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Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 8:45am

Music Feature: Athens' Venice Is Sinking

The Athens band Venice Is Sinking has been around for six years, but this year, they've been busy. Their second album is out. They have a new E.P. And they've recorded a tribute to Athen's historic Georgia Theatre, which was destroyed by fire this summer.

Venice Is Sinking didn't plan the wait. But it's been a long one for fans of this lush, orchestral quintet that seems to thrive on airy vocals and wistful hooks.

Venice Is Sinking's debut record, Sorry About the Flowers, came out in 2006. This year, 2009, they released a follow-up album, Azar, released an E-P, Okay, and recorded a third album due out next year. Drummer Lucas Jensen says, the wait just happened.

"There are moments where you can beat your head against a wall trying to write a new record," Jensen says. "And then one day, you're not trying to write a new record and you write three songs. You spit them out."

Venice Is Sinking's three years between records isn't entirely a case of writer's block. After their debut, they toured a while and then almost immediately headed back to the studio.

One issue was the studio's location. Vocalist Karolyn Troupe says, coming off the sucess of Flowers, they chose to work with North Carolin based producer Scott Solter, a producer of college radio's Mountain Goats.

"We hadn't worked with someone like Scott before," Troupe says. "He's very much a proponent of good performance and something meaningful going into the recording. And even if you think that it was a good performance, he will feel that it wasn't what you meant to do."

Driving to a town outside of Charlotte almost every weekend for a year, band member say, they nearly lost it. In addition to learning just about every exit on the five hour drive, they also learned just about every way to argue.

The band survived the drive, their demanding producer and a failed romance between two of them and out came Azar, easily described as their most nuanced and polished work. Azar continues the band's shimmery pop-rock instrumentalism.

Then, just like their three year wait just happened, so did what they worked on next. They got the opportunity to record an album in Athens' historic Georgia Theater. Guitarist Daniel Lawson describes the album as an improbable late-night idea of Georgia Theater owner Wilmont Green.

"He kept talking about the Trinity Sessions, that Cowboy Junkies record and how badly he wanted to make a record like that in the theater," Lawson says. "And we wrote it off as, 'It's 3-o'clock in the morning'."

Green persisted and it became one of the last albums recorded in the theater and one that captures its enormous sound, reflected from the balcony and its one-hundred year-old wood.

"The whole idea of the process is very important to him," Lawson says. "He never wanted it to go into a computer. It hasn't. It went directly from the microphone to the quarter-inch tape. Then it was mastered straight to vinyl."

The Georgia Theater album could be out in a few months. The band is having some difficulty with this record, too.

This time, it's trying to figure out exactly how to release on vinyl, when everyone these days is digital. They describe it as "an ordeal."

Venice Is Sinking fans can only hope it's an ordeal that doesn't take them three years to endure.

Click to hear the story from GPB's All Things Considered:

Click to hear "Okay" from the EP of the same name:

Click to hear "Ryan's Song" from Azar: