Sea Wolf: "Even Good Reviews Can Bum Me Out"
Indie rock band Sea Wolf is getting ready to wrap up a lengthy tour in support of their new release, Old World Romance. The third full-length offering from the group founded and orchestrated by California native Alex Brown Church veers a bit from their previous endeavors. The folk elements that previously stood out are less noticeable now than the sharp and prominent drum beats that embrace the band's rock and pop edges.
Not lost are Church's reflective lyrics delivered with both sweetness and rasp, easily inspiring hazy daydreams and wishes for thunderstorms as his range ebbs and flows. As a whole, Old World Romance is luscious and driving; tracks like "In Nothing" and "Old Friend" aren't easily forgettable. We got a chance to talk with Alex to hear more about this new release and what to expect from Wednesday's show at Crescent Ballroom.
Up on the Sun: For everyone who isn't a Sea Wolf stalker, tell us a little about your musical history.
Alex Brown Church: I kind of started playing the bass in high school. I wasn't in any sort of musical family or anything. I just always knew I wanted to play music but I didn't have anyone mentoring me in that direction or anything.
Were you playing with other people right off the bat?
I took lessons my senior year of high school and played a little bit with other people -- mostly on my own, though. I went to NYU for film school after that and continued playing bass in college.
I played with people here and there but was mostly focused on my film studies. At the time my roommate was the singer of a band, and he started showing me some guitar chords, and I started learning to play the acoustic guitar and began singing a bit. By the time I finished college, I started to write songs.
Did you stay in NYC after college?
No. I moved to Los Angeles from there; I'm originally from Berkeley. Shortly after moving there, I met a couple of guys and we went on to form Irving. That lasted for eight years and was kind of an Elephant 6, Neutral Milk Hotel type of indie pop band.
Eventually I wanted to start my own thing; it just took me a little time to figure out what that was. When I got an idea, I started a side project which went on to become Sea Wolf. I began writing for Sea Wolf in the early 2000s.
When did you start playing live Sea Wolf shows?
I worked on the writing for a while and in 2004 came up with the name and started playing shows. The first couple of years I played one show a year and just kept writing and recording. In 2006, I was serious enough to start sending stuff out to labels. I got a manager and became more aggressive about the project.
How did that aggressiveness pay off?
By the end of that year I signed with Dangerbird Records, and the next year saw the release of the debut EP and the first album. Sea Wolf was meant to be a band from the beginning, but some of the people I was working with were already fulltime members of other bands, so I decided that Sea Wolf should just be me and I would have other players come and go.
Since you're the driving force, what's the Sea Wolf songwriting process?
I write the songs and do the bulk of arranging for each song. But, I'm not a drummer, cellist, etc., and there are just things that other musicians are better at than I am. I'll write some keyboard parts or melodic lines, but there's a certain point in a song where I feel like I've done everything I can do, and then I have people come in and contribute.
So you're comfortable with external input?
I let the musicians and producers do their thing, and then they usually come to me for feedback, and that's when I'll give my input.
What's the live show lineup look like?
I currently have a full band, live. I have done tours by myself but those are rare - Sea Wolf is meant to be a band. We used to travel with a cellist and it was a six piece but now it's five.
There aren't really strings on the new album so it felt appropriate to do something representative of where the sound is at right now. The drummer and keyboardist, Joey Ficken and Lisa Fendelander, have been playing with me since shortly after the first album came out. They also played on the second and latest releases, so they're as close to being full-time band members as they can get. We have a new guitarist and bassist who have been playing with us for about a year.
What's different about this new record?
The recording is different from the second record, perhaps, because I recorded it and produced it myself as opposed to having a producer involved in the studio.
After the jump: "Even good reviews can sometimes bum me out."