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Sea Wolf brings bite to Wexner Center

Within the realm of singer-songwriters is a man who writes catchy, solid song structures with unique lyrics and vivid imagery fused with relatable characters. His name is Alex Brown Church.

Church is the vocalist, guitarist and creator of Sea Wolf — an indie-folk rock band drawing comparisons to Iron & Wine and Angus & Julia Stone.

The band is currently touring to promote its recent sophomore album release, “White Water, White Bloom.”

“The new album has more of a fuller-band feel, making it more dynamic,” Church said. “With the help of producer Mike Mogis (‘Bright Eyes,’ ‘Cursive’), we added a string quartet. The first album, ‘Leaves in the River,’ didn’t have much drumming, but on ‘White Water’ there are only two songs without drum parts.”

To encompass the complete-band sound live on stage, Church added another guitar player and cellist to the current lineup.

“It’s always a little stressful to choose at first before you know who’s out there, but it has come together pretty well, and we have a core group now,” Church said.

On writing music, the California native said he usually begins with different guitar chords to create a melody.

“I wait until I have an entire song so I know where the verses, choruses and bridges of the song are before I write lyrics,” Church said.

Church said he sometimes finds lyrical inspiration in books, such as when he found the title of the band in the title of a Jack London book.

“I kind of have a collection of books and poetry that I read when I’m stuck for words,” Church said, “Not really for the themes but more of language that gives me ideas to kind of work with a little bit.”

Church said one of his favorite authors is Cormac McCarthy (“The Road,” “The Border Trilogy,” “No Country For Old Men”), despite his dark writing style.

Prior to Sea Wolf and while touring with his previous band, Irving, Church said he fell for a girl in Canada. The love also inspired his writing. Church wrote all but two songs for the new album while staying with her in Montreal.

“I would say the writing is more optimistic,” Church said. “The songs are still kind of dark, but for the most part it’s a ray of hope, a ray of light.”
Growing up in a small historic gold-rush town in the hills of the Sierra Nevada, Church said he became interested in music around 8 years old.

Surrounded by an old Western environment with buildings on both sides and elevated sidewalks, Church said he frequently walked downtown to hear a bluegrass band perform on the street.

“I loved watching them play,” Church said. “The first time I saw them I wanted to learn how to play the fiddle.”

From there his mom set him up with violin lessons, but his teacher was a classical violinist, and Church said he was not interested in the classical-violin style.

“She was teaching me stuff I wasn’t interested in for a year,” Church said. “After that, in high school, I took bass guitar lessons and later taught myself how to play guitar and started writing songs.”

After spending time at New York University as a film student, Church has gone on to establish a foundation of popularity with Sea Wolf.

Since forming in 2003, Sea Wolf has written a song response by request to Augusten Burroughs’ book “A Wolf at the Table.” The band had their song, You’re A Wolf, featured in a General Motors’ ad during the Beijing Olympic Games, and their song Ses Monuments appeared in a holiday Radio Shack advertising campaign.

Most recently, Sea Wolf was asked to contribute a song for the “New Moon” soundtrack alongside Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear and others.

“It’ll be a new song that hasn’t been released called The Violent Hour,” Church said. “It was actually recorded for something else originally.”

For the current tour, Sea Wolf will perform songs from both albums.

“Right now I like playing Turn The Dirt Over live. I really like the melody of that one,” Church said.

Sea Wolf is performing today at 9 p.m. in the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Performance Space with Sara Lov and Port O’Brien. Tickets are $9.

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