Utah indie pop band The Aces raised a few eyebrows in 2018 when they released their debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic. Two years later, and despite a few pandemic-led delays, they’re about to release the sophomore effort Under My Influence. We chatted about all that and more…
L.A. WEEKLY: How has the band evolved since the first album two years ago?
CRISTAL RAMIREZ: I think our sound has just become a lot more free when we create music. We feel less pressure to be anything, and maybe that’s because on our first album it feels like we established a sound and a fan base, more importantly, that really feels devoted to our band. On the second album, Under My Influence, there’s more experimentation and different kinds of sounds on it, even though there are a lot of big pop songs. I think sonically there was no limit, we just wanted to try everything. And I think you hear that. It feels like an evolution and a maturation from the first album.
Why that title — Under My Influence?
CR: It came about because when we were writing the record, we really wanted to go into each session and not reference anything directly. We didn’t want to go into sessions thinking “I want to make a song like that” or “I want to make a vibe like that.” It all just had to feel really good. It all was just created from the ground up, either playing guitar or playing piano. So it really felt like, when you’re listening to this record, you’re under our influence rather than different musicians and artists that we grew up listening to. It felt empowering, and overall like this is our universe. You are quite literally under the Aces’ influence.
How about the single “My Phone is Trying to Kill Me” — what inspired that, and was it written before or during lockdown?
CR: It was actually a year ago. Last summer. I feel like a lot of people think we wrote that because of lockdown, but it just weirdly applies to lockdown. It’s just about that struggle of what it’s like to grow up with social media — it’s maddening at times.
Was the whole album written pre-pandemic?
ALISA RAMIREZ: Yeah it was. The whole record was finished with mastering January/February. The songwriting was finished September/October.
Had you learned anything from the process on the debut that made it easier second time around?
CR: Oh yeah. My main tip when you’re making a record is, just sing the vocals on the day you write it. Don’t tell yourself that you’re gonna go back and fix it later, because it’s a pain in the ass. Get a good vocal while you’re there and call it a day. As a vocalist, that’s my tip.
KATIE HENDERSON: There are so many, but I would say don’t force anything. Do what feels natural to you. Go out and do stuff. Live life, experiment, explore and make authentic shit.
How have you been staying sane in lockdown?
KH: We have a studio set up in our house which has been really cool, trying to experiment with making music just in our spare room and stuff.
CR: That’s been cool but other than that, we’ve just been waiting to show fans our new music and preparing stuff around that. It’s been tough for sure. Only up until the past week or so have I really wanted to write any music. Because it’s hard — it doesn’t feel like a super inspiring time right now. I think a lot of artists feel like that. I’m trying to not be too hard on ourselves and take it day by day. I think with this new studio, I’m starting to get the itch again.
How did it affect the rollout?
KH: It really affected all of it. Our album date was originally June, now it’s July. We had to do a lot of adjusting, so a lot of plans were completely uprooted because of world events.
CR: It’s been interesting though because I think through having to do all that, it’s made us mentally stronger and also more grateful for when we were able to tour. When we go back to being able to do those things, we’ll appreciate them so much more. I think that this is the ultimate experience as an artist — you can’t plan on things going exactly how you plan on them to, so how are you going to supplement, how are you going to shift and pivot? It’s made us stronger that way. A, B and C aren’t an option anymore but what can we do?
KH: It’s been cool too, really humbling. When you’re an artist you can get wrapped up in your own world. With everything that’s gone down between coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s really made me be way more present and turn on my activist side. Educate myself, get out of myself and go help.
Obviously it’s hard to say, but what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
CR: Your guess is as good as ours at this point. We’ll obviously be promoting our record online as much as possible, it comes out on July 17 and we’re really excited about that. Finding ways to stay engaged, and finding ways to help the BLM movement. We’re doing an Instagram digital tour, talking to different people — activists, people in law, other people fighting for social justice. That’s been cool. We were supposed to be touring in July but obviously we won’t be. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for when we can start touring again. And then making more new music, creating more art. That’s the focus for now.
The Aces’ Under My Influence album is out July 17. The single “My Phone is Trying to Kill Me” is out now.