-mix/re-track a few songs from the L.A. sessions once they’d returned to New York. There, they laid down new songs with producer and friend Claudius Mittendorfer (Muse, Interpol), rounding out the original album to be an expansive, thoughtful portrait of their experiences—as a two-piece.
“We always wanted to be two,” Ericson Stakee notes.
Wolfers adds, “It took all that to realize the only way this band will work is as the way we started it.”
In the end, Songs of Patience is both a throwback to Alberta Cross’ roots and a progression forward. The album veers from the melodic sprawl of opener “Magnolia,” a track Petter wrote in L.A. about “too many late nights, for better or worse,” to the pensive provocation of “Lay Down,” which was penned in the back of a van in Tampa when he felt “beat down by the road” after a two-year straight stint on tour. Petter’s self-defeat and subsequent self-discovery are apparent on hook-laden rocker “Wasteland,” a track about “our generation being lost and sometimes in need of guidance,” while the fuzzed out layers on “Crate of Gold” reveal his growth as a songwriter, leaving himself to explore the motivations of the Occupy movement. The focus throughout the album’s songwriting was strong, engaging melodies, as well as Ericson Stakee’s poetic narrative sensibility, both of which allow the listener to inhabit a new place for the span of the album.
“Everything we have been through is present in our record, and it's my proudest work yet,” Ericson Stakee says. “For the first time ever, I wanted to print my lyrics because it’s important that people form an idea of what each song is about. At the same time, I’d like my songs to be more open, so people can incorporate their own experiences and give them their own meaning. Although the songs are serious, the whole album feels more colorful than ever.”
In the end, the record is the sum of three years’ worth of parts – a struggle that concluded in victory. It opens new possibilities for the band’s visceral live show, a notable facet of the group defined by their raucous, gritty onstage performances that swell the tracks into bigger, more expansive versions of themselves. Songs of Patience has also, in many ways, become a decided source of inspiration for the band members – one they hope magnifies the personal battles and upsides of their fans.
Often descriptions of bands fall into the equation of “this well known group plus this other established act plus a few adjectives.” But some bands defy this shorthand, offering something so pure & true that its roots aren't apparent. Everest is this sort, taking us down to foundational rock truths with an easy glide and expansive vision. While one can draw some clues from the folks they’ve toured with – Neil Young, Wilco, My Morning Jacket – ultimately Everest is simply a great rock ‘n’ roll band in the classic, open-minded mold, something boldly apparent on their sophomore release, On Approach (arriving May 11th) on Warner Bros. Records / Vapor Records).
Formed in Los Angeles in 2007, Everest is comprised of Russell Pollard (vocals, guitar, drums, lyricist), Jason Soda (guitar, keys, vocals), Joel Graves (guitar, keys, vocals), Elijah Thomson (bass, vocals) and Davey Latter (drums, percussion). Their 2008 debut, Ghost Notes, drew strong critical marks and comparisons to primo Topanga Canyon, California country rock. However, none of this quite prepares one for On Approach, which finds the group in a full-tilt creative charge.
“We weren't a band for very long when we made Ghost Notes. I had songs, we recorded them in just two weeks, then immediately toured. On Approach has been a completely different experience,” says Pollard. “Now it’s guys who've actually struggled together and survived some tight spaces, cramped hotel rooms, some arguments and some really, really good times. There was a lot of collaboration, and we weren’t afraid to do anything.”
On Approach is a bold album that bolts out of the gate with an enveloping sound capable of filling large spaces, both in the outside world and between one’s ears. In broad strokes, it hits the sweet spot between stratospheric, stadium size rock and gorgeous, emotionally charged pop craftsmanship. From infectious and thumping opener “Let Go” through heavy rocker “I’ve Had This Feeling Before,” the sweet humming, “Keeping The Score,” the naked romance of “Dots,” the haunting, spacious roots rock of “East Illinois” and “Fallen Feather,” and culminating in the boiling over cascade of closer “Catalyst,” On Approach moves with a focused, switched-on intensity that announces the arrival of one of the most engaged rock units today.
On Approach isn’t just an assemblage of random tracks, but a classic two-sider vinyl kind of album, where the full resonance and weight of it can only be felt by taking the full ride. Everest is this sort of band, too, one that strives for something more than three-minutes in the spotlight. These guys are lifers and the music they make is built for lifetimes, maintaining some elusive core that rewards one with each new spin.
“On Approach has all the good things that make a great record,” says veteran producer/mixer Rob Schnapf who mixed Everest’s latest, and who’s impressive credits include such modern classics as Beck’s Mellow Gold & Odelay, Elliott Smith’s XO & Figure 8, as well as Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut. “This record has a familiarity yet doesn’t copy anything. It’s expansive, and it doesn’t sit in one place. Listening back to the final version, I realized it was like an old-time record experience, one you don’t get any more.”
With guitars that range from bright and chiming to tense and meandering, harmonies that are both delicate and pastoral, and Pollard’s gentle, hazy vocals, On Approach is indeed reminiscent of a bygone era, a time before the Internet, when albums were still an art form and stories were told on vinyl. But as it exudes timelessness, as it ebbs from rustic grooves into hushed lullabies, it also asserts itself as something very of the here and now – something that is more than the sum of its parts.
“One of the things that's intriguing about this album for me, is hearing the moments where we started to transcend,” reveals Pollard, “where those moments and the music became something beyond ourselves.”
Aaron Lee Tasjan
25 year old songwriter, guitarist and singer Aaron Lee Tasjan has rock'n'roll running through his veins. From his collaborations with BP Fallon and Jack White or Sean Lennon to his stint as the lead guitarist in The New York Dolls he has seemingly done it all. His band, Madison Square Gardeners, became unlikely hometown heroes in Brooklyn where they favored Heartbreakers guitar riffs and choruses over synthesizers and boat shoes. In 2010, the Village Voice called them, "...the best NYC has to offer!" Still Tasjan has proved to be much more than just another young songwriter worshiping at the alter of Petty, Westerberg and Chilton. His remarkable guitar playing and trademark vocal style are something unto themselves, pushing the songs he creates into directions outside those of his heroes, while still ringing true to the heart of rock'n'roll. "Tasjan has a way of writing us back into moments and years that we're no longer a part of," remarks Daytrotter's Sean Moeller. Moeller continues saing Tasjan's writing reminds him of a time when, "...Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty were writing and releasing their seminal recordings about the lives of Americans." A lofty comparison indeed for such a young writer and singer but as Dinosaur Jr., Hold Steady producer John Agnello puts it, "I know that's saying a lot, but you have to hear it to believe."
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