One look at Dennis Condusta, frontman for Wilkes-Barre band Astorian Stigmata, and it’s obvious that this is a guy with a fully developed aesthetic sense. Whether onstage strumming a guitar adorned with hand-drawn illustrations or lurking in press photos with a top hat on his dreadlocked head and a black umbrella in hand, Condusta leaves an impression. He looks like a character torn from the fever dream of a morbid Victorian poet.
“I think having a distinct visual style is extraordinarily important,” Condusta, who is also a photographer, said. “You can give someone a birthday gift in a blank box and they’ll just be like ‘Uh, thanks,’ or you could give them it in a really cool, decorated box and they’ll be like ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”
Even still, Condusta acknowledges that the visual element is there to complement, not supplant, that which matters most.
“The music is obviously the most important thing, but it’s cool to put something around it, to put it in a different context that makes it a whole experience,” he said. “It’s just fun, to have a look, to try and create something that’s more than just music.”
It’s the music that does the talking on the band’s recently released EP, “A Dark Summers Sunrise.” The band’s two most oft-cited influences, Modest Mouse and The Cure, are still readily apparent. But there’s something else there, too.
“This album is much darker, heavier, faster,” Condusta said. “It’s also a lot more keyboard-based, more atmospheric, going a little more toward an industrial style, though I hate to use that word. It’s still very much indie rock.”
“Indie,” of course, is short for “independent,” and it’s that part of the indie-rock tag that Condusta and his longtime friend and band-mate, D.J. Laury, value the most. Astorian Stigmata has always operated under a DIY ethic. Condusta and Laury book their concerts themselves. They bring their music to life in makeshift bedroom recording studios. The music video they released for the EP track “The Dancing Dead” was shot entirely in a basement. It features the band members smashing blood-smeared instruments among flickering lights.
“If someone gave us a million dollars to go make a video,” Condusta said, “I’d probably give them $999,000 back, go buy lunch and then make the same video.”
For now, with no charitable, millionaire goth-rock connoisseurs in sight, the tenebrous twosome will continue soldiering on one day at a time. “A Dark Summers Sunrise” will be available online via iTunes, with a follow-up already planned for late fall. No outside help needed.
“It’s just how we are. I couldn’t imagine being any different,” Condusta said. “We do everything ourselves and have full creative control. We have no budget. We do the best we can. That’s what you have to do if you want to get the message you want out there. You have do it all yourself.”
“You don’t make much money doing that, but that’s not really what it’s about.”
For more information, find Astorian Stigmata on Facebook.