Marie Landragin just didn’t fit in. How could she? She was born in Australia to French parents and then found herself in the early ’90s going to high school in Culpeper, Virginia, population 45,000.
“At the time, I definitely suffered some culture shock,” Landragin said. “I think for two years I didn’t have any friends.”
Like so many out-of-place, square-peg-in-round-hole teenagers, Landragin turned to alternative music to find kindred souls. She cranked up Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. She escaped in dark riffs and fantastical subject matter. She played guitar and sang early metal tunes. She made friends who dug the same stuff.
Landragin’s penchant for finding like-minded people through music eventually led to the formation of local metal standout Corsair in 2008. Now, after multiple starts and stops, the band is back after a 10-month hiatus to bring its metallic brand of hard rock to the Main Street Annex on November 14. The bill will be rounded out by headliner Inter Arma, a Richmond-based concept metal outfit, Richmond’s ambient metal act Everyone Dies in the End and local noise-metal bad boys the Blooddrunk Trolls.
“In the metal world, Inter Arma are big,” Landragin said. “They are pushing metal to make it flexible, with more artistry and creativity. They are an important band right now.”
As for Corsair, Landragin, fellow singer and guitarist Paul Sebring and bassist Jordan Brunk decided to launch the band while they were playing together in Black Sabbath cover group Mass Sabbath. They wanted to start doing originals so they added a drummer in Leigh Ann Leary and started rocking.
“[Paul] is a great guitar player, and I thought, ‘I would love to start a band up with him,’” Landragin said. “I just asked him, ‘Hey do you want to get together?’ Apparently underneath all that he was like, ‘Oh my god I am so excited.’”
Corsair, which has gone through several drummers and now features Wade Warfield behind the kit, quickly became one of the most powerful forces in Charlottesville’s close-knit metal scene, releasing two well-received EPs between 2010 and 2011, Alpha Centauri and Ghosts of Proxima Centauri. In 2012, the band won a deal with indie metal label Shadow Kingdom on the strength of its first LP, a self-titled record the four bandmates produced themselves in April. The wider release offered by the label pushed Corsair’s music to audiences outside Charlottesville and even to Europe.
This is unfortunately not the point in the story where everyone lives happily ever after. Corsair took several months off immediately after signing its record deal so Landragin and Brunk (who’ve been dating since around the time the band formed) could take a planned trip to France. Indeed, the trip was intended to be reconnaissance for a permanent move, but the lure of the record label brought the couple back.
Real life struck again earlier this year. Landragin said the grind of putting together a professional music career had begun to wear on the quartet: “When you’re making a little more than the poverty level and you can’t move forward, it’s a shame.” So after a tour of Europe that ended in February and intensive studio time recording an album that’s due out next January, Corsair took another break.
“We had all worked our asses off and I never get tired, but a couple of the other guys apparently got tired,” Landragin said. “We said, ‘O.K. cool, let’s take the summer off.’ That turned into taking the fall off.”
Landragin wasn’t about to let the band slip off into the ether, though. She wanted to get the boys back together. “I said, ‘If we are doing this band thing, lets play some shows,’” she said. “I had to push everyone back into gear.”
The most fruitful result of Landragin’s persistence (at least locally) is likely to be the coming Annex show on a bill that seems just the thing to inject Corsair with a shot of adrenaline. The Annex has become a safe haven for the musically outcast—metal, goth and underground hip-hop heads—and its success could be a stepping stone for growing the overall metal scene in the area. Drawing Inter Arma, which recently received a positive review from hard-to-please Pitchfork for its new release The Cavern, a 45-minute single song EP, is certainly a feather in the young venue’s cap.
“It’s great because the Annex is filling a niche,” Landragin said. “Venue-wise, there is nothing really cool like the old Tokyo Rose. It was just a gross place that you could go and see really good music.”
According to Landragin, the one concern for the Annex has been its size—when it’s not full, it can feel a bit cavernous, she said. Hopefully, the November 14 bill will be accessible enough to draw the right number. While the Blooddrunk Trolls will cater more to the hardcore heads, metal newbies will likely be plenty comfortable with the rest of the bill, particularly Corsair, which Landagrin admitted is “almost off of the metal spectrum.”
“When we started out we weren’t a metal band,” she said. “People love to put labels on us.”
Labels, of course, are anathema to social outsiders like Landragin. For her, it’s all about escape. “The music is an emotional and psychological release,” she said. “You listen to a song about wizards or dragons in an alternate universe and you’re cool for an hour.”
Friday 11/14. $8, 9pm. Main Street Annex, 219 Water St. 817-2400.
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