This may be the first time you’ve heard of The Dig but it definitely won’t be the last. Mark my words, these guys are going to be huge. The debut LP from the NY-based quartet is good, really good. One of my favorites for 2010 so far. Suffice it to say, I really dig The Dig. The similarities to other well-known NY bands like The Strokes and The Walkmen are obvious. They have a straightforward rock and roll sound with a pop sensibility. And man can these guys play their instruments. Just take a look at the video a recent live session and see for yourself. Reportedly all grads from the Berklee School of Music, they clearly take their craft seriously, as do others. Check them out tonight at Bottom of the Hill!
Those who know me know how deep my obsession runs for the Brooklyn, by way of London, based band called Alberta Cross. A band I feel like I’ve been waiting for all my life. They hooked me with their EP, The Thief and The Heartbreaker, in 2007. Left me waiting (what felt like) an eternity for their debut LP, The Broken Side of Time, that released last fall, and even longer for their tour to hit the West Coast.
Thankfully, the wait ends tonight at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. And I know, just like their debut album, it will be well worth the wait. I had a chance to catch up with lead singer, Petter Ericson Stakee, before the show to talk to him about the album, the tour, and what took him so long.
The OCMD: How’s the tour going so far? I’ve been waiting so long for you to come to California. Is this your first official West Coast tour?
Petter: It’s going great. We just played the Troubador last night in LA and sold out which was great. And yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time to get out here too. I love it out here. We’ve been out this way before for some gigs and a few festivals – like Coachella and the Download Festival. But this is our first official West Coast tour.
The OCMD: You grew up in Sweden and London –both of which have distinct musical influences– yet your sound has such a retro Americana/ blues-rock vibe. How did that come to be?
Petter: I grew up listening to loads of different music. I do think we have a bit of that blues/Americana thing but we also have a lot of English influences in us too. Growing up there, we listened to a lot of bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Verve so there’s definitely a mix of influences for us.
The OCMD: You now live in New York. What inspired the relocation?
Petter: I’m living in Brooklyn now and it’s great – a really inspiring place to live with a lot of energy and amazing bands. We had a hard time the last year or two and when we went to New York for a festival, we met so many amazing bands and were so inspired that we decided to make the move. It’s been good for us but there’s so many places in America we still want to see. We really loved Austin, Chicago and the whole West Coast is really amazing.
The OCMD: I’ve read that Alberta Cross is actually an anagram. Is that true? Can you tell us what it means?
Petter: It is true. But I’m not going to tell you what it means.
The OCMD: Is there a prize if we figure it out?
Petter: [laughs] Sure, as long as it’s not too much money.
The OCMD: If Alberta Cross is an anagram, is the song “ATX” an acronym? What does it stand for?
Petter: Yeah, it stands for Austin, TX. The album was recorded down in Austin. We thought it would be a good idea to get out of New York and the City and record in some place new. And we really loved it there. It’s a beautiful place, full of great people and great music. So we really just wanted to name something after it.
The OCMD: Speaking of Austin, will you be there again this year?
Petter: I think we probably are but we have quite a busy tour schedule so we’ll have to see if we can work it out. I hope we go, definitely. I’d love to go.
The OCMD: Broken Side of Time is one of my favorite albums of 2009, though it seems more dark and brooding than The Thief & The Heartbreaker EP. What was happening for you when you wrote it?
Petter: I think the album got that vibe because of the stuff we were going through at that time. We were in London and in kind of a dark place. We left our label and were feeling lost and broke. Then we moved to New York. It was really exciting but we were still kind of in the same situation for a while. And when we moved here Bush was still the president. So it was a crazy time and that definitely inspired the vibe of the album. We’ll see where the next album takes us.
The OCMD: What are the plans for the next album?
Petter: We’re writing stuff all the time and we’re recording stuff that we might release pretty soon.
The OCMD: Alberta Cross + Hacienda = one kick ass live rock show. Are you excited to tour with them? I saw them support Dan Auerbach last year where they pulled out a cover of The Animals “Inside Looking Out” that literally melted my brain.
Petter: Yes, we’re doing the whole tour with Hacienca. We saw them when they were touring with Dan Auerbach and met them down in Austin. They’re an amazing band and good friends of ours now.
The OCMD: Speaking of covers, I have a real soft spot for them and loved the cover of John Lennon’s “Steel and Glass” you did. Are you planning to play more? Can I make a request for one tonight?
