The Aces Release 'Under My Influence (Deluxe)' Ahead of Long-Awaited Return to Touring [Q&A]
Ahead of their highly anticipated North American tour, indie-pop quartet The Aces have released a deluxe version of their hit sophomore album, Under My Influence. The expanded record now introduces five additional tracks, including a reimagining of crowd favorite track, “Daydream,” featuring Portugal. the Man.
The original Under My Influence tackled love, relationships, friendships, mental health, religion, and sexuality. Executive produced by the band, the project also saw three of the four band members publicly owning their sexual identities as queer women and using gender pronouns in their music for the first time. The deluxe album continues to explore these themes on the band’s B-side releases of “Sleepy Eyes” and “Aren’t You.” The record also contains remixes from Snakehips and Fickle Friends that are sure to get fans dancing.
We had the chance to chat with lead singer and guitarist Cristal Ramirez, drummer Alisa Ramirez, and bassist McKenna Petty about the record, their feelings on tour, and the importance of lifting up each other and women in the industry.
Ones to Watch: What made all of you want to release a deluxe album, and what can listeners expect from this expanded version of Under My Influence?
Cristal: There’s definitely going to be a lot of new stuff. There are remixes and two bonus tracks, a remix of “Daydream” that hasn’t been out yet that we did with Portugal. the Man that was really cool. They sent back a reimagined version of the entire song, and it was basically a completely different song. So it was cool for us to get to go in and transition that song into a whole different vibe and a whole different feeling. I re-sang the song in a completely different vocal style and everything. Putting the record out during the pandemic was just shitty. That’s the easiest way to put it because a big part of our careers is to connect with our fans. It’s really important to us, and we pour a lot of ourselves into shows and play a lot of shows. To have that taken away and to work on a record was just really difficult because all you could do was basically just get on Instagram. That was the only way you could really connect and see or know if anyone was liking the record and reacting to the record. It was this kind of weird space where you’re kinda like, “I think people like the record? I don’t know.”
I can only imagine how hard it is to cultivate relationships with fans digitally when you’re so used to doing shows and interacting face to face.
Cristal: A comment on Instagram isn’t the same as seeing a roomful of fans who know every lyric, and that’s really gratifying as an artist. That kind of keeps you going. I think people are interested and still care about what we’re doing. So that was hard. We had to really keep our morale strong together and connect together. We were and we are really passionate about the songs on Under My Influence, and we’re just getting to tour them now, just barely. And so I think, a deluxe record for us, we’re always trying to just keep things fresh and give our fans more music, more videos, content, and merch, everything that we can just because we love what we do. So, I think it was a good way for us to keep reminding people that we put a record we worked really hard on out in 2020, and that record is something we’re really passionate about. Ultimately, we’re really proud of what’s on it and excited for the fans to hear everything.
I know that on Under My Influence, y'all touched on the relationship we all have with our phones on your track, “My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me.” How has your relationship with social media changed since the initial pandemic lockdown?
Before the pandemic, I think everyone had this love-hate relationship with social media. But then the pandemic happened, and social media was kind of all we have,. So that love-hate feeling lived on, but I also think we were pretty grateful to have it at that time, because it really was that only means of connection and engaging with our fans. And so we just ended up doing tons of livestreams and went live on Instagram a lot. We were just trying to develop creative ways to keep our fans entertained, because we love that our fanbase is like a big group of friends, and many know each other. They’re like a community and a culture, so we were just finding ways to do stuff with them together and around the record. So I feel like, without social media, I don’t know how we would have put out this record out at all.
You mentioned earlier trying to keep morale strong during this challenging album release cycle. What were some things y'all did to keep morale high?
