The Girls From The Aces Are Exploring New (and Queer) Emotions
This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with the girls from The Aces, sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (vocal, guitar and drums), Katie Henderson (lead guitar and vocals), and McKenna Petty (bass). The four friends hailing from Provo, Utah, have known each other since elementary school, and their bond is evident. Since the band’s first album, 2018’s When My Heart Felt Volcanic, the band has acquired a dedicated following composed of mainly queer young women. Now, two years later, the girls are all grown up (Cristal, Henderson, and Petty are 24, Alisa is 22) and feel ready to share their stories with their fans with their latest album Under My Influence. The magic of The Aces, aside from their natural knack for music, is that the band makes music about girls, for girls, and for girls who like girls. Songs like ‘“Kelly” proudly display the exhilarating and lust-filled journey of liking a girl with lyrics like “Golden hair and her eyes are the kind/ Make you feel like heaven/ Spent the night between her thighs.” The Aces describe their latest album as their most authentic. “We dug deeper and were able to explore new emotions and go places that we didn’t think we were going to go,” says Ramirez of the new record, which explicitly talks about queer love, heartbreak, sensuality, growing pains, and breaking free of hometown hurdles. Under My Influence, remains true to the band’s alternative rock flare with a hint of maturity and female empowerment. From L.A. and Utah, Cristal, Alisa, and Henderson called us up to break down their musical influences, dream collaborations, and share some self-portraits taken during quarantine.
ERNESTO MACIAS: Where are you right now?
CRISTAL RAMIREZ: Half of us are in L.A. and the other half in Utah, doing as much as we can to put our record out and be connected to our fans.
MACIAS: I listened to Under My Influence, and I sensed growth in the music that you’re making. Tell me how this new album came to be?
CRISTAL: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do: grow. This record came from us going in and wanting to push ourselves to make something different.
ALISA RAMIREZ: It’s still very much The Aces.
CRISTAL: It was really about owning our identities as people and putting that into the music.
ALISA: When we started making this record, we promised ourselves to make the most honest, authentic record we could possibly make. That’s how we dug deeper and were able to explore new emotions and go places that we didn’t think we were going to go at the start of it.
MACIAS: How did the band come together?
CRISTAL: We’ve been a band since we were little kids. We met in elementary and middle school and started playing in our hometown. Professionally we’ve been doing it for about three years, but we grew up as a band.
MACIAS: What are some of those things that you didn’t get to say with your last album?
ALISA: We express more bluntly some of the queer relationships that some of us have gone through and our identities as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We talk about our hometown. We were all raised really religious and come from a very conservative background. We’re breaking free of that.
CRISTAL: This is something I’ve been thinking about. I think of this also as inherently a lot more sexual than the last. It’s just a lot more mature. Owning that space as a woman and owning the fact that we are sexual beings and that we’re allowed to talk about it. It’s an ongoing thing in our culture that women are constantly shamed for being openly sexual. When you’re young and gay and coming into your identity. I think so many people need that. We are proud of ourselves for being able to depict our stories in a very raw and open way.
MACIAS: Which song from the album are you most excited for fans to hear—individually or collectively?
ALISA: I’m personally really excited for people to hear “Kelly.” Especially because we do have a lot of young queer women that are fans, and I’m just really excited for them to get that and see their reactions.
CRISTAL: “Kelly” is one that I’m just so excited about because it is unapologetically queer. I feel like it’s the first time our band is doing something like that.
KATIE HENDERSON: There are two songs that I’m so excited about: “Cruel,” I just love that song so much. I also love “I Can Break Your Heart Too.” Not to toot our own horn too much, but I think the lyrics are really clever. I love that it keeps coming from a place of empowerment.
ALISA: Honestly, it’s such a summer song too. I think that the guitar line and the vibe of that song are so summery.
MACIAS: What music have you been listening to during quarantine?
CRISTAL: Kim Petras is my go-to. I just shuffle her on Amazon. Her music is just so upbeat and fun. I have been listening to “All the Time” over and over.
ALISA: I have been listening to a lot of random stuff, mostly podcasts. I’ve been diving into Kehlani’s new record. I’ve always loved her. She’s awesome. Also, The Weeknd dropped a new one right before all this craziness started happening. I’ve started to dive into Brockhampton, but more specifically Kevin Abstract. I really like what he’s doing.
HENDERSON: When it first started, I was really looking for comfort music, honestly. I was listening to a lot of Bahamas and Nora Jones. It felt really comforting. Now I kind of have gone into a classic phase. Like Dan Auerbach of Black Keys. I love everything he does. He’s a really big guitar influence of mine. I really like the Gorillaz new stuff too. That’s kind of been a vibe lately.
MACIAS: Who was the earliest musician to influence you?
