When I tell people about Rituals of Mine I always feel like my description falls flat. The music is incredibly emotive but you will never truly experience how deeply tactile the group’s music is until you have seen a live show. Beautifully haunting vocals and powerfully potent stage presence backed by a live drummer and deep cutting production. Formerly known as Sister Crayon, Rituals of Mine stopped in Seattle along their tour with Garbage and we were able to chill with vocalist, Terra Lopez and her lovely partner Kelsie backstage.
As a queer woman of color Terra opened up about the adversities that she has faced and still faces within the music industry, getting honest with herself about mental health and what the turning point was for her to seek professional help, starting her own label [Join the Bitchwave!], her incredible art installation This Is What It Feels Like, and a whole lot more.
RIZE Entertainment: Your live shows are an extremely emotional experience. It is obvious that you fully immerse mind body and soul. In August you found out that you put a whole in your ankle? Can you tell me about that?
Terra Lopez: From the last tour, I fell on stage, it was like the second or third show and we had 30 shows to go and of course it happened right at the start of the tour so I’ve just had a swollen ankle for four or five months, so hopefully it gets better. I had no idea but I felt pretty redeemed because before I went to the specialist, I went to three different doctors who were like you’re fine, and I’m like no.
RIZE: The music industry has largely shut out queer woc, and you have been vocal about this. As a face and voice for the minority can you share some of the roadblocks you have experienced because of your identity in this industry and how you have overcome them.
Terra: I mean, I definitely have and it’s usually in micro ways, where I don’t realize it until I step back and I’m like, oh yeah I guess guys don’t get asked this question. I just feel that I’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s been so many instances where I’ve either felt treated differently either because I’m a woman or because I’m brown or because I’m queer and I feel like as a person of color in this industry you have to really work so much harder than your white counterparts.
I see it every day and it’s really difficult to not let that get to me and get in my head because I legit feel like I have to work at least three times harder than even a white woman, you know. It’s definitely something that my friends and I talk about a lot and not even in the music industry but just in all creative fields, we definitely feel like we have to prove ourselves before we even step up to the plate. So it’s exhausting.
Definitely the day to day stuff where it’s like you see these opportunities completely bypass you and you see other people who maybe aren’t as qualified get them and that happens every day, I see that happen every day. Feel free to chime in [looks to Kelsie] cause I’m constantly telling you, complaining to you about stuff, I might be forgetting.
Kelsie: You’re experiences with bigger record labels being like, oh if you’re a woman over the age of 28 you can’t be in this industry
Terra: Yeah, that’s true. Thanks, that’s a big one.
Kelsie: … to lie about your age.
Terra: Yeah. Working with major labels I’ve been … the first label that came to me when I was 18 wanted me to sing only in Spanish because of my last name and I don’t even know Spanish so I was like that can’t happen. Why, why can’t I sing how I sing? So that was really weird and they legit told me well you’re a brown woman so we want you to do this. This is how you’re gonna sell, you’re not gonna sell anything otherwise.
Or if you’re a woman in this industry you have a shelf life and if you’re a queer woman don’t even think about it. Coming out as a queer person I’ve had labels tell me will drastically cut your fan base in half. It’s just crazy all of the stresses that we as minority people have to deal with on a day to day. It’s insane how much more we have to carry on our backs. And to try to create art with all of that piling on top of you, can get pretty heavy sometimes.
RIZE: So you leaked some exciting news about your my GF producing a song you wrote for a tv show on Twitter. Can you tell me more about that? Is producing something your GF has done before? If not what inspired the collaboration? What was the show?
Terra: Oh yeah. So random, but I started working with this composer, Tyler Bates, on some music. He’s a very well known film composer, so he asked me to write some creepy stuff for The Purge TV show. I was like, “Sure.” So we went into the studio that we own and I just asked her. It was the first time that we kind of worked on a song together and it was really fun. They ended up using it so it was good.
For Ritual stuff, I absolutely can’t really collaborate but when it’s something like that I find it to be so fun, cause it’s like a character almost, that wasn’t me singing that was the character that we build. It was cool.
