Philadelphia’s Stellarscope is a duo that has been creating concoctions of lush noise for a few years now. They are in the process of releasing two wonderful works of shoegaze goodness: Wasted Time EP and the full-length Reverberations. Tommy Lugo and Bob Forman from the band answered our questions about this up and coming musical force.
How did you guys get your start in music?
Tommy Lugo – I started singing & playing bass in punk rock bands in the late 80s, though I was singing since I was a kid. My first year of college, while singing in the Puerto Rican Band Arnold Layne, I was introduced to shoegaze by longtime friend, guitarist and band-member Gardy Perez and it changed my world forever.
Bob Forman – I come from a musical background- my mother was a pianist & my sister plays classical flute. I wanted to play the drums because I wanted to be like Keith Moon (The Who), & John “Bonzo” Bonham (Led Zepellin).
And how did Stellarscope form?
Tommy Lugo – I started stellarscope (actually initially the project was called theflow) back in 1995 after the break-up of Arnold Layne. It was meant to be a solo project but I found some people that were interested in playing out & recording with me so we did. Then I moved to the Philly suburbs and met Bob…
Bob Forman – I joined Stellarscope in 1998 through an ad that I responded to… and I have been the only other member of Stellarscope that hasn’t left or been fired…hahaha… we have a revolving door of musicians that come and go.
What influences does your band have, musically, lyrically, etc.
Tommy Lugo – From my end I’d say Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus, Love-n-Rockets, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Radiohead, Slowdive, Pink Floyd… and the list goes on.
Bob Forman – I’m from the old school of rock… Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, The Who… though I also loved the drumming of Smashing Pumpkin’s Jimmy Chamberlin.
How do you write and record songs as a band?
Tommy Lugo – I tend to write all of the music, then I bring it in, and we jam and figure out what we want to do with it. We also jam a lot so some music comes together that way. We record in simple fashion… as a 3 piece… bass, drums, & guitar (that is if there is a bass-player), then we do the multi-tracking and a lot of the times we keep our first takes- because it seems to carry a rawer element.
Bob Forman – yeah, we love to jam… can we jam now?
On your “Reverberations” release, you changed your style to include drum machines and electronics…why did you experiment with these new sounds, and are you pleased with the results?
Tommy Lugo – Reverberations was an experiment of sorts… we were working on an album for Enraptured/Endorphins Records (UK) and I came up with the idea of having the members of Stellarscope at the time to write & record their own individual songs since we all had solo electro-pop projects , then once the base of the individual recordings was done we exchanged what we had done amongst ourselves we recorded what we wanted to add and we had Dave Juncos (of Dimazza –our keyboard player at the time) mix it down, then I recorded all of the vocals and did the final mix & mastering. None of us had heard the final product until that time. Needless to say I was very satisfied with the result. It is more open & sad in terms of sound and sadness makes me happy. I’ll take this time to say thank you to Mike Meyers, Dave Juncos, & Jim Snyder because they were all instrumental in the creation of Reverberations.
Bob Forman – I have no comment… I just sat there…hahahaha
How important are lyrics (in comparison with your sounds)…how do you balance the two?
Tommy Lugo – Lyrics to me are as important as the music… it is the extension of the feelings of a moment. We look as music as art… so the lyrics are the finishing touches of the masterpiece. Though sometimes they are buried in the walls of noise your subconscious will still receive the intended message. Funny, people who read the lyrics tend to say they are darker compared to the music…
Bob Forman – Tom, that’s all you…
What do you think of the current shoegaze/dream scene?
Bob Forman – What scene? Jajaja I didn’t know… maybe somebody forgot to tell me about it…
Tommy Lugo – I love the bands of the underground… like A Place to Bury Strangers, Skywave, Alcian Blue, Project Skyward, Sciflyer, Highspire, Autodrone, Resplandor, Un.real, etc. And because I love this music is why I work so hard at putting together shows, tours, & festivals, which I have done since 1998 in the east coast of the USA. There’s so much talent out there being overlooked, it is a shame so, I am trying to do my part… more people should be doing it for their own cities and they would see the growth. To tell you the truth I like the underground bands more so than the ones that are getting attention… maybe it’s because the purity of what they are doing. Props to all of you out there pouring your hearts out.
How has your music been received in the scene?
Bob Forman – What scene? Hahaha
Tommy Lugo – Other than some fans & some fellow bands that we play with I don’t think people get what we do… we have heard “you are too British for the Americans, too American for the British”, “the vocals are too upfront that’s not shoegaze”, “it’s too noise-y”, ”it’s too rock”, “there are too many changes”, etc. Our music is a lot different than most of the bands in the scene because we want our music to reflect all of our influences from classic rock to jazz to goth to shoegaze to alternative rock. Innovation is key. That is why we treat every album as an entity of its own, and morph, bend, twist, & turn things to the next finished work of art.
Tommy, I know you are Puerto Rican…how has your music been received by other Puerto Ricans?
Tommy Lugo – all who has heard what we do like it, which is simply delightful. I am pretty well known in PR so it’s really cool to have your people open their arms to you.
Is there even a Puerto Rican shoegaze/dreampop movement out there?
Tommy Lugo -There isn’t a Rican shoegaze/dreampop movement per sé but there is a cool underground movement brewing… there’s my friend Gardy Perez’s band Un.Real- which is an awesome shoegaze band. You also have bands like Balun- which is an excellent dark electro-pop band, Cornucopia- dark ambient, Burning Faces- dark goth like experimental rock, and more like Descojon Urbano, Introdujos, Suite, etc.
What do you think of the “independent revolution” occurring right now in music as a result of the internet and home studios?
Bob Forman – I think it is great it is opening more doors for artists that deserve to be heard by a broader audience.Tommy Lugo- I’m with Bob on this one…
What are some CD’s that you’re into right now?
Bob Forman – bands I’m into right now are the Secret Machines, Lake Trout, Queens of the Stone Age, The White Stripes, & the Music.
Tommy Lugo – I’ve been listening to Skywave’s Sythstatic, Project Skyward’s Strange Synchronicities, Balun’s While Sleeping, Lake Trout’s Another One Lost, Autodrone’s demo, & A Place To Bury Strangers’ demo.
Do you have any other projects besides Stellarscope that you are working on?
Bob Forman – I’m Stellarscope all the way.
Tommy Lugo – I have my solo project Panophonic… it is my avenue to express the mess that is constantly in my head… I’ve recorded 9 full length albums in the past 2 year’s, just finished another one and I am working on 2 more… that’s what you can do when you don’t sleep…hahaha.
What’s in the future for Stellarscope?
Bob Forman – I don’t worry about the future… what come will come.
Tommy Lugo – noise sweet noise… music sweet music… a bigger fan base & more exposure would be nice…
Any other comments?
Bob Forman – Everything sux…….. except, I guess, Stellarscope!
Tommy Lugo – …come and drown in a sea of lush noise.
Contact: Tommy Lugo