Life on road, literature inspire Alex Brown Church
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow, out of Sea Wolf’s stony rubbish? For Alex Brown Church, they are literature and life on the road.
Indeed, those roots have been seized by the ever-travelling front man and il miglior fabbro of his Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter project, and his music grows on listeners as a result. Church has gone from pop tunesmith to a writer’s musician, basing much of his material on the works of notable authors (the band is named after Jack London’s 1904 novel). Finding that many of the carefully orchestral melodies and mournful narratives he penned didn’t fit with his West Coast rock outfit Irving, Church parted ways with his former peers to lead the perennially rotating lineup. His first full-length release as Sea Wolf, Leaves In The River, reached No. 24 on the Billboard Heatseeker chart after dropping in September.
“I was trying to please somebody else,” he says. “I realized the songs I was writing for them weren’t as good as the one’s I was writing for myself. The pop songs just didn’t feel like me. A lot of it for me was a reclaiming of my roots in a way.”
Labelled as the Ernest Hemingway of songwriters, Church borrows imagery and metaphor from his favourite books, including those of the aforementioned author and, in particular, T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (a line from which was co-opted for the purposes of this piece, in case you thought “stony rubbish” meant sub-par toking music).
“I like that simple, straightforward style that says a lot in a few words. I steal from The Wasteland regularly. I relate to Jack London, as well, and his alcoholism,” he jokes, maybe.
Born in Columbia, Calif., a young Church trekked with a musical mother around Europe and the U.S., growing up feeling Alaska’s cold climes warm Hawaiian shores, even living for a year in a tent in the French countryside. Spending his youth moving so much left him feeling alienated, he says, but it also gave him the ability to see the world from different angles, something he uses to enhance his work. “I was an only child so it made me feel like an outsider,” he says. “Doing a lot of that made a traveller out of me and made me appreciate other points of view.”