human moment #2 : sophie lugo x ron gallo

hi welcome to REALLY NICE™️ human moment series. this project started with me in a moment of self-doubt going on twitter and posting “who wants to interview each other?” with the goal being to find random people that may not normally do interviews and just have a conversation, connect with people on a real level during a time when i can not in person. i learned a lot from just these first few – that all of these people had 1000x better interview questions than any music journalist i’ve ever talked to, that they were open and down to get deeply personal and share their stories which revealed we all share a similar internal experience and lastly, they all gave me a lot of perspective on the impact of what i do can have on others. which i rarely get the chance to know. and vice versa. thank you for reading and i hope that these conversations make anyone out there feel less alone, comforted or empowered by seeing themself in someone else.

human moment #2 is with a person named Sophie Lugo, a high school senior living in Whittier, CA. She was at the Post Animal/Ron Gallo/Stuyedeyed show last year at the Teregram Ballroom in LA and shared her experience with me about how that was a very important show for her – i also asked her about the downsides of LA, becoming a nurse practitioner, travel, mental health and her generations role in the future. She asked me about musical inspiration, my inner journey/ attempts at mindfulness, touring and life during pandemic.

HERE IS PART ONE, WHERE RON GALLO INTERVIEW SOPHIE LUGO.

RG : Are you born and raised in southern California? The positives of LA are clear, but what are some things you DON’T like about it?

SL: So yes, I was born in Whittier, CA and I’ve lived here my whole life! My family is mixed (dad is Mexican, mom is Greek) but being mixed makes some social situations a little difficult sometimes. LA is extremely diverse, but one issue that I see is that diversity can also lead to racial tensions within your own city/town. There are always people who think they are superior to you because of their skin color, income, or something as silly as the clothes they wear. It can get pretty ridiculous. I am lucky to say that I’ve had a pretty nice life with all I’ve ever needed, but a lot of my family can’t say the same. I feel like especially NOW people are finally opening their eyes to racism and the way the system treats the less fortunate and people of color. Homelessness is a huge huge HUGE issue. Before this pandemic I would go on road trips and just explore LA, and wherever you go, you WILL see a homeless person. It’s sickening. It’s beyond “Maybe they should have treated themselves better” or “That’s just the way it is over here” when in reality, it’s the result of a broken system. Drug abuse is prevalent amongst minorities who are stuck in these tougher areas and it’s truly a never ending cycle. That’s really the ugly truth; you either make it or you don’t over here, and the people who live by that mentality make the city a toxic place for growth. (also all of the smog is pretty nasty)

RG : You mention you want to be a nurse practitioner, you want to help people (“especially those that can’t help themselves/have been failed by the system”) I don’t think there is anything more admirable of a goal than that – is there anything specific in life that inspired this? or are you just following your gut? And what would be the dream scenario in terms of where and what you would like to do?

SL : Thank you for saying that. There really isn’t one specific event that occurred for me to decide “YES, this is my calling” but over time I noticed there are areas in the medical field that I really admire, one of those areas being nursing. Not too long ago I had a medical emergency and I will never forget the fear I had throughout that whole experience, but I always had a nurse that would talk to me not just like a patient, but as a person. I just want to be a part of that and I know I can make a difference. I’m still not completely sure what I want to specialize in but I would love to work in the ER or maybe specialize in women’s health. Also, working in the heart of L.A. would be a dream. I love science, I’m fascinated by medical sciences and honestly I just feel like being a nurse is what I was made to do! 

RG : Did you know that there is a town in Italy named Lugo?? (I’m assuming that us your last name right?) It’s actually a pretty important town for me because it was where our second show ever in Italy was and where I really hung out with Chiara for the first time.  What are three places in the world you would like to go in the next 5 years?

SL : That is SO SO SO SO cool!! I really have never heard of the name Lugo outside of my family so that’s sick! Half of my family is from Greece so by default I would absolutely love to visit there. I think my top 3 places to go to in the next 5 years would have to be Greece, New York, and Italy. 

RG : I know you said you didn’t want to talk about your anxiety in the article, but LET’S!  (obviously not if you really don’t want to, haha) – but when talking about this stuff I feel like it can really help people reading because they know they are not alone. Also, I think every human alive now is dealing with mental struggles.  What do you think your biggest sources of anxiety are? And how do you manage it?  Do you think social media has impacted mental health negatively or at least amplified anxiety in High School?

