Rocking Female Empowerment with Indie Pop Quartet The Aces
Utah’s indie pop band, The Aces, have known each other since grade school; two are sisters.
The quarter consists of sisters Cristal Ramirez on lead vocals and guitar, and Alisa Ramirez on drums, McKenna Petty on bass, and Katie Henderson on lead guitar and vocals.
They bring a brimful of energy into their music and have connected with a new generation of music listeners through their sound. Their materials are universally relatable and personal on what it means to embody the modern woman.
The female band has supported 5 Seconds Of Summer, X Ambassadors, Why Don’t We, JVKE, and even sold out their US headline tour.
The Aces made their first TV debut performance on Late Night With Seth Meyers in 2018 too.
After releasing the deluxe version of their 2020 album Under My Influence with remixes by Snakehips and Portugal, The Man, The Aces also celebrated Pride Month this year. They released an infectious new bop titled “Girls Make Me Wanna Die” that will surely get you on your feet at your next music festival.
Alisa shares with us about their first performance as a band, releasing an album during a pandemic and the challenges of being an all-women band.
How is 2022 treating you all so far?
Great, it’s treating us great. We’ve been playing a lot of shows, playing a lot of pride, putting out new music. It’s been a great year, it’s a year full of The Aces.
Can you tell us a little bit about how The Aces came to be amid growing up in quite a conservative community?
Honestly, if it wasn’t for, I think, a conservative community, I feel like that was a really big driving force of our band because we all kinda came together as a safe space for each other.
And even though at the time we weren’t out, I think that we all felt kinda different and like we didn’t fit into the status quo for where we grew up, in Utah, so we came to be just out of loving music and being friends. I think there was also an unspoken knowledge that each other were queer or just kind of different in some way.
Do you still remember the first time you ever performed as The Aces?
We were The Blue Aces first. Honestly, the first show with all four of us was a middle school talent show, and we covered a Maroon 5 song. We covered “Give A Little More”!
How do you feel your creative process of making music has changed since first creating the band?
It’s changed a lot. When we were younger, we would just jam in our jam room, as they would say. Katie would just come up with lots of guitar parts, Cristal would write a lot of lyrics and then we would just work out all of our parts together in a room. It was a lot simpler back then.
Now, you know, we collaborate with other producers and writers and stuff, so we’ll do more sessions where we go in and bring in ideas and bounce them off each other, then write something more on Pro Tools.
It’s a little different now, but the spirit is still there.
You once said in an interview that you were influenced by Paramore, then The 1975, as well as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. How do you feel that has shifted now for The Aces?
I think that those artistes will always be inspirations for our band, they’re also just very timeless, amazing artistes, for sure, Michael and Whitney, and I feel The 1975 will be as well, but I think there’s always gonna be those influences even as we kinda shift our sound and explore a little more, there’s always gonna be things that we take from those artistes.
They’re kinda ingrained in us, you know? Those are artists we grew up on, but I think that our influences are constantly shifting.
I think as an artiste, you’re just a person who is listening to all kinds of different music and going through different phases of life. Sometimes you’re into a certain genre of music, and then within a couple of years, you are into a completely different genre.
So I think now we are drawing lots of inspiration from bands like The Strokes and The Cure and bands that are very rock and roll and indie rock; I think we’ve been feeling really inspired by that lately. You’ll hear that in the music, but then again, if you look at a band like Paramore or The 1975, they are also incredible indie artistes as well, so that’s just kinda in our blood.
Let’s talk about your 2021 album Under The Influence. How long did it take, and what were your goals going into making it?
I’d say, on average, it takes us like nine months to a year to make an album; that's how it's gone for us.
Our intentions going into that album were to just write the most slappity boppiddy bangers of all time, and I think that we did that. The approaches were different, I think, you know, Under My Influence was the most songs we had ever written in our entire lives, and that was our goal to write so many songs.
I think that we really developed our voice making that record and we figured out who we wanted to be as an artiste. Going into this third record, we have honed in on who we really are, and I think if Under My Influence didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be making the album we’re making now.
Under My Influence really honed our skills as songwriters because we wrote probably one hundred songs.
Also, we were really open when we were making that record, we didn’t want to limit ourselves, so we explored all kinds of genres; nothing was off the table, referencing all kinds of eras; it was really a full melting pot of all of our inspirations and influences from day one to present.
So if you listen to that record, you’re gonna get all kinds of flavours across it, not one specified directional thing. It was just like, “This is cool; how can we make a really dope song with this influence.”
It felt really free that way; it was very freeform. It set the tone for us as a band.
Going back to The 1975, we really look up to them, and I think something that is so cool about them is they are so genre-bendy, they are just constantly surprising you, and you never really know what they’re gonna do next. I think that’s something we want to be as a band – exciting, fresh, and new, and always keeping our listeners and fans on their toes.
What was it like to release an album during a global pandemic?
