Terra Lopez of Rituals Of Mine
Photo: Jeffrey LaTour
Rituals Of Mine's Terra Lopez On The Grief & Growth Behind 'Hype Nostalgia'
Terra Lopez—the mastermind behind the thoughtful R&B project Rituals of Mine—is familiar with grief. When she was five and her brother was four, the two almost died in a garage fire. "I always think back about that," she shares over the phone on a peaceful Wednesday afternoon, "because it was literally a split moment where if I didn’t wake up in time, we would’ve died."
She is not afraid of her past, though; she’s well-acquainted with nostalgia, so much so that she thinks it’s the meaning of life. She loves to reminisce, because "that’s when I really learn about what matters, what connects, and what I have gained or lost in life," she explains.
Her forthcoming album Hype Nostalgia, whose title came from her old Tumblr blog, follows a timeline that begins all the way at her childhood and ends in present time. And a lot happened in between, including the recent deaths of her father and her best friend.
Hype Nostalgia arrives Sept. 25 via Carpark Records, and Lopez and her bandmate Adam Pierce have launched a podcast called "Hype Nostalgia TV." They interview their favorite artists—from Tegan & Sara to the Deftones—about what nostalgia means to them.
Read our interview with Lopez about her experience with grief, her desire for resiliency, and her healing process.
The press release for this album obviously caught my eye—especially with the first line: If you could recreate a time before you experienced the most extreme grief of your life, would you do it? I thought this idea of mapping out your trauma was interesting. How did you come up with this, and what was the process like?
While recording this album, I experienced two really extreme losses. My father died by suicide, and six months later my best friend drowned. I was just engulfed in this grief that I had never experienced before; this level of grief was really traumatizing. For a while, I lost my voice due to it. I didn’t want to create a sad record, though. I was very aware that I was feeling sadness. So, how do you create an album that’s the complete opposite of that—or that’s not just that?
I really had to get into this mode of thinking of like, Okay, let me go back in time. Let me think about: How was I before all of this trauma happened? What did life feel like? What was I inspired by? This concept of pre-loss was something that I became really fixated on. I was [previously] fixated on how I was feeling post-trauma. I really wanted to flip the idea of that and think about how I could create from a source of pre-loss.
Where did you get that instinct to not make a sad record?
The first few songs that I wrote were so heavy and so sad. I guess I wanted to create a resiliency. Not to say that a sad record isn’t resilient, but, for me, I wanted to create something that was a bit more comprehensive. During all of these sad events that had happened, I was also experiencing such a duality. I was also experiencing joy. I was experiencing good days and moments, along with the sadness. I wanted to create an album that could hold both evenly—both joy and pain. That was something that—right from the start—I knew.
Do you think that joy was a gratitude?
Absolutely. Especially within the first year of all of that, I was very aware of life and the fragility of it and of those in my life. I wanted to make sure that I expressed myself and my love for all of [them] and just living every single day to the fullest I could because I had been near death in such extreme ways. I definitely felt [grateful], and very aware of time and how short [life] is.
As a result of your trauma, you didn’t sing for a year. What was that like?
It was really scary, honestly. It wasn’t until after my experience that I learned that trauma can actually affect your body and can affect your voice in different ways. But I was so inside my head that I truly [freaked] myself out and felt like I couldn’t sing any longer. It was a very isolating experience, and I was really worried. I didn’t know if I would be able to sing again or perform again.
Luckily, I had an opera singer—who was my friend—in my life, and I started taking lessons from her. It wasn’t to start singing in that kind of way; it was more of a vocal health lesson and a mental health lesson. Getting more comfortable again with the act of singing, and less about technicality and more about regaining my confidence.
You went to a psychotherapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Can you explain what that is and how your experience was there?
It was a couple of years after all of this. I was really—for the first time in my life—taking care of my own mental health. Losing my father the way that I did really forced me to look inward and look at how I was taking care of myself—or not taking care of myself. I decided to finally get on medication and then it was about a year and a half later I decided to try talk therapy for the first time and then EMDR shortly after.
During this time, I discovered that trauma can have physical effects on you. It can actually change your brain chemicals. I found that to be fascinating, but I also found it to be terrifying because I had all of these cognitive abilities that were impaired after these losses. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t really articulate how I was feeling—I’m slowly gaining that back actually. I just felt slower, in all of the senses. I wanted to go to EMDR to see if I could move past [this] by using this very scientific way of triggering traumatic events so that you could have physical sensations to them and then move past them instead of getting stuck.
The song "Come Around Me" reckons with the way you’ve been taken advantage of in the music industry as a gay woman of color. Do you want to speak about that experience?
I think we’re at a really exciting time where we are finally starting to look inward, as a music industry, at abuse and how women have been treated. I have had a number of experiences with men, but also with women, with fellow artists who have done things that have jeopardized my career or have put me in weird situations—who have just been abusive. I wanted to create a song that reconciled that so that I can move past it, not hold this resentment or anger, and just let people know that there’s no hard feelings about it. Moving forward, I’m a lot older now, and I can see through people’s intentions. [I was really trying] to create a song that’s like, If you’re going to be in my life, this is what I demand.
Do you have any advice for others going through a healing process?
My biggest piece of advice would be to go through it. I learned very early on that you could try to run away from these uncomfortable feelings but it always catches up to you. Unless you address them head-on and really do the work of going through it, it really will affect you in such harmful ways.
I would recommend folks to allow themselves to feel the feelings in the moment. To accept that grief is not a one-time feeling, not a linear feeling, and that has been the hardest thing for me. Some days I’ll wake up and be like, Oh cool, that was three years ago! I’m totally fine now because three years is a long time! But that’s not how it works. Grief is something that might be there forever. It’s something that you have to live with and you have to learn how to carry. It does change you, but allow it to change you. I’ve learned a lot of incredible lessons from it.