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 thereâ€™s a good chance youâ€™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 theyâ€™d describe their distinctive electric edged sound. Without missing a beat, Katie Henderson, the bandâ€™s lead guitarist, is quick to give a response; â€œWe always say weâ€™re alternative pop, like guitar driven alternative pop.â€ The whole band seems to agree. Cristal Ramirez, the bandâ€™s leading lady and guitarist, swiftly adds to Katieâ€™s description; â€œitâ€™s 80â€™s influenced as well, but itâ€™s very rhythmic and very funkyâ€.
It doesnâ€™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 â€œall-female bandâ€ and if the label bothers them. â€œThereâ€™s like two sides to it. Weâ€™ve talked about this before and we feel really empowered by the fact that weâ€™re all women,â€ Alisa Ramirez tells me. â€œWe donâ€™t want to not be proud of that, but we donâ€™t want the â€˜donâ€™t look at us as a female bandâ€™. As a female band, thereâ€™s something so powerful about that. Itâ€™s very rare, itâ€™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, womenâ€. 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 â€œwhen we were kids we werenâ€™t even thinking about our gender we were just playing music, and these were our best friendsâ€. Labels or not, The Aces have this question all figured out. â€œI guess a negative to it would be when people like to make all female bands a genre. Iâ€™ve had people say, â€˜oh I donâ€™t normally like all female bandsâ€™. Itâ€™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 lostâ€. Cristal concludes the answer on a more positive note. While she admits â€œit just doesnâ€™t make any senseâ€, sheâ€™s optimistic that the band â€œcan normalise [female bands]â€.
Itâ€™s no secret that the band have released a new album. Securing a slot on Seth Meyerâ€™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. â€œItâ€™s amazing to finally have a full body of work out because we have been a band for a while,â€ Katie tells me. â€œIt was more of a hobby when we were younger but to now have it on a world-wide scale â€“ weâ€™re really, really proud of it.â€
Keeping with their new album, I ask The Aces what they each consider the most relatable track off of the albumâ€™s track list. After a few seconds thinking it over, Cristal is the first to give an answer. â€œI love a song on the album called â€˜Holidayâ€™, itâ€™s like my jam,â€ she tells me. â€œI remember writing that in the studio and thereâ€™s like a cheeky frustration to it where youâ€™re trying to get with someone but theyâ€™re being very hot and cold. I like it a lot, itâ€™s a good song.â€ Both Alisa and bassist McKenna have a common choice with â€˜Strong Enoughâ€™. Itâ€™s interesting to hear how each member perceives the same track from a different angle. Alisa jumps right in describing the track as â€œsuper funky and fresh with a bad ass edge to it. Itâ€™s a very confident songâ€, yet thereâ€™s a side of it where â€œyou are kind of challenging this person that is after you and, almost, asking if theyâ€™re good enough for meâ€. Meanwhile, McKenna thoughtfully relays her opinion on the song; â€œI think itâ€™s funny because people interpret it differently. For me, itâ€™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. Itâ€™s a personal thought too.â€ Last of all, Katie explains her choice. â€œIt kind of depends what kind of music Iâ€™m really digging. Right now, Iâ€™m listening to a song called â€˜Last Oneâ€™ a lot. Itâ€™s so funny because itâ€™s one of the first songs we wrote for this record and itâ€™s really old. Itâ€™s such a strong song. Itâ€™s always been so powerful.â€
Taking Katieâ€™s answer as a lead, I ask the band about their latest music video for â€˜Last Oneâ€™. Despite being a brilliant song, the video is authentically â€˜The Acesâ€™ as it was written and directed by the bandâ€™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 â€“ 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. â€œShe was like there was a breakout which was all centred around this edible arrangement.â€ It turns out their own edible arrangement traced back to where the breakout occurred. â€œWe realised [Kennaâ€™s] family had eaten it, we had eaten it and we were freaking out thinking we would all be contaminated with this thing!â€ Alisa explained. â€œSo, on that night stage we made a joke â€˜we all might be dyingâ€™ and told that story and started to play â€˜Last Oneâ€™. So, this might literally be the â€˜last oneâ€™, 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.â€ It might not be your everyday take on a music video, but it sure paid off. I did have a lingering question though â€“ 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 theyâ€™ve handled their rise in fame. â€œI 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 donâ€™t get too wrapped up in it and to keep that sanityâ€ McKenna says. Itâ€™s evident that the band are well grounded when it comes to fame. The interview itself was enough to reflect on the bandâ€™s genuine, humble attitudes. â€œItâ€™s definitely weird though,â€ Cristal adds. â€œWe havenâ€™t reached a point where itâ€™s crazy yet, but weâ€™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.â€ Itâ€™s no surprise that the rewards of fame can be a little invasive. "Itâ€™s kind of to the point where I donâ€™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 doâ€ Elisa admits. With social media pressures rising, it's understandable how The Aces might not feel the most comfortable sharing personal events, but that doesnâ€™t mean they donâ€™t appreciate their fans. â€œAt the same time, I think we have really sweet fans and a really sweet demographic of kids and people that like our music,â€ Cristal positively states, â€œwe feel lucky for that because weâ€™re really kind, supportive, and awesome.â€
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 theyâ€™d love to either collaborate or tour with. Within a second of asking they all exclaim The 1975. â€œI think itâ€™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 themâ€ Cristal says, and just in case you werenâ€™t convinced, â€œ[theyâ€™re] my favourite band of all time, for sureâ€ Alisa says.
So, not only are they a kick-ass female band, theyâ€™ve definitely got great music taste too. Itâ€™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 Acesâ€™ debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, is out now! You can buy tickets for their EU/UK tour here.