Venice is Sinking
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Venice is Sinking

Athens, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Athens, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"FensePost (Interview)"

Take a little travel across the country from the evergreen-clad, rainy Northwest to the Southeastern United States. You may have seen these guys atop our Top 50 Albums of 2009, or caught one of the many features or reviews we’ve passed their way over the past year and a half. Today FensePost phoned up Venice Is Sinking for a rare interview; rare for us. We were pretty excited about it as, after all, we don’t do many of these. But questions were easy to conjure up for last year’s favorite.

Fense: Along with AZAR being my #1 album of 2009, one of my favorite videos was that for “OKAY”. I thought the concept was brilliant. Was this an idea concocted by director Jason Miller and assistant director Ethan Payne, or did you have an idea about what you wanted to create for the song? Does this follow the path you’ve traveled on other Venice is Sinking videos, like “Ryan’s Song”?

Thanks for that #1 album, Andy! It really meant a lot to us. We worked so hard on that album, and it was nice to see it validated. As for the “Okay” video, I’m not sure who came up with the concept, but I’m pretty sure it was Jason, with input from us and Ethan. Wait…let me backtrack. The first step in our video-making process is to see what Yo La Tengo did a decade ago and then rip it off. I’m kidding here, but I realized after we made both videos we did for AZAR were somewhat similar (mostly in theme or tone) to some past YLT works. The “Ryan’s Song” video bears a slight resemblance to Hal Hartley’s “From A Motel 6? video, and “Okay” is in the same wheelhouse as Yo La Tengo’s rock school, Mr. Show-created “Sugarcube” video (which might be my favorite video of all time, truth be told). But, seriously, we weren’t really ripping them off. We do that with our music. Haha!

Anyway, we had another concept for the “Okay” video, one that was going to be a lot dreamier and perhaps a little more dour. We were gonna take on of those Flip HD cameras and float it around the greater Athens, GA area on balloons, something that one of Jason’s pals had done over Central Park. We spent a day roasting in the sun working on this video, trying to get this camera to float with a bazillion balloons, even getting it very, very stuck on the top of the State Botanical Gardens. And we ended up with maybe 15 seconds of footage. It was a crushing blow, and Jason and Ethan were really excited about it and worked really hard on it. When the idea came to do a montage about montages we didn’t want to get too Wet Hot American Summer with it, so we hit upon the idea that we would have some sort of “life coach” following us around. Jason (Miller) showed us a picture of Jason (Martin), and we were floored. He was perfect. And he was waaaaay into it. When he showed up in costume at the gun range we knew we were onto something special. I really wish you could hear the audio of what he was saying because it was hard not to crack up the entire time. His favorite phrase was “Accelerate your dreams,” and I have no idea why it’s so hilarious to me, but it is. He spent half the shoot touching James in a…special manner and making comments that could mildly be called homoerotic. Not much of this ended up in the video, though you do get to see them silhouetted by a sunset, sharing a pelvic thrust together. That was a fun but challenging shoot for us, given that we were in those infernal (literally) sauna suits in 90 degree weather for much of it. I sweated out ten pounds, which all told wasn’t a bad thing. And the Ryan’s Song video was no slouch, either. Karolyn was in a box–taped up–for, like, two hours or something!

The “Ryan’s Song” video concept? Actually, I can’t remember who came up with that one. I’m going to go ahead and say it was me.

Fense: I have to say, Jason Martin was outstanding as the band coach. So now you have a new album out on One Percent Press. Any plans to create videos for any songs on Sand & Lines?

That’s a tricky proposition because the songs were recorded live onstage at the Georgia Theatre. Doing a video for something that has a bit of a “live feel” seems rather odd because almost immediately any video idea you might have goes to recreating the creation of the album. And because the Georgia Theatre burned down, we also have to worry about veering into bathos and sentimentality. I’d love to do something that references the Theatre and Athens, but I wouldn’t want it to be mawkish. I guess time will tell. Also, making videos means having money, and, in case you haven’t heard, it DOESN’T grow on trees. I know, right?

Maybe we should go the animated route? I have a great idea for a video about the star-crossed love between a vacuum cleaner and a chicken.

Fense: Now that’s something I would definitely watch, especially now that I am the proud owner of a vacuum cleaner and not one, but four chickens.

The recording process for Sand & Lines was a bit different. Tell me a bit more about how the album was put together and what makes it different from prior Venice is Sinking releases.

We’re definitely a studio band. I don’t think that we’re a crappy live band or anything like that, but we certainly aren’t renowned for barn-burning, bat-eating live shows. We spend a lot of time working out our live show and balancing between making it congruent with our album sound and having it be a compelling dynamic experience. I think we’re pretty good at that, but I’m sure it’s not for everybody because overall we’re fairly slow and dreamy and whatnot. So we’ve always worked pretty hard in the studio to make our music grow out of that environment. We are layering and overdubbing addicts. No track can be put to bed without first being embellished by a pan-African drum run through an octave pedal. Sand & Lines was completely different than this. It focused on us, as performers, in a live setting. We recorded with only two mics onstage at the Georgia Theatre. We recorded it totally analog (although it should be noted that we have recorded all of our albums on tape!), using only 1/4? mixdown tape. Two track! Basically, when a take was done, it was done, besides some mastering at the end. It was Georgia Theatre owner Wilmot Greene’s idea, based loosely on the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session stuff, but ours is a lot louder and more rocking than theirs…dare I say more dynamic? Take that, Cowboy Junkies! Beef!

But, yeah, the process was this strange mixture of live and studio, and you were really out there, really vulnerable, in this kind of setup. If one person really goofs, you had to rewind and start over. If someone was too loud, You had to move their amp and their instrument away from the mic. We mixed things by moving people around onstage. It was stressful, and we had to practice at the Theatre for a few months to get our chops up for it. It was very nearly the opposite of the AZAR recording process, wherein one musician went in isolated to work on stuff. This is the sound of Venice is Sinking as a unit playing together (with help from pals, of course).

Fense: Was the ideation and inspiration processes behind these songs different than that on your last two records?

I don’t want to call these songs orphans or suggest that they weren’t good, but a number of them had been lurking around for a few years. I’d like to think that we’ve made cohesive, thematically consistent albums thus far, and some of the songs–like “Sidelights” and “Lucky Lad”–had been in our live shows for years, but never really felt at home on either Sorry About the Flowers or AZAR. Same goes for the cover versions of “Jolene” and “Tugboat”. Other songs were very new, and we had to scramble to get them up to snuff for the recording process. Remember that we were just finishing AZAR. All of a sudden, we had to have a whole new record…and fast. It was fish or cut bait time for a lot of these, which had only existed as tiny puffs of ideas beforehand. Daniel, Karolyn, and I worked pretty hard to get the, and then the whole band arranged a lot of these on the Georgia Theatre stage in the rehearsals leading up to the record. It was perhaps the most collaborative and democratic record we’ve done, and that aspect of it really invested everybody in the record, I think. With the first album, Daniel brought in songs, we learned them, and then added our on individual spins on them where we could. With AZAR, things got a lot more collaborative, and Sand & Lines is even more so. AZAR had pretty specific song themes, like transportation and moving and human events played out against geography (I think…haha). Sand & Lines picks up a lot of these, for sure, and continues along these lines. I guess it’s just what we like writing about. There are songs on there about failures of urban planning and Augusta, Georgia, though I won’t tell you which ones!

Fense: On top of dire economic woes, Athens seemed to have a rough year in 2009 which I am sure affected each of you personally. Was it an immediate collective response to decide to donate all funds acquired from Sand & Lines to the Georgia Theater after the fire or was it more a gradual decision to do something to benefit your hometown?

We started raising money to put out Sand & Lines the week before the Theatre burned down, so we had to reconfigure the project and make it about raising money for the Theatre. It was something someone proposed to everybody else, and everyone said “yes” pretty quickly. Honestly, we probably won’t make enough money off this record to affect much change, but we felt like the Theatre had given us this record, so we needed to give back to its rebuilding. Athens had a terrible 2009, what with Randy Bewley, Jerry Fuchs, Jon Guthrie, and Vic Chesnutt dying, not to mention the tragic Zinkhan murders and the fire at the Georgia Theatre…just awful. It felt like a series of gut punches. Even if you didn’t know these people personally (I really only knew Randy), you knew someone who knew them very well, and we take our music scene in Athens very seriously. Music is the central beating cultural heart of this town, and the Georgia Theatre was right in the middle of it.

