Ritual of Mine’s Terra Lopez on music and cat calling
SINGER PUTS MEN IN WOMEN’S SHOES
It is not often that people are born knowing what they want to do with their lives, what they feel passionate about, and how they want to impact the world, but if nothing else, Terra Lopez has always been a musician.
Lopez has been singing since she was a child. She often holed up in her bedroom and lost entire afternoons to singing. This painfully shy young girl would host secret performances using her stuffed animals as her audience and her hairbrush as a microphone. Perhaps it is Lopez’s literally unceasing passion for music and singing that has made her own vocal prowess so phenomenally impressive and so rare. The Los Angeles-based artist and musician is the lead vocalist of Rituals of Mine (formerly known as Sister Crayon). Her emphatic voice and the band’s intoxicating beat work, produced by Dani Fernandez, earned them a spot on Warner Bros. Records last year.
As a teenager, Lopez arduously studied the vocal styles of Jeff Buckley, Billie Holiday, and Fiona Apple before finally joining local bands in her late teens and early 20s. She performed relentlessly, establishing her confidence as a musician, which soon led to Rituals of Mine.
“It’s been a lifelong process, learning, crafting, and performing,” Lopez said. “I’m still learning and I don’t think I’ve even tapped into what I really want to do as a singer, not yet.”
Lopez knew in order to produce the music she truly wanted to create, she would have to work on her own project. In 2007-08, Sister Crayon began as Lopez’s solo project, with Fernandez contributing her beat work shortly after its inception. Since 2010, the duo has toured and released music under Sister Crayon and more recently Rituals of Mine, touring with bands like The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, and Le Butcherettes, among many others. The duo has garnered acclaim from Pitchfork, The Fader, BBC, and Rolling Stone for their ethereal trip-hop and cathartic vocals that could move the stoniest souls to tears.
Rituals of Mine is the latest incarnation of Lopez’s, a vessel for her to explore the truly addicting feeling that music offered—the passion and adrenaline of performance and the inherent draw to sing.
“It never felt like a choice. It felt like I had to do this, as if life wouldn’t be complete without creating or performing,” Lopez said. “I’ve never questioned it that much because I feel so pulled to do it.”
In an increasingly tense societal and political atmosphere, it is natural to see musicians using their craft to incite change. Lopez isn’t just one to muse about what she only wants to do; when she has an idea that can be realized, she will strive to bring it to life.
“I want to make music that makes people feel, heal, and helps inspire,” Lopez said. “I also am a ruthless bitch when it comes to things that I believe in, so music, politics, and social issues go hand in hand with me.”
In February of 2017, Lopez sat in her partner’s book club, where a group of around 20 women spoke about their experiences with sexual harassment. They shared their fears about simply being in their own neighborhoods, work environments, and school settings. Lopez was shocked. Although she too has experienced her share of cat calling and sexual harassment, it seemed to hit harder when she saw it happening to the people she cared about.
“The determination to change shit is so punk and beautiful to me,” Lopez said. “It’s an us versus them attitude that I absolutely display in our work.”
Lopez is unique in the sense that she isn’t just a dreamer, but a dynamo of pure ambitious energy. When Lopez recognizes that there is a problem, she immediately begins to think about how she can fix it. Lopez saw that women were living significantly different lives than men. Women were constantly forced to think about their safety or plan potential escape routes on the way to work or school. Ultimately, Lopez concluded that women are constantly on the defense.
Constructed from the female experience, from cat calls to more extreme forms of sexual harassment, Lopez conceptualized and built an art exhibit that demonstrates what it feels like to be a woman in the midst of being cat called. Aptly titled, “This Is What It Feels Like,” the interactive art exhibit, solely reliant on audio, provides an experience in which patrons walk through a dimly-lit hallway, followed by the sound of men cat calling them. The degree in the scathing aggression in the men’s voices escalates as the participants move through the exhibit.
“I wanted to put men in our shoes and place them in a vulnerable position because I truly feel that if men could understand that first, and how it truly feels to be a woman in today’s society, it might resonate with them and make them think about the culture and their actions,” Lopez said. “I am not trying to berate men, but I am trying to be straight up and blunt with them. We aren’t holding anything back with them because we need men to understand the problem and scope of the problem in its entirety.”
Lopez describes the response to the exhibit as fascinating and deeply encouraging. Men came out of the exhibit in tears, some asking Lopez herself how they can help change the behavior of their male friends or even themselves, and many men admitted that they had no idea that this was what women went through on a daily basis. Some of these men were not even aware of what a cat call was.
Lopez plans on investing even more time into this project this upcoming year, bringing it to more cities in an effort to educate anyone and everyone.
The artist’s statement read at the beginning of the exhibit expresses that this piece is an examination into the patriarchal society and the ways in which women are oppressed and demeaned in everyday life. Although men and women alike are welcome to the exhibit, Lopez explicitly states that it is intended for men, so they can experience exactly what it feels like.
For others who want to get involved with social activism or music, Lopez says this: “Just do it. Don’t over think it. Go with your passion and just do it,” Lopez said. “It will be hard. It will always be a labor of love but what else will you do with your life?”