IN CONVERSATION WITH THE ACES
Interview and words by Dean Sanders dean__sanders
After their transformative journey following the release of “Under My Influence” in 2020, The Aces returned stronger than ever. The band used the pandemic-induced quarantine to reflect on their personal struggles and experiences within the Mormon community in Provo, Utah. This led to their most personal and confident work to date, “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” a sparkling indie rock album filled with songs about mental health, love, and heartbreak. We talk with The Aces about they’re new album and how it came about.
Your latest single, “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” is a beautiful ode to your chosen family and the love you have for each other as bandmates. How did you all meet in the first place as kids from Provo, Utah?
(Cristal) We grew up together, so we’ve known each other since we were little kids. We either grew up together or went to the same school in Provo, Utah. Alisa and I are sisters so naturally we started playing music together when we were young just for fun at home. I’m known Kenna for an incredibly long time probably since we were around five years old. When we were around 10 I asked her to join the band and we’ve been playing together ever since. We met Katie in junior high and since then we’ve been best friends and playing music together. So as a band we’ve been together for over 15 years now.
(Alisa)It’s funny because Cristal and I always felt this innate calling to be in a band. It’s like we were born with this idea that we had to form a band together. Even from our earliest memories I would be on drums and she would play the piano and sing. We would constantly audition kids from our neighborhood to find a guitarist and a bassist because we just knew we needed them for our band. I think this passion may have stemmed from growing up in a profoundly musical household. Our parents always played music on the stereo in the mornings and our brother was involved in local bands. But honestly it’s something we started doing at a very young age and it has been a significant part of our lives ever since.
How did the band name “The Aces” come about?
We were young and needed a band name. So we were talking to a friend who was like an older sister to us. She suggested a formula of combining a color and an object to create a band name. She proposed “Red Lace,” but I felt it wasn’t quite rock and roll enough. Then I came up with “Blue Aces,” and we went by that name for a long time because it sounded like a rock band.
As we grew older and pursued music professionally, people in our hometown started referring to us as simply “Aces” or “The Aces,” gradually dropping the “blue” part. Our manager at the time suggested that we officially change our name to “The Aces” since it was already the common way people referred to us, and it was shorter and easier. I thought it was awesome, but I doubted we would be able to use such a great name because I assumed someone else must have already trademarked it. However we discovered that the name was available.
The decision to change our name also served as a rebranding effort. When we started the band at a young age, there were numerous YouTube videos and homemade music videos online that didn’t align entirely with the professional image we wanted to project as adults, especially after getting signed and pursuing music seriously.
Your upcoming album, “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” is your most personal and self-assured work to date. How did the songwriting process differ from your previous albums “Under My Influence” and “When My Heart Felt Volcanic”?
Our album “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” goes into topics and themes that we have never explored before. This record shifts the focus inward, redirecting our attention from external relationships to the relationship we have with ourselves. Within the tracks we reflect on our pasts as well as our collective journey as a band coming from a small, religious suburban town in Utah. Our upbringing and the unique environment in which we were raised play a big role in shaping who we are today, this forms the core of our story for this album.
Three out of four of us identify as queer so we delve deeper into the challenges and experiences associated with our identities. We have touched upon queerness in our previous works but this album serves more as a tribute to our teenage selves and our unique stories. We realized that we had primarily focused on the present, with themes such as falling in love or experiencing heartbreak. However, we felt a desire to give a voice to the teenage versions of ourselves and shed light on the hurdles we encountered. These stories had a big impact on us and there are still countless teenagers facing similar struggles today. The journey of storytelling and self-reflection throughout the songwriting process for “I’ve Loved You For So Long” has been truly inspiring.
What song are you most excited to play live?
(Cristal) I would say I’m excited to play “Not the Same” live. I have a strong feeling that it will become a fan favorite, especially in our live shows. There’s just something about that song that resonates with people.
(Lisa) For me personally, I’m thrilled to play “Person” live. It’s a high-energy track that has a raw and powerful vibe. I think it’s perfectly suited for a live performance, and I can imagine it being a real crowd-pleaser. The energy between the band and the audience during “Person” is going to be incredible, and I’m looking forward to experiencing that.
Are there any songs that have a special meaning for you as a group, next to “I’ve loved you for so long” What is a clear love letter to your band?
(Cristal) As Lisa mentioned all the songs are significant. However, a song like “Always Get This Way” really delves into the ongoing presence of my anxiety and how it continues to affect me. Then there’s “Suburban Blues,” which explores the story of where we come from and the feeling of being suffocated by our hometown at times. Another song, “Miserable,” brings us back to the present moment, discussing how despite achieving everything I wanted, I still feel miserable. So, the entire album is like a journey through time moving backward and forward, examining the impact of past experiences on the present.
(Lisa) It’s all connected for instance, my chronic anxiety as an adult can be traced back to my upbringing as a young gay kid who couldn’t openly express myself. So, we started by addressing what was happening in our current lives, with Cristal struggling intensely with panic attacks. Then, we explored the reasons behind those panic attacks, leading us to delve into our past. The album became a therapeutic session, where we worked on reconnecting with our inner child and making sense of it all. It felt incredibly rewarding to revisit our past and understand how it relates to our present experiences.