Fense: I’ll attest to Sand & Lines being a great album. That proceeds go toward rebuilding Georgia Theater merely solidifies the fact that the album should be added to any listener’s collection. Being all the way on the other side of the country, I’m curious to hear if there’s been much movement in the rebuilding of the theater?

You know, I’d have to refer you to Wil Greene on this one, but I know that there are some great plans drawn up and rebuilding should start by next year. And thanks for saying the album’s great! Glad you like it.

Fense: I’m always interested to hear what musicians do outside of their respective bands. The typical answers seem to lean toward teaching and working at record stores. What do you do outside of Venice is Sinking?

Honestly, it’s fun for me to update Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, but it can be a bit of a challenge, keeping track of everything. And just when you think you’re really “with it,” along comes some new thing that you’ve gotta create a login for and a new password and add your bio information, etc. etc. etc. Sure, we’ve got a greater connection with out with our fans, but sometimes I feel like I’m preaching to a 1000 person choir and just annoying other potential fans with my constant haranguing. Christopher Weingarten said, in a recent speech, that bands now have to be digital hustlers these days, and that’s just so, so true. I feel like I’m a guy in a stereotypical Middle Eastern bazaar yelling about how great my product is while tons of other equally loud vendors are selling the same thing around me.

Fense: So I have to ask — what’s next on the horizon for Venice Is Sinking?

We’re jamming a lot, writing new songs, working to get back up to snuff on the Sand & Lines stuff (we had to tour behind AZAR, so we lost all of our “chops”), playing Black-Eyed Peas songs. You know, the usual. I really, really, really hope we can get on an album a year schedule. We’ve got a lot of ideas right now, and we’ve gotta sit down and make them happen. We really wanted to try to make a reggaeton-inspired album, without all of the homophobia stuff. That hasn’t gone as planned.

Fense: We’ll that would certainly be an interesting concept if it does come to fruition. Well, that’s all I got. Thanks for sitting down and taking the time to “chat” with the ‘Post.
- Andy Fenstermaker

"Spinner (Interview)"

Georgia's Venice Is Sinking recently completed their most experimental album to date: 'Sand & Lines', a collection of dreamy pop songs due June 15th, was recorded live at Georgia Theatre without an audience. At this year's SXSW, they'll be performing five shows in three days for crowds of festival attendees. Band members Lucas Jensen, Karolyn Troupe, and Daniel Lawson took a short break from the preparation to talk to Spinner.

How would you describe your sound?

Lucas Jensen: We usually go with what other people have said about us. I've heard that we play locore before, and I've heard that we play shoegaze a lot, but I don't think that those are very good descriptions.

Karolyn Troupe: We've also gotten Americana.

LJ: I'd like to think that we play orchestral pop.

How did your band form?

KT: Back in 2003, after I graduated from college, I wanted to play music, and I knew Daniel from a recording session. We decided to start having these jam-practice kind of things, and it was with another keyboardist. Then, all of a sudden, Lucas came in. It was all in this old house by the railroad tracks. I have a lot of good memories of that time when we would drink whiskey and shoot BB guns at trains and tag trains, and hit golf balls at trains. It was basically very train-oriented.

Daniel Lawson: It's not a very good story.

How did you come up with your band name?

DL: It was something I've been calling anything I made music-related since high school. A friend of mine came up to visit me in Philadelphia one summer and we recorded an album on a cassette 4-track, and we needed a name. There was a copy of National Geographic that was talking about Venice sinking, and we just settled on it and I've used it ever since.

What are your musical influences?

DL: We all love Brian Eno, Leonard Cohen. I really like Sparklehorse a lot, and we're all really big fans of this band Okay that's fronted by this guy named Marty (Anderson). He's been a pretty big influence on us. Our last EP ('Okay') was sort of a tribute to him, and we covered two of his songs. I'd written a song called "Okay" that was me trying to write a song like him.

KT: I think we're influenced by everything that we hear, which is quite a bit of things.

What's your musical guilty pleasure?

KT: I'm not sure if I even believe in musical guilty pleasures anymore. I think that we might all be in that same boat. Call me guilty, I like Lady Gaga. I don't feel guilty about that. I admit to everything.

DL: I felt a little bit guilty last year at South By Southwest. I was with Lucas walking by Stubb's BBQ and Third Eye Blind was playing. I never really listened to them, but Lucas and I walked right in, and that was a lot of fun.

LJ: I didn't know all of the songs, but they all kind of sounded like other Third Eye Blind songs that I knew, so I just imagined that they were those songs. I felt a little guilty about that, but I didn't feel that guilty.

What's your biggest vice?

LJ: I would say four out of five of us are really big scotch lovers. We really have a problem – if it's around, we're going to drink it.

KT: And food. We like any food, especially local fast food chains.

DL: In our normal lives, we really try to eat healthy. Then we go on tour and we succumb to the temptation of awful fast food.

LJ: It starts to turn into a one-up contest. We encourage each other. People will be like, "Do you want bacon with that?" and we'll be like, "Yeah, get bacon!" We tend to get the most amazing and fatty thing on the menu.

What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced on tour?

LJ: Ivan the Terrible.

DL: We played a show, it was fun and people were friendly. Our keyboard player, a friend of his sister's lives in Charlotte, so we had some friends at the show. We needed a place to stay, so they suggested this guy named Ivan. So we went over there after the show, and everything was great. He had a piano, so we sat down and started singing.

LJ: Maybe we played the piano too long or something. Ivan gave me this look like, "What are you looking at?" I think he was really drunk. I was a little bit taken aback, but I thought he was joking so I let it slide. As we were in the kitchen, we were talking about the science of plumbing and complimenting him on his counter top, which he made based on the Fibonacci Sequence. It seemed like he got better for a second, and then suddenly he just said, "Get out of here. I'm going to call the cops on you, you're trespassing in my house." We didn't know what we did. It was really weird.

KT: He had initially been so gracious, and then all of a sudden flipped out like a complete psychopath. It didn't make any sense. This guy has apparently pulled a gun on his wife, and he's just basically psychotic. We didn't know any of this beforehand, obviously.

DL: We're a band that's never had this kind of problem on tour before. I guess we'll be a little more cautious.

What would you include in a festival survival kit?

KT: I would pack water and any sort of sun protection. Also dried fruit or nuts. I get hungry all the time, so some sort of snack would be essential for me.

LJ: Comfortable and durable walking shoes.

Is there anything you're looking forward to seeing or doing at SXSW this year?

KT: I'm looking forward to discovering my next Beach House.

LJ: I want see a concert like Devo. I also want to see another Third Eye Blind, like last year.

DL: You just want it to be like last year.

LJ: Yeah, I want it to be like last year when I saw Third Eye Blind. - Allison Davis

"Popmatters (Interview)"

Georgia indie pop group Venice Is Sinking has released a few records that PopMatters rated pretty highly, Sorry About the Flowers in 2006 and AZAR earlier this year. Lucas Jensen, the band's drummer, sits down with 20 Questions to explain his theories about Star Wars and more.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
There were parts in Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories that really got to me, particularly dealing with plight of the overweight, asthmatic lawyer Theo, who could have easily become a caricature. The empathy and humanity that Atkinson shows Theo (imagine that, an ugly major character!) is well beyond the norm for most fiction, particularly mystery fiction. WALL-E also made me tear up at various points. The beginning is so cute and yet so sad. WALL-E‘s loneliness is palpable. Sure, it’s billed as a kid’s movie, but have you ever seen anything so desolate and bleak in your life?!

2. The fictional character most like you?
Hmmm…probably some buffoonish but lovable motormouth idiot out there. Falstaff? That Scottish guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral who died? Did I just give something away? Spoiler alert!

Venice is Sinking
(One Percent Press; US: 31 Mar 2009; UK: Unavailable)
Review [6.Apr.2009]

Venice is Sinking
Sorry About the Flowers
(One Percent Press; US: 20 Jun 2006; UK: Available as import)
Review [20.Jun.2006]3. The greatest album, ever?
Oh man, this question is a tough one. I vacillate between any number of albums, including some usual suspects like Pet Sounds and Revolver and stuff, so I’m going to go oddball today and say that it’s Tindersticks’ second self-titled album, which, in its long running time, manages to incorporate spoken word, Serge Gainsbourg-style duets, distorted surf guitars, full orchestras, piano ballads, and a one-mic-recorded dirges without every getting boring once. It’s so overstuffed with dramatic gestures and ambition and well-executed bad ideas that it’s almost gaudy in its grandeur.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I adore both, so I kinda split the difference here because they’re so different, particularly in their views of the military and society. Star Trek (first two shows and most of the movies) is almost the sci- fi equivalent of the Patrick O’Brien naval books… it’s a series about exploration and discovery complete with big slow ships. Everything’s hermetic and vaguely utopian socialist. Star Wars (original trilogy only here) is grimy and gritty and fast-paced and messy. The ships are rusty and get blown up. It’s a precarious universe, one filled with dangers. One shot will do you in almost anywhere. It’s got some Wild West in there. Anything could go wrong at any second. There’s danger in Star Trek, but it’s much more slow-paced. I have some interesting theories on how Star Wars is an allegory for the American Revolution, if you’d like to hear them. No?

