Sea Wolf architect Alex Brown Church. (Dangerbird Records )
Sea Wolf's upcoming album is entitled "Old World Romance," and its first single and lead-off track seems to long for another era. To hear band leader Alex Brown Church tell it, it's not nostalgia-tinged daydreaming that informs the song so much as the comforts of home.
"Old World Romance" was written after Church and his longtime girlfriend moved back to L.A. She had been studying in Montreal, where Church wrote much of 2009's "White Water, White Bloom" on an acoustic guitar in her kitchen. "I was just trying not to disturb her," he says.
The L.A. artist, signed to Silver Lake's own Dangerbird Records, maintained his home city studio even while living in Montreal. The sound of "Old World Romance," due Sept. 11, is that of an artist in his own studio basking in lushly languid folk-pop arrangements.
"One of the goals for this record was I didn’t want it to be as aggressive or as doom-and-gloom as the last record was," Church says. "I wanted this to be a little less intense, and a little bit more smooth, in a way. I played around with different songs starting this record, but I feel like ‘Old Friends' kind of draws you in rather than punches you in the face."
Church says fans of Sea Wolf's more upbeat keyboard-laced ditties such as "Wicked Blood" will find a few "faster, full-band rockers" on the new album. But the goal this time out was to start bare and use the studio more as a tool for enhancing the songs.
"Songwriting-wise, I wanted the songs to be more straightforward," Church says. "Lyrically and structurally, I wanted them to be more simple. I wanted to emphasize melody a bit more on this record than on the previous record. I wanted to write as many songs as I possibly could with those thoughts in my mind and then tinker with them as much as possible."
Church says "Old Friend" was one of the first songs penned for the album. "Old World Romance," Church's third full-length under the Sea Wolf banner, was recorded again with keyboardist Lisa Fendelander, drummer Joey Ficken and bassist Ted Liscinsk. Multi-instrumentalist Zac Rae also contributed.
Want to hear more new songs? Sea Wolf will be unveiling tunes from "Old World Romance" on Friday night in a concert at the Skirball Cultural Center. In addition to music (Sea Wolf will be joined by S.F. rock trio Geographer), the evening will allow guests to frolick in Skirball's galleries as well as take part in a host of one-off events, including a museum-wide scavenger hunt and a selection of oversize board games. Doors for the 21 and older event open at 9 p.m. and tickets start at $15.
Sea Wolf and Geographer will also play Thursday night at Santa Ana's Constellation Room. But if you can't make either, expect to see a lot of Church and Sea Wolf in coming months. Church says he's creatively rejuvenated since coming back home.
"It was inspiring to be in another city, but it also felt very alone, other than being with her and her friends," he says. "She’s a French Canadian, and all of her friends are French Canadian, so I didn’t have any English friends there. There’s a cultural barrier that goes along with that. Coming home to California was really inspiring. I just felt comfortable."