Who: Alex Church, aka Sea Wolf
What: L.A.-based indie-pop crooner -- think Conor Oberst meets Tom Petty
Why: Church dropped his third and most-cohesive LP, Old World Romance, last fall
Where: The Belly Up
When: Thursday night, with openers Savoir Adore and Trouble in the Wind
Scott McDonald: How’s it going?
Alex Church: Great, man. Thanks.
SM: Ready for a return trip to San Diego?
AC: Always. We love it down there -- and now it’s not such a long trip.
SM: Exactly. After an extended stay in Montreal, you moved back to California and recorded your latest album. Did being back home change the process for you?
AC: After making [2011’s sophomore LP] White Water, White Bloom and touring behind that record, I had ideas about how I wanted to make the next one, and many of those ideas weren’t based on the move. I knew the direction I wanted to go before coming back to California, but being back in my own studio and having a day-to-day with my friends and family -- that definitely had an effect on the lyrics of the songs. But I also went through some big life stuff that everyone eventually goes through that had an impact on it as well.
SM: Old World Romance doesn’t seem like a huge departure from the other records, but it does seem more concise and straightforward. Was it planned that way?
AC: Yes. That was actually one of the things that I set out to accomplish before I even moved back to California. It was definitely something that I wanted to achieve this time. I wanted the lyrics, melodies and the songs in general to all be very straightforward. I wanted it to be cohesive, but I think concise is a good word because I didn’t want any extraneous fluff. I wanted everything there to serve a purpose.
SM: Easier to make that happen at home?
AC: It definitely makes the process easier. White Water, White Bloom was written in a kitchen. I could only write when no one else was around. Having my own studio, I can just make it a daily thing. I don’t have to worry about being interrupted at all. I decorate it the way I want, and it feels the way I want it to feel. I’m the type of person who likes to create a space that is inspiring. And, of course, I record there, too, so I have all of my instruments right there and they’re out, so I can just pick it up and start fooling around with it. Having your own space is a wonderful thing. It’s a luxury.
SM: How was it doing things on your own this time?
AC: Good, but I always write with the band in mind. The songs can all be done solo or with the group. Songs that are more finger-picking based are easier to translate into the solo thing. But while some things work better in the acoustic setting, I feel like I’m always writing with how it’s going to work with the band in mind.
SM: Your songs seem more personal this time. Easy to have things hit so close to home?
AC: I don’t really have a choice. For me, I always want to write things that people find easy to connect with and get a very solid emotional feeling from. I’ve always drawn from personal experiences because it makes it more vivid. It’s about trying to get the listener to have a strong emotional response and connection.
SM: A good chunk of this album was lost when your hard drive crashed. Was it difficult to start again from scratch?
AC: The way it happened was that I recorded everything to a hard drive and then knocked it off the desk, losing all of it. I mean, I write songs and sing, but I am not an engineer. I had just put off the backing-up part. So I sent it to a data recovery place in the hopes that they could get some of it back, and they did get some of it back, but just enough to give me some references. But essentially, I had to re-do everything. It really sucked. It was such a long process and incredibly tedious, and it took me nearly three months just to get the songs back to where they were when the hard drive fell. I never want to do that again.
SM: The record came out in September. Are you thinking about what’s next?
AC: Yes. My label contract is now fulfilled. I had a three-record deal, and it’s done with Old World. So while I’m a free agent and deciding what to do next labelwise, I’m going to do a Kickstarter record. I don’t think I’ll call it my next official record, but we’ll distribute it directly to fans -- and I love that. There’s no third party in between you and the people who like what you’re doing the most. It’s a direct link to the fans. Plus, it’ll be a lot more stripped-down and give me a chance to experiment. And that will start when this tour’s over.
SM: Speaking of touring, fun to be back on the road?
AC: Always. We’ve been playing the songs for a while now and are feeling comfortable. It’s really been a lot of fun, and it just seems to get better every night.