Corsair from Charlottesville, Virginia, US have their latest release on Shadow Kingdom Records. A fantastic full length of Heavy / Progressive Rock including inspired music that will travel the listener to the land of melody. Well to cut a long story sort, Corsair is a band for sure not to be missed. So here is an interview with them, for those who do not know them and for those who want to learn them better. Enjoy!
Hello and thanks for taking some time to answer to my questions. So, let’s start with the basic stuff. When and where the band was formed? What was the initial line up of the band, have you been through any line up changes since day 1 and which is your current line up now?
Marie: The initial line-up was with a different drummer. Originally we had my friend Leigh Ann Leary on drums. I had played with her in a band about ten years previously and knew she would be great for what Paul and I had started creating, which was pretty much a straight AC/DC style space rock band. After the self-release of our first EP, Alpha Centauri, our songwriting began to get more time demanding and complicated and so we decided the music needed a different style drummer. Lance Brenner, the engineer for our first EP, Alpha Centauri, suggested Aaron Lipscombe as someone quite capable to try out playing with. So we did and Aaron did a stellar job so we asked him to join Corsair.
The album on Shadow Kingdom would for sure introduce your music to more people. However the band is arround for some time having already released some great stuff, for those who are not aware of your past releases, do you want to spread some info about them?
Jordan: Our first EP, Alpha Centauri (February 2010, self-release), was produced by Lance Brenner and had Leigh Ann Leary on drums. It took shape nicely in the studio and we were pleasantly surprised with the end result. We were a little unsure of what we wanted and learned much from this experience. In the end, we had a great example of what the band was doing to then send to reviewers and see what kind of interest was out there. I’m very proud of tracks like “Skykrakken” and “Space is a Lonely Place”, and “Beware the Black Fleet” remains a rock anthem that longtime fans of Corsair ask for when we play live. For Ghosts of Proxima Centauri (February 2011, self-release), Aaron Lipscombe came in as our new drummer and added to the band’s overall capabilities. He was able to learn quickly and adapt to ideas, so that led us to push our capabilities and write more complex material. “Orca” and “Eyes of the Gods”, the two closing tracks, best capture what we achieved in that time period. The other songs on this album really do give you the sense that we’re pushing the limits and trying new things in our songwriting.
Marie: All our self-releases are packaged in handmade silk screened arigato packs. Each one is unique and you can find several versions of the same artwork thanks to the flexibility of screen printing. You can find them in our store, online, we have some photos to see what I mean, http://www.skykrakken.com/store
Although that you are from Virginia, USA I can discover many European influences on your music. Thin Lizzy being the main one. So who are the bands and artists that have influenced you the most?
Marie: Black Sabbath for sure. That’s the beginning. Then Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Woshbone Ash, Yes, Pink Floyd, Hendrix… Chopin, Rachmaninoff… too many really!!
Jordan: Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Wishbone Ash, and Metallica are the leading pack of influencing bands that come to my mind. I might even take it one step further and say that we all have a love for Spinal Tap, strictly in a musical sense.
How would your describe your music to someone that has not even heard a single tune of your songs?
Marie: Guitar-harmonies, interesting chord progressions, minor key, heavy and ethereal rock.
Jordan: We often tell people that our music is “adventure rock” because when we play it, we get a sensation of travel with a touch of suspense and dramatic flare. There’s an element of escapism in adventure as well as courage in the face of all things foreign.
Your music sounds quite adventurous and this fact generates this question to me: How do you compose. Do you jam a lot, or do you follow a specific structure riff by riff part by part, until the final result / song?
Marie: Less about jamming (though sometimes it happens) but mostly about riffs, finding a way to make different riffs connect and flow with each other and then all the layering that is involved. Delay effects, phaser, more delay… I like that part!
Jordan: For the most part, our songwriting is driven by the riffs that members of the band have written outside of the practice. When we get together and piece one riff to the next, we get a better idea of how the song fits as a whole and start to arrange the parts together and even write transitions and turnarounds to make things more interesting. We like to surprise ourselves and hope our songs surprise others.
