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Sea Wolf

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Tags: rock, indie

As Sea Wolf, Alex Brown Church has kept us ensnared in his world of gorgeously lush and longingly moody tales of gypsies, wolves, foggy coastlines, redwood forests, metropolitan nightscapes and precarious loves since his 2007 debut. With his new album Old World Romance, released in September on Dangerbird Records, Church continues the story, delving into new territory.

An NYU film school graduate, and northern California native, Church has always taken the auteur’s approach to Sea Wolf, infusing his lyrics and imagery with his experiences from the romantic grandeur of the West to the old school classicism of the East. But while the scenes he paints in his songs reflect his dual penchants for dramatic natural landscapes and the headiness of urban life, under the surface they are most often about periods of change.

It was one of those periods that brought Church back to California to write and record Old World Romance, the third Sea Wolf album. While not confined to the concept of "home”, it is in many respects a homecoming album, its creation coming after the songwriter returned to his artistic base after three momentous years away.

“Some significant things happened for me while I was living in Montreal, but life happens all the time to all of us,” Church says. “A lot of the album is about facing realities, reconnecting with who you are. And a lot of that came from this complete sense of rediscovery of where I’m from — not so much L.A., but the West Coast in general. I felt a resurgence. I felt like this is where I belong.”

Ensconced in his home studio for the first time since he worked on his first Sea Wolf album, Leaves in the River, which was completed in Seattle with producer Phil Ek, Church was able to refine his craft, and readdress his old way of writing and recording. Mostly on his own, on his own time, with his live bandmates contributing here and there over the course of a year and a half.

“I spent a lot more time tinkering and writing more of the instrumentation myself again,” Church says, noting the change in dynamic from his sophomore album, 2009’s White Water, White Bloom, which was written in Montreal but recorded with the full band in Omaha with producer Mike Mogis. “I felt like I’d learned enough to be able to self-produce,”

“I wanted this album to be more straightforward, more melodic, with simpler song structures. Much of it came down to my getting out of my own way," he explains. "I wanted it to feel uncalculated.”

Those qualities are evident in the beautiful simplicity of the single “Old Friend,” the wistful optimism of “Changing Seasons” and the brisk missives “Dear Fellow Traveller” and “In Nothing.” Church’s DIY approach to Old World Romance even allowed him to push his own boundaries, leaning away from the indie-folk instrumentation of his previous releases toward a new rhythmic electronic underpinning, perhaps most exemplified in the shimmering song “Kasper.”

The ethos that created Old World Romance was fostered in Church’s childhood. As part of an non-traditional family of builders with a profound appreciation of travel, adventure and the arts, Church spent his early years in the woodsy environs of Columbia, Calif., then lived in a tent in the French countryside for a year — taking time out to travel Europe — before his family finally settled in Berkeley.

In the Bay Area, Church’s passion for music gravitated toward hip-hop and indie-rock, while his enthusiasm for writing and film grew. His artistic discipline solidified, however, during his time in New York — his NYU film studies and the influence and ambition of the city itself would profoundly inform Church as a musician.

His interests in film and music brought him to Los Angeles, where he soon befriended Brian Canning and Steven Scott, who would become his bandmates in the indie-rock outfit Irving. By the time Irving released its second album in 2006, though, Church was restless. He turned his attention to the music project he’d been working on in the background — Sea Wolf, named for the Jack London epic.

Not long after, he bowed out of Irving and Sea Wolf was signed to Dangerbird Records, which introduced its new artist by releasing the EP Get to the River Before it Runs Too Low in 2007. The single “You’re a Wolf” ushered Sea Wolf into the world with aplomb, quickly capturing the attention of radio and the blogosphere,.

Besides his three albums, Sea Wolf contributed the tune “Song of the Magpie” to the audio book for author Augusten Burroughs’ A Wolf at the Table. Burroughs had asked Church to read the book and respond with an original song.

It’s all part of a remarkable run that has seen Church carve out a niche as a distinctive voice whose orchestrated allegories provide an antidote to the over-thought and overwrought. On Old World Romance the songwriter’s meditations are as unvarnished as ever, exuding the kind of melancholy that begets clarity that begets hope.

“We’re at a weird place in popular music where people are just recycling things, so I think it really just comes down to individual voices. Being back in Los Angeles, surrounded by other artists and friends and in the comfort zone of my own studio, has let me work toward being as clear as possible with my own voice. I felt inspired and rejuvenated, and I hope the album evokes that too.”

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  • KCRW's Jason Bentley

    KCRW's Jason Bentley on Sea Wolf

    2 months ago

    Played "You're a Wolf" 07/21/2014 11:22 am

  • KCRW's Jason Bentley

    KCRW's Jason Bentley on Sea Wolf

    4 months ago

    Played "Bergamot Morning" 05/19/2014 10:41 am

  • Buzz Bands LA

    Buzz Bands LA on Sea Wolf

    about 1 year ago

    Alex Brown Church has said that much of his third album as Sea Wolf — "Old World Romance," released last September on Dangerbird Records — was informed by his move back to California after spending a couple years in Montreal. And so it is with the video for "Old Friend," which Church made with director Jeff Gardner over the course of a California sojourn. Gardner could hardly have rendered the Golden State so beautifully. It's fitting imagery for Church's lush indie-folk, which, three albums into the life of Sea Wolf, continues paint pretty picutres more here

