Sound Off: The Aces
Jul 17, 2020
The Aces are living out every young female’s dream of rocking out in an edgy, show-stopping band with none other than your best girls. By the end of this read, you’ll be begging and pleading at the feet of this group to recruit you as their fifth member.
Better, bolder, and more badass than ever, the indie quartet embarks on a new musical era where the world is now (and willingly) under their influence. Two years after sounding off with their debut record When My Heart Felt Volcanic, the girls follow up with a colossal sophomore album infused with unapologetic authenticity and 14 groove-inducing tracks. File Under My Influence below “Good Things About 2020.”
Attached at the hip since grade school, the group features the Ramirez sisters, Alisa and Cristal, Katie Henderson, and McKenna Petty. Over a decade of friendship has consisted of touring the world, pulling one another from the ashes of heartache, challenging vulnerability and introspection, defying industry expectations, and flourishing into the valiant musicians who stand before us.
Under My Influence is The Aces’ most intimate album to date, expanding on themes of love, mental health, and most sincerely – celebrating their diverse sexuality with the tracks of “Kelly” and “801.” After refraining from using gender pronouns on the previous record due to executives advising them not to sing about girls, the band is proudly waving the Pride flag at the forefront of this triumphant new release. A decision that feels “natural and obvious” as told by lead vocalist, Cristal.
Follow along with this special Sound Off interview and get to know the young women encouraging an entire generation of aspiring female musicians.
1. To start off, give us an inside look as to what the band has been doing to pass the time stuck in quarantine.
Cristal and Alisa: We’ve been watching lots of Love Island UK.
Katie: I watched Love Island Australia finally! It’s so good!
Cristal: I always look them up as soon as they get eliminated, but then I ruin it for myself. Honestly, I can’t watch anymore Love Island. I’m out. But in addition to that, we just set up our studio, so we’re going to start making music, but more than anything, we’ve just been working to put out this record. That’s been our focus for the past four months, even before quarantine.
2. Some of you are currently celebrating today’s release back in your hometown of Provo, Utah. What was the best part about growing up there?
Alisa: Probably for me, I would say the nature. It has got some of the best mountains ever, so hiking and being outside was the best thing as a kid.
Cristal: Agreed, I would say the nature for sure.
Katie: I think there’s a nice small-town vibe in a way, it was really fun to grow up near Provo where there was a venue we could play at, and there was a fun energy where everyone knows everyone. Especially as a young kid, not many people are drinking or partying, so you’re just having fires in the mountains and hanging out with friends, and I really like that part of it.
3. Months leading up to Under My Influence’s debut, you’ve taken to Instagram to express your excitement for this new project. What makes this album so special and meaningful to you all?
Cristal: I think because we’ve never been more ourselves or more vulnerable in our music, and I think with pure vulnerability comes something really magical and connecting and special. That’s what Under My Influence feels like. It feels like complete vulnerability and in that, finding so much confidence.
Alisa: What makes me proud of the record is that it feels like such a bearing of the soul, and it’s so fearless, and that’s what it felt like when we were making it. There was nothing too scary for us to do, even if the sounds sounded super different from the first record. It was just a surety of self and such grounded confidence in who we are and what we know, and it was so freeing and experimental and fun.
Katie: I feel like Under My Influence for me captures so much more than just an album of music, it speaks to us as people and how much we’ve grown individually and as a band, and that’s what stands out to me the most.
4. For those who haven’t listened yet, describe the album using only three words.
Cristal: Honest, bold, confident
5. In the past, you’ve avoided using gender pronouns in your songs. For the first time in your music, how does it feel proudly expressing the diverse sexuality within your band?
Cristal: It feels incredible. It feels natural, that’s the main word I think that we’ve been using to describe it. It feels natural and obvious.
6. I’m sure you’re all eager to get back on the road and play your new music live. What’s the most exhilarating aspect of touring?
Alisa: Performing. The best part of tour is meeting the fans and performing for the fans. I think that moment when you get on stage in a new city and play your music, and you see all your amazing fans singing the words back to you, it is probably the best experience for an artist.
Katie: I really love the rush of being in a new city every day. I love that it’s like, “ok, I’m here today, but I’ll be in the next city tomorrow.” Every day you’re somewhere new, and I think there’s something so exciting about that.
7. Please, share a funny tour story.
Katie: I have one! It’s become a thing that Cristal’s luggage seems to absolutely vanish. We literally got to the UK in London, and we get to our hotel and Cristal’s bag is nowhere to be found. Like, she lost so much stuff, and we still have no idea where it was. And then we played a show in Chicago, and Cristal’s bag is nowhere to be found again. Then all of a sudden, someone calls her mom and is like, “um, I think I have your daughter’s suitcase!”
Cristal: It happens to me so often! I don’t know why. I have lost so many bags on tour. Ok, one time, it was my fault, but a lot of times, just for some reason, the luggage gods just simply erase all my things and get rid of them. But it teaches me to let go in life because you can’t do anything about it.
