Interview with Alex Church of Sea Wolf
After two LPs released under the name “Sea Wolf,” singer/songwriter Alex Church is going out this fall on a solo acoustic tour across the country. What follows is a recent conversation I had with Mr. Church in which we discuss the recording of his last album, White Water, White Bloom, his music’s connection to the cinema, and his up-coming tour.
Let’s talk about your most recent album White Water, White Bloom. What is the overall feel of the album and how does it compare to your first LP, Leaves in the River?
This new album is bigger and louder with more dynamics and more highs and lows. I wanted to capture a wider-ranging feel and make more of a “rock record” or a “band record.”
I understand that the album was produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes at his studio in Omaha, Nebraska. What was the recording process like?
We actually got to fly out to Omaha and stay in his guest house, which has a recording studio in it. We were there for five weeks, which was fun because it felt like we were away from home on a vacation. The first record, took maybe a year and a half to make, where I’d record here and there. This record was done in a more old fashioned kind of way all at once.
Your song “Wicked Blood” seems to be about a wealthy, beautiful, but wicked woman that you seem to love. You sing “these lines were here long before we came around.” What lines are you referring to? Can you discuss this song a bit?
The lines I refer to are the lines between social levels and their two different worlds—the female is from a blue-blooded background and the guy is from a working class background.
I was surprised, after hearing “Wicked Blood,” which has such a serious feel, to see such a funny music video that rips on those old D-grade black and white monster movies. How did you decide to go in this direction?
It happened kind of by accident. A lot of [Director] Alan Tanner’s videos are like that and I just liked what he did. His sort of sensibility stood out to me. His stuff is humorous, which I didn’t originally see this video as being, but in the end, it seemed like he was going to make the coolest video.
You have also released “Turn the Dirt Over” as a new single. It is available digitally as well as on vinyl, with a bonus remix of the song from Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene. Have you ever worked with BSS before and how did this remix come to be?
I’ve actually never met him, but we have mutual friends, so that’s kind of just how that came about.
Literature seems to be of great importance to your music, whether it comes from your own poetry that appears as song lyrics or from others (the name “Sea Wolf,” comes from the title of a Jack London novel). How do you feel literature has affected your music?
I don’t consciously think about it when I write. But my mom was a big hippie when I was growing up and didn’t let us watch TV, so we read and listened to music a lot, which I guess is where my interest in literature came from.
I also understand that you were a film student at NYU. What are some cross-overs between song-writing and filmmaking that allowed you to make such a transition?
Film is about creating a story and so when you’re writing a screenplay, you’re creating dramatic moments. You need to keep the viewer engaged and create a beginning, a middle and an end, which I apply to the structure of songs as well.
Let’s talk a bit about your current tour. Why did you decide to do a solo acoustic tour? What can fans expect to see?
They can definitely expect to see a great show from start to finish! When I first started playing, most of the first few shows were just me and a few other people out on stage. The shows had a very stripped-down feel to them. And now that I’ve had two records out with a full band, I feel that I can go out and do a special solo tour and no one will misinterpret why I want to do it. It’s going to be fun to play with some of my friends.
Two other musicians will be joining you on tour: Patrick Park and Sera Cahoone. How will they be contributing to the show?
They are going to be opening the show with a kind of folk-rock, Americana sound. Its fun having the four of us (the sound guy is with us too) driving around the country in a van together!
What is next for Sea Wolf? Any plans for a new album soon?
Yeah, I just started writing for the next record. I’m going to Europe later in December, but then after the tour, I’ll be writing and hopefully recording the new album.
Sea Wolf will be performing this evening at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased at the door or in advance at: http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/12063