5. Your ideal brain food?
Cheeseburgers. I don’t eat a lot of them anymore, so the thought of a really good burger gets my brain going wild.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Which accomplishment? Have I achieved anything? What have I been doing with myself? My whole life is a cosmic joke. Thanks, 20 Questions. Thanks a lot.

7. You want to be remembered for…?
This interview right here. And consistent bathing habits.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
To be sure, the work of Nu-Shooz and Sly Fox tower above most others, though I think in the darkest hours of humanity, we can all take comfort in the soothing music of T’Pau.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
I really wish I’d had something to do with lots of movies and TV shows, but The Third Man might be the one I’d like to be known for. It’s not some swing-for-the-fences big statement like Citizen Kane or The Godfather. It’s a studio product through and through, a movie that was an accidental masterpiece. The script was great, the acting was great, the sets were great, Carol Reed’s direction was great, the zither score was great… it all came together, the way it always should but rarely ever does. I’ve never done anything in the movies, so, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind my name being on Biodome.

10. Your hidden talents…?
I’m exceptional at identifying celebrity voiceover talent in commercials.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Ask yourself is this really where you want to be in five years. It wasn’t, so I quit. Simple as that.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Can anything be better than Super Metroid for the SNES? I bought that. I plead the fifth on the last two.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I stayed away from designer jeans forever, but I was convinced to try on a pair of Polo jeans once, and they fit so much better than Lees or Levis. I had some Kenneth Cole jeans that were amazing. I really liked them. They were a little thin and tore in the crotch. I also had some Tommy Hilfiger’s I liked. Probably the best thing I own is a tailored Donna Karan suit. That’s my answer. That suit is great.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Graham Greene. He’s one of my favorite authors, and his globetrotting would probably make for some interesting stories. I mean, beyond the ones he fictionalized.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I would be just like Old Biff in Back to the Future and go not too far back in time and give myself a Sports Almanac, so I could make tons of money. I’d give some of that money away to charity or something later, of course. I wouldn’t let everything go to pot like Biff did with the Alternate Hill Valley.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Spa vacation all the way. I like a massage, and I’m distrustful of both hired killers and psychiatric drugs.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Honestly, I don’t consider any of these very essential. Maybe in the “or” category put beer?

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I prefer a small city with easy access to the country. I could live anywhere, but if I’m gonna go cold, I’d probably like for it to be in New England. I like the Southeastern United States, where I am currently located, just fine.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
This list would be immense, and Obama just started the closure of Guantanamo, which was near the top for me, but I would urge us to follow a foreign policy of liberal internationalism with an emphasis on human rights. Also, I would suggest a thorough revamping of our country’s education system. High stakes standardized testing doesn’t work. It’s an anachronism, and it’s just bad science if it’s not being used in a pre-test/post-test format. We need to chart progress, not arbitrary criteria, in our K-12 students.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I am working on my Masters portfolio, and the band is working on releasing two records in 2009 as well as recording an EP of covers of the Bay Area band Okay. We’ve also been writing new songs that are influenced by reggaeton, but without the whole burning hatred of homosexuals thing.
- staff

"Aquarium Drunkard (Feature)"

After a few years off (in retail shelves that is) Athens, GA’s Venice Is Sinking recorded not one but two albums last year. In preparation for the March 31st release of record number one, entitled AZAR, the group gigged last week in Austin, at SXSW, and took some time to hit us up with some favorite Athens locales previously not covered in related OTR’s (for those unaware we’ve had a bunch in done in the Classic City…all of which are very much worth reading). Continuing in the vein of 2006's Sorry About The Flowers, AZAR finds Venice Is Sinking expanding on the orchestral, ambient, pop that initially caught my ear invoking the mellower side of Yo La Tengo/Mojave 3.

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A lot of my favorite things about Athens have already been covered by Ham1 (link), Patterson Hood (link), and our friends in The Modern Skirts (link) in previous Off The Record installments, so I’m going to focus on some things the Classic City has to offer that probably get overlooked… – Daniel Lawson, Venice Is Sinking

White Tiger :: This restaurant is located in an old wood frame commercial building on one of my favorite streets in town – The Boulevard. Boulevard is technically the first suburb in Athens and the neighborhood surrounding the street is filled with these great old southern houses in various stages of disrepair. There are huge oaks that line both sides of the road with enormous branches that reach out and connect with one another in the center of the street. It’s a great neighborhood to live in and I really miss the house i used to rent in that part of town. Anyway, White Tiger is right there in the middle of The Boulevard and they serve some of the best food I have ever eaten anywhere. Everything on the menu is simple, well executed and prepared with great ingredients. It’s kind of hard to explain, but their food tastes exactly like what it is. If you order the carrot ginger soup, chances are it will taste like carrots and ginger. The food is just really honest and delicious and like a lot of places in Athens, there is something unique and charming about the atmosphere and the people that run it.

The Georgia Theatre :: I will probably catch hell from certain people for including this one – since lot of folks in Athens can’t seem to get over the jam band / hippie associations that they have with this place. Yeah, I know that on most nights some band with members of Count Dracula’s Weed Smuggling Jam Engine are playing here to a bunch of drunk fraternity kids, but the theatre gets some quality shows too! The sound system is by far the best in town, the staff are all pros and the owner has done a lot of renovations to the building in recent years which have made it a pretty great place to see a show. Plus, there is something special about seeing a band play in a room that was designed (at least partially) with sound in mind. I am certainly a little bit biased since we had the opportunity to record our third album with Dave Barbe there last May. The owner closed up shop for a week and we pretty much had the run of the place. We rolled take after take and drank scotch after scotch every night until the early morning hours. Needless to say, we all became quite fond of the place by the end of those sessions.

Blenheim Ginger Ale :: This is not something that is exclusive to Athens (it’s made in South Carolina), but I’m pretty sure more of it is sold here than anywhere else in the country. It’s difficult to explain the flavor / sensation of Blenheim’s to someone who has never tried it before, but let’s just say it’s extraordinarily spicy and it makes you cough (in a good way) if you drink it too fast. It tastes the best in the summertime on the Little Kings patio over ice, with a reasonable amount of bourbon mixed in.

Front Porches :: A couple of friends of mine that have moved away from town in recent years have told me that this is what they miss the most about living in Athens. Many older homes close to town have some sort of front porch. Some are nicer than others (mine is splintery, faded and probably shouldn’t be walked on with bare feet), but most are functional at the very least. People seem to actually use their porches here too, whether it’s for reading, listening to music or hanging out – you definitely see people sitting around enjoying their porches in our city. It’s pretty warm here, so you can comfortably use your porch for most of the year and at parties everybody always ends up squeezing onto them for some inexplicable reason (smoking?). If I ever move away from Athens, I’m pretty sure I’ll miss my front porch.

Charminar :: This gas station / beauty salon / Indian restaurant on the north side of town is true oddity. At first glance this place looks like an ordinary convenience store, but there’s definitely a lot more to it than that. I don’t know of any other establishment where you can fill up your tank, pick up some lottery tickets, get a haircut, rent a movie, transfer your VHS collection to DVD, fax important documents, purchase an extremely outdated (and possibly broken) desktop computer monitor, buy some pornography, develop a roll of film and sit down for a delicious meal of homemade Indian cuisine – all under one roof! They also have the largest selection of single beers for sale in a gas station that I have ever encountered, and if you ask nicely, the owner will discreetly pour one into a plastic cup for you to enjoy with your eggplant and spiced cabbage.
- Justin Gage

"Tiny Mix Tapes (Sand & Lines)"

A year and a half ago, I concluded my review of AZAR, the sophomore album from Athens indie pop group Venice Is Sinking, with the following words: “Despite its faults, AZAR certainly showcases a band with a keen ear for harmony and a willingness to push musical boundaries. I can only hope that future releases will find this band honing its strong points.” It’s an object lesson in the limits of critical speculation (or maybe just in the limits of my own critical speculations). AZAR was a ponderous, atmospheric chunk of chamber pop, rife with layered melodies and orchestral flourish. Sand and Lines, by contrast, is a stark, stripped-down affair, recorded in the now-defunct Georgia Theatre with only two microphones and no overdubbing. If anything, Venice Is Sinking took hold of the “strong points” that I singled out in my last review and chucked them into the waste basket, yet they’ve ended up with a record far more compelling than anything I could have envisioned for this band’s future.

