Throughout history, human beings have relied on rituals—personal, religious, professional, social, creative, and otherwise. It’s these rites that establish a modicum of control and cohesion over a world that often seems far removed from both. When swimming through tragedy, turmoil, and tumult, those practices can function as life preservers. Sacramento duo Rituals of Mine—Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez—realized that firsthand.
Since 2010, the pair had been touring and releasing music under the moniker Sister Crayon. Their travels allowed them to share the stage with The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, Antemasque, Le Butcherettes, and many others, in addition to releasing the independent Bellow (2011) and Cynic (2013). Along the way, they earned praise from The BBC, Pitchfork, The Fader, Rolling Stone and more for their ghostly 21st century trip hop séance of soulful vocals, heavy beats, and breathy catharsis. However, 2015 would be the most trying and challenging year yet for the girls. Following the recording of Devoted and a quiet indie release, Terra unexpectedly lost two prominent figures in her life; figures who shaped both her understanding of her self and of music. In September 2015, Terra lost her father to suicide. Less than six months later, she suffered another harrowing blow when her best friend Lucas Johnson passed away in a tragic accident.
“It was a very tough two years,” she admits. “The name pays respect to those years, so Dani and I don’t forget what we’ve gone through as a band to get to where we are now. What are these rituals? They’re singing, performing, and writing. The record is dedicated to my dad and Lucas. Sister Crayon was the last name they knew us going by. We had to put that name to rest. Rituals of Mine is much more than a name. It’s a statement. This is a new beginning.” In the midst of everything, Rituals of Mine inked a deal with Warner Bros. Records in February 2016. They worked closely with producer Wes Jones and mixing engineer Dave Clauss to make some final moves before enlisting Tom Coyne [Led Zeppelin, Adele] to master Devoted. The album represents the realization of a vision the two-piece possessed since day one.
“Dani and I had always known what music we wanted to make,” explains Terra. “We were very adamant that this record was going to be the sound we’ve consistently heard in our heads and the vision we’ve wanted for the project since day one. We were determined to create a body of work that focuses on the heavy aspects- low ends and vocals. It’s very minimal in that regard. We’ve gone through different lineups and member additions, but we realized this needed to be just the two of us. It was very deliberate. Going into the studio, we weren’t sure how we were going to execute it, but we were sure of what we wanted to hear.”
After cobbling together demos in the Oakland walk-in closet where Terra slept at the time, the core sessions for Devoted took place in St. Augustine, FL. Terra and Dani spent two weeks in the studio with Jones writing and recording the bulk of material. They finished writing the final three tracks with Omar Rodriguez Lopez (At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta) in Los Angeles. Once the songs were chosen for the record, Jones dug in on production over the next several months, communicating across the country with the duo until the album was a realized vision. “It was the first time Dani and I had ever gone into the studio as a duo,” admits Terra. “It was a pretty insane experience to go into such extreme isolation in St. Augustine. The only person we really knew was Wes. There were absolutely no distractions. We could focus while there in the beauty of St. Augustine, surrounded in isolation.”
As a result, the ten tracks comprising Devoted could be likened to gorgeously haunted transmissions from a bygone era where Portishead and Massive Attack summoned spirits via analog drum machines and battered keyboards. The first single “Ride Or Die” fuses a stark bass hum and droning synth with Terra’s ethereal and evocative delivery before building into an angelic refrain- “All I want… is a Ride Or Die.”
“I was in a place where I didn’t quite understand where my next step in life or love was going to be. I felt like a lot of my friends were feeling the exact same way. It’s the human condition of being lost, always looking for something, and hoping to find that connection whether it’s romantic, family, friendship, or just a general human touch. It’s an anthem for myself and those around me. Life can be really fucking hard. Let’s stick together.”
Meanwhile, Terra’s howl caresses an ominous sonic blanket punctuated by industrial undertones and glitch-y computer buzzing. “The word Devoted kept popping up in my head when I thought of our journey,” she goes on. “After all of the changes and hardships we had gone through, we were devoted to each other and our music. To me, it signified a theme for the entire record. I had just gotten through an incredible breakup. Instead of singing about heartbreak and loss, I wanted to transcend that and write about devotion in order to restore my faith in devotion.”
Ultimately, these Rituals are meant to be shared. “The music is created out of turmoil, and it’s genuine,” Terra leaves off. “It’s a passionate album. I want people to connect to it in a very human way and see that it’s raw. Maya Angelou said something that really connected with me. In regards to rehearsing or honing your craft, she said, ‘The process isn’t pretty, but it’s real.’ We create out of necessity. I hope that resonates and offers some solace.”