It was really not ideal. It was tough. We had a lot of plans for that album, and a lot of it included seeing people and going places and doing promo. All those plans kinda got shot, and we were unable to do that, which was a bummer, but I think that record was something that we as a band and our fanbase could look forward to in such an uncertain time.
This wasn’t the way we wanted to do it, but it was also something that we could share and celebrate together in a time we couldn’t really see each other, and that was kinda the bright side of that.
Now being able to go on tour at the end of last year and being able to play felt like releasing it all over again, like finally having the moment to play songs live when we didn’t get to when it first came out. Not ideal at all, but we figured it out.
How did you come to decide on releasing your new single “Girls Make Me Wanna Die” to celebrate Pride Month? What message are you hoping to share?
We wanted to release it during Pride Month because it's a f***ing gay anthem, and it's just about being young and exploring our first love experiences because three out of four of us are queer.
A lot of times, growing up gay, especially where we came from, which is a pretty small town, your first love experiences are a little more interesting than if you were straight. So we were reflecting on that and telling that story through the song, and it only felt fitting to put it out during June.
There aren’t too many all-women bands out there these days. What’s the most empowering and challenging aspect of owning that?
I think the most challenging aspect is just that there is not a lot of representation for our type of band, so a lot of people make a lot of assumptions based off of the times they have seen female bands, which is like never.
They end up lumping you in with all other bands of girls and kinda want to look at you as one thing rather than listening to your music. You get judged on your appearance a lot more than you get judged by your art, and that’s hard.
I think being all women in a band, you are constantly smacked in the face with the misogyny that is still so prevalent in the world, and that can feel really frustrating because you kinda feel sometimes that you are on this never-ending uphill climb to try to do what you love, but I think what’s really empowering is that the fans that our band really resonates with are so passionate.
They’re not just passive music listeners, they are really, really passionate about our band and the culture surrounding our band and our music and who we are. That feels amazing because even though it can feel daunting and difficult at times, the fanbase that we have cultivated is one in a million. We feel really lucky for that.
If you had to pick one song by your band that most represent The Aces, what would it be and why?
I think it’s always been “Volcanic Love”, which is a song off our first record just because that song literally marked the beginning of The Aces in a way.
We were in an era where we were just starting to collaborate with our friend, Simon Oscroft, who we ended up doing the majority of our first record with. We were kinda at a crossroads with what we wanted to sound like because we have been a band since we were so young, and then we were kinda coming to this place where we were gaining popularity and wanted to shoot for the stars and make music our career.
We were like, “What do we want to sound like? We’re not little kids; we’re adults making music and actually putting it out into the world.”
“Volcanic Love” was the first song that we wrote together where we were like, this is a defining song for our band – from the way it sounds to the lyrics, to the whole vibe. That whole record pretty much spawned from writing that song. There’s something special about that song for sure, and it continues to influence our overall vibe to this day.
Were you listening to anything else to inspire you during the creation of Under The Influence?
Tons of stuff. I don’t think there was one thing we were listening to, tons of different artistes, but more than anything, it’s funny because when we make a record, I really don’t listen to a lot of music because I’m listening to so much of our own music and I actually find that I want to listen to podcasts or interviews because there's too much going in my head already with the music.
The music I listen to is literally just the demos we’re making. I think it's good to do that because it’s easy for artistes to get into replica mode.
I mean, pretty much every song ever has already been written, and essentially, we’re all just picking and choosing things from influences of all different types and jumbling it together to make something new, but I think it's important when you are creating something to not end up in that zone where you're mimicking something else.
We noticed you have a few Spanish versions of your songs. Is that something you would be doing more of in the future?
Yeah definitely! Me (Alisa) and Cris are half Latina, and our dad is a translator, so it’s something that is a cool way to explore that side of our heritage and culture, so we love doing that, and also we have a lot of Latin fans that we like to service.
I would love to write a song specifically in Spanish, like a ballad or acoustic song. I think that would be beautiful. Don’t hold me to it, but it could happen!
If The Aces were a movie, what would it be and why?
The Spongebob movie or the Goofy movie. People have told us that our music does sound like the Goofy movie soundtrack, and I think that is the greatest compliment ever. I would say Max at the talent show harnesses our energy as a band!
What has been the most surreal or crazy moment for you as a band so far?
There were a lot of cool moments. I think a really cool one was getting to play a sold-out show at 9:30 Club and Webster Hall in New York, which also sold out. Those are our biggest shows to date! Never gets old.
We played Late Night With Seth Meyers, and that was our TV debut. I feel like doing that for the first time was really crazy because when you’re a small town kid, you grow up watching Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen Show, and you get to see your favourite acts on TV, and that’s something we’ve dreamed about since we were really young!
What do you hope to achieve as The Aces before the year ends?
World domination. We’re gonna leave it at that.
Cover Credit: Adam Alonzo
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.