The conceit behind the album makes comparisons with The Cowboy Junkies’ legendary Trinity Sessions inevitable. Like that formidable ancestor, Sand and Lines finds Venice Is Sinking exploring the roots of American music, particularly country, by sprinkling covers of Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings amid twangy originals like album opener “Sidelights” and “Lucky Lady.” While the resulting album isn’t quite a statement on the level of Trinity, it’s notable for the amount of beauty it spins from such humble material. Whereas many bands use minimalist production values to hide their paucity of new ideas beneath swathes of tape-damage and feedback, Sand and Lines sounds as crisp and polished as any full studio effort, but gains immediacy from the live setting.

There’s plenty of good stuff here, but two songs are worth calling out for special attention. The first is “Bardstown Road.” It’s probably the simplest melody of the entire album, the instrumental backdrop consisting of little more than single-kick bass drum, two shakes of a sleigh bell, and the almost ambient hum of a church organ. The song builds toward a big-group vocal refrain at the end, and the strained quality of the band-members’ overlapping voices captures everything that’s wonderful about how this album was recorded in its final bittersweet minutes. The other MVP track on the album is their reimagining of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” By snatching the bass line from Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” and grafting it onto the song, they effectively suck all the bounce out of Parton’s tried-and-true concert staple. In doing so, they lay bare the clawing desperation at the heart of the narrative and call into question the societal values that have reduced the female protagonist to such a state (and on an only tangentially related point, holy shit, check out her pants).

While Sand and Lines runs the risk of getting lost in the shadow of The Trinity Sessions, there’s enough quality music here to make it worth your while. It’s also worth noting that all the proceeds from the album’s sale go to support the owner and crew of The Georgia Theatre, which burned down shortly after the album was finished. If I have one complaint about Venice Is Sinking, it’s that I’m still not quite sure what they actually sound like. Where AZAR found them bursting with big ideas and lavish arrangements, Sand and Lines is a lateral step into subdued singer-songwriter territory, and I have no idea what they’re building toward or where their next album will take them. Still, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that any attempt to pigeonhole this band is not just futile, but self-defeating. Thanks for keeping me guessing, guys. - Joe Hemmerling

"Daytrotter Session"

Not quite sure where you stand on the subject, but we tend to believe that it takes a generally happy person to make the peppermint-y, slow-churned, occasionally sadcore music that Athens, Georgia, band Venice Is Sinking makes. It would be wrong to think that it would take a horribly mopey or depressed set of people to make music that relies on the subtle changes of mood to build such intriguing iciness or a toughened up version of the twee pop that the city that they live in was practically founded upon not all that long ago, when every third person walking the street was another tortured genius, stewing and dreaming up imaginative verse. The songs on the band's latest, "Sand & Lines," and those on its previous full-length, "Azar," are derivations of years and years of letdowns and personal conflicts - the complexities of trying to get along with other people, even when it's been a real chore - you've learned - since that first day in kindergarten, when everything seemed to be conspiring against you. Those same sorts of tragic relationships and finding that there's absolutely nothing certain about any sorts of good times are abundant no matter how old or young, happy or sad you are, but it might just be that the real understanding of them comes from a vantage point of something other than being resigned to soaking in the depression of it, forever and ever. A video that the band did for its song "Okay" shows the five members wrapped in aluminum foil, firing guns at a shooting range and acting out other silly shenanigans - so we're sure that they don't take these social setbacks too much to heart as events that are just going to break your ass down. "Tugboat," on the latest album, is a song in which we hear singer Daniel Lawson singing that he doesn't want to go to someone's party and that all he wants to do is be that person's tugboat captain and we think all that means is that he'd like to take care of that person, maybe even into very old age. There's a tinge of remorse about a Friday night, it sounds like, or it could be something more specific and personal or it might just be an inconsequential twist of emotions that forced some hormones to be released and some words to be said - an irreplicable combination of events. When Lawson and Karolyn Troupe sing, the words come out as hushed flowerbeds full of a slow-developing, but important dew, and we come upon these plants much later as that moisture is being burned off of those leaves and achingly re-opening petals. We happen upon these songs as they've already dealt with much of the vulnerability that they were going to have to deal with and now, it's the point where there's lightness to be had again, as if the storm's over. They may still want to talk about the storm - as the bad ones are always good for prolonged conversation - but it doesn't mean that those downed branches aren't being buzz-sawed down and carried off and the power has been restored to most of the homes that it was knocked out of. Things are better. People are recovering, or so that's what this seems to sound like. - Sean Moeller

"Spin Magazine"

Who? Each member of this Athens, GA quintet -- vocalist/guitarist Daniel Lawson, vocalist/violist Karolyn Troupe, drummer Lucas Jensen, bassist Steve Miller, and keyboardist James Sewell -- has a day job (student, print shop worker, publicist, biochemist, and landscape architect) that gets put aside for work on their full-length debut, Sorry About the Flowers.
What's the Deal? Venice Is Swimming might be a more appropriate name for this orchestral indie pop five-piece, as their soundscape is always lush even when it seems ready to drown in shoegaze-worthy atmospherics. Each track -- especially "Pulaski Heights" and "Buried Magnets" -- brings the fuzz, which the band smartly beset with Lawson and Troupe's melodic boy-girl harmonies and the beautifully agonizing sweeps from the viola.
Fun Fact: "We cover songs by Glenn Frey, Genesis, and late-period Ramones," drummer Lucas Jensen told "So our musical taste is highly questionable." JULIA SIMON
- Julia Simon

"Popmatters (Sand & Lines)"

Georgia Theatre, in a lot of ways, is the music scene in Athens, Georgia. It’s played host to some of the most important bands to come out of the town—you know, like R.E.M. or Pylon—and it sits right there in downtown at the heart of everything going on. So, that place, with all its history and personality, seemed like a perfect venue for a band like Venice Is Sinking to record their atmospheric, gauzy pop music.

The good news is they did just that in May 2008. The bad news is that the Georgia Theatre burned down in June 2009, leaving in its wake a huge gap in the Athens music scene. Sand & Lines is Venice Is Sinking’s attempt to help out. All proceeds from this release will be donated to the rebuilding of the Georgia Theatre. The band started a fundraising campaign on, and with their help, among others, Georgia Theatre is ready to be rebuilt and owner Wil Greene hopes to have it back open by early 2011.

So, in one way, this record is a love song to the Georgia Theatre, and that distinct place does take up room on the record. The band recorded all the material here live at the theatre, and made no edits or overdubs afterwards. What they played on that stage, live with only two microphones, is what you hear on the record. There’s no audience, just the band and their songs and the space around them, which gives every song an affecting size. You can feel the notes spreading out and up into every inch of space the theatre holds.

With all that space, aside from paying tribute to the venue, Venice Is Sinking do something else that is pretty impressive. On their albums, particularly last year’s AZAR, the band has shown a knack for lush, expansive pop songs that are both immediately melodic and thick with intricate layers. But what sounded like studio polish before turns out to be their organic sound on Sand & Lines. Every bit of atmosphere, every affecting layer is all on display in their playing on this record. They are tight, surely, but the way they stretch out without losing control is something to be admired. Songs like the swaying “Sidelights” or the lilting “Lucky Lady” or the gentle rumbling of “Falls City” all have a uniform echo that ties them together, but each carves out its own emotional feel. And, on top of these tracks, the band delivers pitch-perfect vocals. Dan Lawson and Carolyn Troupe deliver harmonies that are simultaneously strong and vulnerable, and when the whole band comes together to harmonize on “Bardstown Road”, it’s the highlight of the record.

There are also a handful of covers on the record that the band handles equally well. Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” may seem an obvious fit for Venice Is Sinking’s sound, but their version works because it is both true to the original and builds its own brilliant horn-filled crescendo that fills up the whole theatre around them. Their ghostly waltz version of “Jolene” builds a bit slower, but the payoff is just as guileless and triumphant as the one on “Tugboat”.

