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Alex Church of Sea Wolf

A Novel Idea

Literary references abound in popular music, but few are more blatant than Sea Wolf, a rootsy indie rock collective fronted by Alex Church that lifted its name from a Jack London novel. But Church says his inspiration is rooted more with the novels author -- in particular, Londons connection as a writer with nature -- than the actual story. Church spent many of his formative years in Northern Californias rural interior and the Bay Area before going to college in New York and moving to his current home in Los Angeles. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from Toronto. Sea Wolf returns to San Francisco for a June 17th concert at The Independent.

SF Station (SFS): You only did three shows your first two years after Sea Wolf was created and now it seems like you are constantly on the road. Do you miss the old days?

Alex Church (AC): Not really. Im looking forward to being done with touring for a little bit, but Im definitely happy right now.

SFS: You wrote your first song the week you graduated from film school. How did you end up doing music instead of film?

AC: Its something that I always wanted to do, even as a kid. I took violin lessons when I was nine for six years, and later on in high school, I took bass lessons for a year and a half. I didnt come from a musical family, so I didnt even think of it as something that was a possibility for me.

When I went to film school in New York, my roommate was in a band and it seemed like it was something I could actually achieve. He kind of taught me to play guitar and I started working on writing songs right around the time I graduated. After I graduated, I moved to L.A. and started writing songs for Irving (Alexs former band).

SFS: Do you aim to have a cinematic quality with the songs you write?

AC: I wouldnt say that I aim for it. When I sit down to write a song, I dont think about it like its a film or like I want it to come across similar to a film. But I think my film background informs my songwriting and my sense of narrative and dramatic structure.

SFS: Was the transition from Irving to Sea Wolf difficult?

AC: I wasnt that difficult, but it was bizarre to go from something that I had been doing for so long -- Irving, the first band that I was ever in -- to going and doing a new project. It was an experience, but in terms of adjustment, it happened pretty quickly.

SFS: You have a rotating cast of musicians that perform as Sea Wolf. Do you prefer that approach, instead of a traditional band with the same group of musicians?

AC: Its hard to say. I feel like at this point I prefer having different musicians because thats what Im used to now. When I first started, I wanted to play with a bunch of different people and solidify the perfect group. It didnt end up happening that way because all of my friends are in full-time bands. Whether or not I choose to have full-time members remains to be seen.

SFS: Is that arrangement difficult?

AC: Yeah, it is because if you lose somebody you have to find a replacement. That can be a headache because you have to teach them all the parts. Also, because I am the only permanent member, I get to call all the shots. That is great, but it also means that almost all of the responsibilities are on my shoulders. It can be more stressful and more work.

Sea Wolf plays June 17th The Independent. Doors at 7:30pm, Show at 8pm and tickets are $12-14.