SL : Yes, let’s talk about mental health! I think my biggest source of anxiety is my inability to have control over the big and crazy things in my life (such as the PANDEMIC). There was a time in my life where I thought if I controlled the things that would lead to my anxiety spirals, I would be okay. It was toxic not only for myself, but people around me. I felt trapped in my own head a lot of times because I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t happy, and why the “control” wasn’t working. I could control my grades and my athletic performance but my happiness was so far away from me that it seemed completely unattainable. Over time I realized one thing; There are things that you can and can’t control, but one thing you will always have is control over your words, actions, and perception. When there would be a slight inconvenience, instead of freaking out and crying, I would just take a deep breath and think through my anxiety. Why was I so upset? Why is this a trigger? Will it harm me if I just leave it alone and forget about it? I started questioning my choice of friends and later realizing I was in toxic friendships that only fueled my anxieties. There are other factors that contribute to my anxiety as well, such as family, school, just the idea of growing up and being independent, but the one thing that has truly helped me has been the practice of mindfulness. Writing down thoughts (negative or positive) when they become overwhelming, mediating, and breathing exercises. It’s also so important to remind yourself that it is OKAY to feel upset or anxious, but to remember to not let it get the best of you. Now, social media is a whooooole different kind of anxiety fuel. In my opinion, social media has truly wrecked my generation. Yes, it’s kinda a way of life now, but it has such a negative impact on those of us who are more vulnerable (mentally). It can quickly become an extremely toxic space and the hardest part is that we’re all addicted. You can say “I’m gonna delete Instagram” but for a few days after deleting, it’s like you’re missing out on everything in the world. You lose control of the things you see and don’t see. I think it’s gotten better when it comes to promoting body positivity and inclusivity amongst all different kinds of groups, but it’s still hard not to compare yourself to what you see on the screen. I mentioned before how social media only allows people to see a teeny tiny part of your life, but since it’s the only knowledge they have, it creates a twisted perception of how life should and should not be. If there are teens reading this (hi hello whats up) I want this to be my message to you: never compare yourself to what you see on the screen. You are beautifully unique, special, and irreplaceable, and do not let another living being tell you otherwise. Social media is cool and whatever, but don’t let it get in the way of how you see yourself. Mental health isn’t just a one-stop shop, it’s a lifetime of learning and growing with ups and downs, but you CAN do it. I’m still going through my journey and some days are better than others but it takes time, patience, and an open mind to change. 

RG : Based on your generation, your friends, peers, classmates, etc.  Do you feel hopeful for the future of this country?  Do you think the older generations are the ones keeping alive toxic mindsets and younger generations can pave a much more open, loving, accepting, positive future?

SL : I definitely think my generation will be the one to change not just the country, but the world. We have some very bad leaders who are using hate to run the country. Things will not change in one year or two, it’s going to take a long time, but I feel if anyone is going to do it, this generation is our best bet. There will always be those who stick to traditional morals and beliefs (no shame at all to them!) but a lot of us have strayed away from our families’ strict and traditional beliefs to start thinking for ourselves. There’s inclusivity, body positivity, understanding that LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE, and there is just so much room for everyone to have a place and sense of belonging. We are growing up in a time of distress and confusion, partially because of voting choices our parents and grandparents have made, but I truly believe there is hope. I have a very traditional family, and some members are very closed minded and continue to stick with beliefs that don’t really comply with my beliefs or open mindedness. Hate is not some genetic mutation that you’re born with, it’s a taught behavior and unfortunately it’s still being passed down. Hate will never win. I think working together is crucial, but gaining an understanding for the mistakes made in the past and utilizing that knowledge to prevent it from happening again is the next step for changing our country. It’s beautiful, diverse, kinda weird, from the outside, but absolutely rotten on the inside. I really do think we are the generation to change it all. We gotta…WORK TOGETHER ;D

RG : First off, hearing your experience seeing us at Teregram Ballroom is the kind of thing that reminds me why I play music.  It’s a crazy thing because as the musician you can get into a grind and it can become tiring and repetitive and it’s easy to disconnect from the pure point of why we make music sometimes.  Then I hear this and it gives me life to keep going. What are some other experiences, whether musical or not, that have had a similar impact?? Can even be your top 5 shows you have seen.

