Sea Wolf

Sea Wolf

BandRock

Sea Wolf has evolved organically from its hermetic origins in Alex Brown Church’s living room into a muscular, full-bodied musical entity with passion to burn. His music is both erudite and unvarnished, a blend of swirling melodies, literary balladry and damaged art-rock composition.

Biography

aking its name from novelist Jack London’s 1904 seafaring adventure, Sea Wolf has evolved organically from its hermetic origins in Alex Brown Church’s living room into a muscular, full-bodied musical entity with passion to burn. After adopting the sobriquet, Church burst onto the music scene in two-fisted fashion with the EP, Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low, and the subsequent full-length debut album, Leaves in the River, about which Interview magazine observed, “His music is both erudite and unvarnished, a blend of swirling melodies, literary balladry and damaged art-rock composition.”

And now, Church’s singular vision has led to the creation of the eloquent and expansive new album White Water, White Bloom, which not only fulfills the immense promise of the initial musical diptych but conjures up its own cosmology. This is one of those rare and mysterious records wherein, the first time you hear it, you can’t shake the feeling that it’s always been part of the soundtrack of your life. You intimately know its ups and downs, its melodies and cadences, its settings and characters.

“I couldn’t have known beforehand what the next record would sound like,” says Church, “but I did know I wanted it to be bigger, with a band feel, rather than another series of intimate confessionals.”

A song cycle set against the changing of seasons, this timeless work unfolds like an epic poem, yet resonates with thematic elements that speak, elliptically yet unmistakably, to the world we live in. Pulsing with evocations of nature at its most elemental, Church’s songs are flooded with vivid imagery, carried along on torrents of sounds as majestic as a mountain stream swollen with the bracing, crystalline runoff of spring’s first warming breath. What’s more, he sings these songs with newfound power, the result of extensive roadwork behind Leaves in the River, while deepening the mesmerizing expressiveness with which he made his initial mark.

Opening track “Wicked Blood” begins with what sounds like an orchestra tuning up before surging to glorious life, the rhythm section shaping itself into a propulsive groove accented by delicate piano notes, carrying along the opening chapter of the saga: “We met in the East/ poured in like a flood,” Church begins, shadowed by the breathless wheeze of an air organ, “You’re the whispering kind/dark sapphire blood/A vision of veils/all shimmery white/like a backdrop of sails/all aglow from the light/of the wonder behind/at a starry night.” And with that, we’re off into an adventure of cinematic immediacy, as befits the sensibility of this onetime film student, who’s clearly found his natural medium of expression.

“Lyrically,” says Church, “I like to incorporate what one would construe as classic imagery, and even infuse the songs with elements of mythology, but also delve into more contemporary themes. I’m interested in the way words look and feel, not just when you hear them but also when you read them.”

Church’s verbal acuity is mated with bold, vibrant soundscapes set off with thundering drums, stabbing, reverb-soaked electric guitars and ghostly keyboards, resulting in such memorable pieces as the mythological tale “Orion & Dog,” ornamented with strings right out of a John Ford western; the folk-noir fable “O Maria!”; the surging title song, burning with Byronic heat; the fever-dreamscape “Spirit”; the muted, idyllic, “The Orchard”; the Dylanesque roundelay “The Traitor”; and the closing “Winter’s Heir,” with its life-embracing denouement.

“When I write a song,” says Church, “for me it’s always associated with a specific place and time. For example, ‘Orion & Dog’ was written during the summer, and ‘Winter’s Heir’ is about coming out of the long Montreal winter and experiencing a sense of rebirth.”

The album has a back story: “I met and fell in love with a girl in Montreal while on tour with Irving, and just before signing with Dangerbird,” Church recalls. “And then, while touring behind the Sea Wolf record, I spent most of my time off in Montreal with her. Apart from ‘Wicked Blood’ and ‘O Maria!,’ which I wrote in Los Angles, everything on White Water was written in Montreal, holed up in our little apartment, a block away from the river. That was all of last fall, winter and spring, so I was very much influenced by that experience, and a lot of the record is set there in my immediate surroundings, along with remembrances of being home on the West Coast.”

