Monday, July 26, 2010

Interview: Venice is Sinking

Indie act Venice is Sinking continues to evolve on their top notch effort, Sand & Lines. Frontman Daniel Lawson took the time to chat with Joe Pelone during a very awkward phone conversation. Topics included vinyl (good!), the music industry (bad!), and their recent stint at SXSW (urine-free!).

How soon were these songs ready after AZAR?

It was kind of strange, because there was definitely some overlap. We were approached by [Georgia Theatre owner] Wilmot Greene while still recording AZAR. We didn’t take him all that seriously. He approached us later and had everything set up. At that point we were still mixing. Some of the songs [on Sand & Lines] are older than AZAR. A couple are some of the first songs we played as a band that just didn’t fit on our other records. We chose covers that we were playing live and thought we could do something interesting job with. It’s a lot of country stuff. A lot of the older songs too--“Sidelights,” “Lucky Lady”--were kind of in that vein. And I think that’s why they didn’t sit well on our other records.

When we finished it, it felt different compared to our other records. But we did exactly what we set out to do. It took a little while for me to warm up to it. All the flaws are there for everybody to hear!

What prompted the decision to record live without overdubs directly to ¼” tape? Do you think it opened new avenues to your songwriting?

The whole idea was Wilmot Greene’s. I know he liked the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions record. He wanted to document the way our band sounded in that room. It was really all him. We liked the idea of making a live record. AZAR took us like a year and labored over every little overdub. We hardly ever played anything on that album live as a band. We were excited by the idea of making a record in a week and actually being done.

He just wanted to make a record the way people used to make records. He didn’t want it to be put into a computer in any way.

We kind of knew when we were writing some of the songs that it was gonna just be us live and that was kinda scary.

BTS: Venice Is Sinking Takeaway Show from BLVD Magazine on Vimeo.

Could you see yourself sticking to live recording? Are there any techniques you’re dying to try?

I don’t know. I think we definitely learned a lot from doing it this way. Whether or not we’d do it the same way… probably not. I like the idea of putting ideas straight to tape. We also had a pretty extensive rehearsal leading up to the theater. It was kind of nice to go into a recording process and be comfortable with the songs for a change!

Who would you say were the strongest influences on this batch of songs?

Galaxie 500 has been a big influence.

You do a sweet cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” here.

The response to covering a song that well known has been mixed. We were worried about bringing something new to the table. Our old bass player… he’s a big metalhead. He kind of always stood out in our band. He didn’t bring a whole lot of ideas, but when he did, we all listened to him. He suggested we do the song this way, with a waltz time signature and slowed way down.

You recorded the album at the Georgia Theatre, which was later damaged in a fire. When did you decide to donate proceeds from Sand & Lines to rebuilding the theater, and how are things coming along?

Last time I talk to Wil, he showed me the final construction drawings they were planning and he got good news from investors to start in a couple weeks. Demolition should be starting soon. The goal is to have it done by 2011.

You’re going vinyl-/digital-only for this album. Do you see yourself ever returning to CD? Is the era of the compact disc… over?! Will AZAR and Sorry About the Flowers see a vinyl release?

We’ve talked about it with the label. Vinyl’s not really as cheap as it used to be, so I don’t know if it’ll happen. We definitely want to move away from CDs, but it’s hard because a lot of press people prefer to have a physical copy and it’s just too expensive to mail people vinyl. We did a limited CD run just so journalists could hear it. It’s hard to make that decision, and it’s all so expensive. To get a record to sound good on vinyl you have to do a whole separate mastering process, which a lot of people don’t even bother with! So a band will end up putting their album out on vinyl because it is the best sounding format and it will sound terrible because they mastered it for CD/Digital only!

You recently played a bunch of shows for SXSW. How many did you end up playing? How was the reaction?

Six in three days. The year before we didn’t have that many, and we were there a lot longer. This year I felt like we were just constantly moving amps and moving to different sides of town. But before it was a lot more fun. We got to see bands we wouldn’t see otherwise.

It’s hard to gauge [responses]. We’re not able to tour very much. We all have day jobs or are in grad school. We don’t get to go very far. It’s nice to play for people who have maybe written about you but can only see you in Texas.

Can we expect a full tour?

There’s talk of it. This summer’s been kind of crazy. We all thought we were gonna go out for a week or two, but I think we’re going to stick to regionally playing this summer. It’s hard for us to get out

What can we expect from Venice is Sinking in the future? Is LP #4 already in the can?

No, but we have started writing it. That’s part of why we’re not big on touring this year. We’re all really at a point where we’re excited for new stuff. We’re not exactly sick of the old stuff, but we’re definitely ready to start new stuff. We’ve already got three or four songs started. At one point we wanted to do all the songs in reggaeton. But it’s so limiting! I think one thing we want is for the next record to be more rhythmic.

You mean like a remix album?

One guy actually did remix one of our songs for a BBC1 radio program. That was interesting.

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