We’ve been huge fans of Oakland, CA based duo Sister Crayon for several years now. These talented ladies continue to inspire us with every new release and with their dedication to making beautiful and honest music.
We talked to Terra Lopez of Sister Crayon about their latest album, her inspiration, life, and what it was like working with Omar Rodriguez Lopez.
iamnotamusician: Your new LP “Devoted” is pretty different from your previous work. I would say it’s darker and heavier, both musically and lyrically. Was it something you planned on or was it something that happened naturally?
Terra Lopez (TL): “Devoted” was an album that Dani and I had been envisioning for quite some time. We knew exactly what we wanted to focus on this time around, and that was beats and vocals. We wanted to strip away the filler, the textures and really center on deep bass, beats and use that as a platform to showcase the vocals. As far as the darker content, I was in such a headspace of heartbreak that I really clung to these songs in order to get through the day. I didn’t have a choice when it came to writing these songs. I didn’t think twice. It all just developed organically that way.
iamnotamusician: Can we talk about the album title for a bit? Devoted! Why this tittle?
TL: We viewed this album as a means of restoring devotion to ourselves, to music yes but more so to who we are as people and to one another. I feel like this album was created as an act to restore devotion. In the beginning of recording and during the making of the album, I felt like I had none. I was so cynical about love, about the act of devotion and what that even meant. It was only through working it out all in the songs that I was able to restore any kind of faith.
iamnotamusician: It’s hard not to notice how your songs are filled with heartache and frustration, is it something that moves you creatively? Do buy into that whole struggling artist thing?
TL: I certainly struggle and I have no problem admitting it. I think most of us do. Maybe in very different ways but I think most humans can relate to struggling, to heartache, to frustration. Not to sound too dramatic or anything, I do feel that I was born with some kind of immediate heartache. At a very young age, I experienced loss and discovered what true longing felt like. I’ve lived my entire life with that inside me from my childhood experiences so I certainly delve into those experiences to create. I mean, I think that’s why I started creating in the first place so long ago. I needed to work out that shit that was troubling me and music became that platform, that savior.
iamnotamusician: Do you think you would be able to write the same music if you were more satisfied with life?
TL: This is a funny question. I like this question a lot. I know that it may seem misleading if I were to say that I am normally a very positive person because of the dark nature of the music I make, but it’s true. Despite the shit I am working through, I tend to have a positive outlook on life. I have to. Always have. I believe in promoting positivity. I believe that the energy we put out comes back to us. That being said, I’ve had a tough life. Not to be a martyr but shit has never been easy so I’m sure I write music because of that. I don’t think I would make the same music if life had been easy for me or if I did not have the experiences I’ve had. I only write music when I’m going through something, when I’m feeling heavy. I don’t write happy music. I don’t write depressing shit either. I guess, I just write about what I need to in the moment.
iamnotamusician: How did you meet Dani and why did you decide to make music together? What do you think bonds you two, besides the obvious love for music?
TL: Dani and I met years ago and we fell in love as we sat on my bedroom floor and I introduced her to the MPC. She immediately clicked with the music that I had been wanting to do and there was an undeniable connection. She is one of my best friends, my sister. I think that we just get life. We have been through so much together and individually that besides our taste in music, I think that we value the same things and want the same things out of life. It makes it very easy to create with her on many levels due to that.
iamnotamusician: How did you start working with Rodriguez Lopez Productions and how does it feel to work with someone so completely dedicated to music and so talented?
TL: Omar reached out to us after we had toured with his project, Bosnian Rainbows in 2013. It was a beautiful tour- so inspiring to watch those guys and Teri kill it every night. We really look up to them so it was incredible to have them notice us and like what we were doing. Omar asked if he could help co-produce the album and we said yes, of course. We worked with him on a couple sessions in LA and with the help of Wes Jones (our producer) and him, we all created “Devoted”. It was a surreal experience, having him there in the studio with us and creating with us. He is not only a mentor but a friend now and it inspires me daily.
iamnotamusician: Do you ever feel that once you write about a deeply personal experience, you automatically created a distance and partially removed yourself from that experience, perhaps making it less painful?
TL: I’m not sure. I certainly think that writing about an experience helps work through emotions regarding that experience but I’m not sure if it creates a distance for me. I can dissect and analyze about an experience, sure but I think it’s just there still, sticking to the ribs.
iamnotamusician: Do you have any formal vocal training?
TL: I took a couple lessons briefly one Summer years ago but no, no real formal training. Just a lot of laying on my back, staring at the ceiling studying Fiona Apple, Jeff Buckley and Ella Fitzgareld.
iamnotamusician: We saw you opening for Bosnian Rainbows at Bowery Ballroom, here in New York City, a couple of years ago, and what really did it for us was your raw energy. You really gave it your all and for me personally, that’s something I cherish and respect the most in a live performance. What do you feel when you are up there putting your soul out in front of hundreds people? How do you feel after the show is over?
TL: I feel absolutely exhausted after shows. Performing is my all-time favorite part of this and I am so grateful I get to perform and express myself in this way. It takes a lot out of me. It’s a very spiritual, full bodied experience for me, so I come out after shows, beat up and fucked up. Bruises, bleeding (not too often but it happens) dehydrated. It’s emotional but I think it’s supposed to be.
iamnotamusician: How is performing in New York City different from performing in your hometown Sacramento?
TL: There’s nothing like performing in our hometown. I think most can say that but New York is beautiful. The energy and excitement of that city permeates and is very present in a venue. I love it. It’s thrilling.
iamnotamusician: And speaking of Sacramento, there have been some amazing musicians coming out of there, does living in Sacramento influence you as an artist on any level?
TL: We live in Oakland now and have for a few years but Sacramento absolutely influenced us and what we did for sure. I think there is a natural grit to that city- a hustle that not too many speak about. It’s almost like you work harder to prove yourself because people don’t tend to take Sacramento seriously. I will always love that city because it allowed me time and the space to cultivate the sound and craft the sound and ideas over the years.
iamnotamusician: Where does your admiration for Aaliyah come from and how were you introduced to her music? Did you end up finding Aaliyah t-shirt while you were in New York?
TL: Aaliyah has always been a huge influence. My mother bought me her “One in a Million” album when I was in the 4th grade and I listened to it everyday until I literally burned a hole in it. Literally. I feel like she was the first artist that I thought was “cool”. She was beautiful, sexy and still a tomboy who could sing like no one else. I’ve always loved that. I worship that woman and probably always will.
My friend surprised me in Chicago with a custom made Aaliyah shirt in gold. I cried.
iamnotamusician: What are you currently reading?
TL: Currently reading “The History of Love” and re-reading “It Chooses You” by Miranda July.
iamnotamusician: What is your biggest inspiration right now?
TL: How fucking stressful life is. I’ve had moments of freaking out but now I’m trying to just embrace it head on.
iamnotamusician: What’s next for Sister Crayon?
TL: We will be playing some dates in CA to support the release of our record. We will be playing Low End Theory Festival in Aug with dates in July in Los Angeles, SF, and Sacramento.
Sister Crayon’s latest LP “Devoted” is out now and it’s a gem.