In the face of these great covers, and the quiet energy that drives the first half of the album, the middle does feel like it settles in a bit. With no crowd around, the vocals quiet down and the mid-tempo haze of the songs loses just a slight bit of steam. There’s no misstep here, necessarily, but with the band operating alone, there might be a moment in the middle where this feels a bit insular.

However, then songs like “Bardstown Road” and the band’s take on “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want to Get Over You)” end these sessions of a very strong note. Venice Is Sinking are on their game here, and Sand & Lines is a statement for them as a band—after they’d already proven themselves as songwriters—and a beautiful document of an important venue in independent American music. - Matthew Fiander

"Popmatters (Okay EP)"

Just a few months after the release of its second LP, Azar, Venice Is Sinking returns with the five-track Okay EP. The Athens, Georgia-based quintet remains relatively unknown in many an indie circle, yet on Okay, the band does a remarkable job at showcasing its range. “Okay” starts off simply enough, reminding of Belle and Sebastian’s “Judy and the Dream Of Horses”. However, propulsive percussion, charming pianos, and uplifting horns quickly elevate the track to something of a dream-pop masterpiece. Solemn strings take center stage on the wandering “Compass”, giving hope to late-night dreamers. Closing off the B-sides is “Give Up”, a pseudo-country shuffle with a certain stroke of indie-pop paint that features Karolyn Troupe’s hushed vocals. Saddled with a pair of remixes, Okay is the kind of EP you’ll want to throw on as soon as you wake up hungover on a Sunday. - Joshua Kloke

"Popmatters (AZAR)"

On Venice is Sinking’s debut album, Sorry About the Flowers, the band showed us just how intricate pop music can be. It seemed basic enough, with its hushed melodies and immediate hooks. But the mesh of keys and horns, the careful execution of vocal harmonies, and the right amount of muscle—that made some of the record approach a power-pop energy—culminated in a sound that seemed familiar, but with that extra thing, that synergy particular to these players, that made it new.

And now, back with their sophomore album AZAR, they have outdone themselves in every way. The simple pop bases to the orchestration on their first album are out the window and replaced with a much headier mix of melancholy atmosphere and intricate, slow-building compositions. It isn’t that these songs aren’t as immediate as their predecessors, just that the emotions they hit upon, and the melodies they use to get to them, run deeper and with just a little more tangle to them. Where Dan Lawson and Karolyn Troupe sounded like unassuming but strong voices before, now they sound even more confidently restrained. And the band as a whole has concentrated their strengths and, as a result, has managed to make a much larger sound.

It wouldn’t be accurate, though, to say that Venice is Sinking has settled into their sound, because there is nothing settled about AZAR. From the opening track—one of four instrumental pieces on the record, all called “Azar”—it is clear that the band will be reaching for some big things on this record. The track grows on quiet fuzzy atmospherics, and introduces the simple melody that will run through all four “Azar” tracks, before soaring to its finish on a foundation of horns, keys, and ringing guitars. It is big-sounding, for sure, but its parts are spare, all tightly contained. The song also stops short of completely unraveling. Like much of the album, it builds to the breaking point and then recedes. Only to give way to the first of many great tracks, “Ryan’s Song”.

This song, the first single from the record, immediately taps into the growth in Venice is Sinking’s sound. Lawson and Troupe sing a hushed glide over a track that sounds airy and light, until you notice the interplay of a clean guitar riff with a thumping, chopped-up bass line providing the song with some subtle muscle. Lay all this over some airtight drumming and you’ve got a brilliantly put together song, full of emotion without being strident, and lofty in its size and sound without being too unruly or cerebral. “Nothing more, nothing less,” Lawson and Troupe sing on the refrain, and it feels like a statement about the album, even if its not.

“Ryan’s Song” is just the first wonderfully-balanced and bittersweet songs on an album full of them. “Wetlands Dancehall” sounds at first like a typical blue-light ballad, a perfect slow dance number, until you notice the duo’s vocals rise over the music and carry the track, before turning it over to a lush bed of strings. “Okay” has all the immediacy of the catchiest power-pop tune, but earns its infectious sound by building it with patience. The drums wait to full come into the track, guitars and keys let notes cascade a while before shoring them up in chords. It’s the kind of slow-burning expansion you’ll hear all over this album, and in no place is that growing better than on “Young Master Sunshine”.

“Young Master Sunshine” is the perfect hook the rest of the album hang’s on. It starts spare and quiet, spacious and cold. You can picture the breath puffing out of them in the winter night air, as the guitar tangles and stretched notes over spare percussion. But the song doesn’t settle for that solitary quiet, it swells with horns, the drums pick up a little steam, and an acoustic guitar comes in to fill up all the space. As it grows to full size, the song becomes something epic and dreamy, something that ripples out at the edges. It reaches back and bleeds into the songs you’ve already heard, and sets you on a path for the rest of the album.

The four “Azar” pieces may slow this album down a bit, since their barely-there trudge starts to pull down the already slow pace of the album. But overall, AZAR is a wonderful album. Venice is Sinking certainly stay close to the orchestral pop sound they established on Sorry About the Flowers, but they expand upon it here, and take some interesting risks, with beautiful results. It’s might not be your driving-around, blare-the-car-stereo album this spring and summer, but it just might become your early-evening, front-porch, soaking-in-the-sunset soundtrack. - Matthew Fiander

"Popmatters (Sorry About The Flowers)"

"Venice is Sinking strikes a perfect blend of honest, lush orchestral songcraft that's sadly missing from today's self-conscious music scene."

Sometimes, it’s easy to tire of the self-conscious irony or the posturing, preening libido that seems to permeate rock. Are there any earnest bands out there anymore? And when I say earnest, I don’t mean the fanatical zeal of U2 or the bleeding-heart sensitivity of the approximately 2,304,823 emo acts in the US today. I mean, are there any bands that actually write what they feel anymore, without dressing it up with rock genre stylings like so much dressing on salad?

Venice is Sinking thankfully answers that question with an unassuming “yes”, delivering a debut album full of the most honest, understated songs to come out in a while. The Georgia five-piece comes off the tail end of a shoegazing rebirth that seems to be sweeping the indie world, combining the swirling dreaminess of Low with the stately, melodic pop of Death Cab For Cutie. And while they don’t say much – the lyrics are sparse and appear to be drawn out to cover the maximal amount of instrumental space - what they do say, they say without pretension, and in an awfully pretty way.

Just by listening once, it’s pretty clear that although this is a debut album, these guys aren’t beginners when it comes to music – they have significant touring experience, and it shows. They root their sound in a wistful, firmly midtempo guitar template, with Steve Miller (no, not that one) providing steadily impressive bass hooks. Lead singer Daniel Lawson (who’s sure to have to fend off comparisons to Ben Gibbard of Death Cab) provides the perfect vocals for this type of record: clear, ringing and unobtrusively melodic.

But the lion’s share of the credit for the musical prettiness has to go to Karolyn Troupe, who handles her viola (and flute, and violin, and cello, and singing!) duties with a lushness that infuses the entire album. Other bands usually treat their strings either as a gimmick, or as an excuse to completely overwhelm songs with excess sentimentality. Here, the viola is an integral part of the sound that lends it an orchestral maturity beyond similar indie rock bands.

With all that musical talent at its disposal, Venice is Sinking writes startlingly beautiful pop tunes. The band sounds like bummed-out guys (and a girl) who just happened to wake up on a rainy day – or in a drowning city, whichever you prefer – and spontaneously decided, instead of falling into depression, to compose some songs to cheer themselves up a bit. So “Tours” rides an uplifting viola and sweeps listeners along with the wave; “Arkansas” strikes a perfectly epic balance between the tough guitar riff and majestic strings. And while Lawson sings his words sparingly, the wordplay he does show is full of throbbing wistfulness: on “Undecided”, he sings through a beautiful vocal hook, “If no one moves then no one gets hurt / If nothing moves then nothing gets worse”.

All of the album is contained within this same midtempo, lush frame; the same honest wistfulness that’s so emotionally appealing also means the songs tend to stay fairly predictable, and some of the weaker material tends to just fade into the background and out of the memory. But it’s also a credit to the band for sticking to what it knows, and with the exception of an experimental ten-minute blast of ambience on “Blue By Late”, the tracks are impressively consistent. An orchestral pop gem if there ever was one.
- Winston Kung

"VenusZINE (AZAR)"

The term “slowcore,” which often turns up as an adjective to describe the overall sound of Venice Is Sinking, is, to me, a roundabout way of describing music for someone with a long day and nothing to do. Nevertheless, if one is to truly, truly use the term in relation to Venice Is Sinking, it would more likely be music for someone driving down a highway, not having much of a clue as to where he or she is to end up in the coming days.