Petter: Ohhhh, we’ll see. That’s kinda soon. We are definitely planning to play some more cover songs, but we don’t have that many right now. We’re working on a couple. Covers are fun. It’s always fun to play other people’s songs. But “Steel and Glass”, yeah, we might play that one.
The OCMD: Okay, I’ll hold you to it!
I’m pretty much a sucker for anything filed under the murky category of ‘lo-fi’ but I particularly like the genre-bending twist the Brooklyn-based group calling themselves, Woods, puts on it – which is a combination of lo-fi, psych rock, jam band and Neil Young-tinged folk.
It sounds ridiculous but it works in a delightfully quirky and unpredictable way. For just when you think you’ve got their sound figured out – fuzzed out guitars, off-kilter vocals – they’ll throw in a nine minute guitar jam (“September With Pete”), a great cover (Graham Nash’s “Military Madness”), a melancholy ditty (“Rain On”) or an experimental instrumental (“Echo Lake”). Wrap all that together with the hazy ambience of cassette tape recording and you’ve got yourself an album worth listening to. Trust me.
There’s always a bit of fear and trepidation when I anticipate a show as much as I did this one. Usually you’re setting yourself up for a disappointment, but that was not the case Monday night at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. The stellar double header of Foreign Born and The Veils definitely goes down as one of my top concerts so far this year.
Both bands were excellent, but I have to say Foreign Born really delivered an outstanding performance with a rich, polished and professional sound rarely seen at the likes of this venue. And they had a stage show too. When’s the last time you saw a show at Bottom of the Hill with two drummers, stage lighting and smoke effects? It was a first for me. They were tight.
The Veils, Finn Andrews, bared his soul during the show giving such a passionate performance he could barely compose himself after “Larkspur.” Wow, was all I could say. His vocals reigned true throughout the night and his graciousness on stage was and unexpected surprise for me. Impressive all around.
Wow. There is an absolute stellar line of music happening tonight at Bottom of the Hill featuring London-based The Veils, So Cal up and comers Foreign Born and Cleveland buzz makers Other Girls. Two of whom also happen to be the creators of my more beloved albums this year. Why the hell this show isn’t sold out is beyond me. It’s quite possibly one of the finest line ups I’ve seen all year. So if you’re SF-based, I highly recommend you get out to see it. Regardless of where you live, you should definitely add these albums to your collection.
The Veils frontman and songwriter, Finn Andrews, makes me swoon. His voice is stunning, his lyrics are soul baring. Couple that with a heady rush of guitars and you’ve got yourself ballad rock epitomised (nod to the Brits here with that spelling). For a band that constantly earns comparisons to Nick Drake, Morrissey and Jeff Buckley, it’s almost incomprehensible why they are not a bigger deal.
Sun Gangs is their third release and I would go so far to say it might be one of the sleeper albums of 2009. And now for a little music trivia. Did you know that Finn’s father Barry Andrews is a renowned musician himself? Playing with the likes of XTC, Brian Eno, David Bowie and Iggy Pop.
Foreign Born started in San Francisco in 2003 after singer Matt Popieluch and guitarist Lewis Pesacov graduated San Francisco State University. After playing a few shows, the pair went down to LA to clean up their rough demos. The results were promising enough for Lewis and Matt to quit their menial jobs and move down to LA where the current line-up of Foreign Born was, yes, born.
Their first LP, On The Wing Now, was released in 2007 and their latest effort, Person to Person, just released last month. I adore their first single from the album, “Vacationing People” and had the chance to see them perform at SXSW earlier this year. Judging by the number of recognizable faces in the audience at that show, it was evident that I’m not the only one who loves them either. After all, if Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste deems you as his “favorite new band”, you must be doing something right.
San Francisco’s 7×7 Magazine has now stepped into the mix to shed some light on our city’s battle to keep our cherished all ages music venues alive – such as Bottom of the Hill, Slim’s, The Fillmore and Cafe du Nord.
The battle between California’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) and some of San Francisco’s most beloved all ages music venues wages on. Here’s a YouTube clip of a recent report from NBC 11 explaining the situation. Imagine a San Francisco without a Bottom of the Hill, Great American Music Hall, Cafe du Nord and Slims. I cannot! Here’s what you can do to get involved.
ABC Email and website:
SFO.Direct@abc.ca.gov Attn: Brett Musselman
Email Senator Mark Leno!
Buy this shirt to show your support for GAMH and Slim’s: