Interview by Sophie Minello
The Aces are tearing up the music scene. Recently embarking on a full North American tour with COIN, preparing for a couple spring European tour dates, and just announcing their debut album release for April 6, 2018, they’ve got big things in store. I was lucky enough to chat with them after their set at Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio. Despite just playing an explosive set, the band greeted me with enthusiasm. The Aces are Cristal Ramirez (Vocals, guitar), Katie Henderson (Lead guitar, vocals), McKenna Petty (Bass), and Alisa Ramirez (Drums).
How do you think Utah influenced you as musicians?
Mckenna: I think it helped us for sure when we were younger. It’s a very religious and conservative state. Since we started the band when we were so young we were able to play all of the venues because they were all ages and no one really drinks a ton.
Cristal: Yeah, this is in Provo where we’re from. In our hometown we got to play all the venues because it was a college town that was very religious.
Alisa: It helped us a lot as live musicians because we were playing shows when we were so young and that’s all we did.
Cristal: I also think it inspired us because if we wouldn’t have grown up in Utah, or grown up a more conservative and chill place, I don’t know who we would be as a band or if we’d be a band because all of our teens years we were just focused on music. We didn’t drink, we didn’t party, we didn’t do any of that. It was just band practice. Writing songs was our outlet to really figure out who we were. I think Utah was key for us.
You just recently announced your debut album! Congrats. How does it feel to be in the last step before such a pivotal moment in your career?
Cristal: So exciting.
Alisa: There’s a lot of anticipation. We’re already seeing a steady growth with things like being on tour so it’s a big build up. We just finalized all the CD packaging. Today we all looked at each other and were like, “It’s done. It’s happening.”
Cristal: There are actually copies!
Alisa: It’s crazy, we’re all just waiting for that moment to hold our album and have it be real. There’s tons of anticipation.
Did you experience any big musical breakthroughs while creating your debut?
Cristal: For about a year and a half before we started writing and really cracking into what is now the record, we were working with a ton of different producers and trying to figure out what our sound was and who we wanted to be as adults, because we had really been a band through all our teen years. We were looking to get signed to a record label and all those things that come with that. There was a huge breakthrough for us when we went out to Brooklyn, New York for the first time about three years ago. We wrote with the producers that now have written about half the songs the record. Their names are Dan Gibson and Simon Oscroft and that’s when we wrote ‘Volcanic Love’ and we wrote ‘Stuck’ and those songs. That was a huge breakthrough for us because it was the first time we felt like ourselves. It was the first time we felt like it represented all four of us, and it felt nice and it was easy.
Alisa: It’s kind of amazing. We always talk about the album being a coming of age album because we are coming of age as we speak and as we were writing it. We were kind of transitioning from being teenagers to adults with a career. It’s interesting as an artist to find out who you are, because it goes hand and hand with finding who you are as a person and how you want the world to see you. They say music is the sound of emotion, and that’s very true to who we are and how our music sounds. I think you can find out a lot about us by listening to our music. It was really cool writing this album and getting to talk about discovering who we are through music. It’s a big coming of age moment for us.
"It was really cool writing this album
and getting to talk about discovering who we are through music.
It’s a big coming of age moment for us."
You released ‘Fake Nice’ and ‘Volcanic Love’ from the album so far. Why did you choose these songs to represent the album?
Cristal: There are different reasons for both. ‘Fake Nice’, I think we really wanted to show a new side of us. A different, vibey-er, more minimalistic side of us because we had already put out an EP that kind of gave us an identity with ‘Physical’ and ‘Stuck’ and those. So we wanted a more fresh and minimalist side of us and I think that ‘Fake Nice’ really showcased it. And then ‘Volcanic Love’ I would say because that’s so quintessential Aces.
Mckenna: Well that was the first song that we wrote for the album.
Katie: The release of ‘Volcanic Love’ was interesting because if it was up to us, it would have been released forever ago because we loved it so much that we wanted it to come out with the EP. Through a series of circumstances it just got pushed back, but I think it came out right when it was supposed to. It’s the title of the album, it means so much to us, so we really wanted that song to have a big presence when it was released.
Cristal: We wanted it to come out quickly so people would be ‘Oh yeah, Aces!’ and remember that sound. I think it so easily pairs with the rest of our EP and our other music.
