Photo: Red Bull Records
The Aces Talk "Daydream," Getting A TikTok Challenge & Keeping Calm Amid The Coronavirus
The daily news may be getting a lot of folks down, but it's not stopping alt-pop group The Aces from kickstarting a new era with their forthcoming sophomore album. The band from Provo, Utah released their debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic not too long ago—2018, to be exact—but their sophomore LP will, as lead vocalist/guitarist Cristal Ramirez told the Recording Academy in a phone interview, mark "a new era."
"I think that we're just getting better and better at what we do, honestly. We're way better songwriters, we are more certain of who we are as people. It's just so much growth and evolution and I think that you'll hear that in our music," she said.
The first taste of the LP comes in the form of a catchy, upbeat pop song called "Daydream" that continues The Aces' classic sound. As for what inspired the new single, Ramirez said that it's about the band's experiences leaving home and their loved ones when they go on tour. "Daydream" is the Aces' love letter, a reassurance "that I'll always come back to you," Ramirez said.
On their sophomore album, whose title and release date will drop soon, the band continues to strive for honest music that is true to their experiences and challenges them as artists.
"It's bolder. I think that [this] album's braver,” Ramirez said. “Lyrically it's been bold and truthful as we've ever been."
Sisters Cristal (vocals and guitar) and Alisa Ramirez (percussion), and Katie Henderson (guitar), spoke to the Recording Academy after their first performance of 2020 at Okeechobee fest about what they hope to get across with “Daydream,” how maturing has strengthened their sound, staying calm amid pandemics, how Tik Tok is strengthening their bond with their fans and more.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind "Daydream."
Cristal Ramirez: "Daydream" was kind of like a little love letter that we wrote with our loved ones in mind when we tour, but overall we just want it to be this nostalgic feeling of having to be away from a loved one, regardless of whatever that is to you. Obviously, because we're musicians, we tour and have to leave our loved ones frequently.
Alisa Ramirez: I know when we were writing it, it was kind of like painting a picture of this bittersweet thing where it's like, when you do what we do where we have to travel so much and be away so much, it's kind of like a countdown all the time. It's very easy for when you're home and with your significant other to feel like there's just a ticking timer until you have to leave again. So we were painting the picture of that kind of bittersweet feeling of having to leave but then also, just remember that when I come home I'm coming home to you.
Cristal: Yeah, or like that reassurance that I'll always come back to you. Kind of like this sweet young love. I think that that applies to people in long-distance relationships, that applies to when people go away for college or when they just go away to do anything and have to be away from people that they care about. We just wanted it to feel really nostalgic and kind of very encompassing that kind of feeling when you have to leave someone, you know?
Sound-wise, how did it come together?
Alisa: It was in the studio that day, it came together supernaturally. We made it with our friends Keith Varon and Nick Bailey. I remember we started the day just talking about a lot of our influences. They were fans of the first record and I think it just came about really naturally. We looked at our band and found that we already established [that] we're the Aces with When My Heart Felt Volcanic. And then we also have very similar inspiration, or what's the word for it.
Keith is an amazing guitar player and then Katie too, obviously coming in and really adding to it and making it, Ace-ifying it. I think two really talented guitar players is why you hear a lot of guitar there. The rhythm is [also] just so bouncy. I feel like that's always been something that's been very quintessential Aces.
Katie Henderson: Yes.
Cristal: It's very feel-good rhythmic music.
Katie: Always adding a ton of feeling to it is always how we try to do it.
Alisa: I think that it came together supernaturally with all of those things coming into play.
Who got the idea for the TikTok #AcesDaydream challenge?
Alisa: It was actually the fans. The fans are the ones that started that. The day we put out the song we saw online that there was a #AcesDaydream challenge and there was, maybe within the first few hours the song came out, a few videos popping up. I was scrolling through videos ... I think one fan made up the dance and then just challenged all the other fans to start doing it and more people just jumping on every single day. And then we decided to just be like, "Well, I think we have to participate too." [Laughs.] So then we finally made our own video and it's just been super fun and honestly something that I think we were hoping for. I mean, TikTok is so dope. We've been having so much fun with it lately and I think our band has just taken to it and wanted to bring, I don't know, just bring the fandom to the top, which is cool.
Katie: That's something I love about our fan base, is they just grow things like that so organically. I love that video that came out, I love that they all just jump on it. And it goes beyond that … Our fans are so good at creating community and starting a thing so organically and getting everyone involved.
Cristal: I think so. TikTok is so interesting because it's very humor-driven, and I love that. We're all really silly in our daily lives being together. We're constantly poking fun at each other and having inside jokes and laughing. And I think that it's going to be just another way to connect with them on an even more and more personal level. And that's what I really like about that app.
Alisa: I think TikTok has done a really special thing for making music such a fundamental part of that app and part of the experience. Being able to, when you make videos embed, songs. Like the chorus to a song is so dope and it really pushes users towards making things up for the fun. Whether that's a fun meme that goes to the song and ups it. Now the kids, the users of the app, like great music …I've found so many new artists and new music and just new realms of everything from that app. It's really interactive and cool that way.
