A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of Utah’s finest talent, The Aces, in one of the lavish greenrooms at Chicago’s historic House of Blues venue. Instantly, sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez, Katie Henderson, and McKenna Petty proved to be as welcoming and genuine offstage as they seem onstage, greeting me with hugs and offers of the Lou Malnati’s pizza resting on their dressing room table. For anyone in the band’s already large (and steadily increasing) fanbase, or anyone who follows The Aces on a social media platform, their warm personalities wouldn’t come as a surprise at all. During their shows, lead singer Cristal Ramirez preaches positivity and keeps the entire crowd involved by charismatically working her way up and down the entire stage, while the rest of the band boast contagious smiles the whole show. One glance at their Twitter feed, there’s no shortage of fan interaction happening there. One listen to “Lovin’ Is Bible” from the group’s upcoming album When My Heart Felt Volcanic, and it’s clear the band have a mission of keeping love alive even in some of the most tumultuous times.
The Aces have already had a whirlwind of a year, embarking on their first ever tour only months ago, having since joined COIN on a nationwide tour and received endless positive feedback on recent singles. The band’s steady success proves that you get back what you put out into the world, and their 2018 is set up to only get bigger and better with the approaching release date of their debut album. Before the album comes out April 6th via Red Bull Records, get to know The Aces a bit better with these five must-know facts.
THEY’VE BEEN MAKING MUSIC FOR OVER 10 YEARS
In addition to the infectious positivity that radiates from The Aces while they’re onstage, there’s an incredible sense of chemistry between all of the band members when they perform. Their natural chemistry comes from their years of knowing each other, growing up together, and making music together from a young age. The band traces back, or tries to trace back to their original moment of interest in music, with Alisa kicking off the conversation, saying, “Cristal and I always talk about this, we genuinely can’t pin down the exact moment that we started a band, just because we were so young–” Alisa’s sister Cristal interjects to say that the two of them, as well as Katie, had musical families growing up. “Our older brother was always in metal and punk bands growing up. And that was really inspiring for me. I wanted to be him. Katie has older brothers, and Kenna has family in bands.”
McKenna recalls when the band actually got serious, attributing the motivation to another musician. “We did have a time as a band, when we had already been doing the band for a while, and we decided this was the time to actually pursue it. I was probably 15, they were 17. It was the night that Lorde won all her Grammys,” she said. “I drove over to Cristal’s house and we all ended up there. We just knew we had to do it,” Katie adds.
Prior to the switch flip where the band decided to focus on music, Cristal says the girls all had other interests as well. “We were all kind of teetering. I always knew I wanted to do music. They all kind of had a couple different interests. Katie’s an amazing athlete. [Mc]Kenna is super good with graphic design and Alisa was super studious at the time. But basically, we just decided we have something too special to not have an actual go at a career. We didn’t want to let that go. We had been a band at the point for almost like 10 years. As we put our hearts into it and worked super hard, it kind of all turned out,” she says.
THEIR INFLUENCES RANGE FROM QUEEN TO THE 1975
The Aces only embarked on their first ever tour towards the end of 2017 with Joywave, but despite their limited time playing to audiences across the country, the band all possess a completely captivating stage presence. They all give nods to other performers that inspire their live performances; Katie saying, “I have a lot of different inspirations. Some that aren’t even my role in the band. Someone who I think is so inspiring onstage is Freddie Mercury from Queen. I have a live DVD of them at Wembley Stadium that my dad used to watch all the time. I used to just sit there, and still today, I’ll watch it but [Freddie] just has such a power and control over the audience and he’s so fearless. You can tell that that’s where he’s most comfortable, and that’s so inspiring.”
Alisa chimes in next, adding “I feel like honestly, for me, I don’t feel like there’s anyone that I mimic on stage. I feel like I just really genuinely try to dance as much as possible and have fun. Cause I just love doing it. But I think if there is a drummer that I really love, we went to a Twenty One Pilots’ show a year ago. I honestly wasn’t very into Twenty One Pilots at the time, but when we went, it totally converted me. Josh was so dope. I love the way he performs. He’s amazing.”
