Is Tom Lugo one of the busiest men in Philadelphia’s indie world? What with fronting Stellarscope, other projects on his own Panophonic label and now the Electro Pop duo Shishi, alongside organising festivals in the US and elsewhere plus running his martial arts school, you might think he would barely have time to draw breath of an evening but he somehow found sufficient time in his hectic schedules to share a few ideas and thoughts with DOA.
Shishi 石獅 – is a indiepop husband and wife group formed in 2012 in Clifton Heights, PA (a southwest suburb of Philadelphia). They blend stylish beats, pop synths, shoegaze guitars, and female vocals to create a refreshing and unique approach to indiepop songwriting.
Jamie Lugo – Vocals
Tom Lugo- Everything else
This is Jamie’s first musical venture and her first time recording.
Tom Lugo has been involved in the underground music scene since the 90s. He is the guitarist, vocalist, and band leader of Philadelphia’s grunge-shoegaze- indie rock band Stellarscope. He has also released many under his solo project Panophonic. In addition he has a left of dial electropop project with SPC ECO guitarist Joey Levenson under the name SUPER TOYS. Last year the members of Stellarscope started another project named Drowning Dreams, which is more groove oriented rock, and they should have an EP by the fall.
He owns the label Patetico Recordings, which he started to promote underground artists from all over the globe. He has also been responsible for the Popnoise Festivals in Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, NYC, DC, Baltimore, and more. They have plans of making a Popnoise Fest happen in Sao Paolo Brazil in the next year.
How and why did you create the project? Also, there’s certainly a defined Panophonic sound that each of your projects seem to share, how is this achieved?
My goal was to create more accessible music than what I had written and recorded before. I wanted to blend elements of dance music (dubstep, hip hop, etc), indiepop, and shoegaze sounds. I didn’t want to sing on its so, I approached my wife, Jamie Lugo, to lend her vocals to it as we had discussed working a project together for some time.
I chose the name ShiShi because it symbolizes the duality of yin and yan, male and female, heaven and earth. Guardians and protectors of what is housed inside.
The influences for ShiShi are drawn from bands like MGMT, Matt and Kim, The Ting Tings, Grouplove, Screen Vinyl Image, The Sky Drops, SPC ECO, A*Star, New Order, Bauhaus, etc
For Nick of Time, Tom used a 1956 Les Paul Goldtop reissue and a 1980s Fender Jazzmaster running through several modified and custom distortion pedals including hand crafted signature edition Death by Audio “Sound of God” fuzz made by A Place to Bury Stranger’s Oliver Ackerman, a Yamaha Magic Stomp, and a Boss DD3 all going through a Rocktron Velocity 2 X 8 amplifier. The beats were created on Fruity Loops and the keys were done organically with a Korg Trinitron.
About Stellarscope and Panophonic, why do you think you make music and what other bands inspire you?
With Stellarscope I try to convey more angst and the various influences of each band member which ranges through the entire scope of psychedelic rock music from the 60s to present times.
Panophonic has been, for many years, my avenue to express what I cannot with Stellarscope.
Music is in my veins, I can’t see myself not doing it… I fell in love with music and performing since the first time I sang, at age 4, at a Sunday service for my mum’s church. I get inspired by everyday living, the experiences and lessons contained within. Everything to me is music… the engines of idle vehicles stuck in traffic, the birds singing, the signal of electrical wires, etc. If it makes a sound I identify with it. I have been involved in the scene for quite sometime and have made many friends throughout the years, and though I listen to a plethora of bands, and my music collection fills an entire room of my house, I tend to gravitate towards the bands I network with like A Place to Bury Strangers, Screen Vinyl Image, Music for Headphones, Bloody Knives, Spell 336, Ceremony, SPC ECO, Resplandor, Un.Real, Her Vanished Grace, Dead Leaf Echo, Aerofall, Asalto al parquet zoologico, and trust me we can go on for days…lol
The most memorable gigs have been playing CBGBs a ton of times, the Popnoise & Walls of sound Festivals because we had some many of the best underground bands from around the globe perform, and the Phoenixville Firebird Festival, because the atmosphere is totally wicked with over 10,000 people attending plus we get to play while our friends of the The Playing Mantis spin fire.
What would you say your ambitions are for Shishi?
Developing a solid fan base has always been my main objective, not for the money but to get the music creations heard. I have been pretty humbled by the reception that ShiShi has been receiving in such a short span of time and we hope to continue delivering music that speaks to the mind, body, and soul.
I understand that you are also a keen martial arts enthusiast, can you tell DOA about this, and maybe some other personal likes ?
As some may know, I have been involved in the martial arts for over 30 years. I have studied everything from Judo to Karate to Kenpo to BJJ but my main pursuit has been with Chinese Martial Arts. I hold several black belts in various Kung Fu styles, I am a Kung Fu-Kickboxing-MMA-Grappling instructor. I teach but my path as a student of the arts is never ending. It keeps me balanced, and it has taught me to look at things in a very different perspective. Finding happiness is something everyone longs for but true happiness is in us.
My favorite movie is “Casablanca”, favorite movie this year “The Avengers”, favorite TV show “The Walking Dead”, favorite local radio station Radio 104.5 because we love DJ Wendy Rollins, favorite restaurant is Morimoto’s in Philly, favorite hang out- my living room with my family.
What are the future plans for Shishi?
We are working on completing our EP with hopes of releasing it in early fall. We would like to release the EP on vinyl so we’ll need the help of the fans to facilitate the process. If all goes well, we should have a full length release in early winter. Just in time for the holidays… it’ll make a great stocking stuffer…lol
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