This was your first full North American tour. How has this experience been so far?
Cristal: It’s exhausting, it’s ridiculously fun, it’s a lot of time sitting in the car because we’re in a van right now. But we’re learning so much and we’re getting to be in front of crowds every single night.
"Seeing people’s faces and winning them over,
then suddenly they’re fans of us and not just fans of COIN."
Seeing people’s faces and winning them over, then suddenly they’re fans of us and not just fans of COIN. We love COIN so much but we really love you guys too, and it’s been really amazing and really validating for our band. We’re here for a reason, we’re on these stages for a reason, people love us, they want to hear us, and that feels nice.
Alisa: It’s amazing to see the growth before our eyes. Every night we see the social media numbers spike and every night we meet new kids who’ve never heard of us who are like, “You’re one of my new favorite bands.” It’s also amazing to go to places that we’ve never been and have long lines of kids who say “I’ve been screaming your music for a year.” That’s insane.
Katie: It’s exciting to always look forward to something new. Every show is so fun and meeting everyone after is such a cool experience.
Cristal: This is also a really weird part of tour, but we can say we’ve been to almost every state now, which is crazy because most people definitely can’t say that. We go to random little parts of Tennessee or Ohio.
Alisa: It teaches you so much. It makes you so cultured to see every nook and cranny of the world. We’re very grateful that we get that opportunity.
You’ve known each other for a while, is there anything you realized about each other once you began touring that you hadn’t before you went on tour?
Cristal: I think it’s more like, I knew it but it’s learning to work with everybody’s ‘things’.
Katie: I feel like we always knew each other.
Cristal: It’s nothing surprising, frankly, it’s just like “Oh, yeah, typical!”
Alisa: It’s just about making our relationships stronger and learning how to really deal with each other. Everyone’s got little things that annoy each other, especially when you’re right next to each other all the time. I think it’s interesting to find out how to deal with each other’s quirks.
Katie: With touring, we learned to deal with each other for a long span of time. We already knew everything about each other, but it was like getting married. Like, you’re dating someone for a while and then we made the marriage step. It’s a great step in the process, but also different things come along when learning how to live with people. It’s similar to that relationship.
Alisa: Yes! You get in fights sometimes, you learn to get over it.
McKenna: You work it out.
Cristal: But you love each other so much.
Katie: The fruits of the labors are this. We get to play shows and it’s the best experience ever.
"You have to be present and be in the moment."
Cristal: I thank my lucky stars I get to tour with them because we know each other so well. They are so easy-going with each other and it’s so easy to tour with them. Yeah, everybody has squabbles, but we just know each other so well. We get over stuff quick and say “Oh, love you, we’re good.” We just enjoy ourselves. I’ve been noticing these past few days that we just laugh so hard together. We just laugh our asses off together and joke and making light of situations. I think that’s what touring is really good for, it teaches you that things aren’t that big of a deal because things are always on to the next, you have a show that night. You have to be present and be in the moment. Little squabbles and shit, you don’t hold onto that. You’re very much like, “Get over it, it’s fine” and you forgive each other or don’t even take it personally.
Katie: I think it’s easier because we’ve known each other for so long. Doing this in a rush with someone I’ve only known for a year or two would be really hard. We’ve been best friends since I was 14 and that makes things so easy.
Alisa: You probably would find out a lot of new, shocking things with someone you’ve only known for a couple years.
McKenna: We’ve had people come on the team that we don’t know that much and it’s crazy how much you learn about someone when touring.
Cristal: But with us I’m just like, “Already knew of you guys.”
Katie: It is cool because we really only have each other to fall back on because we’re gone so much. We have a really deep connection because of that. We treat each other like family, we’re not just friends, we really are family. It’s a really cool dynamic.
Aside from the debut, what can we expect in the future of the Aces?
Cristal: Literally everything. Live shows, more tours, tons of festivals.
Alisa: We want to be on TV!
Katie: Really cool visuals and pictures.
Cristal: Music videos, instagram, tweets, new merchandise. I think it’s all coming. We put our EP out and there was a break between it all with us getting ready and really finishing our album. We toured a little bit with Joywave and that was awesome, but now it’s actually here. It’s actually coming out, and everything that comes with that is gonna happen. So we’re really excited.