What if the reality you see before you offers more struggle, than any imaginary hell or dark realms you can conjure? For A Village In Despair, that must have been the line of reasoning. The band from Sri Lanka plays a peculiar brand of black metal, inspired by the situation in their country.
As tourists, you probably see a nice place when you go somewhere. According to the band, this is only a facade. Behind the pretty pictures, most of the people in Sri Lanka live in poverty and subsistence. It’s been that way on the former Brittish colony for a long time, since it changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.
A Village In Despair doesn’t make music about the big stories, but the small suffering. That makes them stand out, so I was very eager to get in touch with them and learn more.
The realities of rural life
Hey guys, how are you doing?
Hi Guido, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.
Can we start of with an introduction to A Village In Despair? How did you guys get started as a band, how did you meet and how did you get into metal?
A Village in Despair (AVID) is a fairly new band, almost everyone in the band plays for other bands and has done so for quite some time. I am the vocalist of Plecto Aliquem Capite and the former vocalist of Forlorn Hope. Kasun plays with me in Plecto Aliquem Capite alongside a host of other metal bands from Sri Lanka. Sandun too, is the guitarist of the black metal band Rathas and we’ve crossed paths many times.
I mulled over the idea of starting an atmospheric black metal band for a while. It really didn’t take off till I had a chat with Sandun who was on the same wave length as I was. Concepts were discussed, riffs were created and Kasun was brought on board to do the drums, recording, mixing and mastering of our first EP. I spoke to my friend Melani about this concept and asked her if she could lend a hand with the female vocals, it was meant to be one-off but it worked so well that we decided to bring her on board as a full-time member of the band.
It seems that A Village in Despair has had a pretty fast start. As I understand it, you guys joined up in 2017 and a single and EP followed quite rapidly. You also signed to PRBM from the UK. How did everything happen so fast and how did you end up with PRBM (and can you tell a bit about them)?
Yeah, things that usually take years took only a couple of months for AVID. Every member was on the same page, I think that helped immensely.
PRBM is a very small operation, a niche underground label if you may. Their main focuses are extreme metal and noise and it is indeed an honour to be on their roster. We got several offers from labels, this was the most sensible option for us.
Your artwork seems very unique. Can you tell me where it is from and why you chose it?
The artwork was designed by our guitarist, Sandun Harshana. We wanted to reflect what we sing about, the artwork was influenced by day to day life in rural Sri Lanka and nature.
I’ve been listening to your music and reading the lyrics, it seems that the band name is in fact also the theme for your music. Struggle, despair, poverty… I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk a bit about that and maybe tell us why you’ve chosen these topics. Does this village physically exist and how does it relate to you?
There are hundreds of families living in rural parts of Sri Lanka without access to what you and I call basic necessities. People forget this quite easily if they don’t have to deal with these hardships themselves. The aim of AVID is to bring these issues to the fore and do something to help them.
We have been fortunate enough to not have been affected by any of these problems, but we feel that it’s not right to turn a blind eye when these issues are still very prevalent in the country we live in. If you look beyond the tourism brochures promoting Sri Lanka, you will see there’s a vast number of people who still live in rural, underdeveloped parts of the country. Life for them is nothing short of a struggle, farming is their main source of income but it is by no means enough to help them meet their basic needs.
What you and I have taken for granted, like having clean drinking water, access to healthcare or access to education doesn’t come too easily for them. Their lives are simple, they don’t have major aspirations and getting through another day is considered a victory by some. Yet they somehow manage a warm smile despite their hardships.
How do you go about making your music? Do you do things DIY? Do you start with lyrics or with the songs and how does everyone work together within the band?
We start off with a concept and lyrics follow soon after. We use lyrics as a guide to set up the song structure. We usually discuss our ideas via Facebook chats and video calls because we are all quite a distance away from each other.
On your EP, which is self-titled, I feel there are some typical elements that truly distinguish you from other bands. It’s as if you’re not encumbered by the rigorous ‘rules’ of the genre and there are these odd spoken word passages. Can you tell something about this EP, those spoken word elements and if you feel your sound is perhaps unique to where you are from?
Yes, the spoken word passages have caught a lot of people off-guard. The spoken passages are done in Sinhala which is our native language. These offer the first-person view of the issues discussed in the song and add a more personal feel.
We try not to restrict ourselves and be confined to the particular genre. We try our level best to include elements that capture the essence of life in rural parts of the country. We will be experimenting a lot more on our next record.
I’m curious about the scene in your country Sri Lanka. Mostly, where I am from, we take the facilities and freedom we have for granted. How are those things in your country? Do you have things like rehearsal spaces, venues to play, instruments and so forth available? Are you free to sing about whatever you want?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka had very humble beginnings. There weren’t many recording studios, rehearsal spaces or even venues during the early 2000s. A lot of individuals put in a lot of time, effort and money into the scene and most of the new bands don’t have to go through the hardships faced by bands back in the day. Things have definitely improved with time in Sri Lanka.
The scene is pretty underground in Sri Lanka and censorship hasn’t been a major concern for local bands. Things might change if the metal scene gets a massive following in Sri Lanka but that is quite unlikely just yet.
What is the scene like in Sri Lanka and maybe can you tell a bit about its history and who pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka is thriving to say the least. The country is blessed with a lot of talented musicians who are in bands that range from black metal and death metal to grunge and punk. The origins of the current metal scene date back to the early 2000s, but there has been a couple of bands in the 70s and 80s as well. It’s a bit difficult to say who really pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka, what I can say though is that everyone who’s a part of it has contributed to its growth.
What bands from your country should people really check out and why?
There’s a lot of great bands from Sri Lanka across a lot of genres and sub-genres of metal. We would recommend you check the Encylopedia Metallum page for Sri Lanka and pick bands that play the genres they fancy.
What future plans does A village In Despair have?
We are hoping to release a 4-track EP by mid/late 2018. We might look at the possibility of playing live towards the end of next year, but nothing’s confirmed. It will be based on the concept of ruin. It will talk about how the 4 elements of nature affect people in rural parts of the country.
If you could choose 3 bands to share the stage with, who would it be? Have any of them ever played in your country?
We are likely to pick Drudkh, Wolves in the throne room and I shalt become. Unfortunately, two of these bands don’t play live and the other hasn’t played in Sri Lanka as of yet.
If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
We haven’t really thought about it….. nope still can’t think of anything.