Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interview With Virginian Prog Rock/Metallers, Corsair



Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal With 70's influence and Stoner/Doom Elements
Location: Virginia (USA)

Paul Sebring - guitar, vocals
Marie Landragin - guitar, vocals
Jordan Brunk - bass, vocals
Aaron Lipscombe - drums

THE INTERVIEW (Got The Whole Band This Time)

1. From Black Sabbath tribute band, Mass Sabbath to full fledged original act and now signed to Shadow Kingdom Records. Sounds like quite a journey, indeed. Tell us a little bit about it.

Marie: I had already been playing in Mass Sabbath, based out of Charlottesville, for a couple years when Paul came into the group as another lead guitar player. I was intruiged by his positive upbeat attitude, his fluid style of playing and floored by his guitar playing abilities. I had been interested in starting up a new rock band and thought Paul would be a fun musician to work with and maybe, if I was lucky, learn a thing or two from. Though I was initially shy about asking someone much more musically advanced than I, my good friend and founder of Mass Sabbath Nicholas Liivak, encouraged me to ask Paul anyway. When I did finally ask Paul about playing together, he accepted and I was thrilled.

We wrote a few basic songs together, nothing too crazy, hooked up with my friend Leigh Ann Leary on drums (I had played with her in a band ten years previous) and began rocking out in my basement. My neighbour and friend Adam Brock would practice with his band, The Nice Jenkins, often the same time when we did and every now and then we'd hear some sweet bass lines drift over the fence. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask about his bass player as we were looking for someone with more pop sensibilities who’d like to jam with us. As it turned out, Jordan Brunk was into trying out new musical avenues, was/is a killer bass player with an easy going personality and fit right in with us. We played together for about a year or so, put out the EP Alpha Centauri (meant as a demo) and then really began to get into writing more adventurous material. When Alpha Centauri came out, I sent probably 50 cd’s out for review and we ended up getting a pretty good reception and a lot positive feedback from various channels online. We were pretty stoked people out there enjoyed our music and I think that encouraged us even more to keep at it, keep writing better material and just push ourselves harder in general.

For Ghosts of Proxima Centauri we had a new drummer, Aaron Lipscombe, who was recommended to us through Lance Brenner, the engineer from our first EP. Again, we laid down the material (Corsair engineered everything except the drums, bass and rhythm guitars on GPC) for friends and fans at shows to listen to and so we could afford to go on the road every now and then. Again, I sent out my wave of cd’s to be reviewed and again Corsair was warmly and generously welcomed online and particularly in the online metal community. We made it to some Top Lists of 2011 and the requests for interviews started trickling in. We were really excited but also steadfast on keeping our cool and focusing on continuing to grow as a band, to grow musically.

By the end of 2011, we had some new material bubbling up that were becoming quickly our favourites to play. By early January 2012 I decided we were going to record a full length and just do one more recording stint at 110%, give it all we had... of course all within the constraints of our meager budget and limited tools. We did the drum tracks in three short studio sessions with Nate Bolling and then recorded everything else ourselves at home. By the end of April we had an at home cd release and again, I clogged up mailboxes all over the world with the S/T album. We received much praise for this album and by mid-September we had an email from Tim over at Shadow Kingdom Records asking if we would be interested working together. SKR seemed like a purists’ kind of label and we really liked the idea of being a part of a family that dug deep for good music from across the ages and sought out bands that had something unique that other music lovers would be into and excited to discover. By the end of September we were making a deal and Tim was gearing up to re-release the S/T.

2. How has it been working with Shadow Kingdom? I've got a great deal of respect for those guys, as they've turned me on to so many buried gems from the past.

Jordan: Shadow Kingdom has been working hard for the past few months to help spread the word and expose people to our music. The people who follow what they release are sincerely interested in new music and write earnest reviews. I appreciate what they do and how they re-release older material that slipped through the cracks as well. I’m into music from the seventies, so I think we might share similar tastes in music, which helps. Shadow Kingdom has been supportive and excited about what we’re doing, raising our spirits and ambitions to move ahead with the next thing.