Would you categorize your music as “retro” you know that there are a lot bands nowadays using this term. Are you focused on the past or this is simply the kind of music coming from your heart and soul?
Marie: No, not really focused on the past at all. “Retro” is a label people use to describe a style of music or sound but I’m not sure it entirely fits our sound. We recorded with old amps, guitars and pedals and mixed in a very simple way without digitally processing very much at all. We are not focused on any one thing or sound really, it’s all a very organic, simple and basic structure to work from; our gear sounds warm and alive, we tend to crave and tap into traditional rock riffs that make us feel right but none of it is a conscious decision where we say, let’s make it sound just like that, it’s all happening on it’s own.
You got a magical ability to combine many different musical vibes on your sound. Psychedelic and even space rock are shining on your songs. Are you fans of such types of music?
Jordan: I love how lush and dense psychedelic music can be. With all the delay, backwards tracks, and other studio tricks, this style packs in the layers and lets you bathe in the sound. They also tend to get freaky, which I also like.
Marie: I do like to listen to a bit of Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, early Genesis and King Crimson… I feel they all have some outer space, fantasy psychedelic rock vibes… I’ll also listen to music from more obscure bands from the 60’s that can get into some strange veins and freak me out or at least make me wonder about what I just heard!
You may want to share some words about your lyrics. Who is writing them?
Jordan: Paul, Marie, and I write lyrics for Corsair, but we find a common thread in using imagery and creating a theme that works with the music. The same spirit of adventure exists in the lyrics, but it’s the music that always comes first. Once it inspires a subject matter within any one of us, that member will take the reigns and write something. Sometimes this happens over the course of a month or so when it’s a song that we play live before going into the studio. Other times the lyrics and melody happen in the studio after everything else has been recorded.
I have discovered some Greek historical / mythological references on your song titles (for example Agathyrsi is the name of the first people living in Transylvania, that has been historically recorded. They are described by Herodotus (iv. 104) as of luxurious habits, wearing gold ornaments (the district is still auriferous) and having wives in common). Are you fan of Greek history and / or Mythology?
Marie: Yes, Paul and I both have read up on a little greek mythology, perhaps Paul has read more. I think we are talking about the same Agathyrsi, they tattooed their bodies according to rank and dyed their hair dark blue. “Chaemera” is Chimera, also from greek mythology, a fire breathing lion, serpent and goat. She was born out of a volcano and when she was sighted terrible events would occur. Each of our songs have different mythological elements or elements from nature or history. We enjoy combining different events or circumstances or types of creatures with weather or war. It makes for stories within stories.
Back to the music. How did Shadow Kingdom discovered you or have you found them?
Jordan: After we released our third recording independently, being the self-titled album, we had developed a bit of a buzz online amongst metal reviewers, to whom we sent the music by mail. Tim McGrogan, aka Shadow Kingdom Records, had his finger on the pulse of this scene and he showed interest, first by buying a few copies of all our releases. Soon thereafter, he emailed us back and wanted to set up a conference call to get a feel for what we were doing and for us to better understand what he does as a record label. At the end of the phone call, we all felt like this could be a good thing for everybody, so we began what is now the record deal.
Are you satisfied enough with the latest album? Would you change anything if you could?
Jordan: I think the self titled album is a big step forward for us as a band because it’s our most cohesive and best sounding record to date. When mixing, my listening is very critical and I pay attention to a level of detail that none will ever hear upon their first or second time around. The type of changes that I would make are from the spirit of the endless tweaking of minor elements. I might not be thrilled about a snare sound here or the way I sing this one word there, but in the end, the moment is there on tape and the mix is right where I left it when the deadline came about. I’m content to leave it there and move on, or else run the risk of spinning wheels and grinding gears. I believe in gut responses and good takes that happen within an initial try or two. The tension of the first few takes rides an edge that later ones do not. Maybe if I could go back, I’d limit the number of takes and spread out the number of sessions across more days to capture more fresh takes. Having said that, there are a number of solid first and second takes on the record.
