White Water, White Bloom - Meet Sea Wolf's Alex Church
Photo: Mia Kirby
“I met and fell in love with a girl in Montreal while on tour with Irving, and just before signing with Dangerbird,” Church recalls. “And then, while touring behind the Sea Wolf record, I spent most of my time off in Montreal with her. Apart from 'Wicked Blood' and 'O Maria!,' which I wrote in Los Angeles, everything on White Water was written in Montreal, holed up in our little apartment, a block away from the river. That was all of last fall, winter and spring, so I was very much influenced by that experience, and a lot of the record is set there in my immediate surroundings, along with remembrances of being home on the West Coast.”
And you can tell. The sophomore release from Sea Wolf is much bigger then his debut both sonically and lyrically. White Water, White Bloom is filled with complex stories are woven into rich anthems filled with strings and baroque pop melodies. We caught up with Alex Church on the road somewhere in the middle of Texas to talk about his latest release. Here is some of what was said.Sea Wolf - O Maria!
How old were you when you first picked up an instrument?
I guess I was around eight years old. I took violin lessons for a year, but I didn't actually enjoy playing music until I was fifteen, which is when I started taking bass guitar lessons. Later I picked up the regular guitar.
When did you get the idea to form Sea Wolf? Where you still in Irving?
I had a bunch of songs that just didn't work with Irving's aesthetic. I started writing the songs in 2004 and figured I should probably get a band to play them.
I really dig the title of your latest album, White Water and White Bloom. Is it supposed to represent danger and rebirth?
Yeah! You nailed it right on the head. It's the name of one of the songs on the album, but I thought it represented the over all theme of the record. The words just kinda came out one day when we were recording and I thought they had a really virgin feeling to them. A new beginning.
How was recording this second album different from the first?
Sonically I knew what I wanted. I wanted a more dynamic and dramatic feel to this album. More of a band feel then the first record when it was mostly just me. In terms of songs though, I can't really predict what is going to happen. It just happens. If I could predict what was going to happen I would make a record every day.
Who is Maria in O Maria?
It's my girlfriend's name. Well, her name is Mareliene. She's French/Canadian.
I heard Mike Mogis produced this record. How did you end up working with him?
I've known him for awhile. I wanted to record the album in Portland, just because I like being there, but Mike's studio is in Omaha. It was just way more convenient to record it there, so we did.
What song are you most proud of on the album?
I'm proud of all of them, but maybe my favorite right now is "Turn The Dirt Over." I like the melody. I like the lyrics. It's fun to sing and play. It also sounds good if it's just me or if it's with the full band.
Your lyrics tend to be on the ornate and mysterious side. Do you come up with the story first or does the melody come first?
The melody usually comes first. I've written a couple songs where the lyrics came first, but usually the melody dictates what the song should be about.
Is your band a democracy or a dictatorship?
It's a dictatorship. I kinda had a set plan for the album, and people went along with it. I mean people had the freedom to move about within the plan, but it was still mine.
What is your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
My life in LA is a very open minded. It's still very much the wild west out there. You can be who you want to be or do whatever you want without criticism.
What was the worst show you ever played?
One year we played a show at SXSW in this really big room and it was really late, and the house sound guy totally fucked up our sound. It ended up taking forever to get it sorted out, and the whole crowd started to yell at us like we were circus animals. It was horrible being in front of a crowd and feeling like people pissed at you.
Gross. That would be horrible. Speaking of horrible, if you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I'd like to change the state of radio right now. It doesn't have anything to do with good music anymore. It's just about selling advertising. I'd like radio stations to stop playing Top 40 garbage.
Agreed. How did you get involved with Dangerbird Records?
We started playing around LA a bit with what became our first record. But things really started happening after we played our Spaceland residency in 2006. After that happened we had quite a few record labels after us, but Dangerbird had the best deal.
Yeah, I think Patrick Park is awesome. Okay final question if you were booking two gigs one in Heaven and one in Hell, who would you have headline?
I would book John Lennon in Heaven. And Hell....do they have to be in Hell to play?
No, not necessarily.
Okay well in that case I would book Johnny Cash in Hell. He'd probably enjoy it.
That's probably true. Well thank you so much for talking with us.