The Aces Discuss “Honest and Vulnerable” New Album, Ahead of Cardiff Gig

Since The Aces released their acclaimed sophomore album, Under My Influence in 2020, the band has been on a journey of self-discovery.

Faced with the realities of a global pandemic, sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (lead vocals/guitar and drums, respectively), Katie Henderson (lead guitar/vocals), and McKenna Petty (bass) used quarantine as a time to reflect, confronting personal mental health issues as well as processing experiences they’d had growing up together in Provo, Utah, as part of the Mormon church.

When The Aces returned to the studio, their vision — and the honesty and trust between them — felt stronger than ever.   The result of this growth period is I’ve Loved You For So Long, the band’s third LP. Written and executive-produced by the group (along with Keith Varon, the sole collaborator on the project), the album is a sparkling indie-rock record that’s by far their most personal and self-assured work to date.

From tracks that ruminate on mental health and self-sabotage to searing anthems about love, longing, and heartbreak, I’ve Loved You For So Long is also an opportunity for The Aces to reach new heights and build on their many previous successes.  

To date, the group has earned over 205 million career streams; Under My Influence alone garnered more than 75 million (including 35 million on its lead single “Daydream”).

The album also appeared on numerous charts, including no.53 on Billboard’s Top Albums list. Further, The Aces have toured with the likes of 5 Seconds of Summer, X Ambassadors, The Vamps, and COIN, and have played at festivals all over the world, including NY Pride, Lollapalooza, Firefly, Bonnaroo, OUTFEST, and more. After selling out their last U.S. headline tour in 2021, the band are back and heading to Cardiff’s Globe on August 29.

Jules Boyle recently caught up with them.

The Aces will play The Globe, Cardiff on August 29.

You’ve released your third album, I’ve Loved You For So Long. Did you have any ideas or plans going into it or did it just evolve organically?  

Cristal: It was really organic. We started making it in 2020 after we’d put out our second record Under My Influence. I was having really bad panic attacks and we just wanted to get in the studio to reconnect with our love of music and our love of what we do. We also just wanted to create something in such a chaotic time.

So it kind of just came about organically where we started talking about my mental health which then set off this whole journey of self-reflection, as in where my anxiety was coming from, as I’ve always been really anxious. That led us all to start reflecting on our youth, where we all grew up and what it was like to grow up there closeted and queer in what was a repressive and religious town as four women in a band. That’s how the record took shape and once we knew we had a story to tell, things got more intentional.  

It feels like an incredibly honest and personal record. Was it difficult to get to this point where you felt comfortable expressing yourself like that?  

Cristal: Oh, for sure. I think the pandemic actually helped in that regard, as we are able to have all that time to really self-reflect and sit with our feelings, as there was so little happening to distract us, we had nothing else to do but sit at home just like everyone else.

So there was a lot of revisiting who we were, why we made music in the first place and whether we were doing things as authentically as we could and if not, what could we do about that?

We started making music when we were kids because we loved it so much, so we wanted to get back to that feeling. So there was definitely a lot of hard feelings to process, as well as a lot of our own self-discoveries about leaving both the religion and the hometown we all grew up in.

We all had different journeys from each other, but in 2020 for the first time, we were all in a very similar place with our reckoning with all of that, so that was a very powerful thing to experience, as we finally felt that we could all say everything we wanted to say and all felt the same way about it.  

How much of a difference did it make to you all having music to counter the repressed lives you were all having to lead?  

Cristal: It made a huge, huge difference to all of us. Honestly, we always say that it saved us. It was the safe space where we could be the versions of ourselves that we wanted to be.

Even though we weren’t out or even out of our hometown or religion, we were representing ourselves the way we wanted to and doing something that we were really good at. So we felt proud of that. It made all the difference for me personally and was the reason I was able to cope growing up in the place we did, being closeted and experiencing so many really intense feelings when we were so young.

McKenna: To add to that, not only having music as a therapeutic outlet, having the band and our own little community where we all felt really similar and seen was super important. I think for anyone living in a place where they feel different or don’t fit in, having that chosen family and community is a really life-changing thing. That’s what the band was for all of us. It was a place we could be more honest, as it can feel less scary expressing yourself through music than it does through other outlets. Being from Utah where it is very oppressive and scary to talk about things, having that outlet was huge for us.  

This is the first time you’ve really made a point of expressing and discussing mental health on your albums. How important has that been for you to be able to do that?  

McKenna: I think it’s so important to be able to do that, but this is the first record where we really have done that, as our previous albums were all more about relationships, love and that kind of thing. This time, Cristal got super-introspective about her mental health and we all really looked back on our childhood and where we came from. That was the final piece of processing growing up somewhere like we did, so it was a super-healing and therapeutic thing for us to be able to do that in the middle of the record. It’s so important to be able to look at yourself, go inwards and see the part that you are playing. I love that about this record.  

Cristal: We can’t really know what’s going on in our lives currently or why things are the way they are if we don’t look back. We didn’t set out to do that, it just became this thing that evolved as we started to connect the dots.  

When writing those songs, was there any thoughts about how they could resonate with young teenagers out there who were experiencing similar issues in their own lives?  

Alisa: It’s kind of our main goal with this record, to create a sense of community and of not being alone for people that need it. We’ve all had those artists and albums that found us at the perfect time when we needed them the most. So hopefully with this record being as honest and vulnerable as we were with it, there will be some people who can relate to it or are going through the same things and will feel comforted by it.  

It’s your third album, but in many ways, it looks and feels like a debut album, would you agree with that?  

Alisa: We almost self-titled the record for that very reason as it felt so rooted in who we are and was the first time we were really owning our story, not only in the storytelling in the songs, but in the way we made it, as we wrote a lot of them in the same way we did it as kids, by just setting up our instruments, jamming and hitting ‘record’. When it was finished, it was so close to being self-titled, but we realised that the song I’ve Loved You For  So Long felt so all-encompassing of what this band means to us and has done every step of the way. It definitely still feels like a new debut for us for sure, though.  

McKenna: Totally. These are the stories we wanted to tell when we were younger, but we didn’t have the language and maturity that comes with age to do that. Now we’re finally able to do that.  

You were recently in the UK playing arenas as tour support for The Vamps. How was that for you?  

McKenna: It was amazing. It was so much fun for us, as we’ve never done an opening tour in the UK, so it was like night and day compared to anything we’ve done there before. They’re such nice dudes and play such a good show every night, it was such a great experience. Their fans are amazing too, so we had a really good time playing to them and are super-excited to be coming back over to the UK after doing that.  

The Aces play Cardiff Globe on August 29.

How big a difference is it between playing massive area supports and your own headline shows?  

It’s such a different experience playing those big shows as nobody really knows you, so it’s a challenge to win them over, but a fun one. You just go out to play the best show you can and work the crowd the best you can, so it’s so satisfying when come off knowing that you’ve connected with people and won them over.  

You’re coming back here in the Autumn for your own headline tour. You must be really excited about it?  

McKenna: We’re so excited about it. It’s really blowing up already, as we’ve just upgraded the shows in London, Manchester and Glasgow, so it’s the biggest UK run we’ve ever done. We’re so looking forward to it.  

Looking to the future, where would you like to see The Aces going?  

Cristal: Our ambition is to just keep connecting with people and building our fanbase and community as much as we can. We want to connect with the people who get what we do and  bring Aces all over the world.

We have a lot of plans to go to places like Asia and South America, basically anywhere that the queer community really needs our representation, so we’d love to go there and connect with our fans, as they’re so passionate. Basically, we just want to keep making music we love, connect with our fans and keep doing what we’re doing.

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