Uncovering ‘New Emotion’ with The Aces

We interviewed US alternative indie pop band The Aces and asked them more about their new album and the beautiful emotions and journey that revolve around it, including the use of pronouns, as well the making of their fun new music video ‘My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me’.

Consisting of members Katie Henderson (guitarist), McKenna Petty (bassist), and sisters Alisa Ramirez (drums) and Cristal Ramirez (lead vocals and guitars), the band unveiled their sophomore album Under My Influence just last month.

Since its release, opening song Daydream has had close to 6 million streams on Spotify, while Kelly is going strong with over a million streams.

The 14-track album is the band at their most vulnerable, exploring themes of love, sexuality, mental health, friendship and more, each with The Aces’ signature flair.

Whether it’s lamenting on love and loss in a new city on Lost Angeles, reminiscing their hometown of Provo, Utah on 801, delving into the pressures of social media on My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me, or exploring gender pronouns in their lyricism for the first time on Kelly, the new album is a bold reflection of the band members’ own experiences, told with thoughtful introspection and universal relatability.

It is “their stories”…

AL365: Hi The Aces, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Big congrats on the new album! We love it! My heart is torn between ‘All Mean Nothing’ and ‘Going Home’ being my fave track. If you could pick a fave, which song would it be?

Alisa Ramirez: I think that it changes for all of us. I love “Zillionaire” right now. We’re practicing playing it live, and it’s been a really fun one.

Cristal Ramirez: I want to say the same, but that’s a boring answer. I would say my favorite one right now – because we’re in rehearsals, so we’re learning all of them – is “801.” It’s just such a vibe for me right now.

Katie Henderson: For me, right now I think ‘New Emotion’ is my favorite one. It’s so funky, and it’s got such a great groove.

AL365: We love that you’re using more pronouns now – that you weren’t able to before. It makes the experiences and feelings more surreal and the music really comes alive. Music should be in its truest form and not be compelled to fit in. So it’s really beautiful how the new album shines. How do you feel about this; being able to use more pronouns in your songs now, and why do you reckon such perception for using only certain pronouns or not at all is still an issue? Do you hope that this will change one day?

Alisa: For us, it’s felt really natural and it feels really good to be using pronouns that are true to our experiences. It feels like there shouldn’t be a need for hesitation, but I think it’s pretty obvious as to why it could be an issue for queer artists to use pronouns. I think a lot of times people are told or get the idea that they are not going to be as successful if they’re queer, because that’s an experience that the majority can’t relate to. So, they just keep that part private. I’m aware of a lot of artists who are queer that don’t use pronouns in their music for that reason. I don’t know if it’s out of fear or just because they think they’ll perform better or sell more records if they don’t. I think that we’re coming to a time where it feels a lot safer and a lot more necessary for everyone to just own their space and a lot more people are doing it, which is awesome to see. But I think there’s still that fear. And while that is our perspective as an American artist, I know it’s very different for some people in other places, which is a whole other factor.

Cristal: Yeah. I think the hope is obviously that one day it won’t be a thing at all, and people can just write music and say whatever they want and not have to think twice about it. I think we’re getting to that place in the States and probably in Europe, but there’s just a lot of work to do in a lot of other countries.

Alisa: Even still in this one.

Cristal: Yeah, definitely still in this one, but it feels like we’re getting there, and it’s becoming more mainstream.

AL365: The entire album feels like a beautiful journey of relationships and experiences – the songs are pop-ish and catchy yet there’s so much depth and emotional wisdom in the lyrics. It hits hard. How do you feel sharing all these with the world? And which song would you reckon feels the most personal to you?

Cristal: It’s so interesting, because we were just talking about this yesterday. Even though we can’t tour, and we can’t do a lot of the things that we “normally” would do, the music is still resonating on such a level with people. We’re still growing as a band, and even though we’re not able to do anything that elicits that growth, I think that speaks so highly to the music. We are so proud of it and we put our whole hearts and souls into it, and we see it connecting and resonating with our fans on such a new level. It feels really exciting, and also relieving, because we’ve been holding on to this music for so long and it is so personal for us. So, it feels like we’re just so close to this entire piece of work.

AL365: Where do you feel most inspired to write? At airports while waiting for flights while on tour? Or at home? On the bus? Sitting in the garden or a park bench?

Alisa: Whenever we’re ready to record, we always try to take a little bit of time to go somewhere unique to switch up our environment. For this record, we went and spent a week in Malibu, right on the beach. It was really peaceful and relaxing, and it allowed us to open up and create full time. It didn’t matter the time of day; it was just us and our producer ready to go whenever. It was a 24/7 creative space, and we wanted to create an environment that’s very fluid so you can relax and enjoy yourself, but if an idea came to you, you could start writing around it. We got a lot of songs out of the experience.

