Editors’ Notes “We've grown more into ourselves as people and as musicians,” The Aces lead vocalist and guitarist Cristal Ramirez tells Apple Music about the changes they went through in the two years since the quartet released 2018's When My Heart Felt Volcanic. “The older you get, the better you get at articulating yourself and saying exactly how you feel.” On their second LP, the lifelong Utah friends (now split into two cities: Cristal and her sister, drummer Alisa Ramirez, live in LA, while bassist McKenna Petty and guitarist Katie Henderson still live in Salt Lake City) face the challenges and joys of growing up, falling in and out of love, and everything in between with honesty and vulnerability. “I think that we really pushed ourselves on this record to get uncomfortable,” says Ramirez. “We were trying to open ourselves up in a way that we hadn't previously, and just go deeper and explore different emotions that we hadn't talked about in our music previously.” As a result, Under My Influence is brighter and bolder, the band expanding upon the sleek indie-pop of their debut with a colorful mélange of upbeat, genre-bending sounds. “We wanted to try different vibes and see what that would bring out of us creatively,” Ramirez says, as she walks us through The Aces' fun-filled journey alongside Alisa Ramirez, Petty, and Henderson in this track-by-track guide.

Cristal Ramirez: “It felt really good to start with ‘Daydream.’ We all agreed on it as being the starting track for the record, because it feels very Aces, but it also feels like that bridge into the next chapter of The Aces in that we really explore sonically and tried out different things. And I think you'll hear that with upcoming releases more. 'Daydream' felt like that perfect feel-good track to return back to.”
Alisa Ramirez: “It has such a fun, groovy, hopeful, good vibe. I think The Aces always try to start and end everything with a good vibe and something that's going to make everybody happy. So we were really conscious of making that the first track that our fans hear off the new record.”

New Emotion
CR: “It was one of the last songs written for the record. It has that quintessential Aces fun, even deeper explored. It’s about falling in love with someone, whether that's your friend or someone you didn't expect to start having feelings for—and what that feels like, and the embarrassment, but also the excitement of that. We wanted to keep that one very funky.”

My Phone Is Trying to Kill Me
AR: “I think our phones pull us out of the present so much, and everyone's trying to find a new balance in relationship with their phones—and not let it take over their lives.”
CR: “It’s so interesting how we are so attached to this communication with each other. I remember we were sitting in the studio and how something like leaving it left unread can wreck your mood for a few hours if not your day. If that person that you like switches up that energy on you and they don't respond to your text or something, it's easy to get caught up. We're on our phones all the time, and we're almost tracking each other in a weird way. We have read notifications, or you can look on Instagram to see if they're online. It's so crazy how that affects our relationships with each other—and how that brings on a lot of anxiety for a lot of people. It's definitely been something that at times has made me want to rip my hair out completely and be like, 'Ah, I want to be present. I want to live my life. This stuff isn't important.' So it kind of felt like we were channeling that frustration into a song.”

CR: “It's one of my absolute favorite tracks. The story is painted out there for you as to what happens. There's not many metaphors in that song, which I love about it. You don't have to guess, we're just giving you a journal entry—a situation that happened. It feels very, very vulnerable. Also, it feels kind of Santana-influenced with that guitar solo that comes in—and it feels very beachy.”
AR: “It's the type of song that stays stuck in your head forever and that you want to sing all the time. I know it's stuck in my head all the time, and I love that we were able to even push the types of stories we are telling. They're more honest than ever, and that makes them more relatable. I think everyone's had a Kelly in their life.”

Can You Do
CR: “We wanted it to be in your face and upbeat, completely taking your sexuality and your badassery in your hand and putting it in someone else's face. Like, 'This is who I am, being very confident and verging on cocky.' I think that you don't see women do that enough. It's this exploration of owning yourself as a sexual being and not being apologetic for that. And that felt really important for us as adult people to explore that side of ourselves, and to be more mature on this record.”

All Mean Nothing
AR: “I got really sick the day that me and Cristal were meant to go to the studio. This is the first experience I've had where Cristal brought back a song that I wasn't a part of. The first time I heard it, I was absolutely in love with it. It had this desperation to it, and this honesty that felt like a knife in the heart. You can hear the emotion on it, the betrayal that she's feeling on the track. It reminds me of a cool Songs About Jane Maroon 5-type track—with almost like a jazz element in the production that I live for.”
CR: “It’s a true story about a relationship I had been through. Those kinds of relationships that just put you through the ringer and they leave you feeling dazed and confused. Like, ‘Was I making that all up in my head? What even happened?’ When you're dealing with a relationship that is so toxic and so confusing, it leaves you kind of reeling. Also, that's the first song where there's kind of this apathy, but also a lot of pain underneath it too, of just, 'Did it even mean anything, that relationship?' I loved exploring that. That was one of the most therapeutic songs for me, personally, to write on the record, to get all of that out and process.”