RIZE To Kelsie: So is producing something that you’ve done before?
Terra: I feel like you act like you don’t know what you’re doing but she totally was like, “Nope you need to do this, this doesn’t sound good.”
Kelsie: I used to play music but it was so long ago that I felt really removed from it but then sometimes I’ll be like, well what if you do this? And then I’m like, wait maybe I know more than I let myself think.
RIZE: There is no question that you music videos have always been very cinematic. You have mentioned wanting to write a film. Can you tell me more about that? What kind of film? Have you had any say in the making of your music videos? And if you were to write a film, what would that look like?
Terra: With the music videos, I’m not a visual person normally but I definitely know that themes or mood is a really big thing for me, so I’ll go to a director and tell them this is a sketch of an idea that I have and then we’ll kinda collaborate and work on it, build it from there, and I’ll tell them, “Here’s what I’d like, make it happen cause I don’t know how to make that happen.” They usually are able to do that, so …
It’s kinda weird, I wanna do so much, I feel like music is such a great outlet for me but it’s not the end all be all for me and I want to be able to express myself in all of the ways that I can, while I’m here. A film that I really want to do is basically, loosely based on my past three years of my life. I’ve dealt with a lot of grief and a lot of loss and so it would be this dark comedy about a woman trying to process grief and what that looks like in today’s society. How society views grief, but it would be a dark comedy so it wouldn’t be super heavy but it would deal with some heavy shit.
RIZE: During the havoc that the “zero tolerance” policy created that separated over 2500 kids from their families you tweeted, “We have to do something. This can’t keep happening. We have to riot in the streets until this fucked up system changes.” I couldn’t agree more. What do you say to those who would respond with “Violence isn’t the answer.” and why do you think that through everything that this administration has thrown at Americans there has yet to be a massive movement?
Terra: We talk about this all the time. I think something’s gotta give. Especially with this administration, it’s insane. I’ve always been a non-violent person and in a lot of instances I still am but I feel like I’ve also looked back into history and really sided with groups that necessarily, maybe weren’t violent but set off bombs in abandoned buildings, like government buildings to make a statement. I think that, I think that we have to do more than what we’re doing now, obviously. And it’s wild to me that we aren’t rioting in the streets. We talk about this all the time… [Looks to Kelsie]
Kelsie: There’s a level of comfortability that I think a lot of people have in the 21st century, where it’s like you feel like you post on social media and that’s enough. Whereas people didn’t have those luxuries throughout history and you look at successful revolutions and people are out on streets doing things because … I don’t know, there’s a lot of privilege amongst the people who are upset about things right now and with that comes comfortability so it’s enough to tweet something and then go to sleep in your house.
Terra: And then that’s it. I feel like it’s everyone’s duty to do something within their realm, whether it’s with art or education or whatever you do, I feel like you absolutely have to stand and fight for something. It just seems like every single day we’re just piled on with more and more stuff. That’s really been on my mind lately, like what more can I do as a person that has some kind of platform. What does that look like? What does that mean? And I’m still trying to figure out what more we can do than our exhibits or … there’s so much.
What more? I’m all for the protests and I mean I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager, protesting in the streets, and I just feel like that has to be something that happens every day, at this point. Because I feel like the more that you fuck with people’s money or business, that’s where you’re actually gonna see change, so we see that throughout history where there’s boycotts of some sort and then it becomes this undeniable problem for the other guys. So I’m hoping that we can do something in that realm.
RIZE: You have been open about dealing with your manic depression and how difficult it was for you to come to terms with even seeing a professional about it because of the stigma about mental illness. Do you have any words of encouragement for those who might be reading this and going through that same cycle? What was the turning point for you to finally come to terms with your illness and face it?
Terra: For me growing up in a Mexican family in a poor neighborhood, you never talked about mental health. Like that was a fake thing and you were considered weak or it was the worst thing to admit that you were struggling and so I grew up with that stigma, I think a lot of us grew up with that but especially in those kinds of communities it just wasn’t something that I ever felt was an actual valid thing.