While Venice Is Sinking play that classic, melodically simple pop, one cannot avoid the sense of natural sprawl and wide-openness that the songs conjure up. Much of this is due to the layered arrangements: instruments are neatly piled atop more instruments that include electronics, horns, strings, and most consistently, solemnly strummed guitars. Dual vocals switch between a spectral female croon and a self-conscious male whisper. The music, whether purposefully or not, overtakes the lyrics considerably and one can barely piece together mini-narratives of everyday life. More moving, however, are the instrumental segues of the album titled “Azar One,” “Two,” “Three,” and “Four.” While most pieces like these would be one-offs meant to fill time, these are fully realized with delicate composition and considerable emotional power.

Venice Is Sinking has an appeal that can transcend those who simply like slow music. While other bands of this type are best heard during painful contemplation, sitting still during the playing of AZAR, while certainly acceptable, wouldn’t do it proper justice. - Chris R. Morgan

"VenusZINE (Sorry About The Flowers)"

"Sorry About The Flowers is an impressive debut to say the least, and is, without question, orchestral pop at it's finest."

While Americans wielding synthesizers, string instruments, and faux British accents is hardly anything new, few are as singularly unique and sincere as the five-piece from Athens, Georgia, Venice is Sinking.

Among the things that set them apart from the multitude of other indie-rock acts out there is the slightly Celtic sound of their music, obvious with opener “Pulaski Heights” and later expanded upon with the slightly somber, yet undeniably stirring “Curtains.”

Another hallmark of Sorry About the Flowers is the subtle use of female vocalist Karolyn Troupe. Often backing up singer-guitarist Daniel Lawson on tracks like “Undecided,” Troupe later takes centerstage on the heartbreakingly spooky “To Your Ghost,” where her exquisitely engaging voice brilliantly offsets the song’s largely ominous tone.

Venice is Sinking’s biggest draw, however, has to be the heartfelt tenderness prevalent within each and every track. From the beautifully acoustic “Andropolis” to the far grander, yet every bit as emotionally intimate “CSX,” Sorry About the Flowers is an impressive debut to say the least, and is, without question, orchestral pop at it’s finest.

As the album winds down, though, the crack in the armor appears in the form of “Blue By Late,” an overly drawn out and ultimately unnecessary track. On the whole though, Sorry About the Flowers is an outstanding introduction to a band that’s not only likely to melt the iciest of hearts, but also win over the most jaded of critics. - Dean Ramos

"Pitchfork Media (Sorry About The Flowers)"

August is a hot month in Atlanta, and the weather these last few days has been a little unsettling, as if it's tricking us into thinking that fall is here when we all know it's still two months away. But looking out the window at the gray haziness, I can't imagine a better musical match than Venice Is Sinking's dreamy pop; with its co-ed harmonies and wandering streams of dense melodies, it is the perfect soundtrack for unexpected overcast days.

The Athens, Geo., band's sound is reminiscent of the early days of alternative rock, when the term "college rock" still had significance. The violins recall Camper Van Beethoven, but the music is lush and romantic. Throughout each track, co-vocalists Karolyn Troupe and Daniel Lawson weave their voices through one another, and while Lawson is traditionally in the lead role, it's the combination of their voices that works so well. "Pulaski Heights" establishes the album's mood with layers of guitar and violin over a driving beat. But the real atmosphere comes from the vocals that ohh and ahh in the background, as if echoing up from the bottom of a cave or simply seeping out of the back of your brain. Perhaps the disc's biggest fault, though, is that this mood never changes. There are songs that are a little more upbeat than others, but beyond that, they are all very similar. As a result, the songs sort of drift by, at times settling into the background.
But if doleful, nostalgic pop is your bag, there is little to complain about with this set. The band employs a wide range of auxiliary instrumentation to round out the traditional guitar-led lineup, and often it's these instruments that define the tracks in a way. "Tours" features bells and a variety of strings, creating an echo effect that works well with the dusty shuffle of the drums. On "Buried Magnets", it's the piano tinkling over one of the album's most explosive beats that captures your attention and create a cohesiveness that a lot of bands struggle to achieve on a debut. The album's only drastically different track is "Blue By Late", which concludes the disc with 20 minutes of ambient droning. According to the liner notes, the sounds that make up the track are all sliced up and blended from the other nine tracks. So while it's an odd choice for a record that is so strong on melody, they ultimately pull it off, and it ends up working as a unique closing chapter, tying the rest of the album together.

-Cory D. Byrom, August 29, 2006

Rating 7.0
- Cory D. Byrom

"Pitchfork Media (AZAR)"

"Promising Athens, Ga., band continues to expand its sound in intriguing ways, here balancing its earthy chamber pop with forays into ambient electronics."

Athens, Ga., quintet Venice Is Sinking emerged in 2006 with what might be best described as a pleasant surprise: debut album Sorry About the Flowers showcased a band with some solid songwriting chops and a brand of earthy chamber pop that was easy to root for. Rather than refine the rough edges of Flowers, however, Venice Is Sinking have charted a different course with Azar, their 2009 follow-up-- though anyone who paid close attention to the intro to "Undecided" or stuck around to hear "Blue by Late", the 19-minute ambient track that closed Sorry About the Flowers, might have seen this coming.

Azar is structured around four electronics-heavy instrumental movements spread across the album, what we might collectively call the "Azar Suite". "Azar One", with its warm, impressionist tonal swaths eventually given shape by steady march drumming, suggests Explosions in the Sky gone Pure Moods, shot through with just the slightest touch (no pun intended) of Fennesz. "Two" takes the main theme into more delicate, twilit territory, and "Three" introduces tape manipulation chatter, while "Four", which begins as somber undersea waltz as performed on some phantom player piano, only turns more gloomily nostalgic with the introduction of strings. Taken together the suite conjures some pretty big, cinematic imagery-- too big, as it turns out, for the still-modest indie pop in between.

See, the problem here, and what makes Azar a more satisfying listen in parts than as a whole, is the rather epic disconnect between the "Azar" bits and the seven actual songs that comprise the blood and guts of the album. Take "Young Master Sunshine" as an example: the track sports an Elephant 6-esque title and comes in a pretty package, with an elegant swaying tempo and a horn- and string-saturated outro reminiscent of Okkervil River, but is ultimately sunk by a chorus-- constructed of slight variations on the line "It's not enough/ But sometimes it's more than enough"-- too bland and ambiguous to leave much of an impression. It's not for want of trying; while Karolyn Troupe's viola-playing anchored most of the tracks on Sorry, here it's almost an afterthought amid a sound rich with horns, woodwinds, percussion, and atmospheric flourishes. Yet more often than not the grand arrangements tend to smear together rather than punctuate specific moments, and overall these more cautiously optimistic tracks lack the weight of their determinedly melancholy counterparts on Flowers. In short, this is still a small band with some big ideas.

Despite its flaws, however, Azar feels like a necessary step for Venice Is Sinking. They're getting their feet wet with some new sounds and departing from the fairly strict structure that kept Flowers engaging but prevented it from ever truly soaring, and one gets the sense that the lessons learned here have the potential to foster some really exceptional material from these guys in the future. And indeed, the band has already cut a third, decidedly less produced album-- recorded live to tape at a local theater subsequently destroyed by fire-- so it's clear they're not just going to fall back on their day jobs for now and hope Azar catches on. They're already trying a new look, and perhaps this will be the one to stick.

— Matthew Solarski, July 15, 2009

Rating 6.0 - Matthew Solarski

"VenusZINE (Sand & Lines)"

On Venice is Sinking’s third album, the band creates a distinctive and endearing soft-core sound that is a welcome release from oftentimes upbeat pop. Sand & Lines performs an intriguing balancing act, melding dreamy, atmospheric orchestral pop; earthy, bare-bones co-vocal harmonies; and dense, expansive boy-girl melodies.

One possible caveat is that the songs are almost uniformly slow and ethereal, and although the effect is pleasantly lulling and seamless, it also means that much of the album fades into the background. This is a small concession considering the album’s many highlights, from the springy trumpet solo in “Sidelights” to the silky, violin-led waltz in “Lucky Lady.” The group also includes a handful of outstanding covers on Sand & Lines, including a grungy adaptation of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a sardonic take on Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat,” and a somber version of Waylon Jennings’ “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want to Get Over You).” The climax comes in “Bardstown Road,” a simple, controlled, and catchy melody with pitch-perfect vocal crescendos.

