Green Room Prepares for Seawolf Performance
The Lumberjack Reporter Mykel Vernon-Sembach met with Alex Brown Church from California band Seawolf to discuss the upcoming performance and the Green Room and the newest album.
The Lumberjack: Tell me a little about the inspiration behind Old World Romance.
Alex Brown Church: The inspiration behind it comes from my full-time return to California after living in Montreal for three years. I’m from California and been there for a while; I wrote my second record there and recorded the second in Omaha, Neb.
This record I started writing when I moved back here full-time. There is a lot of stuff, on a personal level, that I was experiencing . . . There are things that come up when you come back home after you’ve been away for a long time. So, a lot of that was written into the songs, those feelings and thoughts. As far as the production, I decided to self-produce this record. I had done it in the first record, for the most part . . . You could say I co-produced [the second album and]. That was with a full band as well.
The first record was written and recorded over the course of about a year, at my own pace in my own home studio with my bandmates coming in and playing in the studio, but mostly by myself. I wanted to do that way because I think I realized it takes me a long time to develop songs; the way that they sound and feel . . . because Seawolf isn’t a band, which can be four guys together in a room . . . because it’s just me, it takes me a long time to record parts individually and on top of each other. I wanted to return to that process with this record. With having done two records already and toured a bunch, I’ve learned a lot of tricks to recording and producing.
LJ: Which do you prefer: solo recording or working with a band?
ABC: Doing things yourself, there’s no one there to argue with so you can just do whatever you want. So, that’s the advantage of doing it yourself, but the disadvantage is you don’t have other people to get excited with. When you’re with a group of people or with other people or even with one other person, it can be fun because you are sharing that excitement over a new part or a new sound or when a song comes together. It’s a magical moment; it’s nice to share it with someone.
For this record, I had both. I spent a lot of time by myself, which was great because I had a lot more control over everything, but then I did have my live players come in and play with me here and there, which is great. It was so nice and refreshing to have somebody else to come in and do stuff and share that experience with.
LJ: This is the first album art that hasn’t been illustrated; what encouraged the change for the album art of Old World Romance?
ABC: The first record was done by James Sterling Pitt; he’s one of my best friends and an artist based in San Francisco. The second album was by Charlie Roberts, contacted him through his Los Angeles art gallery, from the Midwest and lives in Europe. [There were] lots of phone calls and correspondence over the phone. James was actually in Los Angeles when he was doing a lot of art work, so we collaborated. He did all of the art, but I had a lot of input for the ideas about what was going to be done. I gave [Charlie] a little bit of instruction, and he took the ball and ran with it.
Both of the albums have artwork that corresponds with the lyrics of the album. This album, I wanted to change direction and I didn’t want it to be something that wasn’t some kind of landscape, but I was having a hard time finding something that didn’t just look like a picture from National Geographic or a postcard or something; I was looking for something a little more interesting, more mysterious. That’s when I discovered a “Slack Water” by Corey Arnold . . . I love it, and it seems like I get a lot of comments on it.
LJ: What was the inspiration for wanting to combine your signature acoustics with non-organic sound?
ABC: Just sort of boredom. I didn’t actually intend to have the electronic drum machine . . . I wanted to have more electronic sound in this album, but I wasn’t sure how. When I was writing the record, I wrote a lot with the drum machine. I would come up with drum beats and write to those drum beats. It was a device to get me out of my rhythmic habits . . . when I’m playing acoustic guitar, there are rhythms that I tend to gravitate towards so I wanted to break that. So when I demo’d the songs, I used the drum machine parts. I ended up really liking the drum machines and kept them. On most of the songs, it’s a blend of live drums and drum machines to give them a more unique character.
LJ: “Song of the Magpie” was a song you wrote for Augusten Burroughs’ memoir, A Wolf at the Table. Tell me about the process for writing a song for a book and what was it like?
ABC: A memoir is a very personal thing and I didn’t want to comment on it, really. Essentially, his words were that do whatever I want to do, make it about whatever I wanted to make it about. The assignment was that this song would be inspired by this memoir., whatever the book brought up for me. I didn’t really know what to do, but I kind’ve had an idea, ‘Well what if I just sit down and take a day to read the book and as soon as I am done reading the book I’ll pick up a guitar and see what comes out.’ And that’s exactly what I did.
I read the book within half a day and as soon as I was done I picked up a guitar and just started playing, trying to keep the feeling of the book and put that into the song. So that’s how the song came about. I’m not going to have it be about the book but a more personal song for me inspired by the book, it took the pressure off of me. Whereas, in a movie or a film, it has to fit a specific scene, I am a lot more conscious about making the song really fit.
LJ: Where does the title Old World Romance come from?
ABC: There’s a song that I wrote called, “Old World Romance” that didn’t make it on the album, and I really just liked the title. It didn’t really have too much to do with the album, but the title felt really right. I think it means a lot of things for me, referencing the romances with the old world like Montreal or the East Coast as well as the romantic, dramatic idea that people have of the American West. There’s an association with the idea of a frontier, grandiosity, mountains and desert and giant landscapes.