When Dani Fernandez and Terra Lopez started writing music under the name Sister Crayon a year after Lopez graduated from Sac State, the electronic project served as a much-needed creative outlet, a rich learning experience, and an intense, grand – and definitely unorthodox – experiment. It still is.
Back then, a major-label record deal was the farthest thing from the young performers’ minds. Eight years, six records, countless concerts, and a name change later, that which seemed so far away is now a reality.
In August, the newly christened Rituals of Mine hits the road ahead of its major-label debut, Devoted, after inking a deal with Warner Bros. Records in spring 2016. The band joins Sacramento rock legends Deftones on tour through some of the biggest venues on the West Coast.
“When we first found out, Dani and I literally cried, just because it was so unexpected,” Lopez says. “We’ve been working for so long and so hard at this, there’s been a lot that we’ve experienced, that there were a lot of tears. Happy tears.”
Lopez (’07, English) has been writing music for more than 15 years. In 2008, when she linked up with Fernandez, the band’s beat producer, the two began crafting rich, haunting electronic melodies layered with Lopez’s introspective lyrics and stirring vocals.
Their style has evolved over the years, but they remain pioneers of a burgeoning Sacramento electronic music scene that they helped shape. Rituals of Mine/Sister Crayon is among the best-known electronic artists – along with bands like Team Sleep and Death Grips – to come out of the capital region. They mix organic instruments, including live drums, with computer-produced compositions in their recordings and live stage show.
It’s no easy feat: Lopez says some practices are spent entirely on learning new programs and interfaces, tweaking production, and figuring out new ways to build their sound and presence.
“We definitely always stuck out and didn’t fit in to a specific genre or sound, and I think that’s still very much the case,” Lopez says. “We’ve always strived to not be pigeonholed in a specific genre, and because we’ve been a little outside the box, we’ve been able to tour with hip-hop artists, metal acts, electronic artists, ambient artists, rock artists … just all over the map.
“If music is genuine, there doesn’t really need to be a genre.”
That is never more apparent than when looking at Ritual of Mine’s upcoming tour schedule: They follow up their August tour with one of the heaviest rock acts (and now label mates) to come out of the River City with a showcase tour supporting indie mainstays The Album Leaf through September.
Their major-label debut, Devoted, originally released in 2015 under an independent label, is being remixed and remastered by producing legend Tom Coyne, who has produced albums for the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd, and will be out later this fall.
In addition to her music career, Lopez works as a publicist for national public relations firm Terrorbird, promoting other bands and artists. She says her English education from Sac State helped shape how she writes professionally in the PR world.
In eight years, Lopez and Fernandez have traveled a long road: The two have endured personal tragedy, band members coming and going, and moves to and from different cities, and they have fought to find their place in life and in a music scene that is always evolving.
At last, Lopez says, this great, strange experiment is paying off.
“That’s what Sister Crayon has been all these years: an experiment,” Lopez says. “And luckily, we’re so grateful that people have responded well, listened, and kept listening. The process has evolved so much, just as Dani and I both have. We just want to learn as much as we can and hone our craft, and be better always.”
Rituals of Mine kicks off its tour Aug. 23 in Fresno. Catch them closest to Sacramento at the Greek Theatre on Aug. 26 in Berkeley, and watch for Devoted, out later this fall.