While on lockdown like the rest of us, Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf talked with QRO. In the conversation, Church discussed his new album, Through a Dark Wood (QRO review), how it was accidentally appropriate for these times, the fan collaboration video of early quarantine times for “Blood Pact” (QRO review), wounded time loop video for “Forever Nevermore”, another stripped down Song Spells record, procrastinating, and more…
QRO: How are you holding up, with everything that is going on?
Alex Brown Church: I’m holding up okay, you know. Just taking it day-by-day, really.
QRO: Are you in Los Angeles?
QRO: How is it there?
AC: I mean, which part? The COVID, I guess cases are jumping up, but I feel like I’m so used to it at this point, that I’ve kind of forgotten what normal is supposed to be like.
I guess we all just wear masks now, and try to stay six feet apart.
All the coming election, social justice protests, all that stuff, is hard to put out of your mind.
QRO: How was making Through a Dark Wood?
AC: Arduous. It took a long time.
I basically made a full record, and then realized it wasn’t really up to snuff, and then had to scrap it and start over. It just took a real long time. I was very actively making music during that time, but I think there was a lot of life things going on for me that made it a little more difficult. It was a long time coming.
But I’m really happy with where it ended up. So, it was worth going back to the drawing board.
QRO: Did you know something we didn’t when you gave it that name, ‘Through a Dark Wood’?…
Just an unfortunate coincidence. The album is about going through a dark period in your life.
But I don’t think of it as a ‘depressing’ album. It’s kind of hopeful and uplifting at the end – at least that was my goal. But it touched on all the things that I was going through. So, it was cathartic for me.
And then literally, the week it came out, is when everything shut down.
‘Okay… We’re all entering a Dark Wood together right now. This is crazy…’
I basically made a full record, and then realized it wasn’t really up to snuff, and then had to scrap it and start over.
QRO: If it had been scheduled for a month later, you might have had to delay it…
AC: There was a moment where I was like, ‘Do we hold off on putting this record out?’
But actually, I had finished it almost a year before, so I was like, ‘I’m not waiting any longer.’
Cause also, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know how long this is going to go.
Maybe it’s a good thing. People are going to be home, wanting to listen to music, you know?
QRO: I’ve been talking to other artists since the pandemic, and other people have said that maybe people will sit with records.
AC: I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.
I certainly have been. I’ve been listening to records more.
QRO: Are you bummed that you can’t tour it? Did you have a tour set up?
AC: We were in the process of doing that. So, had to put the brakes on that all.
So yeah, I’m bummed. It’s such a huge component of promoting a record. Not having that be a part of the plan for the year, the roll out of the record, took some getting used.
Just thinking, ‘Okay. Every activity that we do, is just gonna have to be online.’ Which, it is what it is. It’s not forever.
Looking forward to next year, hopefully…
QRO: Fingers crossed – or fingers socially distant…
Sea Wolf’s video for “Blood Pact”:
QRO: Where did the idea for the fan collaboration video for “Blood Pact” come from?
AC: Well, I was talking to a friend of mine. He’s one of my old friends, and he’d been listening to the new record, and really liking it. He was just telling me how he thought that the album was kind of strangely perfect for this moment, going through this new COVID pandemic, basically. In that, even though it wasn’t specifically about pandemic at all, it’s kind of about just going through a rough period with some kind of hope. Just getting through it, really. He was making the connection between the album and right now.
I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ He actually was like, ‘I wonder if there’s a way to make that connection for people. I think it’s cool, and it’d be cool if other people realized that, too, right?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And I was mentioning that I think I needed to do a video for “Blood Pact”.
I’m thinking about it out loud. This is the first time I’ve talked about it, so it’s not the most concise answer…
I’m not sure exactly where it came from. It just popped into my head: ‘Oh, what if the video was people’s experiences during this time?’
That’s where it was: we were talking about social media. Now, all we can do is communicate on social media. We were like, ‘How do we engage Sea Wolf fans, and make them be a part of this conversation, about the record being kind of apt for this moment?’
So then, I just had this idea: What if we got different people from around the world? We just put out a call on social media, to, ‘Send us videos of your experiences. We’ll put it together into a video.’
How do we engage Sea Wolf fans, and make them be a part of this conversation, about the record being kind of apt for this moment?
This was before George Floyd died – the only thing we were all freaked out about was COVID, right? Or at least, that was the major thing, in the news.
I noticed going out in the world – maybe it was similar to after 9/11, when all New Yorkers suddenly were like, ‘We’re all a family!’ Well, I was feeling that too, here, just out in the world. With like neighbors, people that were in my neighborhood, who I’d maybe seen but never said hi to before. Was suddenly like, ‘Oh, hi…’
I sort of became more active on Instagram, because, what else am I gonna do? And people would DM me, and I would respond to them.
It struck me that there were all these people from around the world that were connecting with the record. I think also, just seeing in the news, around the world, about this pandemic, this feeling that we’re all in this together, was something that I felt was really something positive we could take out of this experience.
