It makes sense that Alex Brown Church attended NYU film school; there's a broad cinematic sweep to the songs he creates as Sea Wolf —haunting and moody, and committed to the sort of deep melancholy we all know and love from tragic movie romances.
Still, he's got a God-given gift for melody and arrangement, and the lyrics on the three Sea Wolf albums — Old World Romance is the most recent — show a young man unafraid to explore a deft or unusual turn of phrase, wherever it takes him. And willing to marry his poetry to exquisitely-crafted chamber pop.
The band (such as it is; read on) has been signed to the indie label Dangerbird since 2007; the best-known Sea Wolf song is "The Violet Hour," which California-bred Church crafted for the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
I read that you spent a lot of time in your early years outdoors. Did this directly influence the way you write — quiet moments of reflection, sweeping natural vistas, an appreciation of silence and space? And are you still a nature sort of person?
Alex Brown Church: I would say yes, I'm sure it had some effect on me overall, which naturally would affect my songwriting. Those sort of sweeping, grandiose landscapes of the West definitely linger in my memories, and are still a part of my daily life because they are inescapable. Even here in LA. I woke up the other day to find fresh snow on the mountains I can see from my kitchen window.
This being said, I consider myself more of an urbanite, albeit one that feels comfortable roughing it in the wilderness. I just really thrive on the social aspect of city life, and being surrounded by new ideas. I appreciate the outdoors, but definitely consider myself a city guy. I love camping, but I do tend to get bored after a couple of days.
Do you consider Sea Wolf a band, or a vehicle for your words, music and production ideas? In other words, how much input do the other musicians have in the creation of this sound?
Alex Brown Church: Well, it's a vehicle for my ideas, but I do need help in realizing them sometimes, so that's where the band comes in. I sometimes think of Sea Wolf as a "so-and-so and the such-and-such band" kind of situation, except it's just called Sea Wolf. I can go out and do solo acoustic shows or do full band shows and both are still Sea Wolf, though to me the full band experience is how the songs are meant to be heard and presented (plus it's a lot more fun for me to have the band with me).
I've had different musicians come and go over the years, some of whom have contributed to some of the recordings and some of whom haven't. In terms of their influence, I have pretty tight control over the vision for the songs and have always directed them here or there. But people do bring their own perspective and often interpret those directions in different ways, which is where the songs can sometimes expand past my ideas in pleasantly unexpected ways, and I like to stay open to that.
How much effect did having the song in the Twilight movie change you, your fan base, and — in your view — your profile in the music business? And how do you feel about it?
Alex Brown Church: It's really hard to say. I feel like it did open us up to a lot of new fans, for sure, but it took a few years for me to notice it. It seems like there are more people at the shows now than ever, and I assume the Twilight thing had at least a small part in that. It's really tough to measure or say definitively what effect it did have, though. How do I feel about it? Honestly, I never think about it until someone mentions it. And then I'm not sure how I feel about it.
OK, I always ask something like this when I find out someone is a huge Beatles fan. Rubber Soul, Revolver, the White Album or Abbey Road? And why?
Alex Brown Church: Well, Rubber Soul or Revolver, for sure. Songs like "Nowhere Man" and "Norwegian Wood" and "I'm Only Sleeping" are just my favorite. I love the mood of those songs, the concise arrangements and structures, the beginnings of experimentation happening on those records. To me those albums feel like the beginning of the crazy experimental stuff to come, and beginnings are always the most exciting to me.