Mental health is a topic that you’ve been very open about, and you’ve partnered with the non-profit organization Sound Mind Live to provide mental health resources to your fans on your upcoming tour. Can you tell us more about your decision to prioritize mental health?
I think when the opportunity was presented to us, we immediately felt excited about it. We strive to create a safe space where people can feel a sense of community and freely express themselves. Throughout our career, we’ve had fans come up to us and express how our shows have provided them with a unique place where they can be true to themselves. They’ve shared kind and emotional messages with us, saying that our shows have been crucial for their self-discovery and personal journey. Hearing these experiences has made us realize the importance of our shows in providing a platform for self-expression.
So when the chance to collaborate we wholeheartedly embraced it. We saw it as an opportunity to further enhance the safe space we aim to create for people who attend our shows.
Your music has been described as having a 90s-tinged sound, reminiscent of ‘The Cranberries’. How has the music of that era influenced your sound?
We found great inspiration in this era while writing this album, drawing influence from bands of the late 80s and early 90s like ‘The Cure’, ‘My Bloody Valentine’, and ‘Smashing Pumpkins’. Additionally, we were inspired by New Wave and shoegaze artists from the 90s. The music from that era feels incredibly atmospheric and emotionally charged, and it embodies simplicity, which was a key focus for us during the album’s creation.
We aimed to strip down our sound and reconnect with the organic feeling of playing together in the band room as kids. We wanted to capture that essence and draw from bands that were known for their straightforward yet brilliant guitar lines, impactful lyrics, and powerful vocals. Alongside that, there’s a subtle influence of pop-punk, particularly from bands like Paramore, which we grew up listening to and admired. It’s not something we intentionally incorporated, but the energy and aggression found in early Paramore records naturally found their way into our music due to its significance in our musical upbringing.
You’ve toured with some incredible artists, including 5 Seconds of Summer, X Ambassadors, and The Vamps. What have been some of the most memorable moments from those tours?
We were amazed and felt incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to tour with those bands. They were all exceptionally kind and gracious, and their fans have warmly embraced us. We’re grateful for the chance to perform in front of their incredible fan communities.
Their fan bases are truly remarkable, consisting of a diverse range of individuals, particularly many young women, girls, and queer people who resonate with their music. It’s been an honor to connect with such an enthusiastic and supportive audience.
Your last U.S. headline tour sold out, and you’re set to hit the road again this year. What can fans expect from your live shows?
I believe it will be our most outstanding performance to date. Without a doubt, it will be the most remarkable live show we’ve ever delivered. It’s going to be a genuine rock and roll spectacle, with roaring guitars right in your face. It’s going to be an awe-inspiring experience. We are fully aware of how incredible it’s going to be.
This show will embody the essence of The Aces at their best. We’re truly in our element with this record, which fills me with excitement for the live performance. Since our early days, playing together as a band with guitars, bass, drums, and vocals has been our passion. This record perfectly reflects who we are as a collective and fully embraces our identity.
Your album, “Under My Influence,” received critical acclaim and charted on Billboard’s Top Albums list. How did it feel to have your music so well-received, and did that success impact your approach to making music for your upcoming album?
It was truly incredible to witness the overwhelmingly positive reception of the album, especially considering the challenging circumstances of its release during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During that time, music and other forms of entertainment didn’t feel as relevant which was understandable given the circumstances. So, the fact that our album managed to resonate with people and do well under those circumstances was truly heartening. It served as a source of inspiration for us during those trying times, and we are immensely grateful for our fans and the entire team that put in tremendous effort to make the album a success.
You’ve played at festivals all over the world, including NY Pride, Lollapalooza, Firefly, Bonnaroo, and OUTFEST. For what festival are you most excited? =
We had the opportunity to play at those festivals last year. It was an amazing experience. We embarked on a European tour, specifically focusing on festivals. We visited incredible places where we had never performed before. We also played in Belgium and various other locations. It’s a thrilling prospect because we’ll be exploring new territories and connecting with audiences who have been eagerly awaiting our shows.
I’m particularly excited about our performance in Budapest. I’ve heard fantastic things about the city, and some of my friends have spoken highly of it. However, it’s honestly difficult to choose just one favorite because each destination holds its appeal. We’re looking forward to the entire tour and the opportunity to play in places like the Netherlands, which I don’t think we’ve ever visited before. Copenhagen is another city I’ve always wanted to perform in.
Your new album, “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” is set to be released today! What are you most excited for fans to hear, and what do you hope they take away from the album?
I hope that this record has the same impact on someone as a Tegan and Sara album had on me when I was 16, or as “Riot!” by Paramore had when I was 14. Those albums were truly transformative for me. They gave me hope and made me believe that I could have a music career. In particular, ‘Tegan and Sara’s’ music showed me that I could pursue a music career as a queer individual, something I had never seen represented before. So, with this record, I hope that it can be that same transformative experience for someone else. I hope it instills hope in them and provides music that helps them navigate their journey.