Sister Crayon to Release Its First Album as a Full Band
When Submerge spoke to Sister Crayon’s Terra Lopez, she and the band were mired in Southern California traffic. Currently on the road on the Broke Bitches tour along with fellow Sacramentans Agent Ribbons, Sister Crayon weren’t holed up “in a big van” like their tourmates. Instead, Lopez and company were situated in a cozy station wagon—a red Volvo.
Genaro in The Crawdad, a reliable yet cramped tour vehicle. She got us to where we needed to be
“It’s all over the place, actually,” Lopez says of Sister Crayon’s modest transportation. “But it’s been really good overall.”
Sister Crayon is still relatively young. The seeds for the band were first sown three years ago when Lopez’s prior band broke up and left her performing solo. She went on alone for about a year until she met Dani Fernandez, who plays drum machine and synthesizer for Sister Crayon. It was through this pairing that Sister Crayon’s sound began to take shape. Lopez says that when she was on her own, her music was “very quiet”—just Lopez and her guitar. Though she had used loop pedals and beat machines in her previous band, it wasn’t until she started working with Fernandez that Lopez began pooling all of her influences into her music. Lopez says that she and Fernandez “just clicked” and the two began incorporating hip-hop elements into Lopez’s not-quite-folksy singer/songwriter material.
“We both love hip-hop, but we like just all kinds of different music,” Lopez explains. “The first song we wrote together was ‘Lavender Liars'”¦ I played this weird organ and she just played beats over it, and it just stuck. We figured out that was what we wanted to do. When I met Dani, that’s when things changed. I was like, ‘I finally met someone who could help me out with the sounds I had.'”
Even when Lopez was performing on her own, she recalls that she always felt as if her music would lend itself to a bigger sound.
“When I was playing by myself, I liked what I was doing, but I always heard more,” Lopez says. “I always wanted more.”
Sister Crayon’s sound became even fuller with the addition of keyboardist Genaro Ulloa-Juno. The band operated as a twosome for about a year until Ulloa-Juno entered into the mix. Lopez says that the multi-instrumentalist was an easy fit into the band’s dynamic.
“It came together really simply, actually,” she says. “I asked him over to my house one day to listen to some stuff and see if he could add any thing, and we just hit it off.”
The band grew even further only just recently. Nicholas Suhr hopped on board only a few months ago. Hailing from the Bay Area, Suhr is now Sister Crayon’s drummer, adding a visceral snap to the band’s ethereal electronic beats.
“It’s really awesome to have a fuller sound,” Lopez says.
Suhr’s drumming came at a crucial time for the band as they were preparing their first proper CD release. Lopez released a Sister Crayon album, Loneliness Is My Mother’s Gun, earlier in 2009 via Chicago indie label Juene Ãƒâ€°tÃƒÂ© Records; however, she says their upcoming effort will be more indicative of Sister Crayon’s current sound.
“That album is just my stuff; they’re bedroom recordings,” Lopez says of Loneliness”¦. “Dani’s on a couple of tracks on that as well. I never intended to put that out. I was just going to sell that for $5 at shows”¦but the label contacted me and they were like, ‘We really like what you’re doing. Can we put this out?’ And I was like, ‘Wow.’ They paid for it all, so I was like, ‘Sure.'”
On the other hand, Enter Into Holy (Or)ders, Sister Crayon’s upcoming release, features the entire band—including Suhr, who had only joined the group a “week or two” before they went into the studio.
“He had to learn and write all of his parts while we were recording,” Lopez says of Suhr’s kind of trial by fire. “It was really cool that he was able to do that, because we had all been playing those songs for months, and he had to learn everything in the studio.” Lopez called the recording sessions for the album “intense,” saying that the band was logging 14 – 18 hour days at The Hangar, where “¦Holy (Or)ders was recorded, produced by the band with help from Scott McChane, including “really long practices.”
The intensity with which “¦Holy (Or)ders was recorded is reflected in the music. Though Lopez says her lyrics and vocals are important to her, she says the album’s focus was more on the music.
“For me, for this album, I wanted the music to be the main focus because it was finally getting more intense, which is what I think we all wanted,” she explains.
Though her lyrics may have been more of an appetizer than “¦Holy (Or)ders‘s main course, Lopez believes the force of the band’s music has definitely rubbed off on her lyric writing. She says that her lyrics may have been more personal when Sister Crayon was a one-woman show; and though they still pull from her private life, her writing has become more aggressive. She says that the lyrics she wrote to the songs on “¦Holy (Or)ders revolve around the events of this past summer: including a relationship she’d entered into and a book she had been reading by controversial 20th century French writer Jean Genet. In fact, the title of the album is taken from a line in one of Genet’s books.
“He was one of the first French homosexual writers,” Lopez says. “His writing is really dirty and really aggressive. That kind of intrigued me.”
Performance-wise, Lopez is also no longer the quiet singer/songwriter with a guitar. She says that now that she has the power of a full band behind her, she’s had to become more assertive on stage.
“I sing a lot louder than I used to,” Lopez says through laughter.
Blessed with a stirring and soulful voice, a louder Lopez can only be considered a good thing. The band should be back home from the Broke Bitches Tour by the time this issue hits the streets. However, the band won’t be able to relax once they’re back in Sacramento. Lopez says Sister Crayon will quickly return to The Hangar to finish mixing “¦Holy (Or)ders so that it’s done by their CD release party on Aug. 21. Further on the horizon, Lopez says the band is hoping to have more of a nationwide tour, and in January, the band will perform in Spain, where their album will also see release.