CRISTAL: For me, I think it was Jimi Hendrix. Because my older brother was really into Jimi Hendrix, Muse, and The Beatles. These really classic rock and alternative artists. He had this little MP3 player that he—once he got the iPod—let me have. It literally only holds 25 songs on it. He put a bunch of artists that he knew that I would like, or that he wanted me to like. He wanted me to be cool. I can remember listening to “Voodoo Child” and these insanely classic shredding rock songs. I remember I loved his voice so much. I was probably eight years old.
ALISA: I have this ingrained die-hard love for R&B. I realized that where that came from is my mom. Our mom is from the Bay Area. Growing up, from the time I was a baby, she was always playing Destiny’s Child. The whole Independent Woman album. I knew every word of that from the time I was literally five years old.
HENDERSON: I would basically just steal my brother’s old iPod or CDs and play them in my Walkman player with my headphones. I feel like I was listening to a lot of Beatles, as cliche as it sounds.
CRISTAL: The Beatles were a huge one for our band when we were kids. I remember knowing “Eight Days a Week” literally word for word and putting on “Hard Day’s Night” on repeat every single day for months as an eight-year-old.
HENDERSON: Another odd one that influenced me so much was Weezer, honestly. Pinkerton and The Blue Album were so influential to me.
MACIAS: What was your first concert, and where it?
CRISTAL: Alisa and I were obviously at the same concert. So I’m trying to know if she would know. Do you remember?
ALISA: I know distinctly because I remember being so shook that I’d never been to a concert before, I was probably 10. There’s this thing in our hometown called Stadium of Fire. Basically they take the college football stadium, and they put on a big 4th of July show. Now it’s always a country artist, but when we were younger, I remember the first one I ever went to was Miley Cyrus.
CRISTAL: That was it. It was during her “Can’t Be Tamed” era. We were going so crazy because we were also kids in that height of Disney with Hannah Montana and everything. Miley Cyrus live was the craziest experience ever for us.
HENDERSON: That’s a classic. I’ve definitely been to a Miley Cyrus concert in my day. But my first one was actually a James Taylor concert. My dad is a big James Taylor fan.
MACIAS: Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?
HENDERSON: Star Wars. The music in those movies is unbelievable. The first one for some reason that’s coming to my head that might sound so dumb but I love the soundtrack for, the Twilight movies.
ALISA: I was literally just going to say that! The Twilight soundtrack absolutely slaps.
HENDERSON: It’s like that “Clair de Lune” song by Debussy. It’s a really beautiful piano song. You also have Paramore. You have some of the most iconic bands and pieces of music ever in that series. Also, Call Me By Your Name has one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve heard in a movie in a really long time. There’s a lot of emotion in those piano pieces. And there’s a lot of curiosity in there, which I think is really beautiful and compliments the story.
ALISA: I finally watched it last week, and I was just so taken by. It’s so beautiful.
CRISTAL: One of the soundtracks that I really love is The Great Gatsby soundtrack. The one that came out in 2013 that Jay-Z put together. I think it sounds so sick, the way he combined modern artists with 1920s music and the way it was remixed.
MACIAS: Who is your dream collaborator?
CRISTAL: I feel like one for the band would probably be The 1975.
ALISA: Or Tame Impala. I know we’ve all talked about it.
MACIAS: Is there any one particular song that you’re super taken by from the new Tame Impala?
CRISTAL: I’m obsessed with that record. I absolutely love it. “Lost in Yesterday” and “Breathe Deeper” are probably my favorite songs.
MACIAS: What about a song that always puts you in a happy mood?
CRISTAL: Mine would be “For Him” by Troye Sivan off of his Blue Neighborhood album. I was listening to that album so much when we were writing our first record and we were in Brooklyn. I remember it was the first time we had ever gone to New York. Coming from Orem, Utah. Suburban small-town girls being in Brooklyn, experiencing all the culture, restaurants, and writing music there. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my young life so far.
HENDERSON: There was this time when we spent a lot of time in New York during the winter. I was totally getting seasonal depression from that because New York in the winter is so hellacious. I came back to L.A. and I felt like I was on top of the world, I had “No Option” by Post Malone on repeat because it’s just such a vibe. It’s a really simple subject matter but just really chill.
ALISA: I think one of the first bands I think of when I’m trying to get in a good mood is actually N.E.R.D. Pharrell Williams’s, N.E.R.D. I love the song “ESP,” and I love the song “Lifting You.” If I’m getting myself in the mood to work out, those are the songs I go to.
MACIAS: If your life was a TV show, what would be the theme song?
HENDERSON: I’m going to say “Rules” by Doja Cat. That is my shit. You know what, that’s it. That’s all I have to say for that.
ALISA: “Nights” by Frank Ocean. I love that song so much. You know what, I’d probably do maybe something by the Gorillaz. “Rock the House” by Gorillaz or something. That’s probably better.
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