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SXSW 2008 has ended
Sunday, March 16 • 1:00am - 1:30am
Sea Wolf

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“But, – and there it is, – we want to live and move, though we have no reason to, because it happens that it is the nature of life to live and move, to want to live and move. If it were not for this, life would be dead. It is because of this life that is in you that you dream of your immortality.” – Wolf Larsen. From The Sea-Wolf, by Jack London. When you consider the restless urgency in Alex Brown Church’s songwriting, it’s easy to connect the sentiment of Wolf Larsen, the villainous, ingenious swashbuckler at the helm of Jack London’s 1904 The Sea-Wolf, with the music that borrows the novel’s name. The fact Sea Wolf is vehicle for Church’s songs – who is not only Sea Wolf’s songwriter and singer but also the band’s only invariable member – is a story that similarly begins against a Californian backdrop. Born in the small gold rush town of Columbia, Calif., Church’s musical memories were shaped by ad hoc bluegrass outfits playing for tourists on sidewalks of his hometown and platters of Beatles and Willie Nelson on his mom’s turntable. And even if much of Sea Wolf’s debut, Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low, brims with longing for distant places visited, lived and loved, many of these songs seem engrained with the geography of his past—the long, winding descent from the Sierra foothills to the hazy Barbary Coast—to which Church has always gravitated. As a kid, Church trekked across Europe and the U.S. with his mother, including stays in Alaska and Hawaii and a year living in a leaky tent in the French countryside. He spent most of his formative years living in the Bay Area, appropriately near the very port from which London’s tale embarks and went east to attend film school at NYU. But the setting was always second to the narrative. “Even though I’ve always returned to California, I don’t feel like the music has much of a connection to one particular place,” Church explains. “The songs are often about places I’ve been or experiences I’ve had out in the world, including and away from California.” Church wrote his first song the week he graduated from college just before returning to the Golden State, where he later became the founding bass player of Los Angeles rock outfit Irving. “I was exploring how to be in a band and writing songs and finding my voice,” he says. “Eventually, when I was starting to write more, I stumbled upon songs that sounded the way I really wanted them to. Those were the songs that became Sea Wolf.” That sound Church sought and achieved is a combination of delicate, arching melodies and foggy, elegiac narratives. Over the lush instrumentation, his voice can be weary or buoyant, but it’s always capable of leaving an indelible impression. And though he stumbled on the first songs in 2000, it wasn’t until 2003 that Sea Wolf slowly inched into the spotlight. “The evolution was painfully slow,” Church says, recalling the band’s first gig at the Silverlake Lounge. “I’d play with friends who were all full-time members of bands and with different groups, starting from scratch every time.” Working along this way, Church played only three shows in the band’s first two years, before setting up a microphone on the big desk in his living room. But if the journey started slow, it accelerated exponentially when Church’s home recordings made their way into the hands of Seattle producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, the Shins, Band of Horses). Church finished some initial recordings late in 2005 and after it was passed around to friends and acquaintances, was invited to a month-long residency at LA’s Spaceland in September of 2006. “The shows were so well received that things escalated pretty quickly,” Church exclaims. “By the second week there was a line down the block. It was weird how after years of struggling, it seemed to come together so quickly.” When you hear lead track “You’re A Wolf,” a chilling, cryptic tune filled with misty images of gypsies and low rivers, of wolves and wandering men, the breezy melody sounds like anything but a struggle. “That song’s about walking down this street and longing to be somewhere else,” Church reveals. “It’s about realizing where you should be, and the sudden urgency of the need to get there.” That sense of urgency is quiet in “The Garden You Planted,” as a finger-picked acoustic guitar underpins layers of cello, keys, and shuffling drums, and eventually threads together a quiet meditation on love, distance and hushed late-night telephone calls. For Church’s capabilities as a storyteller himself try “I Made a Resolution,” a story of a murdered brother, imprisoned father, and the need to move on. When Church follows the proclamation that “I made a resolution to never sing another sad song again,” the triumphant swell of strings and rhythmic engine of guitar make it wholly convincing. And even if the songs aren’t entirely autobiographical, it might as well be about the way Church – Sea Wolf – is strangely embedded in such beautiful restlessness. As Wolf Larsen might say, if it were not for such restless dreaming, and such loveliness, life would be dead.
http://2008.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/60552.html

Sunday March 16, 2008 1:00am - 1:30am
Buffalo Billiards 201 E 6th St

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