Cristal: Malibu is a big one, especially on this last record. We usually don’t really write on tour or when we’re traveling a lot. It becomes difficult – sometimes we’ll put ideas down in our phones, but we don’t typically write when we’re out on the road.

AL365: With such a plethora of songs written (we understand that you did 60), how do you decide which songs make it to the album and which songs do not?

Cristal: As songwriters, you write a lot of songs, especially in the pursuit of a record. It’s very interesting, because I feel like everyone’s process is different. I feel like we know when a song is going to be on the record about 95% of the time. There were definitely a couple songs that we were certain were going to be on the record, but then we would write for two more months and some of them would get replaced. For the most part, the majority of them we knew in the beginning that they were special, and they were going to be on the record. But we just wanted to really challenge ourselves as well, and we wanted to really write a lot of songs because we wanted the best possible on this record.

AL365: What was it like working with Justin Tranter on the song ‘My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me’?

Alisa: He’s a good friend of ours now and he’s definitely such a talented, amazing person. Every time we write, it just feels like we’re hanging out as friends and then we ended up writing a song. It’s overall just a good time.

Cristal: He’s crazy talented too. He’s such a legend.

ASL365: Tell us more about the making of the music video for My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me. It was recorded during quarantine evidently and it looks like everyone was having so much fun! What were the outtakes or bloopers like, and most importantly were any phones harmed in the making of the video? 😉

Cristal: A lot of phones were indeed harmed, but they were phones that we didn’t use anymore. It’s not our actual phones that we were hurling off of rooftops, they were old phones. Alisa and I were talking about what we wanted to do for a music video and how we wanted to stay creative. We were just chatting and brainstorming because during the quarantine, you’re not really able to make traditional music videos, but we still wanted to make stuff. We were still putting songs out. So, we wanted to make a visual for the track, but we almost wanted to revert back to when we were kids and you would just hang out with your friends and make hilarious home videos. So that’s kind of what the idea for “My Phone is Trying to Kill Me” was about, making a quarantine cut for this song. It was us just in our hometown, because we’d gone home for the quarantine for a month. [Alisa and I] were filming at our mom’s place, and Katie and McKenna were filming at their places in Utah. It honestly was probably even ten times more fun for us to make – we just had so much fun.

AL365: Any fellow music artist you would like to collaborate with or work on song together with?

Cristal: I think The 1975 would be so sick. That’s a big one that we’ve always wanted.

Katie: Tame Impala would be really cool.

Cristal: If Kevin Parker of Tame Impala was to do a remix of one of our songs, that would be incredible.

AL365: Do you all listen to the same type of music, or different artists/genres of music?

Katie: I think we’re similar in some ways, but we also all have pretty specific tastes.

Cristal: I think we all honestly listen to a lot of different kinds of music – but at the same time, I do feel like we have a commonality in songs. I can almost pinpoint what each band member’s vibe is. I would say Alisa is the hip-hop and R&B queen. I’m definitely kind of a pop queen. Love pop through and through, but also love pop with an alternative edge to it. Katie is the most alternative music loving person in our band, for sure. And I would say McKenna is very acoustic and vibe-y. Regardless of genre, I feel like everyone in the band knows a good song when they hear it.

Alisa: McKenna listens to a lot of indie and experimental music. I’ll listen to her experiential music playlists that she makes and it’s like, “whoa, this is really interesting and different.”

AL365: What do you miss most about being on tour – and what is that one song in your new album that you are so looking forward to playing live again?\

Cristal: I miss everything about being on tour, honestly. Tour is so much fun. Especially since we were so looking forward to this album cycle, so it’s been a little bit tough to not be able to do it. But I would say the song that I’m looking forward to playing the most on tour is… all of them. I have a hard time picking one.

Alisa: It’s hard to say, because when you start playing them on tour, I think fans start to respond a lot to one song, and it can be your favorite part of the set because it’s contagious every night. So, I’m just so curious to see like, what that song is, what they take to, and I think that would probably change what I was most excited to play.

ASL365: Anything you like to say to your fans (Ace Faces)?

Cristal: We just want to say to our fans in Asia that we love them so much – they’ve supported our career from the very beginning in such a hardcore, dedicated way. We can’t wait to be back in Asia performing for them and experiencing the new music together!

ASL365: Thanks again The Aces! We look forward to hearing more of your stuff, and hopefully see you live in a gig soon!

Under My Influence’ is available on all streaming platforms here.

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