By Venessa Anthony
Stigmata, one of Sri Lanka’s most recognised metal bands, just wrapped up their latest string of gigs held in light of their 22nd anniversary. The gig, held at RE.PUB.LK, was much anticipated, since to everyone’s surprise, the five-piece band was set to play unplugged – an almost unpreventable act by the band. As always, they pulled off a stellar show, concluding their series of shows on a high note.
The Morning Brunch reached out to Stigmata vocalist and frontman Suresh De Silva to learn more about his thoughts on the last few gigs, what they have planned for the foreseeable future, and more.
When asked if they have anything coming up for the season, De Silva commented: “We’re not doing anything for the holidays per se, because this was the last show for the season. This was the final show, to conclude our 22-year anniversary string of shows this year.”
He added that they decided to finish it on a bit of a surprise because they don’t regularly play acoustic or play unplugged. According to him, this is something that happens just once every four or five years.
The unplugged aspect, from both the band and the audience’s point of view, was a really big deal. De Silva noted that it was unexpected, because when you talk about ending the year with a bang, everyone expects a much heavier show.
“But we wanted to surprise people by doing something really different. Actually, I’d say that it was probably the most fun show for us, because we got to really display a different side to us and a different level of dynamics and musicianship,” he added.
Walking us through the process, De Silva explained that they had to rearrange the songs. Stigmata really jazzed up the songs; when they said stripped down, it wasn’t just a question of them not playing heavy – it was still very intense, full of energy. But then, in a surprising turn of events, they whipped out the tablas and the congas, the Eastern percussion and the jazz brushes, and played around with a lot of their own songs. Towards the end, the five-piece band also played a couple of covers that you wouldn’t expect a metal band to play, such as Africa by Toto, which really surprised people, but it went really well, the band said. They also did a Christmas carol – O’ Holy Night, and that too, went extraordinarily well.
So for Stigmata, it was fun, because, as De Silva observed, they got to really hearken back to the 90s. “With the very cool music and a flashback to MTV Unplugged shows, we had fun, and kept the audience engaged. The venue was very cool,” he reminisced, adding that they’ve not played at RE.PUB.LK before.
Coming to the end of their successful string of gigs this year, De Silva shared that this year was incredibly special, because they got to play at a lot of different venues that they’ve not previously performed at, and where one would not expect a band like Stigmata to play, especially on a Saturday night.
“So for us, it was great to play in all these venues and to not just have audiences come in, but also to reach out and tap into and play for a lot of new people,” he added. The band started their anniversary line up at a venue in Bellanwila, around the time the pandemic was coming to an end, before playing at Taphouse and then the Darley Road Pub and Restaurant, and finally wrapping it up at the RE.PUB.LK. This is not the end for Stigmata, however.
“This is us just taking the first few steps where we’re going to build upon this for 2023 where it’s going to be a bigger year, and we’re going to have a lot more shows, play a lot of these venues, and a lot of other venues,” De Silva said.
They also have plans to spread their wings and hit a few spots in central Sri Lanka and Down South, and De Silva added that all of this has paved the way for them to start working towards their next album which is going to be the big thing that will be coming out next year. Once that is released, then the overseas touring cycle is going to commence, so next year, people can expect new merch, and a lot more shows.
“We’ll be doing more shows like this,” De Silva promised. “A lot of club and pub shows, but we also have a plan with our event partners to branch out and do much larger scale shows. Next year, if all goes well, people can expect some fully blown open air, rock and roll, and heavy metal shows.”
Thus, what Stigmata started this year is going to bleed into 2023.
Photos © Dillon Ravindu de Silva