It’s been a while since we’ve heard from L.A.’s Sea Wolf, the ongoing indie folk project from Alex Brown Church, as he had been jaunting around North America and Europe on a solo tour and living in Montreal for the past three years. It was a change of pace that he and the band needed despite the steady success of Sea Wolf’s first two albums, Leaves of the River and White Water, White Bloom. The latter hit the Billboard charts, and both albums included tunes that were featured in television shows and commercials. That type of attention provides creative freedom for a musician these days, which Church took to recharge his creative reservoir worlds away from California.
“It’s good to be back,” Church says over the mid-week din of a Silverlake café. “I’ve missed the way California looks and feels.”
His home state’s diverse beauty and idyllic weather is clearly evident upon the first melodic listen of the upcoming Sea Wolf album Old World Romance, due out September 11. Even Church himself describes this record as a long, picturesque “drive down the PCH,” and you can get a taste of this through its first single “Old Friend,” released earlier this month.
While the cinematic mood of this ballad isn’t vastly different from the prior Sea Wolf albums, this newest, moving effort feels like Church is harking back to something looming over his past, going all the way back to his childhood. Before moving to Berkeley at age eight, he grew up outside of the small California mountain town of Columbia, living with his mother almost completely off the grid. Church tells me about how he spent most of his time outside, running in the hills, and feeling a deep connection with the natural environment and the land itself. Large ferns, towering trees, endless carpets of green—his music triggers these lush landscapes. Church also alludes to a childhood that wasn’t necessarily all happy, however, and that clearly creates an ominous backdrop for his music.
“I want to write happier songs, but they just don’t sound as good. Those are the hardest songs to write,” Church explains, picking his words carefully. “Maybe it’s just my natural inclination to be a little dark.”
That said, Sea Wolf’s Old World Romance is as hopeful as it is moody, with upbeat songs scattered amongst the cello and mourning croons of love, loss, and mystery. It is a full experience, and by the end of the ten-track voyage, you are hopeful for whatever is over the horizon and ready to embark upon the whole listening experience again with a simple punch of the repeat button. While there are a number of songs you will find yourself unconsciously humming hours or days after hearing the album, “Priscilla,” the track premiering below, stands out above the rest. Church explains little more about it other than it chronicling a relationship on the rocks, a song he wrote when he found himself in such a predicament.
“I guess my eternal state of being is trying to be happier,” he says. “Each song is trying to work out what’s not quite right.”
Check out Sea Wolf’s “Priscilla,” below and the rest of the album on September 11.