Tag Archive: “This Is What It Feels Like”

Produced alongside Wes Jones featuring Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta, At The Drive-In), the release of Ritual of Mine’s Devoted landed it on many indie “Top Ten Albums of 2015” lists and for good reason. The project, primarily comprised of Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez and that originally carried the Sister Crayon moniker, is a fiery, electronic-tinged experiment that hammers on the appropriate synapses of any self-respecting music devotee. It is equally challenging and familiar songcraft that is as deeply cutting edge as it is accessible.

In fact, eventually a major label came calling, and due to its ultra-limited initial release, Warner Bros. Records decided to remaster and re-release the album after the duo signed with the label in February of 2016 with studio legend Tom Coyne (Led Zeppelin, Adele) at the helm

The truth is, Lopez and Fernandez have been making their mark on the West Coast as electronic workhorses since 2009. After years of building a loyal fanbase in California by playing countless house shows and selling out local establishments, the duo began touring relentlessly throughout the states with the likes of The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, Antemasque, Le Butcherettes, Maps & Atlases, Doomtree and more. With independent releases Bellow (2011) and Cynic (2013), the band earned widespread acclaim for their ghostly 21st century trip hop séance of soulful vocals, heavy beats, and breathy catharsis. As of late, the band has released several remix, rework projects, that transform their music in even more challenging and beautiful ways, and are in the studio working on the highly anticipated follow up to Devoted.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Lopez to discuss everything from the rework projects, to the new LP, social activism and ’90s hip hop. This is what she told us.

Rituals of Mine have been writing the next record, right? Where are you at in that process?

We are demoing our new record right now with our producer Wes Jones. Dani {Fernandez] and I are sending him ideas, trying to write as much as we can, and then we’ll access those and see what songs we want to move forward with. Right now it is just a ton of writing.

We’ve worked with Wes for the last two releases. We worked with him on the Cynic EP we released as Sister Crayon and on the Devoted LP with Rituals. We’ve been working together for four years now. We work so well with him. He almost feels like an extension of the band and it is pretty effortless in our communication with what our vision is for the sound and how he is able to help us make that a reality. It has always been an easy decision to work with him.

Do you ever feel like you’ll get to a point where you don’t want to be in that comfort zone?

Definitely. It is funny that you asked. With the next album we are going to be working a lot with Wes, but we’ll also probably be working with different producers as well just to see how we work. That is exciting too. It will be challenging to go into a studio with someone that we don’t have a history with and to see if that even works. I do a lot of writing sessions like that. I work with a lot of different artists and write songs with them so I’m used to that. But, we are very interested in seeing how it will feel with the entire band doing that. It could be really cool.

Have you ever been in a situation that you knew wasn’t going to work?

That’s a good question. So far, no. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been in studios where we are artists and we understand each other and get each others’ visions and we create something that we both really like.

In the past, while working other projects, yes, I’ve been in situations where I worked with producers or engineers that got us artistically, but the work flow and how I like to work didn’t match up.

Did you curate the rework projects? What amount of involvement did you have in that?

Yeah. Each song was sort of a different situation. For some of them we just had pure remixes and others were more collaborative efforts so we kind of titled them appropriately. Like the one with Geographer. We worked together on that one. With the one with INDO from Dim Mak, he worked on that completely by himself and that’s a genuine remix.

We handpicked every artist. I hand wrote every artist to see if they’d be interested in working with us on this project. It has been cool to hear every individuals drastic rework and remix and it is cool to hear their takes and interpretations of the song.

Do you have a favorite?

I wouldn’t say that. I love them all. I will say that it was a real dream to work with this artist called Sin Fang. I’ve loved his work, or been a fan of his work for many years. So to work with him, and I think he killed it, was definitely a dream. Working with our friend ZAVALA who is the Chicago house producer and working with Geographer. Geographer and I were working on a ton of music so that was really cool too.

We are releasing reworks of “Devoted,” “Ride or Die,” and “Armor.” I think that will be it for now. We have a new track coming out this Summer. We are releasing a ton of stuff.

You also work as a publicist. Do you feel like being an artist in the role gives you an advantage?

I feel very fortunate that finally I have a job that is in the same industry. For so long I worked odd jobs where I felt like I had to turn myself off completely to go to work and then to turn myself on to be an artist where with this I can balance both and utilize my talents. Being able to build relationships with writers and being in the trenches every day has definitely helped. It makes so much sense. Terrorbird is a dream to work for. They are so supportive of me as an artist. It is the most content I’ve ever felt while working. For them to take me on as a publicist has just been incredible and it means everything as an artist to have that support. I can go on tour and not have to worry about finding a new job when I get back. It is definitely a massive game changer in terms of my sanity.

Have you read Amanda Dissinger’s [another Terrorbird publicist] book?

I am a huge fan of Amanda’s poetry. I have both of her books. I’m so proud that she is a friend and that she is killing it on that front. I wish I lived in New York and that I could go and attend her readings. I’m absolutely a fan for sure.

