As an all-woman, indie-pop quartet, The Aces face a unique set of challenges trying to make it big in an industry with far too many opinions about what a girl group should be. So, when it came time for Katie Henderson, McKenna Petty, and sisters Alisa and Cristal Ramirez to put out their sophomore record, they did things their own way. It's only fitting the new album is called Under My Influence, because The Aces are making their own rules.
Rule No. 1? The Aces put social justice first. While the band was originally set to release Under My Influence on June 12, the musicians decided to push the album back to July so their fans could focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. For the band, the decision was a no-brainer after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that led to worldwide protests calling for an end to unchecked police brutality and [systemic] racism.
"When we decided to push our record, it was because it didn't feel right for us to put a record out in the middle of such an important movement and one that we can be using our voices to fight for," Cristal, the band's lead vocalist, tells Elite Daily. "We just wanted to give it more time."
Patience has never been a problem for The Aces. In 2008, they came together as self-taught guitar players in their parents' garages. They persevered for a decade before finally dropping their debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, in 2018 under Red Bull Records.
The Aces have created a distinct sound over the years, refusing to abide by preconceived notions of what a girl group should sound like. While Cristal thinks things have gotten better when it comes to all-female bands being respected in the music industry, there's still a ways to go.
"I would say as an all-female band, we’re lucky to live in a time where [unbiased opinions of girl groups] are really starting to become the norm," she says. "But when we were kids, we came from a smaller hometown, and there’s just always this sexist expectation that women aren’t going to know anything about the technical side of music. That they don’t understand it, and you shouldn’t expect them to."
Cristal and her bandmates have endured a multitude of stereotypes, like the assumption they can't shred on guitar as well as guys can. "For [women] guitar players and drummers, it’s like ‘Oh, are you guys good? Do you play as good as dudes? Can you keep up?’" Cristal says. "What the f*ck is that kind of question?"
Then there's the assumption all-women bands lack originality and are expected to record bubblegum pop. "People just assume that all females that play in bands are the same. It’s like all female bands have become a genre," Cristal says. "People will just write you off if they find out you’re an all-girl band."
Having been fans of rule-breaking bands like Led Zeppelin, Abba, and The Beatles from day one, The Aces were inspired to take more risks on their sophomore outing.
"I definitely think this was a much more fearless record," drummer Alisa shares. "I think there were less rules in our heads. When we were making our first album, it was so fun, but also really kind of stressful because it felt like there was a lot of pressure on what our debut was supposed to be and what that was going to set The Aces up to be for the rest of our careers. This one felt so comfortable. You know how people say you have to know the rules to break them? It felt like we established the rules of The Aces on our first album so with Under My Influence, we could break them."
The band says their sophomore record is a 180 from their first, and that's immediately obvious upon listening to it. The album's opener, "Daydream," is a synth-driven song with pop sensibilities about nostalgia. It feels miles away from their debut album's kick-off song, "Volcanic Love," a sensual, slow-moving tune about toxic love.
These days, pushing musical boundaries is more instinctive for The Aces. "I think that that just happens naturally when it comes to the territory of getting older and getting better at expressing yourself, understanding yourself more, and knowing what you want to say," says Cristal.
With 14 songs packed into it, The Aces' new record certainly has a lot to say. By the time you finish listening, you'll be under their influence.