“I have a few, I try to really watch front-men and front-women,” Cristal begins, before pausing to add “screw that term” about “front-women.” “It’s just frontman,” she continues, adding “Hailey Williams from Paramore is a huge one for me. I’ve always looked up to her for probably 10 years, since I was 13. Her… and then I really love feminine men onstage. Like Morrisey, Jonny Pierce from the Drums--“ Katie interjects to suggest Matty Healy of The 1975 as another feminine frontman. “Matty Healy! I feel like I look at like Freddie Mercury, and Mick Jagger, and they’re really kind of feminine and cheeky, and I just love that,” Cristal continues.
McKenna rounds out the conversation, saying, “I think I’m kind of similar to Al, I don’t have one specific person that I look up to or try to mimic. But I think bassists get a rep for not really moving a lot, and not dancing. That’s something I’ve had, like people say ‘oh, you dance so much!’ That’s something that I want to do is dance and have fun, even if I am a bassist. I don’t know if that’s a stereotype or not. I love it when people are very free and dancing on stage so that’s what I try to do.” If you’ve ever been to one of The Aces’ shows, you know that bassists can indeed have fun too…thanks to McKenna.
THEY DELIVER MUSIC THE SAME WAY THEY CONSUME IT
One trademark of The Aces that you might have noticed if you’ve been following them is the pattern in which they release music. Leading up to the album, the band has been drip-feeding a new song to their eager fans just about every two weeks. The band credits their team behind them with helping their true vision come to light, and that includes letting them release music the same way in which they consume it. “I feel like our first experience signing to a label and making a full length debut and touring for the first time, we’re just learning. The most beautiful thing about being with Red Bull is it’s a small team, so we’re very hands on. We have full creative control of everything, so we’re just learning every element of every single part of it. From making the record to marketing it, to every little detail. We’re literally just learning how to run our business. It’s been amazing honestly,” Alisa says.
“It’s very much about choosing the right people to be on your team. Who you let in to be close. Also who you want to work with. We’ve been building our team, like our manager and people at our label, and that’s been really awesome. We’ve always felt really good about Red Bull,” McKenna says, and Alisa chimes back in to mention that the band didn’t sign the first deal they were offered. They instead stuck it out until they found to right fit and the right team to carry out the band’s plans and their visions.
“I think that we are very just conscious of how people digest music now. And how we digest music. We still are holding back more than half the album. It will come out when the whole album comes out. We just really didn’t want to put out like one single and then drop the entire album. It’s better to feed fans in a way that they can digest. So they get one song and have it for a couple weeks. Then they get one more and have it for a couple weeks, and then they almost have half the album. Then six more songs doesn’t feel like that much more to really get into. I feel like sometimes when people throw albums out, just a 14 song album, people are like it’s overwhelming. It’s just in our day and age we don’t digest music like that. Just get them into it and ease them into it. I mean we’re a new–we’re not new cause we’ve been around a while in our hometown and stuff, but we’re a relatively new band. This is our first record. It was a very conscious decision on our part, and sitting with our label, being like how do we digest music? We’re 22 and 20,” Cristal muses, touching on the way that they have decided to release new music.
“We’re the age of our demographic,” Katie adds. Being the age of their own demographic allows for The Aces to be that much more relatable. “It’s just so fun to put a song out, get everyone really excited, then within two weeks later, they get something else. They’re kind of starting to catch on that it’s like this quick thing and we kind of took that example from other artists that did really quick, steady roll outs like that. And just how exciting it was from a fan perspective to get that. So we wanted to do that for our fans as well,” Alisa says.
