Sea Wolf

Alex Brown Church, the central figure behind the Los Angeles-based musical entity Sea Wolf is uncomfortable. Twitchy and evasive, he populates silences with filler phrases, then ends up mumbling, “I don’t know,” when his thoughts remain unarticulated. Luckily, this communication impairedness doesn’t present itself in Church’s music. In fact, on Old World Romance, his latest album as Sea Wolf, Church has reached a heightened level of clarity.

Old World Romance shows marked advancement in songwriting from its predecessors, Leaves in the River and White Water, White Bloom. The album is propelled by inventive melodies—which at times crib from Fran Healy of Travis a touch more than they should, such as on “Old Friend.” Church’s lucid tonal sound is occasionally informed by Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, such as on “In Nothing.” Old World Romance is nonetheless beautifully crafted with a refreshing fluidity.

“I felt less self-conscious,” says Church, speaking about the album as he nurses a cup of coffee at Silver Lake’s trendy
La Mill Coffee. “I have grown up a lot. I’ve had some big family tragedy, I’m older, I’m thinking about being a responsible adult, and my perspective has changed. I tried to be a little more straightforward melodically and lyrically.”

Each of the Sea Wolf records has been conceived in very different situations. Leaves was written over a five-year period while Church was still an active member of the defunct band Irving. White was penned in Montreal, where he spent three years with his girlfriend. He then went to Omaha, NE, to be further shaped by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis. Romance was birthed back in LA over an extended but focused stretch of time.

“I didn’t know what the record was going to sound like; I just wrote and demoed as many songs with the intention of keeping a lot of the tracks,” says Church. “My hard drive crashed, and I lost almost everything. I had to redo a lot of the record. It was tedious, but once I got everything back, I tried to take it to a new, fresh place. I wasn’t going to get a certain vibe I had before, so I had to accept what it was now. In the end it got to where I wanted it to go—but I never want to do that again.”

The emotive, inside-out nature of Sea Wolf’s sound readily lends itself to various settings. “You’re a Wolf” is among the songs that have been featured on numerous television shows, commercials, movie trailers and video games. “The Violet Hour” soundtracked Bella’s infamous birthday paper-cut scene in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. And Sea Wolf was also asked by Augusten Burroughs to compose a song for the
A Wolf at the Table audiobook.

“I have a hard time writing for something that’s been given to me because it comes out kind of contrived,” admits Church. “To make a record, you write more songs than you put on the album. To write for something, it’s easier for the song to be the first one that works, not necessarily the best one. It’s not my favorite thing to do.”

Neither is dissecting his own work. Shuffling agitatedly, ready to escape back to where he feels safe—the depths of his music—Church departs hastily, leaving the sentiments of Old World Romance hanging heavily in the air.

Listen to Old World Romance online at

Text by Lily Moayeri