Sometimes, when doing something she’s always dreamed of, like playing a show in Europe or recording a music video, drummer Alisa Ramirez looks at the other members of indie rock/pop band The Aces and suddenly remembers when they were 10 years old.
Before forming the band a decade ago, the members of this all-female quartet were simply best friends. Singer and guitarist Cristal Ramirez and drummer Alisa Ramirez are sisters. Cristal and bass player McKenna Petty met in kindergarten and became close friends in fifth grade. Petty met lead guitarist Katie Henderson in junior high.
Now, they’re in their early 20s and have played shows across the U.S. and in Europe and recently released their their debut album, “When My Heart Felt Volcanic,” in April.
“We always talk and laugh together about how we’re like, ‘guys, we’re just like simple best friends who have known each other for years and now we’re getting to travel the world together and play to huge crowds,’” Cristal said. “It’s just really a bit surreal and it just makes it even better that we’re all so close and we just get along so well.”
Growing up in Utah provided the band with opportunities to perform at a young age. Because Utah is a dry state, there are many all-ages venues where they could develop their skills in front of an audience. Due to the religious culture, many of them were also driven to music at a really young age because of the demand for musicianship in churches.
By age 13, they were playing in the same Battle of the Bands competitions as 30-year-old men. Environments like this didn’t really intimidate them; they liked how being young and female made them different from the other bands.
Despite their confidence, they still dealt with stereotypes and societal conditioning when they started making music. At first, they thought their music had to be more masculine to be taken seriously. They’ve dealt with various other stereotypes, such as people thinking they can’t play instruments.
“You see a lot of female-fronted acts or singers but you don’t see a lot of (female) musicians so I think a lot of people write women off like, ‘oh, she can’t play drums,’ or ‘she’s not going to be able to play guitar,’” Alisa said.
As time went on, they decided they weren’t going to let these expectations impact their music.
Though they encounter people who think they don’t understand equipment at a venue or don’t know what they’re doing, at the end of the day, those people change their minds after seeing the band perform or interacting with them, Henderson said.
“We get out there, we ask to be on those stages, we’re a full-time touring band now, we put in the work and we’re just as capable as anybody else, regardless of gender,” Cristal said. “We’re just trying to do it by example.”
Their writing process is therapeutic, with the inspiration for their songs coming from what they’re going through and what they’ve been through. They aim to be as authentic as possible, using their raw and honest emotions to create music that fans can relate to, dance to and heal to.
“The biggest compliment we can get is if someone goes, ‘oh my gosh, I felt that exact same way’ (after listening to our music).” Cristal said.
Though they’re proud of all of their songs, Cristal said creating ‘Lovin’ is Bible’ was a particularly great experience for the band because the lyrics are about loving and understanding people, regardless of religious beliefs.
“I think we’re also really proud of ‘Volcanic Love’ just because that was really the first track that broke down a barrier and a wall for us as far as discovering our sound and the way we wanted to be heard musically,” Alisa said.
Since they were all raised on different types of music, their melodies are impacted by the fact that Cristal and Alisa were brought up on artists like Earth, Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. The production and style of instrumentation on their records is influenced by Henderson growing up listening to classic rock and Petty listening to new wave.
“It’s a lot to do with our parents,” Alisa said. “That (music) is what we grew up on. That’s what we’d wake up to in the morning was our parents blasting Michael Jackson so we’d get out of bed and go to school, so I think we’re all really influenced by our parents’ musical choices.”
“We’re all such close friends and we’re basically sisters so that’s a huge thing we want to promote: this sisterhood we’ve grown,” Petty said. “We want to bring other people into it — girls and boys, whoever — and just have it be a big, fun family.”
Henderson describes the band’s goals as “endless.” A huge goal for them was releasing a debut album. Now, they’d love to headline their own tour and reach more countries.
“We want to do it all,” Cristal said.
Katie Henderson: “I have to say The Beatles, even if it’s cliche.”
McKenna Petty: “Mine’s really cliche too but probably Coldplay.”
Alisa Ramirez: “Michael Jackson. There’s no one better – there never has been, there never will be.”
Cristal Ramirez: “I have to say Paramore because Hayley Williams has been an inspiration for me since I was like 13.”
What they’re listening to right now:
Katie: “I’ve been listening to the new Bahamas record. I love it.”
McKenna: “I’ve been listening to an artist called Rostam. The guitarist of Vampire Weekend did his own solo project and I really like it.”
Alisa: “I’m definitely still not over 24K Magic by Bruno Mars. I think I listen to that at least once a day, pretty much top to bottom. Also, I’m really bumping the new Post Malone track featuring Ty Dolla $ign. I love that new track. (‘Psycho’)”
Cristal: “I’ve been listening to an artist called Allie X a lot recently. She’s a big songwriter for Troye Sivan and a bunch of different people. And Hippo Campus, which are some of our friends and we love their music.”