Taking a cue from the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session (Latent), Venice is Sinking recorded the album live with only two microphones—and no edits or redubs—over the course of four days at the landmark Georgia Theatre a year before it burned down. Sand & Lines is a tribute to a lost piece of music history, and an attempt to revive it: all proceeds from the release will be donated to the rebuilding of the theater - Jina Hassan

"Paste Magazine (AZAR)"

On Azar, Venice is Sinking’s goal seems to have been to create huge, undemanding music, relentless in its pursuit of sentimental bombast—and the band certainly can’t be faulted for poor execution. Crunchy guitar-rock glows with brass fanfare on “Okay,” banjo twangs through silvery synth-pop on “Ryan’s Song,” weepy chamber strings embrace glinting electric leads on “Iron Range,” keeping things interesting—or at least as interesting as an album clinging to one high-pitched emotional register can be. Keyboardist James Sewell’s quartet of Azar Themes have an ambient delicacy that’s refreshing, in no small part because they abstain from the scenery-chewing co-ed vocals that push much of the album toward a sort of bludgeoning prettiness. The sinking of Venice is a slow, subtle process; Pompeii is Erupting would better describe this group’s melodramatic style. - Brian Howe

"Under The Radar (Sand & Lines)"

“’s like stumbling on an amazing soundcheck by a band that is focused and sounded great.”

Recorded live in the empty Georgia Theatre on only two microphones over the course of four days in May of 2008, and with no editing or post production magic, Sand & Lines: The Georgia Theatre Sessions gives listeners the feeling of their own private concert from the totally underrated Venice is Sinking. It was masterminded by Wilmot "Wil" Greene and engineered by David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Sugar) and Andy Lemaster (Bright Eyes) around the time of Venice's last studio record (AZAR). It consists of only unreleased songs and super cool covers (Dolly Parton, Galaxie 500, Waylon Jennings). It's like stumbling in on amazing soundcheck by a band that is focused and sounding great. You can feel the size and warmth of the room but it's all for you.

Unfortunately, just over a year after this recording the Georgia Theatre burnt down. The profits from Sand & Lines will go to help the rebuilding effort. Check it out. - Paul Bullock

"Paste Magazine (Sand & Lines)"

An atmospheric tribute to an Athens landmark

Sand & Lines is a haunted album. It was recorded in Athens’ famed Georgia Theatre—and nudged into existence by Theater owner Wilmot “Wil” Greene, who volunteered the venue as studio space—a little more than a year before the venerable music house went up in flames in June 2009. Using Cowboy Junkies’ legendary Trinity Session as inspiration, the local dream-pop group set up camp around two microphones for four days, holding themselves to a live blueprint with no overdubs or extraneous studio effects. The result is somber, pastoral and startlingly visceral, capturing the careful chaos of their performances; Dense, soaked-wool guitar textures hang in the air over stately trumpets on their cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat"; a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” delivers despondent violins, soft harmonies and crashing electric guitar. The Georgia Theatre may be in ashes, but its legacy will echo through the rafters every time this stunning live collection is played.
- Matt Fink

"Pitchfork Media (Sand & Lines)"

“...this Georgia chamber-pop band’s live document is their most well-crafted record yet....7.2”

Athens, Ga., chamber-pop dreamers Venice Is Sinking have always been more notable for their ideas than their execution-- well, until now. Azar, the band's intriguing 2009 LP, included four instrumentals that suggested an almost-there guess of what Christian Fennesz might sound like collaborating with Sigur Rós. Those themes came wound around a half-dozen ornate rock songs. Thick with strings, horns, and keys and resting on beats that pushed just beyond mild-mannered, those numbers were barely but consistently off. Maybe they were a tad aggressive here or loaded with a few too many parts there, or perhaps some were just strangely mixed, but the most brazen thoughts on Azar seemed lost in transit.

The concept of Venice Is Sinking's latest, Sand & Lines, gives immediate pause: A 10-song edit culled from five days of live 2008 recordings at the venerable Georgia Theatre. It's the sort of idea that suggests this band will try to do too much, to push decent songs beyond their carrying capacity. And Sand & Lines is naturally loaded with auxiliary horns, strings, singers, and percussionists. The organ-and-footstomp march "Bardstown Road" is played by 16 people, for instance, with drummer Lucas Jensen left only to conduct the big band. Despite the numbers and the presumptions, though, Sand & Lines is marked by thoughtful reserve at every turn. Both carefully arranged and edited, its 10 tracks comprise only 38 minutes. Just as it doesn't overstay its welcome, it doesn't tax these tunes, either. Sand & Lines treats its 10 songs as canvases for moods, where the focus is feeling and essence, not ornamentation or precision.

"I think we're liking it pretty well up here," someone says off microphone at album's start, just before the band eases into the drifting "Sidelights". The recording is warm and tender, with reverb and gently scattered vocals enhancing the sense that the band really is in the next room. The no-overdubs policy suits Venice Is Sinking well, allowing both the songs and the well-considered parts-- the vocal glissandi of opener "Sidelights"; the neon keyboard and guitar flashes of "Falls City"; the soaring string drama that bisects the terrific "Bound by Violets"-- appropriate spotlights. The flourishes feel just right, too: Despite its crowd, the sleigh bell click of "Bardstown Road" feels perfectly understated beneath a chanting choir. "Lucky Lady" gets loud, sure. Captured in the mostly empty and cavernous room, though, it's a gentle if insistent sort of rock'n'roll. Think the Clientele, daydreaming.

Sand & Lines is simply a case of good songs receiving their proper treatments: "The Grey Line" is an illusory, lonely travelogue captured perfectly by Karolyn Troupe's fragile voice and the band's steady rises and falls. Frontman Daniel Lawson nails the nervy romanticism of Galaxie 500's "Tugboat", his voice drifting with sweet unease. When the band finally launches into the closing solo, they nuzzle the edge of anxieity perfectly. Similarly, Venice Is Sinking handle "Jolene" with thematic care. The slinking, sexy bassline sashays around a violin that sighs and sobs, the song's darkness pushed to the threshold of a murder ballad. Its slow burn is enough to conjure the flickers of a candle.

Despite its elegance, Sand & Lines likely won't turn Venice Is Sinking's national indie profile into a skyrocket. It's a comfortable, subtle suite of one-take songs, captured live in an empty room. If you're looking for a quick fix or an MP3 to share, Sands & Lines will vex with patience. In today's instant buzz cycle, maybe this sort of a record is a fool's errand for a band that did generate a modicum of attention with its last LP. But that last record was fussy and overworked, anyway, and this feels-- firmly, fortunately-- like new and assured footing.

- Grayson Currin

"Paste Magazine (AZAR)"

On Azar, Venice is Sinking’s goal seems to have been to create huge, undemanding music, relentless in its pursuit of sentimental bombast—and the band certainly can’t be faulted for poor execution. Crunchy guitar-rock glows with brass fanfare on “Okay,” banjo twangs through silvery synth-pop on “Ryan’s Song,” weepy chamber strings embrace glinting electric leads on “Iron Range,” keeping things interesting—or at least as interesting as an album clinging to one high-pitched emotional register can be. Keyboardist James Sewell’s quartet of Azar Themes have an ambient delicacy that’s refreshing, in no small part because they abstain from the scenery-chewing co-ed vocals that push much of the album toward a sort of bludgeoning prettiness. The sinking of Venice is a slow, subtle process; Pompeii is Erupting would better describe this group’s melodramatic style. - Brian Howe

"Magnet Magazine (Sorry About The Flowers)"

"Sorry about the Flowers sounds a lot like dream pop's long awaited changing of the guard."

