Rituals of Mine Takes Us Inside the Personal Story and Sonic Signature Behind ‘Hype Nostalgia’
Nostalgia works its way into nearly all music, whether it comes in a blatant retro rehashing or merely a sequence of notes that has proven to strike a chord. Still, the unabashed celebration of nostalgia, as a sort of muse, is less common. L.A. singer-songwriter Terra Lopez, who records under the moniker Rituals of Mine, embraces the inspirational potential of retrospection on her latest release “Hype Nostalgia.” Lopez began recording under the moniker Sister Crayon, and has evolved over the years into the singular musical persona that is Rituals of Mine. Her music is an indie mesh of comprehensive R&B instincts that combine the disarming candor of bedroom pop with the immediacy of trap, along with garnishes from various electronic genres that exist along the way.
If nostalgia is a common currency in music, it’s still hardly distilled and projected as effectively as “Hype Nostalgia.” Written after a traumatic period, following the death of two loved ones, the album traces Lopez’ eventual recovery, reflection, and resolution. It’s an album about finding ground, and taking a stance more powerful and resolute than ever before. While Lopez’ act has taken several shapes over the years, the latest record is easily her most definitive solo statement. She shuttles between foggy ruminations and hard-hitting provocations, in an album that effectively conveys the full spectrum of emotions. Lopez spoke with Entertainment Voice about her personal backstory, her unique blend of musical influences, and the theme at the core of “Hype Nostalgia.”
You began releasing music under the moniker Sister Crayon, but reinvented yourself as Rituals of Mine, and have expanded along the way, through such additions as a live drummer. How would you describe the latest iteration of your act?
For this record, it was really important to me, and for the entire project, to really focus on my story, and luckily, the team that I have was super supportive of that. While it is a solo effort, there are a lot of people behind the scenes. Rituals of Mine is a duo still, me and a live drummer, but the focus toward the record is a solo project.
Your album, “Hype Nostalgia,” finds you recharged and reanimated after a period of stagnant depression. Tells us about the basic backstory behind the album, and how you expressed it through music.
In 2015, I lost my father to suicide, and six months later, one of my best friends passed away in an accident. It was during that six month period of both of those losses that I had fallen into a depression that I had never experienced before, and I have dealt with depression my entire life, but this was just a completely different type of headspace than I had ever been in. Trying to create during that period, and trying to wrap my brain around was really difficult, and I wrote so many songs that I was not happy with. And so, the idea came to me to write an album from a pre-loss perspective — like how do I write a record acknowledging these losses and the pain that I’ve experienced, but not creating a solely dark record? I wanted to create a record that held the joy and pain, and held that duality of grief and loss, but also joy. That was the premise or idea for the album. “Hype Nostalgia” is what I came up with, which is basically I’m going to go back in time before all of this pain and loss, and write from that perspective.
“Hype Nostalgia” could refer to being “hyped,” as in excited, about ridding yourself of recent troubled memories, and returning to nostalgia. It could also, however, suggest that nostalgia is “overhyped,” and that people ought to just move forward. Which meaning did you intend?
Mmm, that’s a great question. For me, it’s more of the first one. It basically came from a Tumblr blog that I had like ten years ago, (laughs) called “Hype Nostalgic.” It was basically a personal blog of just me writing about my memories — of things that had happened, of my childhood, of years passed, because I am such a nostalgic person, to the point where I can sometimes live too much in the past, and daydream too much in the past. And so, for me, it was definitely derived from that old Tumblr blog that I had, but it also was inspired from the fact that I do feel that nostalgia inspires my work so much, because I’m the type of writer — I cannot write in the third person. I cannot write about other folks. I admire those people who can, but for me, it has to be about things I’ve experienced personally. And so, the past is such a well of creativity. It is my source for creativity. And for me, I do get really hyped (laughs) on thinking about the past, on dwelling, on daydreaming. I can spend full days just daydreaming about things that have happened, and nostalgia, while it can be painful, is very romantic to me. That’s definitely where the title derives from.
Lead single “Come Around Me” encapsulates the bold confidence running through the album, with direct lyrics like “None of this fake shit when you come around me.” Whom or what specifically is this song directed to?
(Laughs). I’m not going to name any names, but this song is definitely directed to those folks in my life that have experienced either jealousy, or just straight up sabotage in the industry, and that has happened unfortunately with peers of mine, also with a couple of label experiences. It’s really difficult being a queer woman of color in this industry. You really have to create your own space. You have to create your own circle of support. It doesn’t come easy. Nothing comes easy. So this song is directly addressing some of those people who have hurt me on purpose, or who have tried to sabotage my career on purpose. To me, the song is saying no hard feelings, but if you’re going to be around me, you need to come correct, you need to come proper, and you need to treat me with respect. It’s basically giving those in my life who have maybe fucked me over a second chance at proving themselves. I’m allowing that space. It’s not a diss track. It is just a very straightforward track, letting people know what I demand now.