SL : That makes me so happy to hear. I think I told you earlier but your music changed my life. I felt understood and it doesn’t matter which one, there is always a song I can relate to. “You” Are the Problem is one of my favorites and I made my whole family listen to it and now you’re a household name HAHA. I have personally experienced the “fatigue” of hard work and really just forgot what I was working for. I would say this entire year I really just forgot about myself. I would work hard in school, to the point where I literally came home, didn’t talk to anyone, no music, no fun, no social events, nothing. I literally became everything I never wanted to become. It was when I had a very big health scare when I realized not only I had to change, but I gained even more of a drive to work for what I want, while keeping myself mentally and physically healthy. I want to be the person that scared patients can confide in and trust. I can achieve my goals, but I can do so without literally losing myself in the process. It made me realize that the hard work now will pay off in the end. That all ties in with the idea of teens ignoring mental health, being in touch with your true needs/wants, and just re-centering my mindset. Also, meeting musicians such as the members of Okey Dokey, No Vacation, Stuyedeyed and Post Animal was not only SICK, but it made me realize that yea these are ARTISTS, but they’re people too and this music comes from a place of imagination and passion and it just made me appreciate the music so much more. I love you all and if I could I would give you all a big hug and high five 🙂 Thank you for being the source of happiness and love that we need throughout our journeys. 

RG : How has LA been during this time? and what happened with school in response to COVID?  I romanticize LA a lot lately because we are landlocked and been in the house so much, we are dying for water, beach, actual city, etc.  Has it been difficult at times being in LA, one of the most exciting places there is during a time of being very limited to what you can do to stay safe

SL : So LA has been a combination of things. There are people who still don’t think the virus is anything to be afraid of, there are others who haven’t left the house since March, and there are many who are tiptoeing around it but still following proper precautions. My family has stayed home and as of lately I’ve been able to see a couple of my best friends but personally, I’m very concerned. School switched to online learning which was not only TERRIBLE, but I feel like it gave all students some sort of greater appreciation for actual campuses. Many of my teachers didn’t care that we were working from home and loaded work like nothing, while others would give us days to rest our minds (my psych teacher literally saved me). It kinda made me realize that there are tooooo many teachers who just do it for the money. As students, we need to learn of course, but we need guidance. So anyways the first few weeks of quarantine I would workout and try to be super productive and clean and blah blah blah but that was short lived. I ended up going into a deeeep slump all throughout April where I would barely go outside, listen to music, even get out of my pj’s. I then discovered roller skating and I sold all of the stuff I could to get my roller skates. I’m still not very good at all but that’s something I’ve taken up. It’s hard living in LA during this time because there’s so much to do and see in the summer and now that’s just taken away. I live in a smaller city so there’s not too much to do, but I do go to the park a lot and I bike ride as often as I can. Sometimes my mom and I will go on long drives but really I’ve kinda grown fond of just chilling in my neighborhood and exploring on my bike. It brings me peace and I have a new appreciation for the area around me. As much as this pandemic has ruined, I think it has given people the chance to really reflect on the things most important to them. Personally, I miss the beach more than anything and I went bike riding at Huntington Beach not too long ago, but it was packed with people who acted as if all was normal. There is no normal anymore. To be honest, I don’t think “normal” ever existed.

HERE IS PART TWO, WHERE SOPHIE LUGO INTERVIEWS RON GALLO.

SL : What inspires you to create? And more specifically, what was the inspiration behind the “Stardust Birthday Party” album? Was there a specific event or realization you had that fueled the creation of certain songs or albums?

 RG : I feel like when I revert back to a state of inner child is when I’m at my most creative, also when I feel like I am most myself because I can kind of wide-eyed observe stuff and make songs out of small moments or thoughts. Being frustrated with humanity has also been an inspiration for me in the past but I’m trying to avoid that path now.  “Stardust” was me trying to make a new-wave/punk record out of my own inward/spiritual journey at the time. For a few years that path dominated my life, and it was incredible because it was my first time ever exploring something deeper, bigger, “god”, whatever you wanna call it.  I was reading a lot of Krishnamurti, Osho, Eckhart Tolle, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, visiting Hare Krishna temples and went and did a week silent retreat with a teacher named Adyashanti.  All of these things made me feel like I was home.  It gave me answers to lifelong questions and stuff I struggled with.  I wanted to document that because I feel like it’s universal and could help people look within so I made that record but I don’t know if it was taken that way.So moving forward a bit, I would really like to talk about mental health and kinda getting a grip on your mind. I’m still figuring everything out (as we all are) but there are certain factors of our everyday lives that have been making it hard to focus and be centered.