Marie: It really has been super and we are very lucky and grateful. Tim is probably one of the hardest working people I know, he never stops and is always there for us when we need help with anything or have questions. SKR also has the most amazing library of music I have ever seen and a lot of it is streaming on SKR’s bandcamp which I love... I’ve discovered so many cool bands since last year!

3. The name Corsair means "to pirate, or privateer a ship." Who came up with the name and how is that reflected in the band? Speaking of piracy, what is your take on the issue of file-sharing music?

Jordan: Paul came to practice one day with the name “Corsair”, which he found in a WWII book that listed active fighter planes during the war. We all liked it well enough with its references to flying and warfare and the spirit of adventure. What sealed the deal for us was discovering that the root of its meaning drew from French pirates who sailed as mercenaries to the government and who basically ruled the seas. The combination of pirates and planes, along with the fact that Marie is French made it seem like a good fit for us.

As for online piracy, the internet giveth and the internet taketh away. We probably wouldn’t be signed to Shadow Kingdom and have the speed and accessibility to promote and reach as many people as we do right now without it. We’re happy just to have the music spread and reach as many people as possible, however possible. The other side of the coin is that we’re missing out on potential money to help us continue to make albums and support the costs of hitting the road or printing merchandise. I have hope in the community of people that find us online because, even though they first hear it for free and could continue to do so, they choose to buy and support us, both in physical copies and in digital downloads. All of these readers and writers of metal worldwide aren’t your average folk, and are happy to support us, showing some integrity. This is based on about a year’s worth of online orders from across the globe. It’s gotten to the point that the postal worker doesn’t like to see Marie or myself because we bring arduous customs forms and international shipping every time. People are going to get it for free, but how else are people going to find us and get a copy mailed to Indonesia?

4. Much of the band's music seems to be steeped in myths. You've got tracks named "Chaemera" , "Falconer", "Gryphon Wing" and other such fantasy related themes. Where do you look for lyrical inspiration in these tracks, and are there any real-world issues that might be alluded to within this fantastical context?

Marie: Paul is an arduous reader of mythology and I love anything with dragons in it. We’ve both read a lot of fantasy and mythology but Paul specifically has read all kinds of books about Greek mythology, Egyptians, conspiracy theories about the Pyramids, a lot of Ray Bradbury and Edith Hamilton. When we met, he would often recount tales from these stories he had read and bits and pieces would filter down into our music, perhaps subconsciously at times. We would jive on ideas pulled from various myths and eventually riffs seemed to create themselves once we hashed out what a song was about, who we were talking about, which creature we were focusing on etc. Often, we used the tales of down trodden soldiers or cast away monsters as vessels to describe current day difficulties one might face; social stresses or morality, what is right and wrong, being brave and standing up for what you believe in, having no fear and being true to yourself and who you are despite how alienating it may be.

5. Now let's talk about the album itself. What was the recording process like for your self-titled album? Where did you record it? How long did it take? What was the most difficult part of that process?

Jordan: We started recording a year ago last February in Nate Bolling’s basement. He’s a musician friend of ours who has amassed some quality gear, and had acoustically treated his room to give us a comfortable and familiar space to capture a good drum track. It took three separate sessions of about three hours each to get the right takes. Afterwards, we recorded the rest in a bedroom studio at our house one track at a time. For the guitars, I used a combination of a SM57 close mic off-center and a large diaphragm condenser mic about a foot away with a sound baffle to isolate the tone from the room noise. Bass was direct and the vocals done with the same large diaphragm condenser. Basically, after the drums (close mic setup with stereo overheads) we used these two mics to capture the rest.

We enjoyed the accessibility of recording at home and tried not to fall victim to idle time or distraction within the comfort. There was a sense of urgency underlying the album to get it out of our systems. It was ambitious because some of the material was arranged and written right down to the wire, just before getting the drum sound. The overdubs were done by the end of March and we released it with the final cd in hand on April 21st. Maybe part of the excitement in the takes was this self-imposed pressure to strike while the iron was hot. Maybe I wish I had more time to reflect on the mix, but in the end, it’s done and I have accepted it as it is with the good and the bad.

