There’s a new face on the Indie folk circuit these days. The face belongs to Alex Brown Church and he has emerged from the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, a recent hotbed of activity in the Indie music community. Church is Sea Wolf in the same way that Sam Beam is Iron & Wine and, like Beam, Church rarely performs solo and relies on a diverse cast of backing musicians to flesh out his songs.
When Church first put Sea Wolf together he was an active member of Irving, another band native to Silverlake, and needed an outlet for more of his own material. “Sea Wolf is my songs and Irving is more of a group thing where I only had a few songs on each record,” Church said during a recent interview with Listen Up Denver! that was plagued by the lack of cellular coverage in Southern Oregon as he drove from San Francisco to Portland for the second gig of Sea Wolf’s marathon fall tour with his current bandmates.
“I’ve been playing with this line-up since March and while it’s hard to say how permanent anyone is, everyone seems pretty good to go for now,” said Church. “I’ve been out on the road with these guys a couple of times and we are pretty familiar with each other at this point. We are really getting along pretty well. We all really like each other and it is a good group but being stuck in a van with anybody for that long a time can make you start to hate your best friend. It’s just the way it goes on the road.”
Before cementing the current line up of Sea Wolf Church called on members of the so called “Ship Collective” to fill out his sound both in the studio and on the stage. “The ‘Ship Collective’ was a group of bands from Los Angeles that included the Silversun Pickups, Great Northern, Earlimart, Irving and a couple of others,” Church said. “We were all friends and we created this sort of community. We practiced within a block of each other, played on each others records, hung out together and just really supported one another.”
While the importance of the “Ship Collective” has faded, and Church is now a year removed from Irving, he has found Sea Wolf to be much more creatively rewarding for him and he maintains a good relationship with his ex-bandmates. “Those guys have been really supportive of Sea Wolf the whole way, we’re definitely still pals,” he said. “Sea Wolf was just getting a lot of attention building momentum and Irving wasn’t. It got to the point where I felt like I wanted to go with Sea Wolf full time.”
The attention that Church is referencing has been coming in several forms. On the live front, his friends in Silversun Pickups invited Sea Wolf to join them on a high profile tour this past summer. On the radio front, Church has become a darling of NPR and has been featured at least twice in the last year on the World Café program. And, most recently, Church got the opportunity to reach a much broader audience when Jimmy Kimmel invited Sea Wolf to perform in the Pontiac Garage on his late night television show. Much of the attention has been as a result of the bands first single “You’re a Wolf” from their debut album Leaves In the River. Ironically, it’s a song that Church wrote when Sea Wolf was a very new idea for him.
“I wrote ‘You’re A Wolf’ about four years ago,” said Church. “It’s been a while and I think that I had the idea as I was humming along and the words ‘you’re a wolf’ just kinda came out. I really liked the idea of that being the song and I thought about what it meant and tried to figure out why it registered with me.” He didn’t want to elaborate much about the meaning of the song but did acknowledge that, in addition to liking the implied message the lyrics convey, he was playing on the name of his band.
When asked about the origin of that name, Church reflected on his childhood growing up in Northern California. In a home without a television he was often reading and stumbled upon the work of Jack London, the author of the famous maritime tale, The Sea Wolf. “The name of the band comes from Jack London’s book ‘The Sea Wolf,’” he said. “I grew up in Berkeley and Jack London is from Oakland and is sort of this mythological figure in the Bay Area. I grew up with Jack London Square in Oakland and a restaurant not too far from my house that had pictures of him everywhere. He was very present in my childhood and I felt this connection to him in that way.”
Though Church now makes his home in Los Angeles, it was fitting that he started his first national headlining tour as Sea Wolf so close to his childhood home. “The show was about what I was hoping it would be,” he said. “We just put out our first record and we haven’t played in San Francisco very much, but there were a couple hundred people there.”
The tide seems to be changing for Church and after years of gliding below the radar of most major media he has broken through and his music is getting the notice that it deserves. Chances are it won’t be long until he is taking the next newcomer to the indie folk world under his wing and showing them the ropes.
Spectate If You Gravitate:
- Iron & Wine
- Band of Horses