Alt-pop quartet, The Aces began playing together in Provo, Utah 15 years ago. Started by sisters, drummer Alisa and vocalist and guitarist Cristal Ramirez, the two brought on friends, guitarist Katie Henderson and bassist McKenna Petty to round out the Aces lineup. Sure, many bands have had as lasting a duration of time together, but few started out in their early teen years and remained a band or even friends. Friendship and communication seem to be two things the band is unlikely to run dry. Creativity and drive join that same list. As an all-female band and one comprised of three-quarters queer women (bassist Petty is straight and was referred to onstage as a ‘spicy ally’), it’s clear they have their stands and their battles against closets and closed minds. As much as these topics may be drivers, it would be foolish to not come to thinking about them first and collectively as a fucking great band overflowing with talent.
With a devoted fanbase, heaps of critical praise and two full-length albums under their belts, the band released their third on June 2 on Red Bull Records. I’ve Loved You For So Long features 11 songs of pure rock-pop goodness with some obvious nods to the best of the 80s. Whether it’s Go-Gos-styled vocals or shimmering Johnny Marr-tinged guitar lines, it’s not a throwback grab. The songcraft is strong and original. Producer Keith Veron’s sheen on the album makes it infinitely listenable. While tracks like the title, Not The Same and Girls Make Me Wanna Die may hook their way into your brain forever, others such as Suburban Blues and Always Get This Way tackle serious subjects like growing up gay in a conservative small (minded) town and mental health struggles. Through different lenses and from alternate angles, each song on I’ve Loved You For So Long focuses upon love as a theme, whether that lens is clear or distorted. The new album has been in heavy rotation here in the ADDICTED Music Dept. so it was an easy yes when we were given the opportunity to chat with the band before they performed at the inaugural 2SLGBTQ+ centric music festival, lavender wild here in Toronto. You can see photos of The Aces performing live as well as others in our article here.
The text below has been edited and formatted but no contexts were changed. Interview and photos by Aron Harris.
Congratulations on a great album. This should be a damn good year for you.
CRIS: Yeah, absolutely. So far, it’s been incredible. We’ve been able to do things we’ve never done in our career and have support like we’ve never had before from so many different people in the industry. It’s been really great.
When did you start recording I’ve Loved You For So Long?
ALI: We started in late 2020 but we made it predominantly in 2021. Then finished it at top of 2022. So it’s been a minute. We originally were gonna put it out last year, but it ended up getting pushed back. We went through a lot with this record, honestly, probably more than any other record before.
Can you expand on that?
ALI: Yeah. It really came from the pandemic because we had just put out Under My Influence that year and we really weren’t planning on writing another record for a while because we just put out a brand new one. So we weren’t planning anything when we originally went into the studio. It was really just a way of coping and doing something during that time. We were just going to the studio to have some sort of routine and schedule. And then we kind of accidentally started writing another record.
CRIS: I almost felt guilty about writing another record because we spent so much time on Under My Influence and I cared so much about it. I was like, “no, we’re not writing another record” and then before you knew it, we were writing another record. I think in a time where we felt really uninspired because we were sitting at home, we found that there was actually a lot to talk about concerning our past; who we are and where we come from and what it’s been like to grow up in our band. So I think we found that there’s so much about our story that we haven’t really told through our music.
I had this fear during COVID that every artist I love is going to be releasing an album that’s about isolation and loneliness and I really don’t want to hear albums about that. I want fun music.
ALI: I agree. I feel like music is an escape and it’s often used as a coping tool. I felt the same way during the pandemic. Artists that stepped up to write songs about the current moment, about being locked away. It was too timely.
CRIS: I think there’s like a fine line between talking about something so bluntly that it ages or trying to extract the emotion from what’s happening to you versus like actual terms of the pandemic. But I do think that it was a time when everyone felt a certain way and needed hope. During recording (I’ve Loved You For So Long), if we ever talked about isolation or depression, it’s a personal reflection or experience. It’s more extracting that kind of lifelong notion that we’ve had at different times.
Now that the album is out, what do the next few months look like for The Aces?
ALI: I mean, it’s nonstop. We kind of get a nice break in July. Maybe. (laughs)
CRIS: Everything is filling up last minute. We’ll get calls two days before something happens and it’s like this crazy fucking opportunity and it’s next week! We just got off the plane from London. We were in Berlin, Paris and London for the last week promoting the record. And then before that, we were playing festivals in Pittsburgh and Boston.
KATIE: Yeah, a lot of shows, which is really exciting because we just didn’t get to do that for so long. We love touring and we finally get to go back to all these places and play shows and it feels like we’re back to normal.
Let’s talk about lavender wild being for a music festival for the queer community.
CRIS: We’re so excited. As someone who identifies as lesbian, I think there are less spaces for queer women and even less spaces for trans women. I think that within the community you do your best to find and create your own spaces, but it feels really good to finally have a festival that’s really focused on queer women, queer female and trans artists. That feels really special. I feel like that’s been a long time coming. So for us, it’s just so exciting, surrounded by people like Girl In Red and Hayley Kiyoko. It just feels really like it’s a festival for us and we just get to come and enjoy it and that feels really special. We don’t have to fight tooth and nail to cultivate for ourselves. We’re still fighting but it’s just cool and it’s really hopeful. Coming from the States with the attacks on our community, it’s been so terrifying and so heartbreaking. To get to come here and really feel that love for the community and have this safe space to just put on a show is really special. So, we just feel really lucky to be part of it.
KATIE: The vibes are so good. Everyone who’s working this festival is so nice. The energy is so good, so fun and light and everyone’s willing to help each other out.
CRIS: Queer women are the best, they just are!
I’m not sure if you’ll get a chance to walk around, but there’s a lot of very happy women here.
ALI: That’s an ideal crowd. You know, our shows are typically just crowds full of happy queer women. So, we’re right at home today. It is so beautiful for us, just putting out our record and then getting to play it live for the first time at a festival like this, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. It feels like the best way to celebrate it.
CRIS: And this record is very much about our history and what it was to grow up queer in a really small, suburban religious town. And so the stories on this record are really important to us. Three of four of us identify as gay and I hope that the songs become really special to other people who have experienced similar things. So it’s just such a special record to get to play at something like this.
Well, they’re excited to hear you. Are you sticking around to watch the rest of the festival after your set?
ALI: Fuck, yeah! We wanna see Girl In Red. We’re big fans. Also Hayley Kiyoko. She’s an amazing artist. We’re very excited to stay and watch.
The Aces I’ve Loved You For So Long world tour kicks off with headline and festival shows in Europe through August. The fall brings the band back to North America with shows in Toronto on Oct. 15 and Vancouver on the 25th. More about the band here.