SOLANA BEACH — Alex Brown Church, the man behind Sea Wolf, has come full circle — in more ways than one.
After living in Montreal for three years, Church made his way back to California a few years ago. And the feeling of coming home defines his newest album, “Old World Romance” — his third record.
“There’s a connection with friends and family that I maybe didn’t appreciate as much as I could have,” Church said. “It hit me how important they are to my life when I moved back.”
Returning also made him realize how he missed the comfort of his bedroom studio. He recorded his debut album, “Leaves of the River,” in 2007 in his home studio, taking his time to polish the folk-tinged indie rock songs. For the 2009 album “White Water, White Bloom,” he wanted a larger chamber rock sound — a conscious effort to recreate what it’s like playing live. So he holed up with musicians in an Omaha, Neb. studio for more than a month to lay down tracks.
Church said he was satisfied with the result, but with only a limited window of time in the studio, he sometimes felt pressured to finish songs during that recording process. Thus, he decided writing songs at his own pace from the confines of his house suits him best.
“Sometimes you have to stray off the path to realize where the path is,” Church said. “I’d like to keep recording this way.”
Many of the songs on “Old World Romance” reflect the change in approach. Without a consistent backing band, the album features a sound that’s more stripped back than his previous effort. And even though musicians fleshed out some of the acoustic songs, Church wrote, produced and recorded the album. The result is an atmospheric effort that’s arguably more personal than past albums.
Inspired by what it’s like reconnecting with an environment after being away, Church covers new ground lyrically. The album is about “viewing familiar things after having grown up a little,” he noted.
“After being away for a while, some of what you left is exciting to get reacquainted with, but other parts are scary to face,” Church said.
While there’s a new emphasis on rediscovery, “Old World Romance” also shares many lyrical themes with his past two albums.
Based in Los Angeles, Church grew up in the Bay Area and Columbia, California — a former gold rush town with less than 3,000 people. For that reason, his music is imbued with the “grandiose landscapes of the Old West.” Church also trekked around Europe as a kid with his mother. That explains “the romantic sense of the Old World” lurking in some of his songs, he said.
The imagery of his songs harkens back to days gone by. And the name Sea Wolf is taken from a Jack London novel. But Church said he isn’t by any means stuck in the past.
“The imagery is what I experienced when visiting or living in those places,” Church said. “I want to fill my lyrics with lush imagery — that’s a common frame of reference to many — to leave an impression, not to be overly nostalgic. In reality, I’m usually thinking about the future.”
To that end, Church said he’d like to continue exploring new sonic territory when puts together a new batch of songs, even if that’s a ways away.
“I feel like I have a restless energy,” Church said. “I don’t by any means want to do the same thing twice.”
“In this album, I revisited my past to carve a path forward,” he added.
Sea Wolf performs at The Belly Up June 20.
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