When musician Terra Lopez was 11 years old, she told her father she wanted to reinvent herself every day. Having lost her father as well as her best friend in 2015 and 2016, respectively, Lopez has been healing through reinvention. Formerly in a project named Sister Crayon, she’s chosen the new moniker Rituals of Mine. The first Rituals of Mine LP, Hype Nostalgia, employs R&B and dark synths to explore loss and reexamination of the past. Meanwhile, the layered, manipulated vocals mirror Lopez’s search for identity through her trauma.
“Reinvention can create such resilience, and while it was important to continue to make music, doing it under a different name was symbolic,” Lopez says by phone from her LA home. “It was a brand new name so no one could tell me what it could and could not be. This album is a complete departure from anything we’ve done, and I’m already looking to create work that’s completely different from this,” she adds.
Whatever direction Lopez’s music takes, connecting with others is always top priority, and she’s succeeding. “One of the most profound experiences I’ve had is a dad who came up to me in Boston and said ‘Thank you so much for talking about how losing your dad to suicide has affected you. It’s made me realize I could never do that to my children.’ As uncomfortable as it may be to be vulnerable, I have to be, if it helps people get through, that’s why I do this,” she says.
The musician has always been open about the pain of this loss, but she is equally ready to share what helps her get through it. A big part of her trauma recovery has been doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a practice that helps PTSD patients desensitize traumatic memories. “The only way to get through grief is to work through it and not around it. EMDR has truly helped me unlock these different parts of my mind,” Lopez says, adding that she was reluctant to try it and only did “because nothing else was working, and it was crazy to me how immediate I felt the results. Mental health and therapy excite me, and it’s something I avoided for a long time.”
Possessing boundless creativity and adroitness at cultivating community help, no doubt. In addition to her new album, she’s launched a new podcast called Hype Nostalgia TV. Teaming up with drummer Adam Pierce, the two sought a way to connect with fans after COVID-19 forced them to cancel tour dates and landed on the idea of a visual podcast. The episodes feature guests like Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara) talking about their high school bedrooms and other ways their past has shaped them. The themes of the podcast often dovetail nicely with the ways in which the Hype Nostalgia album plumbs the trajectory of Lopez’s own history.
“Trauma could never figure me out/Maybe it’s in my blood, maybe it’s yours now,” Lopez sings on “Trauma.” She’s singing about her family, but Lopez is also invested in cultural legacies like sexism and racism. One night she had the idea to make an interactive art installation about street harassment. She jotted her idea down on a napkin, not knowing This Is What It Feels Like would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, including the state capitol in Sacramento and a dozen Canadian cities. “When I first started it, it was supposed to be a one-off. Huffington Post covered it and then Los Angeles Times covered it and from there it got so big. We were in a Dove commercial! I I’ve even been asked if I would run for office. I’m going to look into it,” says Lopez, who isn’t finished with the exhibit. Instead, she hopes to make variations to discuss other forms of discrimination, though that’s all on hold due to COVID.
Much like in her music, Lopez’s approachability and vulnerability help others open up to her. She’s been especially surprised at how disarmed many men have been by the installation. “I’ve had men break down in tears. I’ve had men apologize. I’ve had men sit down and want to tell me all the times they harassed women and how this exhibit has opened their eyes. It’s been remarkable and unexpected,” she says, clearly invigorated by the response she’s gotten.
For Lopez, music and installations and podcasting and politics are all new avenues for connection. While many artists are afraid to stray too far from their main field, Lopez thrives on it. Undaunted by trying new things, she’s elevated the daily process of reinvention into something more like art.