THEY’RE ALL ABOUT LEADING BY ACTION
Just like a lot of their demographic, the ladies of The Aces are very conscious of using their platform to promote safe spaces and a powerful message. They’ve already touched on the subject of being an all-female band and often getting pegged a “girl band” a few times,” even retweeting a tweet sarcastically calling out the fact that all male groups are not usually seen as rare, but The Aces continue to encourage their female fans with leading by a great example. “We always say that it’s leading by action. You know, so we just do it every day. We just get up on stage and we do it every single night. And we have a lot of people come up to us and be like holy shit, you guys are a great band! And it’s not always–I think when we were younger it was a lot like ‘Oh my gosh, you guys are such a great girl band! I’ve never seen all girls!’ We really take a lot of pride in that. We love that we’re all women. That’s a strength of ours and we don’t see it as a weakness, but at the same time, we do want to push that we are just a band. Even though we are women and we are very proud of that. [We] just normalize it. Cause we want more women in the industry. We want more all girl bands. We love girl bands. We just wanna see more women,” Cristal says. In addition to getting up onstage each night, the fact that Cristal paused after saying the term “frontwomen” to correct it to just “frontman” when talking about her stage presence inspiration, shows that she continuously works to push for gender equality in the entertainment world.
The Aces also work to keep that same inspiring presence in their fans’ lives offstage, by being interactive with fans online. “We kind of just want to set a good example. We always try to engage with our fans in a really positive way. If ever fans have come to use with a bullying situation or anything negative, we’re always there for them. We just try to spread positivity through our platform,” Alisa says.
Katie also adds that their single “Lovin’ is Bible” touches on that positivity. “It’s okay to love each other through the differences. It’s not hard to agree to disagree. Love is the most important thing. Always.”
“No matter what you believe. And I think us four all have—we have different views on a lot of things. But we’re best friends and it doesn’t matter. It’s okay that we disagree on certain things. Everyone’s different and that’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing. You should learn to respect other people and love them for who they are,” Cristal adds.
SOME OF THEIR RANDOM SLANG INSPIRES THEIR SONGS
Speaking of their track “Lovin Is Bible,” the tune actually came together after the girls noticed some potential in one of their own slang terms. “We always just use the phrase…to describe something as Bible,” Alisa says. “Like, that shit’s Bible,” Cristal interjects. “We were just being funny one night with our friends and we said that. And we were like that should be a song lyric, sarcastically almost. Then I remember I wrote it down in my notes, and then when Cristal and I went into a writing session, we were just like we really like that,” Alisa continues. And the rest is history; Alisa and Cristal showed it to their producer and they decided to run with it from there.
Although that single came together really naturally in an unexpected way, the band says their process varies drastically depending on the day. They do keep it natural and continuously bounce ideas around with each other, though. “I think we just write about a lot of things. The whole record is about tons of stuff. Just personal experiences. Like what it is to be a young adult and to be in your early 20s, and we’re going through a lot of stuff that a lot of people don’t go through. Like we’re traveling and touring all over. But also just exploring what it is to be young, and all those concepts are universal,” Cristal says.
“Every day is different. A lot of the songs we walked in day of, nothing in mind, just jammed out and let the day tell us what we were gonna write. Then there were other times when we came in and it’s like oh one of us might have had a voice memo fleshed out in our demos for melody, or we might have had a concept or poem written out. We’ve had a couple of songs where one of us has come in with a poem and gone off that. It’s just different every time,” Alisa adds.
The band also says they’ve learned a ton from the entire process behind their first album. “We just learned so much about next time around. How we can make things more concise. Work a little smoother. I feel like the first time is always the learning process, and we’ve been working on this album for so long, and finally finishing up working on making it a concise, cohesive package has been such a process and journey. But it’s also been so amazing to discover our aesthetic and get to be creative that way,” Katie says.
You can hear for yourself all of The Aces’ combined efforts in putting their debut record out by pre-ordering the upcoming album When My Heart Felt Volcanic from the band’s website.
There you have it! It’s already been a busy year of live shows for The Aces, but there’s plenty more chances to see them. Check out their upcoming tour dates here.
While you wait for The Aces to come to a city near you, keep up with them on social media:
This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine