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“Sacramento is like coming home in front of family. Everyone is so loving,” says Sister Crayon’s backing track maestro, Dani Fernandez. She and vocalist, Terra Lopez, are enjoying a summer evening on the crowded patio of Low Brau, one of their favorite hang outs when they visit their native Sacramento. The duo is in town for a DJ set in anticipation of their performance at TBD Fest, this fall’s indie music festival in West Sacramento. They flew the coop two years ago for Oakland, which has taken them under its wing, claiming Sister Crayon as its “hometown group.” (Not so fast!).
“Sacramento is like coming home in front of family. Everyone is so loving.”
Since the move, the girls’ introvert/extrovert dynamic has been switched up, they’ve pared their fourtet ensemble back down to two, and they’ve recorded a new album with a harder, heavier feel. Despite having a bit more physical distance between them in their new hood than they did in Sacramento, the girls maintain the Sister-like dynamic. Their personalities complement rather than compete, much like their presence on stage. Their insights and personalities are a delightful combination of quirky cool and thoughtful intensity.
How did you meet here in Sacramento?
Dani: I moved to Sacramento from Arizona. I moved here and met Terra through my sister, they were really close. So we just started hanging out.
Terra: No! It was more elaborate than that. I remember the exact night of meeting her. I had an MPC at the time, where you can make beats with your fingers by tapping it out, and her sister was raving about Dani and how amazing she was at the congas. As soon as I met her, I remember bringing her into my bedroom, sitting on the floor with her and showing her the MPC, and just being really amazed at how – she had never seen this instrument, heard of this instrument – and immediately she just gravitated toward it and killed it. And so that was when I knew, omigod, we have to make some music together.
Recently you’ve pared it down. It’s back to just the two of you. How long has it been like that?
Terra: It’s been like that for this year, pretty much. We have a live drummer with us because we still want to have that dynamic live. But over this last year and during the writing of our second record, it was just her and I and our producer. And it was really an incredible, more intimate experience. It was really intense actually, because not only did we go into the studio writing as a duo, but we wrote half of the material while we were in the studio. And we were secluded which was crazy. We were in this little town, and we didn’t know anyone else except for our producer. So we lived at the studio for two weeks while we were recording and writing. It was a very isolating, alienating experience. You were kind of in your head 24/7.
How does it feel to be performing in Sacramento for TBD Fest?
Together: [We’re excited!]
Dani: I’m super excited about this lineup, it’s insane. Like Blondie, and all these amazing artists. There are so many that I’m really excited about.
Terra: We’re just happy and grateful to be a part of it. We love Sacramento. We always have incredible turnouts. Ever since we started, actually, and even before Sister Crayon [with previous projects], this city has always been so supportive of anything I’ve done. And especially of Sister Crayon – for years, every show sells out. There is nothing like playing a hometown show. And even though we don’t live here anymore, it’s still our hometown and we’re just so grateful for the support. So to be able to play a festival with this incredible lineup, it’s really fun. We haven’t played in Sacramento in almost 2 years.
How are Sacramento crowds different from other crowds?
Dani: Oh my gosh, Sacramento is like coming home, like, in front of family. Everyone is so loving.
Terra: We are so incredibly lucky to have such a devoted, loyal fan base where people are screaming the lyrics. It literally brings tears to our eyes when we’re on stage sometimes.
Dani: And we have a very young fan base that we don’t really get anywhere else. We have kids that come out that are like 13, and they all come out and they bring all their friends out and know all the words. It’s just really insane.
So what was the impetus for moving to Oakland?
Terra: I’m from Sacramento so I was here my whole life and Dani had lived here for quite a number of years. We both wanted a change and we just kind of went to Oakland. We have a few friends out there and I was dating someone there at the time. We just wanted to branch out but be close enough so that we could come visit [Sacramento]. Oakland has always been an intriguing city for us. There is so much going on out there. It’s beautiful – the art and culture. We just wanted to be a part of that. So far it’s been really great.
What’s on your summer playlist?