So I want to hear more about your new music. Your sophomore album is coming out soon. What can we expect from it?
Cristal: There's so much we want to say that we can't quite say yet. But what we can say, it's such a step down the path of evolution for us as a band. I think that it's a lot just more, I think it's bolder, I think that album's braver. I think that just coming back onto the territory of maturing and growing up as people and developing as musicians and as a band. Getting to know ourselves on deeper levels and be able to express that more through music. And so I think sonically, it's very, very much an exploration. I think that lyrically it's been bold and truthful as we've ever been.
Alisa: I'm really excited. I'm really excited for the fans to hear it because I feel like we've really gone to new territories of the Aces as well. I feel like we are starting to invent new styles of our sounds and... I mean not invent new sounds. I mean maybe, but that sounds crazy to say. I'm excited to get the reactions when they dive into the whole body of work when that's available. Because I think there's just so many places that people probably don't think we're going to go that we go, whether that's topically or sound-wise. There's a lot of diversity on the record. There's a lot of different styles of music that influence it.
Cristal: Right. I think, and just to quickly add to that, I think that we're always trying to challenge the idea of who the Aces are and what the Aces is. Because I think that that's what every really great artist that I look up to… that’s what they always do. You're always challenging yourself, you're always trying to evolve, you're always trying to be different.
Alisa: You're not allowing yourself to be put in a box. I think that's something we're conscious of too. With the second record being out, it wasn't really easy to make a record that was just very similar to the first one or something like that. But I think that we're definitely very conscious of making something that was pushing the boundaries.
Cristal: Yeah, but still true to who we are, definitely.
Alisa: It's a delicate balance there.
Is that the reason why you're saying this is a new era for you as a band?
Cristal: Absolutely. I think every single record will be a new era. I think that you change so much in your young adulthood. I think that who you are from age 20 to even 22 to 25, you're whole different people, you know? And I think that that really shows through our music and I think that we're just getting better and better at what we do, honestly. We're way better songwriters, we are more certain of who we are as people. It's just so much growth and evolution and I think that you'll hear that in our music. And I think our third record we're going to feel the same about. It'll be a whole new Aces era then too. And we just want to show that we're constantly growing through everything we do.
Is there one thing you learned from making When My Heart Felt Volcanic that you incorporated into this new album when you were making it?
Cristal: Yeah, definitely. You find things that you want to do better or things you don't want to do again, every single time you do it. So when we were making When My Heart Felt Volcanic, it was a totally different experience than making this new record.
It's a whole different record than our second record. And I think that we've just gotten to know how we want to go about that process more and more as we do it. And I think again, my third, fourth continuous record, we're constantly honing in our craft and figuring out, "Hmm, okay. We don't want to do that again," and "We do want to do that again." Or just kind of checking those boxes and making corrections where there needs to be.
Is there anything else as artists, as human beings, that you've bettered or realized about yourself in your career so far?
Cristal: I think as artists the number one goal for us is to be as authentic as we can be with our music and to be as true as we can to our experiences. Sometimes that feels really invasive and kind of scary. Especially when you're writing those lyrics or you're thinking of putting that song out to the world or to a visitor or whatever it might be. It can feel kind of scary because you really are at times—I know a lot of artists that in the past said this—but you're taking basically journal entries out of your journal and putting them to music. Depending on how you want to go about saying that, you can get really raw and straightforward or can go through a metaphor saying what you want to do.
For us with this record, I think that there are no metaphors really. It's super, super truthful and we're telling stories of our lives in these lyrics and in this music. You know exactly what we're talking about and that feels a little scary. But as long as we're doing that and pushing ourselves to be our best selves, the truest self, the most authentic artists we can be, then we're doing our job and it feels really rewarding. So I think what we've learned from all this is, it's just, continuously push yourself. Push yourself to be uncomfortable, push yourself to be as truthful as you can be, push yourself to be better. And the art follows that, it pays off.
So I have to ask because this affects you as musicians: Do you have any concerns about the Coronavirus tour and festival cancelations?
Cristal: You know what? We've not been asked this before.
Katie: I hate this.
Cristal: It all seems pretty scary, right? I think that we as a band and as people are pretty optimistic. And also we're really health-conscious. We take really good care of ourselves for the most part. We don't really drink, we don't smoke, we work out a lot, we eat really healthy.
Alisa: I also feel like we're not super impressionable. There's so much crazy media around the coronavirus that we've all taken the time to actually be guided, and really figure [out] what is the coronavirus?
Cristal: It’s definitely a scary time and something we are trying to learn more about every day. We are sending all of our love to people suffering because of it, and just trying to stay optimistic and educated. We will definitely be doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our fans safe.
Ending on a more positive note, is there anything else besides the new music that you're excited about 2020, professionally or personally?
Alisa: This tour coming up is going to be crazy fun.
Cristal: All the plans. All the plans, the new record.
Alisa: Something we're really excited about is going to places we've never been before. Asia, and go over to Australia and all those like... And we'll really try to branch out and go see the places and play without being nervous.