8. Which songs from the new album are going to be crowd favorites?
Cristal: I’m super excited to perform “Kelly” and “Cruel.” Those two are gonna be a lot of fun.
Alisa: “Kelly” is gonna go off.
Cristal: And “I Can Break Your Heart Too.” I always imagine performing that.
Katie: I’m super excited honestly to play “My Phone Is Trying to Kill Me,” I feel like that song will be a banger to play.
Alisa: That’s definitely going to be one that people will be excited for.
9. Is there a specific venue or festival you dream of performing at one day?
Cristal: I would say Glastonbury.
Katie: I would love to play Coachella, just the experience – I would love to do it.
10. I saw you open for 5 Seconds of Summer on the Meet You There Tour in 2018, and not only was I utterly awestruck by your music, but your stage outfits were to die for. Do you style yourselves?
Alisa: We do! Although we wish we could take a stylist on tour because that seems really plush and awesome. But in the past, all of our tours have been self-styled. I feel like before tour it’s shopping spree time, we have to go get tons of new stuff because when you’re onstage you gotta have a fun outfit!
Katie: I think we’ve always loved that aspect, it’s not your everyday wear when you’re playing a show. It’s time to get dressed up and push your limits with fashion, and that’s a really fun aspect of playing live.
Alisa: I was looking back on tour photos and there was a picture of us backstage and I was basically in a motocross outfit. I really went for that look. It was cool though!
11. Now we have to know; who are your style icons?
Cristal: This one is tricky because it’s constantly fluctuating. We take a lot of influence from classic ’90s wear, like Kurt Cobain.
Alisa: Zoe Kravitz is a big one; she’s always killing it.
Cristal: I retract everything I said! It’s just Zoe Kravitz.
Alisa: She’s the perfect tomboy meets feminine meets cool-girl vibes, so she’s definitely a great person to pull from.
Cristal: And then classic punk culture. Punk culture from the UK in the ’80s and ’90s.
Katie: I’m looking back at old Pinterest favs, honestly, even someone like Tyler, The Creator. I love Alex Turner; I’m inspired by their ways of thinking with clothes.
Cristal: This is a good point, too – Zoe is the only female we reference. We’re super inspired by menswear and men’s fashion in general.
Katie: Beastie Boys too.
Cristal: Definitely, we’re super inspired by that surf culture, and skate culture is a big part of our style influence as well.
12. Where do your ultimate music influences derive from?
Alisa: One of my all-time influences, which I think bleeds into the music quite a bit, is Michael Jackson. I think we all grew up on Michael Jackson, my parents were always playing Michael Jackson, and I think he’s like undeniably one of the best musicians.
Cristal: A lot of the music that Alisa and I grew up on was disco, Motown, and ’80s pop. So, people like Earth Wind and Fire are a big one. Also, artists like Destiny’s Child and classic R & B. Those really influence the way we write music.
Katie: A huge influence for me my whole life has always been The Beatles. I’ve always been very heavily inspired by them, and then classic bands like Radiohead and Modest Mouse. Bands like that have always really inspired me as a musician.
13. Say you weren’t in a band, what would you all be doing instead?
Alisa: I think I would probably be directing films full-time.
Cristal: I think if I wasn’t in anything music-related, I’d be in something related to psychology. Though even if I weren’t in a band, I’d still be in music somehow.
Katie: When I was in school, I was majoring in psychology, but I was always curious about going into music therapy or starting some sort of music therapy program for children in hospitals, so something like that.
Cristal: Kenna would be an environmental scientist or something. It would be something to do with the environment.
Katie: Yep, or she’d start a restaurant or something.
14. The Aces are the epitome of girl power. What message do you have for all the women and young girls pursuing music?
Alisa: Do what feels right to you. Make music that you like, don’t think too hard about it, and don’t try too hard. Just push yourself to make music that you really like and put it out and then make more.
Cristal: This is a big one because I feel like I struggled with this a lot. When you’re young, I feel like it’s hard to know what you like, and it’s really easy to be super hard on yourself. But it gets easier the more you create, so just put it out. That’s my biggest piece of advice for anybody trying to get into the music industry. Just put it out, no matter what it is. Do your best, put it out, and move on, because you’re going to make so many things and they’re always going to be getting better. You’re also going to be getting better at knowing what you like the older you get. So, don’t stall and hold yourself back because something’s not perfect, because it never will be. As soon as you get used to the idea that it will never be perfect, you’re on your way.
15. Lastly, what message do you want your fans to take away from this album?
Alisa: The main thing we want our fans to walk away with is that for us, it was us stepping into our power. That sounds so corny, but it really was us taking up our space and growing into the women we are now. We didn’t take no for an answer, and we were really strong-willed in knowing what’s best for us and what we wanted, and our fans can take away that same sentiment. They can be themselves fully and do whatever they want if it feels right to them.
- Photos: Red Bull Records