Corsair – Hip to be RetroTuesday, 16th April 2013
“Hip” isn’t the right word to describe Corsair. Same goes for “retro.” Or “throwback.” How about “convincingly vintage?” That might do the trick. The Charlottesville, VA quartet has made some waves thanks to their self-titled debut, which was originally self-released until Shadow Kingdom Records made the band a part of its roster. The label’s penchant for honing in on bands with a classic sound made Corsair an ideal fit, for the band’s progged-up Thin Lizzy approach is unshakable Gorgeous twin guitar harmonies fill the air at will (see: “Path of the Chosen Arrow”) while Phil Lynott and crew are paid proper homage by way of “Gryphon Wing.” Smooth rocking all the way.
As the band is still being imbued with heaps of positive press and momentum, we saw fit to correspond with guitarist/vocalist Marie Landragin and bassist Jordan Brunk. Here’s how the duo responded…
Dead Rhetoric: Praise for your debut thus far, has been almost unanimously positive. What does this do for a young band’s confidence?
Jordan Brunk: We enjoy playing our songs and the fact that others enjoy listening to them completes the circle. We’ve gotten a good response from the crowd at live shows, but it’s different when someone takes time to listen to the record attentively and give their thoughts about what they like and dislike. We respect and honor the response online by practicing and writing new material to continue to grow and rock harder.
Marie Landragin: I’d say we definitely did not expect so many journalists and reviewers to all like our S/T! I think we’ve had a couple of less than glowing reviews which is great because those guys nitpick the material completely so we have an unbiased view of where we can improve. But really, it’s been unexpectedly humbling and encouraging for us.
Dead Rhetoric: How crucial were the two EP’s in terms of your development? Necessary stepping stones to get to the debut?
Landragin: The first EP, Alpha Centauri, we learned a lot. The most important is maybe that we learned that we wanted to take the recording process into our own hands. For the sake of idea development and feeling comfortable and relaxed while recording, the relaxed part is probably the most important. Alpha was a collection of songs we had written to that point that we wanted to record for a demo to give out at shows. So we quickly went from demo to EP status which pushed us to take ourselves a little more seriously. A year later we were recording the Ghosts of Proxima Centauri EP wherein we tracked drums and rhythm guitars with our previous engineer, Lance Brenner.
We had obtained some basic minimal recording gear (an interface and a Rode mic) with intentions of recording the guitar leads and overdubs, bass and vocals ourselves… all with an enormous learning curve. By the time we got to the S/T February 2012 we had a good idea of what we needed to do and what we could do on our own. We hooked up with our friend and recording engineer Nate Bolling and recorded the drums in a couple of short studio sessions. The material Corsair has put out tends to go in succession of writing it so each album contains the most recent material; to answer your questions, yes, the two first EP’s were instrumental in our development and progress to get to the S/T.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think the band could have survived as an independent act?
Landragin: Being with a label has its benefits, you get an enormous amount of coverage in the press and online so you get more ears listening to your material. Corsair had already worked a good amount of press for the last three years previous to SKR thanks to the reviews of some widely acclaimed metal reviewers and diligent metal fans. We had already developed a relatively decent fan base in Germany, enough to get the attention of many reviewers and blog writers and I think that’s how Tim found us, through those avenues. I’m not sure what you mean by “survived” but I do think we might have taken things a little slower than we are now if we were not with a label. There definitely is a sense of urgency now, to keep writing, progressing and record another album.
Dead Rhetoric: From what I understand, there’s a lot happening in the Charlottesville music scene. Do you play a lot of live gigs? If so, how did that help shape the album?
Landragin: No, we don’t really play live that much. We don’t feel the pressure to do so, or if we do, it’s with a band we love or a CD release party or ‘cause we have an itch to play live. We also don’t want to wear out playing in our hometown, we’d rather one killer show than three close together with weak turnouts. Our town generates a lot of bands, it seems all our friends are in bands or are starting one, playing a gig, going to SXSW, it’s kind of crazy.
Dead Rhetoric: Given your relative young age, what initially drew you to 70’s-styled progressive rock/metal?
Landragin: The quality of the song-writing, its’ substance. That’s what draws me. Along with the power the amplified instruments give it, the balance between delicate ballads to heavy churning riffs, and the rawness of the song structure. All those things. When I first heard Black Sabbath’s S/T I was blown away. Or when I heard the first Scorpions album, all those guitars telling stories with their melodies. That’s what hooked me.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think the fact that you’re still a new band bringing in a fresh angle to this style will help you in the long run?
Landragin: Can’t say for sure. I know I like the style of music we play, it makes me happy when I play it and hear it. I would think as long as people are being entertained, that’s what matters, long or short run.
Dead Rhetoric: The melodic component of the band might be your finest trait. When it comes to coming up with harmonies and melodies, how does the division of labor go?
Landragin: The division is mostly towards Paul [Sebring]. He is a melody and harmony wizard. I take a lot of time on my own to write and harmonize a guitar line whereas Paul does it on the spot. We both thoroughly enjoy harmonies, myself perhaps more than Paul, so I lean for more, more, more and Paul leans for less but more complicated lines.
Dead Rhetoric: Thin Lizzy is seems like an obvious influence for you, not just with the guitar harmonies, but in the vocal department as well. What drew you to them initially?
Landragin: We played a couple Thin Lizzy covers over the years, “The Emerald” and “Wild One” and always loved their catalogue. We had extensive training in the Thin Lizzy world when we played Halloween gig called the Mock Stars Ball, where bands covered the music of a rock band and also dressed up as that band. We picked Thin Lizzy and really dug into the inner workings of the hits. Around the same time we were finishing up the material we had for the S/T album so undoubtedly some of our music was influenced by Thin Lizzy throughout this period.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you started thinking about the next album?
Landragin: Yes, we have! We have started writing new material, we have a bunch of riffs that need pairing, bridging, tweaking and some keeper guitar melodies with harmonies. We have the sketches of some adventurous songs we just need to put the meat on the bones and begin filling it all out.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the things you’re looking to build upon?
Landragin: We are aiming to push our comfort zones and encourage challenging ourselves as writers and musicians. I’d like us to continue forward and grow while writing. It may be difficult but if we take our time I think we may be able to accomplish some interesting music.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on deck for 2013?
Landragin: We will be recording a new album in the late Spring, then we plan on going on tour for a few weeks in May/June, nothing extensive, just an east coast jaunt. We anticipate that the new album will be released late this year. Shadow Kingdom will also be re-releasing both our past EP’s and High Roller Records will be releasing all our material on vinyl, which is my dream come true, to have our releases on vinyl.