  • TheOwlMag

    TheOwlMag on Sea Wolf

    over 1 year ago

    Artist: Sea Wolf Album: Leaves in the River Label: Dangerbird Records Genre: Folk/Freak Folk, Indie Rock Rating: Buy it >>

    If you’re looking for a soundtrack for the upcoming change of seasons, something sweet and pretty to get you through the unaccustomed chill of the looming winter, look no further than Sea Wolf’s new release Leaves in the River. With pretty acoustic guitar and a folksy sound, Leaves is perfect for those transitional days of fall when the days are getting shorter, the leaves are starting to fall, and the light is all fuzzy and soft. Like a traveling gypsy in a caravan, Alex Brown Church’s beautifully imperfect vocals mesmerize as he tells tales of gypsy boys and finding love on Halloween. An accordion even makes itself present on the second track, “Winter Windows,” whose driving beats and catchy, repetitive vocals makes for a great change of pace from the slower numbers on the record. With a scattering of just enough synth and sampling to keep it catchy, the album combines the best of folk with just enough danceability to make it fresh. While at times the lyrics can border on sappy, (“this is the world we live in, it’s not one I choose, but it’s the one we’re given”) Church’s voice is so pleasant to listen to that it really doesn’t matter what he’s saying, as long as he just keeps on singing.

    - Review submitted by Grace Blasco.

    more at theowlmag.com

  • TheOwlMag

    TheOwlMag on Sea Wolf

    over 1 year ago

    Sea Wolf Old World Romance [Dangerbird]

    Sea Wolf’s special knack for emotional and mental image manipulation is a testament to the heart that their tracks have always been created with.

    Old World Romance is a continuation of this testament. While touching on memorable moments of Sea Wolf albums past, the project moves forward with a new, previously untapped atmosphere. The album’s first single “Old Friend” is reminiscent of “The Cold, The Dark, and The Silence,” “Changing Seasons” reminds us of “Where The Wind Blows,” and “Blue Stockings” takes us back to the title track on Leaves In The River. We love these nods to Sea Wolf past because we’ve heard these albums innumerable times and still can’t get enough of them.

    At the same time, there is a taste of a happier, more hopeful flavor, which is Sea Wolf anew. Characteristic, exquisite hooks are weaved into warmer tones. Some tracks even compel us to run directly to our significant other for an embrace to rival all embraces everywhere with lyrics like, “You came from nowhere, my own miracle cure” and “If I could surround you with beautiful sounds, I will, I will, I will!”

    Wow, we just love how deeply Sea Wolf can capture our raw emotions and make them beautiful. They have really done us right by this album. It’s everything we want from Sea Wolf and so much of what Sea Wolf knew we wanted, even if we didn’t know it ourselves yet.

    more at theowlmag.com

  • KCRW's Jason Bentley

    KCRW's Jason Bentley on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    Played "Priscilla" 11/13/2012 10:26 am

  • 88.5 KCSN

    88.5 KCSN on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    Sea Wolf Sat, Nov 10 El Rey Theatre more at kcsn.org

  • Amoeba "Music We Like"

    Amoeba "Music We Like" on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    Sea Wolf, Old World Romance (CD) On Sea Wolf’s breakthrough song “You’re a Wolf,” Alex Brown Church was running, seemingly away from someone, or unable to reach someone. On the opener, “Old Friend,” of his latest album, Church sings of such youthful drama as a thing of the past — “I went north, and I went east/Follow in the footsteps of some beautiful beast/But now we’re getting older and we’re growing up.” Old World Romance finds Church singing about relationships in similar turmoil, though with the grace gleaned by age, rolling nostalgic melodies over lush instrumentation. Its...more at amoeba.com

  • Buzz Bands LA

    Buzz Bands LA on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    Sea Wolf has emerged from the mist. The nom de tune of singer-songwriter Alex Brown Church, Sea Wolf today announced that its third album "Old World Romance" — Church's first new music in more than 2 1/2 years — will come out Sept. 11 (via Dangerbird). There's nothing to stream yet, but in the announcement the new music is described as more stripped-back and lean. The album will be released just short of the three-year anniversary of 20092s sophomore album "White Water, White Bloom." ||| Live: Sea Wolf performs at an event titled "Into more here

  • Buzz Bands LA

    Buzz Bands LA on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    Alex Brown Church's songs as Sea Wolf unfold like dog-eared photographs come to life, his pastoral imagery (and equally lush arrangements) not only carrying the weight of nostalgia but the sense that by articulating it his protagonists can somehow free themselves of the burden. So it is with "Old Friend," the new single from Sea Wolf's forthcoming album "Old World Romance" (out Sept. 11 on Dangerbird). The album, written upon Church's return to California after time spent living in Montreal while his girlfriend attended school, is Sea Wolf's third. "This record is about a lot of things, but more here

  • Buzz Bands LA

    Buzz Bands LA on Sea Wolf

    almost 2 years ago

    This will come as no bulletin to anybody familiar with Alex Brown Church's music, but Sea Wolf is not a party band. Not a single crowd surfer, stage diver or glowstick was spotted during the Los Angeles folk-pop outfit's first local show in two years last Friday night. This despite the vaguely suggestive name of the event, "Into the Night: Playtime." But that's because the night's host, the Skirball Cultural Center , minds its middle name. In booking and organizing its annual summertime hipster foray at its Sepulveda Pass locale, the Skirball went for the more here

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