SL : What has your journey been like?

RG : I was a super-hyper, weird, problem child, very rebellious, pain in the ass. Then by high school I mellowed out and was tired all the time and a little shy. I was straightedge so I felt alien until I found kids that were into music and art and the same stuff and that’s when I started playing in bands and found a scene.  In college, I felt even less comfortable in my skin and moved to Philly, I lived in a party house and got into drinking and there was always friends around and it was a lot of fun.  But, there was always a friction.  I always felt a little alien and left of center, unconscious kind of, like there was something missing from the picture, or I didn’t know myself, I was just a product of my environment or other people. Years later, had some life events/existential crisis that forced me to finally face myself for the first time.  And been on that path to knowing me since. I’m a very late bloomer but I wouldn’t trade the progress for anything.

SL : What was the biggest motivation for you to take on mindfulness? What have been some of the highlights? What were some of the difficulties and how did you get through them? (Personally, I think social media has been one of the biggest contributions to the repression of speaking out about mental health issues as well as the toxic cycle of self depreciation and even the feeling of being isolated. If you’d like to talk about that I would love to start the conversation)

I was reading a book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle on my porch like 4 years ago and there was a section where he basically said “you are not your mind” and after reading that, something clicked, I laughed for like 30 minutes straight. I don’t know why, but I never considered that super simple concept and it changed a lot for me.  It kickstarted the whole thing.  I had read a few books similar to this before but they did not click, this one did, it was good timing.

Now the difficult part – once you open the door to this stuff and thinking about everything in a new way there are a lot of beautiful moments, feelings, experiences that maybe never happened before – you become a lot more sensitive and aware of things – but this also applies to the other side of that – you look at yourself and the world and see a lot of ugly stuff you didn’t before, and people and things around you that don’t make sense anymore and require change, so it’s a pretty destructive process.  It can be super disorienting because inner change changes the whole outside world. I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere for a while and it definitely was not where I was at, I still don’t but maybe I am getting closer. Once I started to dive into this stuff I felt the best I ever felt in my whole life but also had moments of feeling very deep dark depression and anxiety I had never experienced.  It’s like you open both sides equally whereas before I was kind of just flat middlgeround always.  One thing that helps is trying to surrender. “Trust the process”. Take responsibility for how you feel always, it gives you the power. Trying to look at all the difficult stuff in life as an opportunity rather than with victim mentality makes pain make sense, it’s growing pain and makes it easier by not resisting it. It’s all just feelings and thoughts and they are all temporary.

SL : So one thing I’ve always wanted to ask you; what does it feel like to make music and tour? Okay it sounds silly maybe but the experiences, the excitement, the ability to share your passion and art with so many people from so many places, it all sounds so beautiful and fulfilling. What has been (or what ARE) the highlights of being an artist? 

RG : My favorite part is the solitary creative process, writing, demoing in my house, that’s the magic.  I also love touring, but after a while going nonstop I got so burnt out and exhausted on myself, tour, music, everything I wanted to quit.  So it can be double sided. The business is what taints the whole thing.  It takes you further away from the purity of making something and sharing it with people.  You lose sight of why you do it because it becomes livelihood, constant motion, numbers, ego, bullshit, comparison, etc.  Then one day someone writes you a letter about how your music saved their life and it brings you back to the point again.

SL : Where is the first place you plan on traveling to once the pandemic settles down? 

RG : First Philly to se my family, then from there Italy! To see Chiara’s family and go to the beach and maybe play a show because the pandemic is settled there.

SL : What has been your favorite pastime during isolation? (mine has bike riding its so therapeutic) 

RG : Aimless drives around town, playstation 1, hammock + TV, yard work, 9 meals a day.

SL : What is your favorite song at the moment? Favorite album or artist you’ve recently discovered?

RG : I’m really into Remi Wolf’s new EP “I’m Allergic to Dogs!!!”, also Bakar.

SL : How is Chiara? (you guys are the absolute cutest!!! My boyfriend and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday and the song Hide Myself Behind You is the song I dedicate to him. It is perfection!)

RG : !!!! That’s beautiful. She is ok, it has been a rollercoaster of a time for her moving to a new country (that happens to be falling apart) amidst a pandemic and being away from her family amongst her own inner journey.  But we are trying to power through and help each other through but it gets very heavy sometimes, but it’s all gonna be good. 

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