DeadJournalist.com Exclusive Interview: Sea Wolf
by Chuck Norton
In 2007, one of the year’s better releases was Sea Wolf’s Leaves in the River which featured the singles “You’re a Wolf” and “Black Dirt”. The band is back this year with a new album, White Water, White Boom, which offers music fans another opportunity to appreciate the work of Alex Brown Church, the band’s founder, singer and songwriter.
Church, who was also a founding member of the Los Angeles-based band Irving in 1998, formed Sea Wolf in 2007 upon leaving Irving after nine years. Upon signing with Dangerbird Records (Ban Veins, The Dears, Silversun Pickups), the band release the EP Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low and quickly followed it up with the LP Leaves in the River before taking a couple of years to write and record White Water, White Boom.
Sea Wolf’s newest album, which was recorded in Omaha, NE at the studio of Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Monsters of Folk), was released on September 22, 2009. The band released a video for the first single, “Wicked Blood”, on October 28, 2009 which featured Shannyn Sossamon.
Sea Wolf also has a song, “The Violent Hour”, on the soundtrack for the newest Twilight movie New Moon.
The band, comprised of Church, Lisa Fendelander, Theodore Liscinski, Joey Ficken, Nathan Anderson, and Joyce Lee, is concluding its fall tour this week with the final show being at the movie premiere party for New Moon in Hollywood.
DeadJournalist.com brings you this exclusive interview with Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf.
Your latest Sea Wolf album, White Water, White Bloom, has been out for almost a month. Looking back – how did the writing and recording of this album differ from the previous LP and EP Sea Wolf released?
ABC: I recorded the songs that wound up on the first EP and LP over the course of about a year and a half, in various places, with various people. This time around, I knew going in that I wanted to do it in one place, with a singular group of people, and we did just that. I really wanted to capture a specific period in Sea Wolf’s existence with the new record, rather than capture the entire Sea Wolf catalog, which is what I did on the first record.
When you begin putting this album together, did you write songs especially for it or did you pull songs from your personal catalog?
ABC: Well, my personal catalog and Sea Wolf’s catalog are one in the same. All of the songs I write are for Sea Wolf, so as soon as the first record was done, every song I wrote after that was with the new album in mind.
Do you have a favorite song on the new album? Has this changed now that you’ve been on tour?
ABC: I’m proud of all of the songs and like all of them for different reasons. But I’d say right now “Turn the Dirt Over” is one I’m really enjoying playing and singing every night.
As a songwriter do you feel as though you are chasing the “perfect” song? If so, how what elements do you feel would quantify its creation?
ABC: Perfection is overrated. Imperfections, in anything, are where things get interesting. The imperfections are what defines a thing’s character. The perfect song to me is the song that flows out effortlessly and captures a moment of inspiration at it’s inception, flaws and all.
Which do you enjoy more: performing live or writing and recording?
ABC: Both are exhilarating. Writing and recording satisfies all of my creative urges, but playing live justifies them. I wouldn’t trade one for the other.
As a performer, what is the most important aspect of your live performances?
ABC: Connecting with the audience is what you’re there to do. So, bringing them into your world for a little while, letting them see a side of you and the music they hadn’t seen before.
What have been the highlights if your current tour thus far? Have you had a tour stop where you were surprised at the turn out or fan base support?
ABC: We had a lot of support throughout the tour, but it was great to sell out our Montreal show, because that’s where my girlfriend and her family is from and until this tour we hadn’t had a good show there. So, finally having a good show there felt really great, and we had probably the most fun there out of all of the shows.
Having toured for the greater part of the last decade, what is the most bizarre event that has occurred to you while on tour?
Well, early on, while I was in my first band, we slept in a lot of stranger’s houses. The weirdest was when we played a festival in an East Coast college town, and got invited back to a house where about 10 girls lived, only to discover that they’d invited about a dozen other bands to stay there, so we wound up sleeping on an attic floor with about 40 other dudes.
In the constantly evolving technological landscape are you finding that you are reliant on social networking site, Twitter, etc. to stay in touch with friends and family and market to fans?
ABC: I don’t know. When it comes to friends and family, phone calls, emails, texts are about as far as I go. Getting all caught up in Twitter and the social networking sites are just such a huge time suck, I find, so I don’t spend much time with them. But, I know that a lot of people out there do, so I try and update news periodically to keep those people that are paying attention that way informed.
In recent years there’s been a noted increase in the use of licensed music in advertising; but conversely there’s been a downturn in album sales. Having bared witness to these changes, do how you think these industry changes affect an artists ability to make a living as a musician?
ABC: Well, touring has always been a big source of income for artists, and that’s not going to change, The drop in album sales really does sting though, and it’s sending a lot of bands toward licensing opportunities in order to make ends meet and continue to be a working musician. The music industry is in a real time of flux right now, and no one knows how it’s all going to pan out.
What made Dangerbird the right fit for you as an artist?
ABC: Dangerbird really made it possible for me to be able to do Sea Wolf full time, and give it the attention it deserves. There wasn’t another label who could offer that. They’re great because they are small, and energetic and can give you a lot of attention, but they also have all of the resources to get you where you need to be.
Is there an artist that you’ve encountered recently that you’ve been recommending to your friends?
ABC: Port O’Brien and Sara Lov are opening up for us on this tour. They’re great.
Given your experience as a professional musician, what advice would you provide to an artist or band that is just beginning to experience the lifestyle? Was there a person or group that took you under your wing when you were start out?
ABC: I wish someone had taken me under their wing, I would have learned what not to do a whole lot faster. The biggest piece of advice I could give is just to practice. To practice whatever it is they want to do, more than anything else. If they want to write songs, then practice that. If they want to play guitar, then practice that. If they want to sing, then practice that. The rule of 10,000 hours is golden.
Which do you prefer: MP3, CD, Tape or Vinyl?
ABC: For new albums I prefer CDs, but for old albums I like vinyl.
What Web site do you read regularly?
One Drink; One Movie; One Album:
ABC: Sierra Nevada. Five Easy Pieces. The Beatles 1962-1966.
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