Rituals of Mine are sisters in arms

With a new name and album, the Sacramento band formerly known as Sister Crayon takes on the world

They may have a new band name, but nearly a decade into their musical partnership, Rituals of Mine’s Terra Lopez (left) and Dani Fernandez’s solid teamwork hasn’t changed.

They may have a new band name, but nearly a decade into their musical partnership, Rituals of Mine’s Terra Lopez (left) and Dani Fernandez’s solid teamwork hasn’t changed.


Catch Rituals of Mine at 8 p.m. Friday, September 30, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street. Tickets are $15. Learn more at www.ritualsofmine.com.

Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez stepped foot onto the arena-sized Fresno stage on a blazing July day. It was Rituals of Mine’s first show opening for Deftones, and their first time playing to such a massive crowd.

After years of house parties and nightclubs, it felt amazing and surreal.

“We had never been in front of this many people before,” Lopez remembered one recent September afternoon as she and Lopez sat outside a Midtown coffee shop. “It was nerve-wracking.”

“I almost felt like I didn’t know how to be big enough on stage,” Fernandez says. “I felt so tiny.”

They didn’t just figure out what to do with the space, they commanded it, winning over new fans with soulful, heavy beats; trippy melodies and emotion-laden vocals. And it wasn’t just one show. Repeatedly during the tour, Rituals of Mine got called back to the stage for an encore—a rarity for an opening band.

It was a sweet coda to a painful chapter that embodied some of the lowest of lows: Death, broken promises and shattered dreams.

For some, the life-challenging events that led up to that Fresno show might have signaled the end.

For the two friends, however, it invited a rebirth, one that resulted in a major label record deal, a new name and the same steadfast commitment to making music together. The band’s new album drops Friday, September 30, with a release party at Harlow’s Nightclub & Restaurant.

It’s a been a long journey here, Lopez says, one in which she’s had faith, however blind.

The band formerly known as Sister Crayon formed nearly a decade ago in Sacramento. Lopez already had the name and thought of it as an alter ego of sorts, a front for the “super-shy” musician. She recorded under the name and even released an album with a Chicago label.

Then she and Fernandez met through friends and instantly connected. Over the years, band members have come and gone, but the pair has remained constant. They even lived together once, sharing not just a bedroom but an Ikea circle bed.

“We literally split the bed, so we each had a half,” Lopez says.

They both relocated to Oakland and kept with music and plans even after Lopez eventually moved to Los Angeles for a spell. Over time, they survived breakups, departed band members and endless shows. Now it’s just the two of them and, sometimes, Adam Pierce, who’s performed with the band recently during live shows.

“We just got to the point where we stuck it out together,” Fernandez says. “It was like, ’We’re going to do this, this is something we believe in 100 percent.’”

That philosophy helped when a collaboration ended up going south. In 2014, the band had traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, to record its second full-length album.

They followed that up with some studio time with Omar Rodríguez-López of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In. After, they were excited to release the album, Devoted, through Rodríguez-López’s label.

The thrill, however, eventually gave way to heartbreak when the record didn’t get the push the band believed it deserved.

“There were so many promises … minimal expectations that weren’t met,” Lopez says now. “It was complete devastation.”

“Like our hearts were ripped out of our chest,” Fernandez says.

It felt like defeat, a soul-crushing moment, artistically speaking.

Things got worse, however, when just a few months later in September 2015, Lopez’s father committed suicide. Six months later, in February of this year, her best friend drowned.

All those losses challenged them on many levels but Lopez says she was determined to continue. Music wasn’t just music—it was therapy. It was life.

They soldiered on.

“There were times I had to put on that false face and say, ’We’re going to make this happen,’” Lopez says. “Even when in the back of my mind, I was like ’Oh, my God, how?’

The bandmates continued writing songs and playing shows. Along the way, they enlisted Shawn Carrano to be their manager. The Sacramento native had heard about the band via friends and, just a few months before their album’s release, offered to represent them. Sister Crayon wasn’t getting the label attention it deserved or needed, he said. Lopez and Fernandez initially demurred—they had a label at the time, after all—but when it became clear the support wasn’t there, they reconsidered and asked Carrano if he was still interested.

Carrano, who’d moved to Los Angeles, was definitely still game.

“I saw a bigger picture for this band,” Carrano says. “I see things like Deftones tours and festivals. They’re a Coachella band, a Lollapalooza band.”

The band’s music, he adds, is “timeless.”

As it turned out, Carrano’s neighbor in Los Angeles was Samantha Maloney, vice president of A&R for Warner Bros. She asked Carrano to pass along some music.

Sister Crayon instantly intrigued.

Maloney first with Lopez and the two hit it off. Eventually she sat down with the pair and then finally caught them live.

“The show solidified why I wanted to be in business with them, not even in the sense of making money, but in the business of being attached to these two really promising artists,” Maloney says.

The band’s deft genre-hopping across alternative rock, alternative hip-hop and electronica is key, she says.

Maloney took the music to Warner Bros. and soon the band had a deal. Lopez still remembers finding out they’d been signed.

“I called Dani and I was shaking and she started crying,” she says now. “It was the surreal, weirdest feeling.”

Over the course of the next few months, the band reworked Devoted.

They could have left the record behind, but Lopez says, “it almost felt like a breakup and we wanted the chance for a clean slate, a chance to release the record.”

They went into the studio to tinker with some of the songs and had the album mastered by industry veteran Tom Coyne (Beyoncé, Adele, etc.).

The resulting album marks a subtle but key departure from previous recordings. Ths music is still pretty deep and intense. Now, Lopez’s voice is clearer, decidedly front and center, a beacon of beauty, despair and hope.

Fernandez’ beats are more prominent, too, they give the music its spine, grounding the songs even as they let them soar. Overall, the production is tighter, glossier, slick but never artificial.

The album also marks another shift.

Lopez and Fernandez had long wanted to ditch the Sister Crayon moniker—it was, after all, just a “silly name” Lopez had attached to a project she never thought would go beyond her bedroom.

The two agonized for two weeks before landing on Rituals of Mine.

The name comes from a lyric off Devoted and, Fernandez says, “totally resonates with what we do.”

“How we perform and the writing process—it’s a ritual for [us],” she says.

Reaction was, not surprisingly, mixed. Fans have been intensely loyal over the years, sharing band-inspired artwork and traveling hundreds of miles to catch a show.

Still, Lopez says, their musical tribe mostly gets it.

“There are so many people who don’t even know who Sister Crayon is—or was—so for us this was a chance to attain something new,” she says.

They just completed a tour with the Album Leaf, and in October they’ll hit the road with Tricky.

“It’s a dream to be able to work with someone who helped create trip-hop,” Lopez says.

Then, it’s back to songwriting, back to the studio, back to two friends making music any and every way they know how. No matter what.

Rituals of Mine is more than a band, Lopez and Fernandez say. It’s more than just friendship.

“Even with your best friend, there’s still some separation, but with [Dani] and I we’re not only just friends, we’re also family,” Lopez says.

The relationship is inconceivably strong, she says. Music, shows, close quarters, circle beds, loss and heartbreak.

“You know more about me than I’d even like you to know,” she says, looking at Fernandez. She’s laughing, but also serious. “But, also because we’ve been friends for so long and toured together and been in a band and lived in rooms together—it is very much a family bond at this point, undeniably. People ask if we’re sisters and I just say yes. Because yes, we are.”