The last two years have been huge for Rituals of Mine. You signed to a major label, went on tour with the Deftones. What have those experiences been like for you?

It has been fantastic working with Warner Brothers. I had worked with indie labels for ten years so a major label was never in the cards, was never really a goal of mine. As soon as I met Samantha Maloney, who is our A&R rep who signed us, I immediately fell in love with how she is and how she moves about in the world. She’s an artist herself so we completely connected. It was undeniable to me. So far it has been beautiful. The team is supportive, realistic, and wants to develop Rituals of Mine, which is really all you can ask for from a label really.

Is it out of character for the industry to do those kinds of things?

Yeah, exactly. We’ve been super fortunate. Same thing with The Deftones. We’re both from the same hometown of Sacramento. We’ve known each other for years, but it was so special, and easily one of the best tours we’ve ever done because the guys are so sweet and so hardworking. And they really like our music, which is crazy because I grew up listening to them. Chino and I bonded and we are working on music as well outside of both of our things. Very grateful.

We’ve been super fortunate where every single artist we’ve been on tour with has connected with us in some way. Either we end up making music together, or they invite us onstage during the shows, or we end up becoming friends. So far, I want to say every tour that has happened.

What is it about working with Dani that has made that collaboration so special?

Dani has been one of my best friends for almost a decade now. I felt like we connected as soon as we met about music and what kind of music we wanted to make. In fact, I forced her to start making music with me. We’ve really developed and grown so much. Now, we’re very rarely not in sync with each other musically. We always have the same vision and it is pretty effortless. I don’t have to tell her that this is what I want a song to sound like, she’s already doing it. I feel so fortunate there to have someone in the project who is such a rock.

I imagine it is empowering as a songwriter and singer to stand onstage and know that the music is exactly what you want it to be.

That’s huge! That goes to working hard to build a team of people around you who will help to make your vision a reality. That goes into play with working with Dani or Wes Jones. If something is right you aren’t going to change it because it is hard to find those people you resonate with on so many levels.

The change in the political climate over the last year has been perhaps as terrifying for you as it has for me. How have you used Rituals of Mine as a platform for civil rights work?

The political climate has inspired our work and just us as people. So in February I created my first ever art installation, which was called This Is What It Feels Like. I presented it for the entire month of February. That brought out a whole side of me that I’ve been passionate about, social activism. I’ve been involved with different organization since I was a teenager, but I felt like I couldn’t fully express myself in the music. So doing that exhibit and watching it grow, and hosting the second exhibit at Bonnarroo, allows me to find my way to resist, to educate people, and to get my message across. I want to play a small role in making this world better and to counteract all the crazy shit that is going on.

What kind of dialogue do you want to have with your fans and audience? What do you want them to take away?

I believe in being as open as it makes sense to. I talk to fans online, I sell our merch after shows because I want to have those connections. I’ve found that our fans are so loyal, supportive and devoted. They’ve been there since the beginning or they at least feel like it and that is the kind of passion and intensity I hope resonates. That is why people feel so strongly about the project. Performing is therapy, it has kept me alive all these years, it is real for me. Maybe that resonates to them.

Is it a symbiotic relationship? What about their reaction nurtures you?

It absolutely feeds the performance. If people are screaming, singing, crying, dancing, which all tends to happen, or if they are just staring out, it is all energy that comes back to me. It’s so important; for me it is absolutely crucial. When fans give that kind of energy it changes the dynamic completely.

You are one of many artists who experiences synesthesia. Have you talked to other artists who experience that?

I haven’t. For a long time I just assumed everyone experienced that. As I got older I realized that wasn’t the case. But, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to another artist about it.

I imagine the tragedy at Ghost Ship had an impact on you?

We lived in Oakland for several years and I’d been to several shows there. I also had a lot of friends who passed away in that. Think of all the talent that was taken? It is insane to me. I feel like Oakland is still reeling from that. It was devastating.

I feel like it has had an impact on anyone who has been in a DIY art space that wasn’t necessarily up to code…

Yeah, definitely. I think that if you are an artist, you will do your art anywhere. And we don’t live in a society that is always supportive of that kind of lifestyle. To create and perform, sometimes it puts you in unsafe environments. When I lived in Oakland it was in a renovated, make shift porch space with power that was not safe. I did it so I could be in a city that made me inspired.

I think back, especially after Ghost Ship, as to how unsafe it was. As an artist sometimes you put yourself in those vulnerable positions so you can continue to create and to be inspired. It is really unfortunate. I wish the arts were supported more and that there were safe, accessible, affordable places for artists so that we wouldn’t have to compromised.

On a lighter note, you have been known to DJ and have a special love for ’90s hip hop. What is your go-to jam?

[Laughter] I play a lot of Aaliyah, Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliott. There are so many. That is my all time favorite music to DJ. It is a pleasure to DJ any event where I can throw in a few of those tracks.

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