Commemorating the official release of their ‘SLEEPER HOLD’ EP, Sacramento’s Rituals of Mine took over Harlow’s Nightclub on Saturday night. As part of their first official headlining tour, Terra Lopez and Adam Pierce’s live presentation of the “emotionally dense” project served as an enchanting precursor to a much-anticipated full-length album coming in 2020.
Following a successful tour in support of the band Garbage last Fall, Rituals of Mine have stepped out from the supporting role to see how strong their own foundation and dedication has grown thus far. With recent positive feedback throughout the Pacific Northwest, it would appear Lopez, who has long used her voice to speak up for the many faces of despair, is beginning to see the direct influence her music has produced.
“There was a huge queer presence in the crowd, which is really awesome,” said Lopez over the phone last week. “There were people singing along to these tracks that have only been out for like, one of the songs “Heavyweight,” people were singing along to and the track has only been out for a couple of weeks, so it was really cool to see. People knew every single word and were singing along, which is wild, and not just the one song but to the entire set.”
While Lopez was referring to a memorable performance in Portland from late September, the description could have easily fit Saturday’s performance in Sacramento. From the top of the set to the final seconds of showtime, there was no escaping the thunderous loom of Rituals’ live sound and emotions. The show is certainly not for the faint of heart—a compliment to Pierce’s furious drums immersed within the purity of Lopez’s voice.
In performing all three songs from the ‘SLEEPER HOLD’ EP, Lopez could be seen tapping into a deep emotional state. Since the release of Rituals’ debut album ‘Devoted’ in 2016, Lopez has gone through tremendous personal strife, which brought forward a necessary period of grief, recovery and self-exploration.
“For a whole good year I felt like I had completely lost my voice,” said Lopez. “I didn’t even really express this to anyone in my life, but internally I was really suffering with identity and suffering with, you know, just trying to figure out what my voice even sounded like anymore after losing my father in 2015. And then one of my best friends in 2016. I didn’t realize how much grief affects the physical body, along with you mentally, and so it was during that time that I was trying to write new songs and new material and I was just feeling completely stuck, I just couldn’t. I had so many emotions and so many things that I knew I needed to say, but when it came down to actually sitting down and trying to express any of it, it just felt completely overwhelming and so I just couldn’t put anything to paper.”
Eventually, the aptly titled “Heavyweight” from the ’SLEEPER HOLD’ EP would come to fruition and kick start the next chapter for Rituals of Mine.
“That song is strictly about how grief and trauma affect you physically, more so than mentally,” said Lopez. “Writing the EP really helped me throughout that grieving process and kind of gave me purpose in days when I didn’t really feel like I had any, and so, I really clung to those songs in those moments. The LP will have a lot of that expression as well.”
While the sentiments are definitely felt throughout the new EP, the live version has a life of its own, just as much as Rituals of Mine has come to project a life of its own between Lopez and Pierce.
“I feel like the project is where I’d always hoped it would be,” said Lopez. “There’s just this effortless work ethic that we both share, and the vision that I have, I feel fully supported by [him] and also by the team that I have around me. So, it’s definitely just this incredible relationship where we take the songs, you know, I work on the songs in the studio with Wes [Jones], who I feel is part of the tour from the recording aspect, and then I take them to Adam and Adam completely transcends and takes the songs to a whole other level live, which is what I kind of always hoped for.”
In conversation, Lopez often refers to Rituals of Mine as a project more than an entity, which makes sense once you realize the many projects she has nurtured into fruition, such as “This Is What It Feels Like”—an art installation Lopez started in 2017, which demonstrates the pervasive experience women often feel on the receiving end of unsolicited catcalling. With a variety of notable invitations to present the exhibit throughout the country, Lopez plans to take TIWIFL to a whole new audience in 2020, just as much as her music.
“I’ve always wanted to express myself in various mediums,” said Lopez. “I’m a very restless person and so I think I could get bored really quickly, and also, there’s so much I want to do in this short life that I have. For me, it’s all about how can I create and express every single day? I never thought music was going to be the only medium that I would have. I didn’t necessarily know what others I would have, but I’ve always just been very curious about creativity and productivity and how those two go hand-in-hand. It allows me to really dive into my advocacy, which I’ve always been super passionate about, and while Rituals does allow that, TIWIFL is a very direct form of advocacy that allows me to kind of express that side of myself.”
Before going into the final song of Saturday’s performance, 2016’s “Ride or Die,” Lopez would take a moment to appreciate the time she spent living inside an Oakland closet and the many years of support that brought her to this moment in time—free to delve into her emotions without fear of expression.
“This is truly only the beginning and I mean that,” said Lopez. “I ain’t done being sentimental.”
Photos by Cesar Alexander