6. Obviously; Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and King Crimson (not particularly familiar with Thin Lizzy, sorry) make up the bread and butter of this band, but who else would you consider a major inspiration?

Paul: My initial inspiration for this band was the Metallica instrumentals (“Call of Ktulu”, “Orion”, “To Live is to Die”, even “Anesthesia”). I always wanted to make music like that. Lots of harmonies and several different “movements” within the song. Also Queen. On the modern side, I really enjoy Between the Buried and Me's first three records. They are a lot more tech than we are but they always stood out among the metalcore bands. Shai Hulud does some great things as well in the lydian mode, which is quite uncommon in hardcore.

Marie: The first inspiration was AC/DC. Then I quickly moved to Hawkwind, some (early) Pink Floyd, Yes, (early) Scorpions, Deep Purple, The Pretty Things, Wishbone Ash and anything from that weird proggy part of the late 60’s early 70’s... All those crazy long jams, delay pedal and synth wild rides, that kind of material really captivates me and I think comes out in bits here and there.

7. Let's talk tech. What kind of instruments are you guys playing? How long have you been playing them and who first inspired you to start playing these instruments?

Paul: I play a Gibson Flying “V” through either a Marshall JCM 800 or my Peavey Ultra Plus. My pedals are simple, just a tuner and an equalizer/boost.

Marie: For the most part our album sound is our regular day-to-day sound. We didn’t go out and buy any fancy instruments or pedals or even really borrow anything to use for any of the studio recordings we’ve done. Maybe that’s what a lot of people like about the S/T, it’s really straightforward with no overdone effects or exaggerated tricks. I play a 1976 Les Paul Custom and a 2004/5 Fender Telecaster Deluxe re-issue (Mexican). I play both through my main staple, a 1972 Marshall Superlead 100w with an 80’s Marshall cabinet. I also have a 1978 Marshall Club and Country 100w 4140 combo, (a couple of solos on the S/T are done with this amp). My pedals are a LPB-1 boost, MXR Carbon Copy, Boss Digital Delay/Reverb, MXR Phase 100 and a Fulltone OCD overdrive. The Les Paul I’ve had since 1998, my second electric guitar. I traded my first guitar, a early 90’s Les Paul Standard (which I scored off of a friend in high school) for the ‘78 from a guy I worked with. It has all the paper work from the day it was sold in 1976 inside the case. The Superlead I’ve also had since ‘98, also bought from a friend. The Club and Country I acquired off of Craigslist last year, in NY, a friend of mine who lives in NYC saw it, sent me the link and then offered to check it out for me. We ended up buying it. My friend traveled pretty far to pick up the amp and he carried it back on a train for me, no easy feat for a heavy Marshall combo!! The Club and Country was a little messed up and we did some work to it, replaced the tubes, some wiring, sockets etc but now it works like a champ and sounds pretty righteous. This gear I’ve accumulated and kept good care of for over fifteen years means a lot to me and I count myself very lucky to have any of it. I guess it all started when I was 15 or so. I was dating a guy (he was a real guitar shredder) who was really into vintage instruments, old Les Paul’s, Strat’s and Marshall’s in particular. We’d pour over books about gear, musicians who played them and so on. I learned a lot from him. It’s probably when I began my early affinity for older gear and developed my adoration for guitar solos.

Jordan: On the album, I play two different basses, one being a 1980’s Rickenbacker 4001 with active Alembic pickups and a mirrored pickguard (ala Phil Lynott) and the other a Quest “Black Magic” P-Bass knock-off from Japan made in the 80’s. I prefer the Quest for live shows because I love the playability of the neck and how light it is. Plus, I’m not worried if it gets knocked around. As for the amp, I play an ampeg rack mount SVT3-PRO. If I was a braver man with stronger biceps, I’d lug around a true tube-driven SVT, but, alas, this beast has served me quite well for the past five or so years. Tuner pedal is all, not in the signal chain. I plug direct in the front.

