SlantedPress caught up with upcoming American alternative pop band, The Aces. Hailing from Utah, the female-fronted quintet is best known for their upbeat tempos and funky basslines. I sat down with the band to talk about their debut full-length album, growing up in the spotlight and much more.
You might not have heard of The Aces, but there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing a lot more about them. The Aces have hashed through 10 years together to snag a record deal with Red Bull Records and recently put out their first album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. My first question for The Aces caters to their music. I ask the band how they’d describe their distinctive electric edged sound. Without missing a beat, Katie Henderson, the band’s lead guitarist, is quick to give a response; “We always say we’re alternative pop, like guitar driven alternative pop.” The whole band seems to agree. Cristal Ramirez, the band’s leading lady and guitarist, swiftly adds to Katie’s description; “it’s 80’s influenced as well, but it’s very rhythmic and very funky”.
It doesn’t take much to notice that The Aces are a powerful line up of women. I ask the band how they feel being pointedly labelled as an “all-female band” and if the label bothers them. “There’s like two sides to it. We’ve talked about this before and we feel really empowered by the fact that we’re all women,” Alisa Ramirez tells me. “We don’t want to not be proud of that, but we don’t want the ‘don’t look at us as a female band’. As a female band, there’s something so powerful about that. It’s very rare, it’s very unique, and I think young girls, and young people, need to see that. They need to see women on stages, like women playing bass, women”. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a question that band have often faced and spent time thinking over. Having started the band at much younger ages, Cristal admits that “when we were kids we weren’t even thinking about our gender we were just playing music, and these were our best friends”. Labels or not, The Aces have this question all figured out. “I guess a negative to it would be when people like to make all female bands a genre. I’ve had people say, ‘oh I don’t normally like all female bands’. It’s hard not to empathise with a talented band, like The Aces, that have to endure groundless sexism based entirely on misconceptions, but all is not lost”. Cristal concludes the answer on a more positive note. While she admits “it just doesn’t make any sense”, she’s optimistic that the band “can normalise [female bands]”.
It’s no secret that the band have released a new album. Securing a slot on Seth Meyer’s Late Night Show, The Aces made their network debut and in turn announced their debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, to the world. I ask the band how it feels to have an album officially out. “It’s amazing to finally have a full body of work out because we have been a band for a while,” Katie tells me. “It was more of a hobby when we were younger but to now have it on a world-wide scale – we’re really, really proud of it.”
Keeping with their new album, I ask The Aces what they each consider the most relatable track off of the album’s track list. After a few seconds thinking it over, Cristal is the first to give an answer. “I love a song on the album called ‘Holiday’, it’s like my jam,” she tells me. “I remember writing that in the studio and there’s like a cheeky frustration to it where you’re trying to get with someone but they’re being very hot and cold. I like it a lot, it’s a good song.” Both Alisa and bassist McKenna have a common choice with ‘Strong Enough’. It’s interesting to hear how each member perceives the same track from a different angle. Alisa jumps right in describing the track as “super funky and fresh with a bad ass edge to it. It’s a very confident song”, yet there’s a side of it where “you are kind of challenging this person that is after you and, almost, asking if they’re good enough for me”. Meanwhile, McKenna thoughtfully relays her opinion on the song; “I think it’s funny because people interpret it differently. For me, it’s about are you strong enough to stay with me, our lives are kind of crazy. I think, sometimes, is it ever normal to be in a relationship and be in this lifestyle. It’s a personal thought too.” Last of all, Katie explains her choice. “It kind of depends what kind of music I’m really digging. Right now, I’m listening to a song called ‘Last One’ a lot. It’s so funny because it’s one of the first songs we wrote for this record and it’s really old. It’s such a strong song. It’s always been so powerful.”
Taking Katie’s answer as a lead, I ask the band about their latest music video for ‘Last One’. Despite being a brilliant song, the video is authentically ‘The Aces’ as it was written and directed by the band’s very own drummer, Alisa Ramirez. With that in mind, I ask Alisa what gave her direction for the video and it turns out it all boils down to one phrase – edible arrangement .It surfaced out of a short-lived Hepatitis A panic. While playing a release show The Aces had been gifted an edible arrangement. Thinking nothing of it the band enjoyed their gift, but later, while on tour, Kenna got a message from her mum about an article about a Hepatitis A breakout in our hometown. “She was like there was a breakout which was all centred around this edible arrangement.” It turns out their own edible arrangement traced back to where the breakout occurred. “We realised [Kenna’s] family had eaten it, we had eaten it and we were freaking out thinking we would all be contaminated with this thing!” Alisa explained. “So, on that night stage we made a joke ‘we all might be dying’ and told that story and started to play ‘Last One’. So, this might literally be the ‘last one’, the last show. It was kind of like a memory that stuck with me, so that kind of stuck with me when writing it. I wanted to take it a lot more literally as in the last day to live.” It might not be your everyday take on a music video, but it sure paid off. I did have a lingering question though – what was with all the gummy bears?
Being a successful band is one thing but to achieve it at such a young age is an entirely different achievement. With social media at its peak, I ask the girls how they’ve handled their rise in fame. “I think we have really good relationships with each other and our families and I think we know what we need to do to make sure don’t get too wrapped up in it and to keep that sanity” McKenna says. It’s evident that the band are well grounded when it comes to fame. The interview itself was enough to reflect on the band’s genuine, humble attitudes. “It’s definitely weird though,” Cristal adds. “We haven’t reached a point where it’s crazy yet, but we’re definitely getting to the point where a lot of people weight in on everything we tweet and everything we post. It can feel a little overwhelming sometimes.” It’s no surprise that the rewards of fame can be a little invasive. "It’s kind of to the point where I don’t want to start posting anything too personal about my life just because there are at least a few hundred people who are always going to have opinions on what we do” Elisa admits. With social media pressures rising, it's understandable how The Aces might not feel the most comfortable sharing personal events, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate their fans. “At the same time, I think we have really sweet fans and a really sweet demographic of kids and people that like our music,” Cristal positively states, “we feel lucky for that because we’re really kind, supportive, and awesome.”
With the interview drawing to a close, I end it on a lighter note. The Aces are set to headline in the EU/UK later this year, so I ask the band what British artist they’d love to either collaborate or tour with. Within a second of asking they all exclaim The 1975. “I think it’s like a huge dream of ours to do a huge session with Matty and George, like a writing session or maybe go on tour with them” Cristal says, and just in case you weren’t convinced, “[they’re] my favourite band of all time, for sure” Alisa says.
So, not only are they a kick-ass female band, they’ve definitely got great music taste too. It’s only a matter of time until you see The Aces breaking into radio charts, playing iconic tours, and who knows, maybe even touring with The 1975.
The Aces’ debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, is out now! You can buy tickets for their EU/UK tour here.