Musical worlds collide in novel ways on your songs, with bedroom pop aesthetics paired with hard hip-hop / trap beats and futuristic R&B. Expand on the origins of your unique sonic signature.
I’ve always wanted to reinvent the project. I’ve never wanted to make something twice. I’ve wanted to elevate our sound with every release. Quite honestly, we love all types of music. My producers that are involved, my drummer, and myself, we really come from such genre-spanning backgrounds, and so, for me, I’ve never wanted to put myself in a box, or put the project in a box, like we have to make this one genre, because I would just get bored. What I listen to is all over the map, so I think that inspires me to create all over the map, so taking elements of electronic music, and elements of hip-hop and trip-hop and R&B and blending them altogether is really exciting. It’s fun, it’s new, it’s fresh, and it keeps me interested.
Another single, “Exception,” seems to reveal a softer side of you, through both its slow, dreamy stylings and the vulnerability in the lyrics. What did you seek to express in this song?
That was one of the first songs that we made for the record, and it was such a wild card sonically, because it didn’t sound like anything else that we had made before, and it doesn’t sound like anything else on the record, and it was a little scary because of that. But it’s probably my favorite song we’ve ever made because it’s so vulnerable. The vocals are just kind of sore, and the message is really vulnerable. It’s me admitting to the friendships that I lost, I played a part in that as well. The whole chorus, “Take all of my pride, and throw it out,” is admitting that fault, and you don’t really hear that too often. For me, it was sometimes hard to say outside of music, so with this song, I was able to articulate that sentiment. This song, I wrote it in my bedroom, and it definitely feels like a lo fi, bedroom, indie pop song. That was kind of what we were going for, and it came out better than I had hoped.
“Free Throw” is an epic track, with a hard-hitting beat, heavy bass, and you sound like you have even more swag than usual. Rapper KRIS also contributes a verse, and takes it over the top. How did your collaboration come together, and how was the experience?
(Laughs). That song was the last song that we wrote for the record. I wanted to work with KRIS, who has been one of my best friends for years. I really admire her work with King Woman and all of her various projects. We just finally made it happen, and it was so much fun working in the studio together. Everytime that we get together, we would talk about our experiences of being queer or women of color in the industry, and share these same situations that we were dealing with, and so we decided to write a song about it. It just came very naturally. It happened pretty fast. Working in the studio with her was so fun because we’re so different. I’m very calm and focused in the studio. She’s kind of manic and all over the place in the studio, and we just kind of balanced each other out. It was a song where I could explore the lower register of my voice, which is something I feel I’ve wanted to for such a long time, but was so afraid to, for many different reasons. So, this song allowed me that space.
On songs like “Reflex” and “Omen,” your singing nods to various eras of R&B, while the production shifts between lo-fi and hi-fi finishes in a way that sounds retro futuristic. Where do you place the sound of your music on a timeline?
Ooh, for this new record, I worked with my longtime producer Wes Jones, but we also enlisted this incredible, young producer named Dev the Goon. He just turned 21, so when we started working together, he was 19, and I think having his insight and input along with ours just really helps round out the sound that I was looking for, which is Wes throwing in the hardness and the heaviness and the electronic side, and Dev throws in the R&B and trap elements that I’ve been really wanting to explore with my voice. I think, on a timeline, having the three of us work together really helped satisfy all of these different areas of music that I wanted to explore. I grew up on R&B. Some of my favorite artists, Aaliyah, Brandy, I’m obsessed with their harmonies, and I learned how to sing through singing their songs growing up. And so, it really is paying homage to those artists, while trying to create R&B in a new way, and not replicate, but truly try to blend electronic and R&B together.
As people worldwide collectively grit their teeth, waiting to find some form of relief from Covid-19, the resilience at the core of “Hype Nostalgia” seems especially inspiring. How has your particular Covid experience been, and how are you going about promoting your album at a time like this?
This record has saved me. Having a record to focus on, and videos to focus on, and these songs to focus on have really helped keep me sane and keep me hopeful during a time like this, where it just seems like every single day, there is more bad news. So I think this album is resilient in the way that it kept me going throughout all of these years. Prior to Covid, all of this loss, it was what got me out of bed in the morning. Finishing these songs is what kept me inspired and motivated to wake up and do the work, even if I didn’t feel like it mentally, or even if I couldn’t emotionally. It gave me a channel to focus and put all of these complex feelings in, and it’s done the same thing for me during Covid. Even though the album was finished, it gave me the headspace to then focus and put my energies on all of the visual content, and promoting the content, and getting the music out there, and seeing that it’s resonating for people, and doing what it did for me, for them, and being this safe space. Some of these anthems are helping them with their own emotions and processing their own traumas and what not. For me the record is truly successful because of that. That is more than I could have hoped. You always hope people will listen to your work, but you never know how people are going to receive it, or if they’ll even listen, so the fact that people are responding to it, and it’s not even out yet, is just more than we could have hoped for.
“Hype Nostalgia” releases Sept. 25 on Apple Music.