8. There are parts on this album that are absolutely incredible. The opener "Agathyrsi" is an absolute monument. How in the world do you guys piece this stuff together so seamlessly?

Jordan: It begins with riffs that we bring to the table at practice. After we all get up to speed and comfortable with it, we decide what direction it might go and try ideas until something works. We’re able to think and play on our feet and, mostly try to keep an open ear and an open mind to musical ideas that jump out during the process. On our second EP, Ghosts of Proxima Centauri, we definitely got ambitious and tried to put together ideas that at times stretched the fabric that holds the song together. This last time on the S/T, I think we were a little more comfortable and concise with the songs, using some better judgement, knowing when to leave a good thing alone and not over-complicate things. That being said, we put work into the transitions from part to part so that they move well together and build off each other.

9. Oddly, female vocals adorn the disc's final track "The Desert" which sounds like a bit of a shoegaze moment. Who is the female vocalist and what sparked the idea for this track to be part dreamy shoegaze with a female vocal approach?

Marie: I am the female vocalist! Paul had brought in the song's rumbling loping riff and the heavy blowout section to the studio as an idea and we recorded it. We needed to connect the song parts together somehow and I had some trippy ideas that I laid down on my own one night in the studio. I worked and weaved in a lot of layers with delay and reverb and lost my way a little bit. At that point it was instrumental and when the guys said they liked it we decided to work it into the song as an intro and then repeat that feeling for main riffs in the song. The lyrics came right at the end, Paul asked if I had some ideas for it and I thought I could pull something off. The song has a very lost and mournful essence. It’s dark yet also has a lightness to it. Sort of ethereal. Then it takes off. It’s one of the last songs we wrote and recorded and I think it contains a lot of interesting elements for consideration in the progression of Corsair’s writing.

10. Let's talk shows/touring. Will there be any shows or touring for this release? Music this good should be brought to as many people as possible and I'm sure that it's ten million times more powerful on the stage. What are some bands you like to share the stage with, or just meet in person?

Paul: I think it’d be really cool to open for The Sword or a band i just saw called Graveyard. They are so damn good.

Marie: Currently we’re pretty focused on writing and recording our next album that Shadow Kingdom Records will release, hopefully at the end of 2013. There may be an occasion or two we’ll get out and do some little east coast jaunts this early summer but nothing is set in stone yet. As far as bands to play with on a bill, Kadavar, Baroness, Tame Impala. I’d like to meet Dungen and Red Fang.

Jordan: As of right now, we don’t have any solid plans for touring. I’d like to reach out to further regions in the surrounding area along the mid-atlantic in the future because most of our shows have been in Charlottesville and Virginia. When we get a roadworthy machine to carry us, things might gain some traction in the live arena.

11. Let's talk hobbies. What do you guys do outside of making music? What books or films do you enjoy? Are there any computer/video games sucking up your time? Anything you're looking forward to in this age of mass media?

Paul: I love reading a lot of history and sci-fi. Right now I’m on "Children of Dune." Of course, I love the Star Wars series and movies about ancient Rome. I play Nintendo 64 with my brother sometimes. There's a lot of punching and insults between us, as brothers must do.

Marie: I am a graphic designer and do a lot of screen printing with my good friend Thomas St. Clair Dean. We spend a lot of time burning screens, printing posters, t-shirts and Corsair’s Arigato cd packs. I love to read but never seem to have enough time to do it, I recently finished Tana French’s “In the Woods” which was great; murder mystery Irish police squad stuff. Really good. I’m a fan of (cringe) “Downton Abbey” and in general anything BBC or PBS. I saw “Silver Linings Playbook” the other day, thought that was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I used to play video games but not anymore as I can’t stop playing until the game is conquered which isn’t really healthy if you can’t put it down and let it go. I am looking forward to what the future brings for mass media as far as information accessibility for everyone, whether it is film, music, visual arts, books, news etc. Information is vital to understanding and that I think will be crucial in the future: understanding cultures and other fellow humans’ stories.