Terra: Oooh, summer playlist. That’s a really good question. FKA twigs – we’re obsessed with her right now. She’s really great.
Dani: Diplo always for me. I love Diplo. And Disclosure.
Terra: Yeah, Disclosure. And I’ve been really obsessed with Kelela and SZA. Also, Daughter and Sharon Van Etten. Which is weird because it’s not summer music. It’s really sad. [Dani] and I are really similar in that we really love sad music, and we can listen to it during the summer as well as during the winter. But we also love dance music, too. We love hip hop, we love electronic music, so we’re kind of all over the place.
Dani: Beyonce’s new record is also really great.
How does the new album differ from the previous ones?
Dani: It’s so different. All aspects are different in certain ways. It still has the taste of our old stuff, especially our very old, old stuff, when it was vocally and beat-driven. We kind of wanted to switch back to our old ways.
Terra: We wanted to primarily focus on vocals and beats and make it heavy and make it hard, which is something that we’ve always wanted to do. And that reflects kind of zoning in, stripping it down, and bringing it back to Dani and I and our aesthetic and our vision. So it’s very hip hop, it’s very electronic and it’s very soulful in a way.
“It’s probably the most honest work I’ve done lyrically, as a vocalist.”
Dani: And it still represents us and everything we wanted in a record.
Terra: And it’s very honest. It’s probably the most honest work I’ve done lyrically, as a vocalist. It’s very stripped down, it’s very straight forward. If I wanted to sing a song about being heart broken, I did it. Or about love, I did it. In the past, I kind of restrained myself from that or I would use metaphors or beat around the bush. But this time around, basically, if I’m trying to move someone, you hear it. You know what I mean? It was very liberating. You don’t have to read into the lyrics to hear what I’m saying this time around.
How has your lifestyle and music changed since the move, if at all?
Terra: I think our lifestyle has changed a lot. I’ve always been an introvert, personally, so going out and moving to Oakland, I’ve been much more of an extrovert. I’ve gone out a lot more, open to meeting more people.
Dani: See, I’m the opposite.
Terra: Yeah, Dani is opposite. When we lived here, she would go out all the time.
Dani: In Oakland, I am definitely more stay at home, work on music. I flipped [my lifestyle]. For her, it’s more her going out and meeting people.
Terra: And in a way for me, it inspires me to write. It’s about having those experiences so I can write about it later. And that’s kind of how it’s been over the last year. Living in Oakland, I went out the most I ever have since I was 20. So now, I’m not going out and writing about it or doing my podcast and talking about those experiences.
And how often do you hang out together?
Together: All the time.
Terra: We do hang out a lot actually. It’s been interesting – since we’ve moved, we’ve hung out less with one another, but we talk all the time.
Dani: It also changes because we were either living together here or blocks away from each other here. In Oakland, it’s way bigger and we live farther from each other, so it’s not as convenient. But we’re like family so it’s like we don’t really have to try. On tour it’s like we’re a couple because we sleep together, we eat together, we do everything together.
Where do you look forward to going out here in Sacramento?
Dani: Press Club, that’s my jam.
Terra: I love Low Brau, I love chilling here. I’m more quiet, I don’t really dance or anything here. At least not here, I do in Oakland. Here I like to go to, like, Low Brau and Blackbird.
Dani: And the Gays is fun, like Depot.
Terra: And I love coffee shops, so Temple, Insight. I’d rather go to a coffee shop [over a bar] any day.
Complete this sentence: Every time I come back to Sacramento, _______ is different.
Terra: People! I don’t know anyone here! I feel like the scene is different because I don’t know anyone.
Dani: I use to go out and know everyone. But now I’m like, ‘I don’t know you, I don’t know you. Who are all these kids, all these new faces?’
Be sure to catch Sister Crayon’s return to the Sacramento stage during TBD Fest, October 3-5, 2015.
Stay tuned on Monday for a fashion follow-up on my blog, Babesicle, about Sister Crayon’s thoughts on style.
Photo | Nicholas Wray
Stay connected with all things Sacramento and beyond.