Carnivorous Acquisition: Sea Wolf Take a Bite Out of Utah

Posted January 3, 2013 in
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Sea Wolf will be playing from their latest album, Old World Romance.
The Wasatch Mountains don’t bring to mind the ocean, obviously, but if you think twice, there is often a giant body of water cushioning us soundlessly in the winter time. A sea of snow is a pristine manner in which to welcome new Utah tour dates from Sea Wolf. Alex Church’s fresh album, Old World Romance, released in September, is as melancholy and expectant as the glacial shell that encompasses this city.

Church has three scheduled concerts in the Beehive State this month. On Jan. 19, Urban Lounge will play host to a full Sea Wolf set, and on Jan. 20 and 21, Church will be playing the ASCAP Music Cafe at the Sundance Film Festival. I spoke to Church just before he headed out to discuss this tour and the alterations of style on his new LP.

Old World Romance features some surprising adjustments from previous ventures. Along with a more impassioned sound, Church also uses a drum kit. “Most of the songs have drum machine on them as well as real drums. That was an interesting experience because most of my previous work has featured rhythmic guitar playing. It was a different approach to songwriting,” says Church. Drum machine adds a bright sound to the organic feel of the remaining instruments. The airy ambience of movement holds true from albums Leaves in the River, to White Water, White Bloom, to now. Previous albums employed guitar as an alternate form of percussion to the modest drums used. Romance, while still exhibiting rhythmic guitar, is overwhelmingly filled with dripping pick patterns and relies on drums for percussion. “The second record to me was very dense, musically and lyrically. I wanted this album to sound more open and smoothed out,” he says. Rhythm-based songs such as “In Nothing” and habitually occurring string sections tie it back in with his other work.

Next, Church discussed his latest recording experience as similar to exploits with Leaves in the River. “I have a home studio where I write, record and rehearse. It was similar to the first album in that it was written over a longer period of time and recorded along the way in my own space,” he says. This was different than the second album, where he had the help of Mike Mogis (producer for Saddle Creek Records and member of both Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk) to complete production. “All of the recording was done by myself on Old World Romance,” Church says.

The next three Sea Wolf concerts are coming in hot. In less than a month, Church and his posse of performers will have played all three shows, one day after another. We discussed his excitement about Sundance. “We played there once before, which was really fun, but it was just one show. We were in and out quickly, so we just got a brief glimpse of the film festival. This time, we will be there for a couple of days, so I’m hoping we will have time to see some interesting films,” says Church. He also analyzed his relationship with large-scale music fests, such as CMJ in New York where he recently performed, and how they contrast with his experiences at Sundance. “Sundance is different. For one thing, there aren’t a million bands around. It’s more about the films, so there isn’t a lot of music stuff happening,” he says. Without so much competition for time, Sea Wolf are able to relax and retain focus from the crowd. He says, “I think the shows are less hectic as well. At CMJ, there tend to be too many bands playing in too short of a time.” For an artist, that can be especially overwhelming. Church observed later that a calmer atmosphere like a film festival allows artists to decompress and focus on the music rather than maneuvering around everyone else and their droves of instruments. “At a music festival, you don’t really get a sound check, and you’re never sure whether it’s going to be a good show or not.”

When it comes to choosing a set list, everything is decided as moods see fit. On this tour, a large portion of the performance will promote Romance, but the remainder is decided according to what everyone collectively fancies. “We’ll be doing plenty of songs from the first two albums, but I’m really excited to play new stuff. The set list goes by what songs I like to play the most, or what I’m not sick of,” says Church. During his sojourn here, the set list will vary from night to night. “The show in Salt Lake is going to be the full set. The Park City shows are a 30 minute set and a 45 minute set because they’re not technically ‘our shows,’” he says. The upside of attending the Park City venue, however, is that it will be a more intimate setting.

Looking to the future, Church hopes to start working on another project sometime in 2013. “I’d like to release something like an EP before the next album at some point next year. Something more experimental,” he says.

2012 was a busy year for Sea Wolf. Recording his own album and releasing it, then immediately embarking on a lengthy tour to support its success keeps mind on the music and wheels on the road. This has filled previous and coming months with anticipation and progress. January is a magnificent month when it comes to both film and music. Catch his concert in Salt Lake City, or venture a bit out of the inversion to ASCAP and swing by an indie film while you’re at it.
Sea Wolf will be playing from their latest album, Old World Romance. Alex Church and his band, Sea Wolf, will be playing three dates in Utah this month. Don't miss Sea Wolf at Urban Lounge on Jan. 19, or at Sundance Jan. 20 and 21.