Jordan: Recently, I’ve been into Raymond Chandler and other early 20th century mystery authors like Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. The film noir movies made from these short novels are pretty amazing too. I like the attitude and the grittiness of the characters, the sexist dialogue, the “black widow” and all the other trade marks of pulp fiction.

12. I ask many of the bands that I interview this question, because I think it's a relevant one and it will always elicit some interesting answers. If you were given the ability to look five or ten, maybe even twenty years into the future; where do you see yourselves? What do you see for the human race in general? Do you think that there's hope for mankind?

Jordan: My higher levels of consciousness, involving anything outside of my current thoughts and environment are a bit underdeveloped. I have trouble planning or imagining life outside of a three month bubble, so I can only tell you that I see the band working hard to create and continue to move forward. I imagine that our music will breathe, expand and contract, much like a piece of wood, weathering to it’s most solid form, petrifying long after we’re done.

As for the human race, we survived the latest apocalyptic scare provided by the Mayans and things continue in their usual fashion. Our hope may be in the hands of the Earth, and it’s up to us to recognize our place among the many life forms here. I don’t know how or when or even if there’s a balance to be reached between ourselves and the world around us, but I am certain that life will continue even if we don’t. It’s hard to remind yourself of this throughout the hustle and noise, but in my opinion, it’s that kind of humility combined our immense potential to adapt and create that gives me hope for the future of mankind.

Marie: I dislike looking to the future, of thinking of myself in ten or twenty years because I can’t see anything there, meaning, I have no idea where, what or how... I just hope I’m not homeless and sick. I do not have much confidence in the current social structure we live in, the ambiance of today’s politics or “reform”. Corruption is rampant and nondiscriminatory. I am, for the most part, a misanthrope. I find humans are predominantly disrespectful and self centered and disregarding of the impact of their actions on others or the earth. However, I do think that there is hope for a better society in the future. Not sure how or when but I do hope that eventually people will realize what crucial steps are needed for progressive human development and stand up en masse and tear down the nasty bullshit facade so-called capitalist-democracy has so generously built for us all. It took a world war to get Britain it’s socialized health care system and a lot of poisoned kids to overhaul the meat sanitation rules in the U.S. so it can be done, just when or how I don’t know.


Corsair - Corsair (PR2013) - Corsair comes in like a breath of fresh air. They're no pummelers by a longshot, but they certainly remind me of acts like The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Iron Maiden, CKY and even Dinosaur JR in terms of progressive rock/metal atmospheres. The album sounds like it was recorded back in the 80's, but it sounds like it would've stood the test of time in the 80's as well. These guys are great. There's a serious charm to their music that makes it just a joy to listen to. It's not a very long disc, but "Chaemera 3:49", "Gryphon Wing 6:18" and the instrumental "Mach 3:46" are certainly worth checking out. The band might be a little on the softer side of things, but they showcase on each one of these songs the simple fact that they can play and play well. Fans of Thin Lizzy and King Crimson should certainly enjoy these Virginians, who've unleashed a terrific debut album.

I get pounded with death metal most of the time, so it's good to hear something a little more lighthearted and classic. The vocals are most certainly clean the whole way through, (and even female vocals are implemented on the dreamy closer "The Desert 5:52") but even though the frontman has a youthful vocal that might fit well in bands like Trivium, the atmospheres on the disc make the whole experience worthwhile. There's certainly some trippy stuff here, so you might want to listen to this while under the effect of "medicine." Also, I'd recommend listening to this one in some really good headphones, so that you're surrounded by the music and can fully absorb the atmospheres that these guys have to offer.

I think we're about to hear much more from them in the future.

Highlights: Chaemera, Gryphon Wing, Mach, Of Kings And Cowards, The Desert

(8 Tracks, 37:00)


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