Beyond their band name referencing the psych-adventure novel by Jack London, Los Angeles band Sea Wolf has an interesting narrative of their own. Formed when frontman Alex Church departed from what he formed just a week after transplanting from New York City to California, Sea Wolf was initially just a rotating cast of local musicians laying down tracks in Seattle. Church’s first group, Irving, received a demo deal with Warner Bros. after just two shows; Sea Wolf inked a deal with Dangerbird Records with its second album, going on to release the chart-climbing debut Leaves in the River. Led by Church’s creative mind, Sea Wolf has become a cohesive cast, continuously evolving their lo-fi indie folk sound on subsequent projects. Now touring to support their third studio effort, Old World Romance, Church and friends will play Telluride for the first time Friday night at The Fly Me to the Moon Saloon.
Do you prefer intimate settings like Fly Me to the Moon Saloon when performing?
When doing more of a stripped-down or acoustic setup, yes, for sure. For this tour we have the whole band, but even for that an intimate setting can be good because of the stronger connection to the audience. People seem to feel like there is less separation, as if everyone is a part of this event together, so for that reason I love doing small shows for sure.
Given you are a master of imagery and translating the aesthetic into a sonic form, have you heard of the beauty here?
You know, I have driven through Colorado, but all I know of Telluride is that it’s a small mountain ski town, but I am sure that it is as beautiful as you claim.
I ask because you wrote a lot of White Water, White Bloom while living in Montreal. It seems those tracks come across as the most inspired. Given you often change aspects of your sound on each project, how important are your travels to your writing process?
Traveling has always been something my family and I have done; my mom was really into it, so now it’s just something I crave. I feel like if I don’t go on a couple of fun or interesting trips a year outside of tour, I begin to grow stir crazy. I feel the most present then, because thoughts of the daily routine are replaced by taking in different cultures, places and perspectives. All of those things are great for generating new ideas and promoting creativity in my writing.
Telluride is a huge film town with three unique festivals for featuring cinema. How much of your film background plays into the aforementioned emphasis on painting vivid images and poetic descriptions that tell a story both by themselves and when combined into an album?
What initially drew me to film in the first place was that I have a vivid visual imagination and like building stories. Those same things also drew me to writing music. Speaking to how they are related, film school was where I addressed the arts in a way that was a bit more serious and professional, as opposed to just being a hobby. It also gave me insight into all the aspects I should be considering when creating, but also really learning about narrative structure definitely plays into my songs, for sure.
You tour with a band, and that band-supported sound seemed to really come out on your sophomore album, White Water, White Bloom. Was touring with them and playing live shows the catalyst for that?
I never really wanted to be the guy on stage with just an acoustic guitar. The complexity of sound that can be created with a band has always been more interesting to me, so I have always strived to achieve that full band sound. Much of the first record I did sort of piece together alone, with an almost exaggerated style, but after we toured the band seemed to bring a new life and energy to those songs. They became really exciting live, so on the next record there was a conscious decision to have the band come and play and be a part of the recording process in order to capture that energy we had live.
Everything about the new album Old World Romance, from the project title to some of the song names, evokes a feeling of what other musicians have described as “timeless olding,” in that it’s familiar yet entirely new. What was the thought process behind that title?
To be honest, the album name is a bit complex, and I am not sure I can actually verbalize why it was so attractive to me, but there was actually a song called “Old World Romance” recorded for album that did not make the cut. I really liked the title, and it felt right on a lot of different levels, similar to how Sea Wolf felt as a band name. It’s a reference to music that I like that I have made in the past, that has an Old World sound, and embracing the romantic aspect of my music in front of everybody. Not necessarily romantic in the sense of love, but romantic in the old sense of the word. Then there is also this Old World/New World element that I feel I am attracted to, mostly due to living in different parts of the world like France and Montreal, but then also the West Coast of the U.S. with its romantic myth of the Old West. I could go on, but this album was a reflection of me moving away from Montreal, and the feeling of going back to where I am from after being away for a long time.
That project also seems to combine the simplicity of your first project with the full sound you later found. Do you think this was the happy medium, that also saw new elements like electronic drums, that you have been looking for?
Yeah, that record is sort of in between the first two. I still wanted that true full band sound, but I also wanted more control and the time that I had on the first record to tinker and write a lot of the parts myself.
Tracorum at The Last Dollar Saloon in Telluride
Tracorum is perhaps best described by their 2006 debut studio release Rock n Soul. On the record, vibrant piano and strong Louisiana southern rock guitar tones combine with grooving bass and pronounced drums to create well-written ballads that jam. The San Francisco-based quartet’s 2011 follow-up record The Lesson showed growth and was well-received in the college radio circuit given the fittingly named standout surf guitar tune “On the Radio.” Another track titled “Back to New Orleans” aimed to demonstrate the California band’s ability to dig into Cajun soul accents that provided space for extended blues solos. Truly rooted in the subtly precocious percussion work of South African drummer Ian Herman, whose drumming has landed him gigs backing up A-list artists like Sting and Paul Simon, Tracorum oftentimes taps into the heightened sounds of fellow Bay Area greats Tea Leaf Green. Early January saw the release of their third studio effort Tricked perpetuating their West Coast roots sound built to translate to the live setting. Check them out at the Last Dollar Saloon in Telluride tonight.
Tracorum, Thur., Jan 24, Last Dollar Saloon, Telluride
Razor & Tie Records Labelmates Nonpoint and Hatebreed at the Mesa Theater in Grand Junction
If you asked the frontmen of South Florida’s Nonpoint and Connecticut’s Hatebreed where their once widely known rock bands have been for the last couple of years, their response would most likely be an appropriate expletive and negative sentiments about record label politics. Although representing different subgenres of the metal music spectrum, Nonpoint’s Elias Soriano and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta have lived parallel paths on both personal and professional levels that even they might not be aware of.
Both of their bands came into being during the mid-90s, instantly finding success in the heavy metal fanbase. Both rode the peak of the genre’s mainstream popularity by touring with staple acts like Slayer, Mudvayne and everyone on the rock star-studded OzzFest. Both have been given critical acclaim, seen Billboard chart success, sold hundreds of thousands of records and garnered accolades like Grammy nominations.
Now two decades since their genesis, the heavy metal of Nonpoint and the metalcore of Hatebreed are once again crossing paths as the genre finds a resurgence of sorts for the next generation. Both bands have recently signed to Razor & Tie Records, and dropped new albums that aim to reincarnate their core, old school sound. Both Soriana and Jasta have just had their first child, and both have said their newly inspired approach to music will promote a rebirth of the genre. Both Soriano and Jasta are incredibly unique vocalists in their own right, and front bands that plan to prove to the audiences they are back with headlining shows at the Mesa Theater in Grand Junction next week.
Nonpoint & Digital Summer, Mon., Jan. 28, Mesa Theater, Grand Junction, 7 p.m., $22, mesatheater.com; Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, Dying Fetus & The Contortionist, Wed., Jan. 30, Mesa Theater, Grand Junction, 7 p.m., $25, mesatheater.com