White Water, White Bloom was recorded at the Omaha studio of Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Monsters of Folk), with Church handling vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, as well as some of the air organ and pump organ sounds that were such a big part of the sonic signature of the earlier records. Joining him were the three core members of the six-piece Sea Wolf touring lineup: keyboardist Lisa Fendelander, bassist Ted Liscinski and drummer Joey Ficken. The remaining slots were filled by Mogis on lead guit

Lyrics

Wicked Blood

Written By: Sea Wolf

We met in the east
Poured in like a flood
You're the whispering kind
Dark sapphire blood
You're a vision of veils
All shimmery white
Like a backdrop of sails
All aglow from the light
Of the wonder behind
At a starry night

In the mountain's song
In the blue jay's call
My heartbeat flows
In crystal water falls
You were so beautiful
In your elegant bed
You'd have my blues
For your Nantucket reds
I'd wait in the dark
Balanced on a thread
So I'd wait in the dark
Balanced on this thread

And under the church-light
You stand there
With your wicked blood and your curls
Yeah, under the church-light
You stand there
In your fur and your pearls
These lines were here
Long before we came around
Yeah, these lines were here
And there's an ember in the rafters
And it's going to bring this whole thing down

In the neon mist
I heard you breathe
An exquisite sound
Some secret symphony
Your silken skin
My fingers rough
In the midnight dim
We went home and touched
Beneath the chandeliers
And your Persian's dust
Beneath your chandeliers
And your Persian's dust

And under the church-light
You stand there
With your wicked blood and your curls
Yeah, under the church-light
You stand there
In your fur and your pearls
These lines were here
Long before we came around
Yeah, these lines were here
And there's an ember in the rafters
And it's going to bring this whole thing down

Orion & Dog

Written By: Sea Wolf

Orion said, This body is mine,
And you may do with it what ever you like
But when the sky turns red you'd better come back home
'Cause i can't spend these summer nights alone

Orion said, I'm just a humble hunter
The dog the only company I keep
Forgive me if if I fear that you will change me
But I've seen my fortune written in the leaves

Ah, push it through! Ah, push it through!
Because the body and the mind can't heal in two
Orion and dog, how the road you've walked was long
But the winter of your song
Is slowly fading

Orion said, You'd better treat me true
You should hold me like a bird inside your palm
'Cause I can't be just another heart you've broken
'Cause I'm getting much too old

Orion, she said, I know all men are mortal
And the ships in which you travel are full of thieves
But the only way that you will ever have me
Is if you through your body into the sea

Ah, push it through! Ah, push it through!
Because the body and the mind can't heal in two
Orion and dog, how the road you've walked was long
But the winter of your song
Is slowly fading

Orion and dog, How your light will live beyond
your final summer song
Or so it's fated
Or so it's fated
So it is fated

Middle Distance Runner

Written By: Sea Wolf

Well, I’m so sad tonight
and the words won’t come out right
It’s been a long day on the track
and it’s stamina that I lack

So won’t you run to me tonight?
Tonight we could pretend
that we’re just lovers
But I’ll only ever be
a middle distance runner

My heart is beating hard
and I’m off with a shot at the start
and my legs tremble from strain
by the finish line I’m drained

So won’t you run to me tonight?
Tonight let’s not talk about next summer
because I’ll only ever be
a middle distance runner

Well, I’m so proud tonight
of the woman you’ve become
and I’m just too tired to fight
so, my darling, I’ll succumb

But you’ll have
to run to me tonight
because tonight
I will love you forever
But I’ll only ever be
a middle distance runner

Discography

*Get to the River Before it Runs Too Low EP (Dangerbird Records, 2007)
*Leaves in the River (Dangerbird, 2007)
(White Water, White Bloom (Dangerbird, 2009)

Set List

50-60 mins.
Example :
White Water, White Bloom
Orion & Dog
The Cold, The Dark & The Silence
O Maria!
Black Dirt
The Traitor
Spirit Horse
Dew In The Grass
Middle Distance Runner
The Rose Captain
Song For THe Dead
You're a Wolf
Black Leaf Falls
The Violet Hour (from the motion picture TWILIGHT NEW MOON)
Wicked Blood