Is there an audience for your music on the States? USA is the mother of all mainstream stuff however we can discover the greatest and most talented examples of underground bands down there. Is your band a part of this theory? Practically speaking is it difficult to set up a live show for example and deliver your music even in your home place (Virginia)?
Jordan: We’ve had relative success in our hometown, consistently playing to 100+ crowds at a rate of about one show every two months. It’s never difficult to set up a show because we’re well know by those who do the booking. That’s a benefit of being from a small town. A drawback would be that you have to be weary of playing too many shows in close proximity because, unless you are writing new material constantly, people could get sick of hearing the same set every other week. People tend to pay attention to the band when they come to see us. Many are other musicians that enjoy seeing us play and pump their fists during the solos. As for the rest of America, I’m sure that there’s an audience for our music. It’s more a matter of getting their attention amongst the sea of other bands. Plus, it’s difficult to hold their attention, even if you manage to get it. We exist in an underground movement, primarily online for those that search for new music beyond the mainstream channels. What gives us the most life and relevance among the fans online is when people get to talking on forums or as comments on a review of blog. What’s more, this type of music fan is not limited to one nation, and most of our record sales have been spread across the world so far. We may even have sold more records to Europe and Canada than in the United States.
How difficult is to re present your music on stage?
Jordan: Our live show is a slightly stripped down version of what’s on the album. If Paul and Marie had additional arms to hold additional guitars, we might be able to achieve the density of what we do on the albums. It’s not difficult, but the dynamics are different since the consistency of the rhythm guitars is lost when the two guitars slip into harmonic lines. Some parts of songs are exactly the same, but when you start to hear four of five guitar parts on the records, we were left to choose what we thought to be the most essential parts. Other than that we are much sweatier live and bring a high level of energy and rawness that you won’t hear on the record. Since the songs are guitar driven and rock out frequently, it makes for a fun, healthy dose of adventure rock.
Have you ever traveled to Europe a individuals or as a band?
Jordan: Funny you should ask… Marie and I are currently living in Marseille, France, where she has relatives. Apart from now, I have been to Europe at least 6 times in my life. It’s nice to see how people live outside of what you think is normal because you can’t help but learn and adapt along the way. I find that traveling is the best way to grow. For instance, I never imagined that shopping for groceries in an open air market could feel normal until now. We’re all very capable, but have a tendency to place limitations on our capabilities as we age because it becomes more difficult to change.
Marie: I have spent many a summer in Marseille and Paris with my family and some time in Italy and Spain. I love travelling and find it crucial to understanding other people and cultures as well ourselves.
I do not have any more interesting questions to ask, but I would like to learn what your name means.
Jordan: Paul brought the name to the table one day when we were trying to figure out what to call ourselves. He’d been interested in WWII planes for a while and while thumbing through one of his books, he came across the F4U bomber, nicknamed the Corsair. We liked the idea of flight and being linked to the intensity of combat and warfare, but it wasn’t until we learned that a corsair is a French pirate that our interests seemed to fall together. You see, Marie is a French citizen, and we all liked the idea of sky pirates. There you have it.
Hey who made the cover of your album? It is great Is there any special concept behind it?
Marie: The cover art I used for the last EP and this S/T comes from old mythology books I found in thrift shops. I scanned images and manipulated bits and pieces together to make different perspectives on the original images. In part some of the songs and the artwork were created at the same time, together, so they are sort of one and the same. You have the “Orca” (Ghosts of Proxima Centauri) and “Chaemera” (S/T) to see what I mean.
Hmm I think it is over. Perhaps you may want to add something I really missed. Thanks for your time!
Marie: Thanks so much for supporting us, we are really excited for this new album, we hope people enjoy it as much as we do!
Jordan: I’d just like to take the opportunity to plug our website, www.skykrakken.com. There you’ll find cool videos and updates for our live shows, amongst other things. Thanks to everyone out there who takes the time to look for music that exists between the mainstream channels. And thanks to you, Chris for the thoughtful questions.