You only have to spin "Stuck" once - The Aces' slinky, radio-ready debut -
to grasp their appeal. Bridging the gap between The Bangles and The Go-
Go's, and current acts like The 1975 and MUNA, the quartet are made up of
sisters Cristal (on lead vocals/guitar), and drummer Alisa Ramirez,
completed by guitarist Katie Henderson and bassist McKenna Petty.
"Stuck" is the first taster off their stellar, self-titled EP, a collection that
exhibits a confidence and polish that belies their young years.
Hailing from Orem, Utah, a college town 45 minutes from Salt Lake City,
the sisters describe the mountain-bordered town as welcoming and very
religious. "When we have people come visit they're like, 'You live in
Pleasantville! This is a weird utopia,'" laughs Alisa. Thanks to their family,
the American-Honduran siblings were exposed to music early on: at home
their mom played Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, and Whitney
Houston, meanwhile their older brother introduced them to The Misfits,
The Casualties, and Hendrix. Alisa was banging the drums from eight years
old, with Cristal writing original songs from 10, forming a tight-knit unit
with McKenna (who Cristal initially met in kindergarten) around the same
time. "They asked me to get a bass for Christmas so I could become the
third band member," McKenna laughs. "So I did. And then I had to figure
out how to play."
The girls cut their teeth as a live band early, using the teetotal, all-ages
venue The Velour as their testing ground from age 13 onwards. It was in
this environment that they gained confidence and thrived, their lineup
solidifying a year when McKenna met Katie in junior high, who, thanks to
her older brother's love of music, had a whole rehearsal space in her
parent's basement. "She just shreds," explains McKenna. "We were
like, this is what we've been looking for!" The newly formed quartet
would now blend McKenna and Katie's alternative tastes (they grew
up on The Cure, The Beatles and Depeche Mode) with those of Alisa
and Cristal to truly find their sound.
Having spent the majority of their teens honing their songwriting skills,
2014 turned out to be a critical moment in the band's history. For all except
Alisa, the end of high school was nigh, college was calling, scholarships
were in place, and alternate avenues beyond the band started to seem like
more viable options. Funnily enough it was while watching Lorde collect
two Grammys that year that inspired the foursome to take stock and
recalibrate. Newly refocused, everything started to fall into place: 2016
saw the band sign a deal with Red Bull Records.
The four songs on their debut EP explore everything from toxic
relationships ("Stuck"), to the tough to shake pull of physical attraction -
even when you know it's an ultimate dead-end ("Physical"). "It's that
moment of pure flirtation and being young, and stupid, and living just in
that second of what you want," explains Cristal."
Although this collection came together swiftly, in many ways it was a
lifetime in the making; the girls were able to experiment with their sound
and dynamics, out of the spotlight, while pouring their experiences into
song. "It's a time that's so uncertain and you're so eager, and you're kind of
scared and unsure, but you're really excited," she continues, "so there's a
lot of this pushing, pulsing, excitement and desperation in the songs and I
think that's what being a young adult is all about."
Now feels like an especially canny moment to make an entrance - not just
because they're ready, but because now more than ever, inclusivity and
individualism should be celebrated, outspokenness encouraged. "It's great
to feel like there are no limits," says Katie. "We're not bound by some
stereotype, we can just come out and say what we want to say, however
we want to say it - just like guys have always been able to. It's a more even
playing field than it ever has been and that feels amazing."
Ultimately The Aces' EP captures who they are right now, formative
moments as they careen from their teens to adulthood, and yet like all the
best pop songs, these tunes transcend specifics to be applicable to all. For
Alisa - who conceived and directed their video for "Stuck" - their music has
a strong visual component which the band as a whole are keen to bring to
"It is like kind of almost a coming of age movie," Alisa says of the
collection. "There's a lot of bumps in the road, but it's a good time more