Bold new strokes

On its second album, the electronica project strips it down and finds new strength.

“Just the two of us …”

“Just the two of us …”

Photo by Raoul Ortega

Catch Sister Crayon at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 1, at Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street. DLRN and Stevie Nader are also on the bill. Tickets are $14. Learn more at

Terra Lopez wrote much of Sister Crayon’s newest album Devoted while laying in bed, crying.

She was utterly heartbroken after a five-year relationship crumbled apart. Lopez had moved to Oakland to be with her now ex-girlfriend. Post-breakup, she relied on her long-time bandmate Dani Fernandez for support and tried to focus all of her attention on the electronic project she started in Sacramento in 2009.

“For the first time, I felt I had lost all motivation,” Lopez says of writing Sister Crayon’s latest. “It was really scary. … I really clung to these songs to get out of bed in the morning. The reason I got through that tough time in my life was this record.”

Devoted is Sister Crayon’s second full-length album—and a radical departure from 2011’s debut Bellow. Back then, Sister Crayon operated as a four-piece, and drums and keys played prominent roles in the group’s overall sound. Too prominent. Now, Sister Crayon is stripped down to just Lopez’s vocals and Fernandez’s beats. The result is raw, moving and catchy. Lopez’s soulful, jazz-influenced voice entrances while Fernandez’s dark beats embrace R&B and hip-hop.

Though wholeheartedly a breakup album, Devoted isn’t depressing. It embraces sadness in a frank, bold and empowering way. Lopez doesn’t mask her feelings with metaphors as she’s done in the past. Her language is completely direct: “I’m tired of thinking about you,” she says repeatedly on the opening track, “Armor.”

Now, Lopez says she feels great. That breakup was two years ago. Lopez is in a new, loving relationship, and her ex-girlfriend recently called to say she loves the album.

“Making the record, I felt a huge sense of relief and closure,” Lopez says. “We as people are really resilient—we can get through a lot of stuff, and if we’re lucky, we can create out of that grief.”

Sister Crayon spent a full year on Devoted, which was co-produced by Wes Jones, who worked with Sister Crayon on the 2013 EP Cynic, and Omar Rodríguez-López from the Texas band the Mars Volta. Working with Rodríguez-López was immensely surreal for Lopez, who remembers trying to sing a Mars Volta song at age 16 and subsequently losing her voice for two weeks. He even co-wrote three songs: “Night Totem,” “Into Solemn Hymns” and “Providence.”

“He gave us so much insight and direction and really helped make the album a full package,” Lopez says.

With such an honest album, Sister Crayon’s general openness has grown as well. That openness went a step further on June 26, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Lopez remembers waking up to a flurry of text messages and Facebook notifications, crying with joy and rushing the production of Sister Crayon’s first Devoted music video. She wanted to celebrate with her fans. The video for “Ride | Die” documents Lopez and Fernandez one day in Los Angeles, just hanging out with their friends and girlfriends.

“I’ve always been wary of having our sexual orientation be at the forefront, because I don’t ever want to be pigeonholed as these lesbian artists,” she says. “We’re embracing it as we get older. I’ve always been proud and grateful that we live in California and in cities where we can.”