I questioned how I was feeling my entire life and so I lost my father to suicide three years ago and that really put everything into perspective, where I was like, “That can’t happen to me and that can’t happen to anyone in my life”, so that was around the time… even then I still struggled with … Our healthcare system makes everything so difficult and so even if you have health insurance, finding a therapist can be real work and when you’re struggling with depression, even more work just seems like an impossible task.
So finally, last November actually was when I went to see a doctor and started medication and it’s completely changed my life. It hasn’t fixed everything but it’s at least made everything more possible and it’s gotten me to place where I can actually experience joy again and feel like I’m deserving of joy so I think I would just try to encourage people to really talk about mental health with your friends. Me and the guys in the band, we check in with each other every single day now, “How are you feeling?” and not the surface, like, “How are you really feeling today?” Check in with your friends and be unafraid to go there.
RIZE: You have spoken out about the value [or lack of] our society holds in art and artists, making it hard for artists to get by and continue to create. Considering the length of your career do you see this shifting at all and if not what do you think needs to change?
Terra: It’s something that I’ve actually been thinking about a lot because you would hope that it would shift but I see and still hear my friend’s struggling. Friends that are successful in my eyes, aren’t able to pay the bills all the time, or they have to be on the road constantly in order to pay the bills and it’s a very difficult thing. I feel like we still live in a society that wants art but doesn’t want to support artists.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been laughed at growing up when I told people what I did. They’re like no, no, no, what do you really do for a job? And I’ve always had jobs, I even work right now still. I feel like if you’re an artist you have to be good at hustling and working three – four jobs just to be able to do your passion and create what you really wanna do and so I certainly hope that we start to see more cities providing resources, like it’s pretty cool in my hometown, there’s this low income housing for artists.
I would love every city to have that and more of it, so that we can actually support our artists so that they can keep creating because I think the saddest thing is when people can’t use their talents to express themselves. That’s like my worst fear, so I don’t know it seems pretty bleak.
RIZE: You posted about Audre Lorde’s, Zami. What other book have been on your reading list this year?
Terra: I’ve been reading a whole lot lately and it’s been so dope. I feel the most complete when I’m reading. I’m reading right now this book called, Amateur and it’s incredible. It’s about this trans man basically examining toxic masculinity and what it means to be a man and he goes undercover and starts to box and he discovers himself through this long experience of fighting amongst other men. And that’s been just such an incredible book.
So Much Blues has been … that book is incredible, so important. Again, I really just wanted to, as a queer person I want to understand and really put value on all of the gender spectrums and that’s so important to me.
Your Art Will Save Your Life, also written by a queer woman, Beth Pickens. That book is really rad because it talks about … it’s written for artists, directly to artists kind of about all of the worries and insecurities and fears that artists face. And she’s actually an artist therapist which I didn’t even know existed and it’s just really incredible. I think everyone should read it. Just perfect with guiding you through all of those self doubts that we all face.
RIZE: For those who don’t know can you tell me about Bitchwave and what you hope for the future of the label?
Terra: Yeah. So I was on Warner Bros. And we left Warner Bros. and after that experience, which we’re super grateful for, I realized I want to do things my way. I wanna have fun with this and I don’t wanna have to compromise in any way. So Bitchwave was really a venture with one of my best friends and we decided that we want to not only put out our music and create a community and a culture that supports other artists but we really want to not have to depend on anyone else.
Yeah it’s gonna take a lot of work but I feel like that’s one of the ways in which it’s still growing. It’s one of the ways in which I wanna really try to change the culture of how we treat artists and what labels expect of artists right now I think is ridiculous. That’s our goal, just to really support artists, queer artists, artists of color, women. We’re just trying to create something that … just create space, I feel like I wanna create space for us.
Whether it is through her music, her social media platforms, her art installation, THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE, her work with the #LOVELOUD campaign that benefits LGBTQ youth or her new label Bitchwave— each is done with every intention of creating a more just, inclusive future. Terra Lopez’ is a great representation of true intersectional advocacy during a time when America desperately needs as many voices shouting for change as possible. Support inspirational people, support incredible musicians, support Rituals of Mine and join the Bitchwave.