Cristal: I think it was a really interesting year for us. Candidly, like, the morale wasn’t always high, especially during this last year. It just felt kind of hopeless. We were just kind of getting through the days, and sometimes our focus wasn’t on our career, and it wasn’t on music, and it was just about staying positive and happy as human beings and finding ways to make the days feel easier and happier. As a band, it brought us back to that childlike approach and remembering why we started playing music. When you’re in an industry, it’s really easy to get swept up in numbers and followers and a lot of stuff that at the end of the day, when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, really doesn’t matter. And so that kind of just brought us back, and we asked ourselves, “Okay, why? If we can’t be in front of people and travel, why do we make music? And is it still enough? And do we still love it in the way that we used to love it when we were kids?” Happily enough for us, the answer was yes.
Sounds like a very reflective time for all of you.
Cristal: Yeah, and we love music so much, and I think we just together metaphorically cleaned out our closets a bit as a band. We really leaned into our sisterhood and our friendship to get through it. I don’t know how we would have done it. I don’t know how solo artists do it. I’m so happy, and we feel so lucky to have each other. I think we just kind of stripped it back to the basics of what we can do, stuck together, and had fun together, and we just want to continue in the best ways possible to connect with our fans. We just tried to look at the positive and honestly went into the studio and made a bunch of music. We pushed ourselves to make anything that just felt good to us or that felt reminiscent of the days when we were kids, when we would just like go into the band practice room and mess around together. The approach became a lot more like innocent and childlike and back to really the only thing that matters: making really good music and music that we are proud of.
Would any of that music fit in with what you’ve created on Under My Influence, or is it something different sonically?
Cristal: These particular songs that we are going to be putting out, I don’t think they would have been on Under My Influence, but they make sense, and they’re the songs that we wrote a little while after, actually. Honestly, I don’t know how much I can really give at this point, but fuck it. We’re working on putting out two additional songs now because we just want fans to have them and give them more music. It was a collection of songs that we wrote in Tahoe, actually. The world was literally on fire, and the pandemic was raging, and this was like last October. They very much fit into Under My Influence, I think theme-wise. They’re songs that wouldn’t have made it, but like, in hindsight, it makes total sense and feels really good. We just love these songs, and I think the fans would love them.
There are a variety of remixes on the record that fans can look forward to, including the aforementioned "Daydream" remix with Portugal. the Man. What was it like collaborating with them, and what makes for a great creative collaborator?
Alisa: It was honestly the most unique remix collaboration we’ve ever done because obviously, Portugal’s a band on their own. It’s the first time another band has remixed one of our songs versus just DJs or other people where they kind of put their own spin on it and give it back to us, and we’re stoked to hear it. With Portugal, there was way more back and forth, and they, as Cristal said earlier, made it sound like a totally different song, so the process was so remote.
Alisa: So they did it in Portland, and we’re in LA, so we just sent each other files back and forth. Cristal re-recorded the vocals, and then they kind of redid all the instrumentation and made it this whole new thing. I’m excited for everyone to hear it, because it’s so different from the original and has a totally different vibe, and I think that’s what remixes are kind of supposed to be, right? They’re supposed to be their own thing. But it was unique, because typically, the remixer does everything versus what we were doing working with Portugal and having a lot of different passes come back and forth. So yeah, it was a fun experience to work with them like that.
Cristal: Yeah, the first time we heard it were like, “Whoa!” It kind of really blew us away because they took complete creative liberty. They literally just made a whole different song. The top line was over it, but it honestly was a reimagining of the song. And then we were just talking back and forth, and I felt like I had to re-sing it because the “Daydream” vocal, where it is initially, wasn’t making so much sense for that version. So I went back in, and I got a really kind of like rock and roll vibe on that vocal, and then it just kind of took it to the next level and made it really fun and unique. We just had never done anything like that before, and also, they killed it. They have just been so kind to us. They’ve been fans of us, and we’ve been fans of them for a really long time. We opened for them in - where was it, guys?
McKenna: I think it was in Utah. In like 2018?
Cristal: It might have been even before that, like 2017. They invited us out, and they’ve always been kind of cheerleaders of our band. They’re really sweet and always willing to want to collaborate and be a part of our journey, so we still are very thankful to them. They’re an utterly badass band and have been really awesome to us, so it’s an honor to get to do a remix with them.