Armed with an aural whirlpool of flutes, violas and keyboards, a taste for plaintively strummed melodies and some pleasant Dean-and-Naomi vocal interplay, Venice Is Sinking seems dead set on refracting its weakness for early-'90s dream pop through a heavy pane of post-rock lushness. Still, there's something to be said for the perfect confluence of Slowdive and Rock Action-era Mogwai that propels a track such as "Buried Magnets" out of the OC-pop ghetto. Sorry About The Flowers brims with these inspired, old vs. new concoctions. To be fair, it's a cumulative effect : Stripped of multi-instrumentalist Karolyn Troupe's cavalcade of strings and woodwinds or bassist Steve Miller's melodic jones, this Athens, Ga., band might veer uncomfortably close toward really-talented-local-band territory, as evidenced by Lucas Jensen's rudimentary drums and the group's occasionally rote take on slowcore. But when the band hooks together and pulls off its precise little blends - the sentimental-yet-upbeat shoegaze chug of "Pulaski Heights," for example - VIS overcomes its own winsomeness and pumps some intriguing symphonic life into what, in lesser hands, would be a handful of pleasant indie-pop tunes. Passionate and uninterested in one-chord-jangle rehash, Flowers sounds a like dream pop's long awaited changing of the guard. - Joe Martin

"Under The Radar (Sorry About The Flowers)"

" engaging piece of slowcore"

Is it possible for a band to be simultaneously twee and shoegaze? If you are Athens, Georgia quintet Venice is Sinking the answer would be a resounding "yes." Their debut full-length, Sorry About The Flowers maneuvers through nine tracks of shoegaze tempos and tones while never really using the tools of the genre. Instead, singer/songwrited/vocalist Daniel Lawson utilizes viola player Karolyn Toupe to lend a southern gothic (and extremely organic) sound to an otherwize metallic genre.

The most enticing aspect of Sorry About The Flowers are the harmonies between the baritone Lawson and sweet, angelic Troupe. "Buried Magnets" centers around bombastic percussion from drummer Lucas Jensen and simple, spaced-out guitars, while Troupe and Lawson's vocals swirl around the instrumental tornado without a care in the world. "Tours" is a sweet slice of melancholy, with its gothic violas and jangling guitars, while "Andropolis" is an engaging and beautiful piece of slowcore reminiscent of anything and everything MArk Kozoleck, only more grandiose.

At times, Venice is Sinking's homages to specific genres go a little too far. "Arkansa" is a little too Disintegration-era Cure goth, with Lawson's rather weak voice unable to support it. "To Your Ghost" is a Halloween march with the folks from Dead Can Dance, while the unnecessary closer, "Blue By Late" is 19 minutes of ambient self indulgence.

Venice is Sinking succeeds when they are mixing genres rather than mimicing them. Sorry About The Flowers is the sound of a band still growing, and from the handful of heartbreaking tracks here, perhaps growing into great things.

Rating 7/10
- Marcus Kagler

"VenusZINE (AZAR)"

"Venice Is Sinking has an appeal that can transcend those who simply like slow music."

The term “slowcore,” which often turns up as an adjective to describe the overall sound of Venice Is Sinking, is, to me, a roundabout way of describing music for someone with a long day and nothing to do. Nevertheless, if one is to truly, truly use the term in relation to Venice Is Sinking, it would more likely be music for someone driving down a highway, not having much of a clue as to where he or she is to end up in the coming days.

While Venice Is Sinking play that classic, melodically simple pop, one cannot avoid the sense of natural sprawl and wide-openness that the songs conjure up. Much of this is due to the layered arrangements: instruments are neatly piled atop more instruments that include electronics, horns, strings, and most consistently, solemnly strummed guitars. Dual vocals switch between a spectral female croon and a self-conscious male whisper. The music, whether purposefully or not, overtakes the lyrics considerably and one can barely piece together mini-narratives of everyday life. More moving, however, are the instrumental segues of the album titled “Azar One,” “Two,” “Three,” and “Four.” While most pieces like these would be one-offs meant to fill time, these are fully realized with delicate composition and considerable emotional power.

Venice Is Sinking has an appeal that can transcend those who simply like slow music. While other bands of this type are best heard during painful contemplation, sitting still during the playing of AZAR, while certainly acceptable, wouldn’t do it proper justice.

Rating 4/5 Stars - Chris R. Morgan

"Under The Radar (AZAR)"

Venice is Sinking's AZAR, their followup to 2006's underrated debut, Sorry About The Flowers, is a foggy, majestic collection of slowcore anthems that swims along with the dual harmonies of Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe. It's sure to please fans of acts as diverse as Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Stereolab. The album, tastefully engineered by Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Pattern is Movement, John Vanderslice) is buttressed by four instrumental "AZAR" movements, supporting gems like the rousing, "Okay" and the sweeping, spacey "Iron Range." But the real star here is the sweet, waltzing "Wetlands Dancehall." If we are to believe that it is morning in America, then this track would be a fine accompaniment to a cool, pre-sunrise ride on a southern highway.

If AZAR has any fault, it's that it is almost too unified in its dreamy, distant mood. The band has supposedly already completed a third album, recorded live at Athens, GA's Georgia Theatre, and promises a "poppier and twangier" sound. And judging from this current release, the next one could be a real breakthrough.
- Paul Bullock


Split EP with What we do is Secret - One Percent Press - 2005

Sorry About The Flowers - One Percent Press - 2006

Sorry About The Flowers - Tag Team Records (China)- 2008

AZAR - One Percent Press - 2009

Okay - One Percent Press - 2009

Sand & Lines - One Percent Press - 2010 (LP and CD)



Venice is Sinking is an orchestral rock sextet out of Athens, Georgia, known for its vertical arrangements and cinematic focus. The band recently released its third album, Sand & Lines, to great acclaim. Sand & Lines, upon with Pitchfork and Paste bestowed a 7.2 and an 8.1, respectively, was recorded in the now-destroyed Georgia Theatre straight-to-tape and live with only two microphones in something of an homage to the Cowboy Junkies' classic The Trinity Session. Recorded by David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Sugar) with Andy Lemaster (Now It's Overhead, Bright Eyes), this album of single-take songs is dynamic, not exactly a live record (no audience, no clapping, no “sweetening”), but not a studio recording either. The songs themselves find the band expanding into territory twangier and poppier than any of its previous output. The band’s most open-hearted and vulnerable work, Sand & Lines is an experiment (if not exactly experimental), 10 songs recorded live with two mics, presented in the order of their recording, the document of the sound of a beautiful space that doesn’t exist anymore.

Sand & Lines followed a busy 2009, which saw the release of the band's acclaimed second album, AZAR and second EP, Okay. AZAR, recorded by ace engineer Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Superchunk), found Venice is Sinking widening its palette and deepening its focus, tackling the idea of location's ability to influence our lives. Growing musically since the space rock of the band's debut, Sorry About the Flowers, the group shed the "dream pop" designation and explored new musical avenues. From the wide-eyed "Iron Range" to the David Lynch prom theme of "Wetlands Dancehall", from the heart wrenching "Young Master Sunshine" to the sardonic pop of "Okay" (also featured on the EP of the same name), AZAR was a dynamic work of beauty and ambition, the songs meticulous, vertical creations, tackling tiny, specific moments and exploding them outwards.

The band performed at the SXSW festival in both 2008 and 2009, as well as touring extensively behind all three of its full-length releases. Venice is Sinking has made appearances on Daytrotter and the dearly-departed WOXY and has consistently charted on the CMJ charts with each release. They have also seen airplay on Sirius and XM radio. The band's well-regarded 2006 debut, Sorry About the Flowers, saw release in China on the Tag Team Records label. For Sand & Lines, Venice is Sinking successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the production of the album as well as the restoration of the Georgia Theatre, destroyed by fire in 2009. All proceeds from Sand & Lines are being donated to its rebuilding.

Venice is Sinking is hard at work on new songs for Album #4, in between touring the Southeastern United States and beyond.

"...some of lushest, most beautifully orchestrated pop I've heard this year." - NPR

“...this Georgia chamber-pop band’s live document is their most well-crafted record yet....7.2” – Pitchfork

“a gorgeous meditation on a place that no longer exists.” – Paste

“Sand and Lines sounds as crisp and polished as any full studio effort, but gains immediacy from the live setting.” – Tiny Mix Tapes

“...dream pop's loong awaited changing of the guard” – Magnet

“...the groups most consistent and rewarding work yet.” – Aquarium Drunkard

“’s like stumbling on an amazing soundcheck by a band that is focused and sounded great.” – Under The Radar

"...back with their sophomore album AZAR, they have outdone themselves in every way." - PopMatters

"Venice is Sinking has appeal that can transcend those who simply like slow music...sitting still during the playing of AZAR, while certainly acceptable, wouldn't do it proper justice. Four stars." - VenusZINE

"Venice is Sinking rivals the best ambient rock bands. The harmonies and orchestral feel of the tracks transcend their genre, making it not simply slow music, but experimental, uplifting, and fascinating." - Paste

The band recently premiered its video for "Ryan's Song" at Stereogum and their video for "Okay" at Paste Magazine.