Chartbreaker: Pop-Rock Quartet The Aces Were Inspired By Lorde To Get Serious

BB29 2017 - DO NOT REUSE!!!!
Chad Kirkland
From left: The Aces’ Cristal Ramirez, McKenna Petty, Alisa Ramirez and Katie Henderson photographed on Dec. 5, 2017 at Velour in Provo, Utah.

Chartbreaker is Billboard's monthly series spotlighting an artist making their introduction to the charts.

Four red-state young women DIY’d their way to pop status with breakthrough track "Stuck." Here's how.

Hometown advantage

Ramirez sisters Cristal (vocals) and Alisa (drums) started The Aces as preteens in Provo, Utah, recruiting childhood friends McKenna Petty (bass) and Katie Henderson (guitar). Alcohol-free venues in their conservative town enabled the foursome, now all 21 except Alisa (19), to score gigs in high school: “It was a unique city that shaped us as musicians,” says Petty. “It’s such a monumental part of our band’s story.”

Lorde got them serious...

Watching Lorde win two Grammys in 2014 for her hit “Royals” gave The Aces (originally named The Blue Aces) the motivation to turn their hobby into a career. “It was this moment of, ‘We have to take this seriously,’” recalls Cristal. After The Aces independently released single “Stuck” in May 2016, Red Bull Records signed them that October, and “within six months of putting out new music,” says Alisa, “Lorde’s manager wanted to manage us.”

...But the King of Pop set them free

After a frustrating attempt at pursuing the sound of alt-rock acts like The Neighbourhood and Arctic Monkeys, they gave in to their pop leanings (they worship Michael Jackson) and penned their first hit. “We said, ‘Fuck it, we’re not going to try to be something we’re not.’ The next day we wrote ‘Stuck,’” which is climbing the charts.

No assembly required

“Some people think we’re manufactured, that we were auditioned and put together,” says Cristal. After playing an event around the Grammys last February, they recall A&R reps asking their manager who formed them. “He was like, ‘Nobody, motherfucker! It’s just them!’” says Alisa. Though the band faced skepticism early on, “it’s fun to change people’s minds,” adds Henderson.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 23  issue of Billboard.