Dark and spacey, Stellarscope is set to release a self titled album November 25, 2011. Influenced by such bands as My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Jesus and Mary Chain, Stellarscope creates textured soundscapes grounded with intense vocal conviction.
Together since 1995, this Philadelphia band is comprised of Tom Lugo (vocal/ Guitar/ fx/ samples/ programming), Rob DeFlaviis (bass/ keys) and Bob Forman (drums/ percussion). Stellarscope has played venues throughout America’s East Coast and also Canada. Their songs have appeared on several programs, as well as various worldwide compilations and tribute albums. Tom Lugo spoke with Resonance about Stellarscope’s journey coming full circle and what we can anticipate with the new dawn.
I thought it was curious that you titled this album after the band since you’ve had so many albums released prior to this. Why a self-titled album now?
Yeah, it’s more of a closing statement of sorts, because right now I think this is the last album we’re releasing in terms of new material. We’re working on another type of project for right now so we’re going to put the Stellarscope thing on hiatus for the time being.
Stellarscope has a long history and a wide range of sound. Your music can be totally atmospheric psychedelia like in “Viaje Sideral” (Drift & Dream album) or it can be punky Beastie Boys rhythms like in “8th Realm.” From where do you draw your inspiration?
I guess we all come from different musical backgrounds and that’s kind of what’s reflected in the music. The drummer [Bob Forman] is more into the classic rock or classic psychedelic sounds. The bass player [Rob DeFlaviis] listens to a wide range of stuff, from classic rock to actual classical music; he’s classically trained. And I myself, I’m a child of the 80s and 90s, what can I say? I love my psychedelic stuff, I love my old school punk, you know. There’s a lot of great music coming out too, so that’s my main influence.
Stellarscope delves into several genres, among them hip hop, space rock, electronica, a bit of grunge and shoegaze. But overall, I’d say you have a very urban sound. How would you describe your music, other than the trendy catch-all “experimental.”
I would say it is urban. It’s a response to things we’re going through or things that have happened to us. It’s also a reaction to all the media that hits us on a daily basis, which is a common experience for people living in urban areas everywhere. So it is urban in that sense.
You mentioned the intent of this record is the blending of indiepop textures and throw back sounds of the 80s & 90s. Would you expand on how you approached the making of this album?
Sure, I recorded my parts of the album with the lyrics and effects. Then I brought in the other band members to listen to it, for them to perform their parts on it. So it was a very different approach. It was a very composition based approach.
The cover art for this album portrays firey heavens with bands of silhouetted clouds. There is symmetry between skyline above and the mountains below. It reminds me of the “The Age to Come” (‘Call Me Destroyer’) which involves a blending of sky and earth/heaven and hell. How did you decide on this depiction for this album?
It’s kind of a dawning. That’s what the picture is. Being that we’re coming full circle from our beginning, we thought that the cover art would give that feel.
-Oh. Well, that makes sense too. Heh, I tend to really overanalyze things sometimes. I like that idea of ending with the dawn though, like every end is a new beginning.
I’d like to ask about a couple specific songs from the new album. I admit I couldn’t make out all the lyrics for “Fight Another Day.” From what I could understand though, there seems to be an inner struggle regarding change of attitude?
It is. It’s the thing that all bands go through, and we’ve been doing this a long time. That’s what the song [“Fight Another Day”] is really about. It’s just trying to you know, constantly stay on top of what’s happening and trying to do what you do, but still appeal to that audience. So it is the inner struggle. It’s funny because the original title we had on our board for it was, “The Struggle.”
-Wow. From what I could make out, I heard, “I will smile today. I can change the world.” But then there’s the line, “Will that sell my soul?” and “Fight another day.” I thought that was interesting.
There’s always opportunities that come up and you have to ask yourself as a band if this is going to help you express who you are.
– Kind of like staying true to yourself.
Exactly, and not selling out. It’s about staying true to your heart.
I’m intrigued by this song, “Tangled Web You Weave” because the lyrics are reprimanding, but the mood is somewhat playful with this sort of carousel music weaved in. Why the contrast there?
That was done very purposefully. I was thinking about these religious fanatics and the people who believe them, you know, with May 21st this year and the people who lost their livelihoods believing in that. Like the lyrics say, “It happens every day that the weak become the prey.”
-Right, like there’s always the next Y2K or the end of the world in 2012. There’s always a doomsday to dread.
Yeah, people believe in that stuff because they want to believe it.
Stellarscope formed in 1995. You’ve put out several albums and have been featured on Discovery Channel, A&E, and MTV. Name a few of your proudest accomplishments as a band.
Mostly, we’re just proud that we’ve been around this long, you know. We’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. It is a shame because there are some very talented artists out there. We’re also really proud of the opportunity we’ve had to help some bands out along the way and forming friendships with them as well as the fans. It’s also great to see groups you know and have worked with making it in the music world.
-I kind of know the feeling.
Tell me about your “blissrock” label, Patetico Recordings.
Well, it started out as a vanity label, just to put out our own stuff. But then we started using it to release some compilations and just last year began signing on some artists. We now have about 25 bands signed on the label, groups from Argentina, Russia, Peru, France, Poland, Ukraine, Argentina, USA, Puerto Rico, and more, all over the world basically. I’ll send you a list of our upcoming releases (see below).
We recently joined forces with XD Records located in London, Chicago, and Kansas, and also Saint Marie Records located in Seattle, to create The Terrestrial Collective.
The Terrestrial Collective is not one giant record label with different divisions but a collective, a group of labels dedicated to helping each other. The objective is to share resources in order to expand the commercial footprint: exposing the bands in the industry as well as in the public eye on a much larger scale.
-That sounds like an excellent way to pull together resources.
Your songs involve constant motion and atmospheric elements. Stellarscope has coordinated festivals like the Popnoise Festival and the Walls of SoundFest. I have my own theories but what would you say is the population’s obsession with noise lately?
Heh, that’s a good question. I think it’s something that’s been around for awhile and it’s here to stay. I think the younger you are the more you like it. But also some people are born with an ear for it. What I mean by that is that I’ve been the way I am ever since I was a little kid, you know. No matter what was popular, I always liked something different. I think some people are like that. But as far as noise, I’d say it all began in the 60s with Jimmy Hendrix. He got out there and put out the first fuzz on stage and people went wild over it. So thank you Mr. Jimmy Hendrix for starting it all.
We’ve had a lot of great audiences all over. New York, Toronto, Boston has been great, Virginia. I’d say it’s pretty close between Canada and Virginia. We get a lot of kids coming out to see us in those areas.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d just like to thank you for this opportunity and for doing what you do. It’s greatly appreciated.
-Thanks. And I look forward to the Stellarscope album coming out November 25.
Patetico Recordings upcoming releases:
Dirty Pulp Theatre (Italy)
Asalto al parque zoologico (Argentina)
The Spouds (Poland)
Karate Free Stylers (Poland)
A call to darkness (USA/UK)
Presents for sally (UK)
Clarence Mayhew (USA)
Dead Horse One (France)