So, I liked the idea, of just having another reminder of that notion, which was doing this video, by having people all around the world, who, one, they had the connection of being fans of Sea Wolf, but then also, that were going through this thing together.
I just find it so kind of fascinating, and cool, in a way…
QRO: Did you put all those videos together yourself?
AC: I had an editor [Michael Feldman]. We went through all the videos.
I just kind of sent them to him. People sent me the videos, and then they would tell me a story behind it. So, I automatically, when I was seeing the video, it was hard for me to choose which ones to use. Because I knew the backstory of them, and I wanted to make sure that whoever was seeing the video, didn’t need to know the backstory, in order to have it resonate with them.
So, when I sent it to the editor, I didn’t give him any of that backstory. I just let him sort of choose, going by what he was seeing as the most effective, just visually.
Sea Wolf’s video for “Forever Nevermore”:
QRO: Speaking of videos, how was making the video for “Forever Nevermore”? Kind of seemed like just a day in your life…
AC: That video, and the “Fear of Failure” video, were directed by the same guy [Jacob Epstein], we did them within a week of each other. The “Fear of Failure” one was more my concept, and the “Forever Nevermore” was more the director’s concept.
We talked about “Forever Nevermore” being different from the “Fear of Failure”. The “Fear of Failure” video was in black & white, and it’s just me. We wanted the other to be, ‘Okay, now you just see us, me & the band, and we’re just kind of out in the world, and it’s in color.’ We just wanted there to be a contrast between the two. So, you get a different feel.
QRO: I was wondering if those were bandmates/friends of yours in the car…
AC: Scott [Leahy], the guitar player, was driving the car.
The sort of ‘love interest’ person is not in the band. But the other woman in the car, Lisa [Fendelander, keyboards}, and Joey [Ficken, drums] in the passenger seat, is also in the band.
I want to make it a little bit more confusing.
QRO: And did you already have that wound on your back that you were looking at in the “Forever” video, or was that added?
AC: Yeah, that was added.
The director’s idea was very straightforward, where I was supposed to be waking up, and just having a morning at home, maybe playing guitar, just making breakfast, kind of getting ready for friends to arrive. And then meanwhile, the friends are getting picked up. And then they all show up, and they pick me up.
And then we were supposed to drive around in a circle – well, you can’t see it, but we’re driving around in a circle. And then they drop me off at the end, and I say, ‘Bye.’ And the whole time, we’ve been driving around this circular driveway, basically.
I was just like, ‘I want to make it a little bit more confusing.’ [laughs] So, I had the idea of like, ‘What if there’s a wound?’ I just wanted there to be a little bit more potentially going on, unexplained.
And then, actually, the last minute, we had the idea, ‘What if there’s kind of a love interest person, just to add extra tension to the video?’ Then, Alexandra, who’s the girl, came into the picture.
The way the video was structured, it almost seems like a loop. It ends where it begins. Like, it starts off, I wake up, and I’ve had this experience the night before. Then I get ready for that experience.
That was partially because we ran out of time shooting, and we didn’t get everything. ‘Well, let’s just get creative with it.’ That was Jacob, the director, then, through the editing, kind of made it somehow make sense, or at least be interesting. Or at least somehow feel like it had some flow to it.
Sea Wolf’s video for “Fear of Failure”:
QRO: Have you been writing/making music during this extended lockdown?
AC: I’ve been trying to, yeah.
I’ve been finding myself doing a lot of research more. For some reason, reading a lot about what’s going on in the music business, listening to a lot of podcasts with other musicians, listening to music hard – really listening to music, and kind of breaking down all the little details from the structure, how all the instrumentation comes together and things like that. I’ve just been taking in more.
But I have also started to dive into making some new music, as well. But it’s been hard. I’ve been struggling, finding a kind of rhythm, with everything sort of out of whack right now. That’s the thing that I’ve been trying to do, just get into some kind of a groove, with creating.
QRO: Have you thought about doing a second Song Spells [after 2014’s Song Spells, No. 1: Cedar Smoke]?
AC: That is actually is something I was thinking of maybe doing right now.
Because I just have this feeling that I should just be making music right now. My gut is telling me, ‘Right now, I want to be making a record.’ I have been starting. I have a million song sketches that I’ve done, over the past year or so. Kind of going through those, trying to find songs that might be good, and even starting to record some stuff.
It’s the very beginning stages, right now. But yeah, I’ve thought about the Song Spells.
QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits? Like I went a long time without shaving…
AC: I think just procrastinating. [laughs]
I’m not that much a procrastinator, I don’t think. But I feel like I’ve been procrastinating.
For example, making this music, making a record, I’m like, ‘That’s what I want to be doing right now.’ But I’m like, ‘Oh – I could repaint my walls…’ There’s always some project.
It’s really strange. The routine of one’s daily life is completely disrupted, so it’s hard to find some kind of structure. I sort of need that structure to avoid procrastination.
I wonder if it’s like the idea of ‘tyranny of choice.’ Like, you have too much time. There’s so many things you could do, but you can’t decide on one.