Your headlining tour is right around the corner, starting in mid-November on the West Coast. So how are you feeling now that you know you’ll be hitting the road again soon?
McKenna: It’s been such a long time coming. I feel like touring for us, that’s our favorite part about doing what we do. Playing shows and really connecting face to face as fans. I’m excited to go everywhere. Honestly, I’m really excited to play New York. That’s one of my favorite cities to play, and we obviously haven’t been there for such a long time. So I’m really excited about that.
Cristal: It’s kind of a mix of emotions now because we’re still in the tail end of COVID, and so there’s a lot of complications, so I’m feeling nervous about that. It’s a mix of wanting fans to come but also wanting them to feel safe, but then you’re just so excited because we’re going to get to see people. Truthfully, the most gratifying part of what we do is getting to play shows and getting to see our fans. There’s just so much going on in the world, I think it’s just this kind of big tornado of emotions, but overall we’re just excited we’re looking forward to it. We haven’t been able to play these songs to them either. So that’s gonna be really, really exciting, and yeah, we’re just ready to go.
What song do you think is going to kill it live on tour?
Alisa: What’s interesting is you never really know that stuff until you’re doing it. We’ve predicted, “Oh, we think this song is gonna go crazy,” and then it doesn’t for some reason, and then a random song that you never thought would have popped off is the anthem of the night, and everyone loses their mind. We played a few shows in the past couple of months, and we’ve actually been really surprised, but “801” actually does really well. It’s a slower song, but people fuck with that song, and then also “My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me” goes super hard so far with the crowds we’ve played. We’ve been playing in front of crowds supporting different bands when we were playing this last month. Then we’ve been at festivals, so we haven’t played the songs in front of a room full of kids that know them, so hopefully, they all go pretty hard, but it’ll be interesting to see which ones the fans like absolutely go crazy for. I’m excited.
Cristal: “My Phone” has been kind of blowing me away. We love that song, but I don’t know if I thought it would hit as hard as it’s been hitting when we played festivals and opened for AJR. That’s the song that I kind of feel the crowd gets a bit electric for some reason. Like, the whole thing kind of starts moving, so I’m excited to see that one honestly and to see kind of how the fans react. But yeah, there’ll be one that surprises us, for sure.
Joining you on tour is pop singer-songwriter Madeline the Person and Canadian rock group The Beaches. Have you known these acts for a long time, and was it intentional or coincidental that this will be an all-female tour?
Cristal: The Beaches are actually really good friends of ours. We met them at ACL probably two or three years ago. They’re just the salt of the earth. They’re so nice and sweet, and I think it’s kind of hit or miss sometimes in this industry. People are super friendly and super inviting, and they want to collab and be friends, and sometimes people are a little standoffish, and it just really depends. But, in true Canadian fashion, they’re just the friendliest, nicest girls ever, and so we became fast friends with them and had a great time at ACL with them, and so they’ve always been on our radar. Also, they’re all women, and they’re badass, and it was super important to us when we were picking this bill to find - we desperately wanted to find an all-female band to open for us. And then Madeline is queer and a female artist, which was also super important. We wanted to include queer artists, people of color, we’re still working on openers right now. So we’re just trying to find as much diversity as we can on our bill and want to support women and to support women who are in bands and women who are musicians, because we’re stronger in numbers. We just want to be a part of cultivating a real community amongst women in bands and women who are musicians. Everyone who wants to be a part of it is in that community with us; we just want to be friends with them and uplift them. We’re also taking this duo Sawyer with us. They’re this all-female act from Nashville. It’s been really fun for us to pick openers and to dive in and cultivate this really fantastic lineup. It was crucial to us that that stage was dominated by women only. So here we are, we’re proud of the lineup and excited, and I think the fans are really going to love the openers as well. It’s exciting!
The Aces' Under My Influence (Deluxe) is available everywhere you can stream it.