AR: “‘801’ is an ode to breaking out of your hometown and breaking out of the mold of what you were told to be your whole life, and knowing that that's okay—and getting comfortable with who you are and not what people expect of you. Because a lot of things about Utah that we come from, our lifestyles and who we are as people, really decide the culture here. The setting for it when we were writing the lyrics was this gay club that's in the middle of Salt Lake City, which is a very religious town. I remember the first time I ever went to that gay club with all my friends, and it's so interesting to see all of these kids that went to the same high school as me and that I grew up with in the rural-based community, that is very religious, breaking away from that and accepting ourselves and people. We've seen kids that I went to high school with that were out as gay now, and I didn't know they were gay. And people that I knew that were transgender, all in the same place celebrating that uniqueness within the middle of this city coming from this place that's always told us that was wrong, but us defying that.”
CR: “Even outside of Utah, the song extends to wherever you're from. I remember we played it for a couple of friends of ours, and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, I feel that so much.' And they were not from Utah, they were from all over the world. They think this song is about owning your uniqueness and not apologizing for it, regardless of who tells you otherwise.”

I Can Break Your Heart Too
CR: “It's a heartbreak song, but it's also about claiming your power. Just being like, 'These games, they're not even hurting me anymore. They're boring. I'm literally bored of this nonsense. So I'm just as valuable, I'm just as sought out. I can break your heart, too. Don't think you're special.' It's also about how a confident person handles fuckery, or handles someone trying to diss them. It's like, 'Okay, you're going to act like that to me? Well, I can act that way right back.'”
McKenna Petty: “It feels so good every time I listen to that song. Just imagine yourself in the summertime driving with your friends.”

Lost Angeles
CR: “Alisa and I now live in Los Angeles. We wrote this song when we didn't live there yet. We were traveling back and forth almost every other week to write music, starting to experience what it was like to be in LA regularly before eventually moving. I think a lot of people, when they move out of their own town and go to a new big city, are trying to figure out who they are and are trying to create and navigating growing up. It can be really easy, especially in a city like LA, to feel swallowed up and have these experiences that paint the city for you. I remember I went through a pretty bad heartbreak when I was in New York for a while, and I remember hating New York for a few months. I wanted to get out of there. But now I love New York. So it's so interesting how our experiences taint cities. Alisa and I wanted to explore the tortured relationship that we were having with LA at the time, of not feeling like we were fitting in and being able to get our footing at that time.”

Not Enough
CR: “‘Not Enough’ is kind of a little heartbreak letter. Sometimes in life, relationships don't line up and it's not enough for whatever reason—that sentiment is so heartbreaking. The feeling of it was inspired by Selena. We grew up listening to a lot of her music and feeling, like, 'Bidi Bidi Bom Bom' and all those songs that were on as kids all the time. So we wanted to use a little bit of that inspiration as well.”
MP: “I had probably the most fun recording this song. I feel like ‘Not Enough’ was such a new, fresh production in sonics and sounds for us. This is one of the songs I'm the most excited for the world to hear.”

CR: “We wrote it in Malibu. We went there for a week and we ended up writing ‘Cruel,’ ‘801,’ and ‘Can You Do.’ I remember sitting down and feeling so broken and sad over this relationship with Alisa, and she was like, 'Dude, just write exactly how you feel onto this paper right now. Just get it out. Whether or not we use the song or not, don't think about it. Just pour your heart out into this and voice how you're feeling.' I was having a hard time being creative because I was so sad about the situation and this person. I felt charged up from that, and Alisa and I sat down and out came 'Cruel.' When I listen to that song, that's probably one of the closest songs to my heart on the whole record, because I let go of so much through that song.”
Katie Henderson: “There's a lot of songs where you can hear the artist explain what they were going through and not always be able to feel that. Then when you hear the song for the first time, you feel that so clearly. You can almost feel that moment being put down on paper. And it's one of those songs I feel like that just hits your soul. You can feel it so deeply.”

Thought of You
CR: “It's that hopeful 'I've been through a lot and I've experienced a lot, but I'm still hanging on to hope. I'm still thinking and dreaming of this person who will be good for me.' It has this doo-wop kind of swing to it that adds a fresh flavor to the record. Alisa and I always laugh because there's a couple of songs we always say they're blackout songs, where we go in the studio, we write them, we leave, and then we get a demo back and we're like, 'Wait, we wrote that? I don't remember writing that, that's amazing.' You kind of have this creative blackout and then you go back and listen.”

Going Home
AR: “‘Going Home’ was us trying to break down those walls of what people might expect us to do every time. I think we always want to keep our fans on their toes, surprised and hearing new things from us. It's a total love letter to that person in your life, specifically for me, my girlfriend. It felt like a safe space to be able to go there and really pour your heart out onto the track.”
CR: “Which we don't do often. We don't do love songs very often. I think that we, as artists, our motto is, 'We always want to do things that you don't expect us to do.' We always want to push things and we always want to keep ourselves excited, as well as coming back with songs that people might be like, 'Oh shoot, they're using different kinds of sounds. That's a total different sound for them.'”

AR: “We were so conscious of ending the album with ‘Zillionaire.’ We said we wanted to start the album on a high note with ‘Daydream’ and we want to end it that way too, because the album itself feels like such a rollercoaster ride. It feels like a song that you want to end on, and it feels like a celebration. The type of music that everyone kind of needs right now.”
CR: “Lyrically, we wanted to explore this idea that it's really easy, especially in pop music, to get caught up in money and fame and what designer brands you are wearing. We wanted to bring it back down to having family around you; friends and someone you love dearly is way more important than any of that. And that's also an ode to old classic disco and soul music like Earth, Wind & Fire and The Commodores. I feel like they would explore topics like that all the time. It's very classic-sounding.”


Other Versions

Music Videos

More by The Aces

Featured On