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The Aces return to the 801, with a Utah concert on a tour delayed a year by COVID-19

The band talks about remixes, setlists, keeping busy during the pandemic, and the joy of getting back onstage.

(Jason Lee | Red Bull Records) The Aces, the all-female indie-pop quartet from Orem — from left: lead singer Cristal Ramirez, guitarist Katie Henderson, bassist McKenna Petty and drummer Alisa Ramirez — will perform for their Utah fans, Nov. 26, 2021, at The Depot in Salt Lake City.

Going out on tour is something the four members of The Aces — the all-female indie-pop band from Orem — have been anticipating for a long time.

“It felt like it was constantly us looking forward to dates we thought we were going to be able to have, and then just constantly having to move them,” guitarist Katie Henderson said on a recent Zoom call. “It got to a point where you almost expected it not to happen. It was, like, ‘I can’t get let down any more.’”

The band launched their headlining 23-city “Under My Influence” tour Nov. 12 in Seattle — more than two years since their last tour, a delay expanded when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down music venues worldwide.

The band gets a short break for Thanksgiving, which the band will get to spend close to home, and then perform for their Utah fans on Black Friday, Nov. 26, at The Depot in downtown Salt Lake City. (Pop musician Madeline the Person is the opening act.)

The schedule doesn’t always work out that way, drummer Alisa Ramirez said. “We’ve had many a Thanksgiving around the world,” she said. “We had one Thanksgiving in London, and then we did one Thanksgiving in Iowa. We’ve forfeited our Thanksgivings a lot for tours.”

The show at The Depot promises to be a highlight of the tour, which goes from coast to coast and back around, ending Dec. 19 in Austin, Texas.

“It’ll be like ‘We’re home, we’re back.’ Not just playing live shows but playing in our hometown,” Henderson said.

“Obviously, it’s our original crowd,” Ramirez said. “There’s some fans that have known us since we were playing as kids, and those fans are extremely dedicated. It’s going to be really energetic, and super fun.”

One song Ramirez said will be a guaranteed hit in Salt Lake City: “801,” a single inspired by the band’s trips from Orem up to one of Utah’s most famous gay bars, The Sun Trapp, only a couple of blocks from The Depot. (Three members of The Aces — Henderson, Ramirez and her sister, lead singer Cristal Ramirez — identify as queer; bassist McKenna Petty is straight and married.)

“Playing ‘801′ is going to be a really cool moment for our LGBTQ fans in the middle of Salt Lake City,” Alisa Ramirez said.

Staying connected

More than a year after the “Under My Influence” album was released, the band members say they have worked to stay busy without touring. “We’ve been in the studio, honestly, more than anything, because that’s all we can do,” Cristal Ramirez said.

The upside to not touring, Petty said, “was we were able to get really creative, in ways to stay connected to our fans.”

The band did virtual concerts streamed to fans, happenings on Instagram, and other online engagement. “That was really cool to experience a different side of our relationship with our fans,” Petty said. “They were there, and present, through the whole thing.”

The band also looked at the songs on “Under My Influence” in new ways. They released an extended “deluxe” edition of the album on Oct. 23, which included two B-sides and three remixes — one, by the English indie-pop band Fickle Friends, of their song “Kelly”; and two versions of their bouncy single “Daydream,” one by the electronic duo Snakehips, the other a spooky, minor-key take by the rock band Portugal. The Man.

With some of the remixes, Cristal Ramirez said, “they took the song and did their own thing, and gave it back.” With Portugal. The Man, she said, “that was a lot more collaborative. They took it and completely changed the song into what that remix is, which is basically an alternate version of ‘Daydream.’ Then we went into the studio and finished it, and I re-sang it.”

Redoing the vocal, she said, “I got to move into a more rock ‘n’ roll part of my voice. … The original vocal is very kind of glossy and poppy. To imagine how I would sing this if it was a rock song, which is what I sent back, was just fun and a really good creative experience.”

Getting back out

A week before the tour’s first show, the band was still determining what the setlist would be — a process Henderson categorized as “trial and error.”

“We spend a lot of time, like, ‘What if we try this?” Henderson said. “... Then we get in the rehearsal space and try it out. Sometimes there’s songs that go together that you’re, like, ‘Wow, that really doesn’t fit well.’”

Alisa Ramirez recalled how in recording a virtual concert for streaming, “we came up with this setlist that we played just to a cameraman, essentially, and it was fine.”

Then they performed the same setlist at a music festival. “When we put it in front of a crowd for the first time, we were stunned about how not good it was,” Alisa Ramirez said. “We were yanking our audience around. You’d think that because these songs were similar tempos, that these would go well together. When we played it in front of an audience, we’re, like, ‘That didn’t work.’”

Henderson said the festival crowds have been loving two uptempo songs from “Under My Influence” — the sex-positive “Can You Do” and the tech-anxious “My Phone Is Trying to Kill Me.”

“But it’s different every crowd,” Petty said. “It’s interesting to see, whatever city you’re in, what songs that crowd gravitates more toward, or just feels super-hyped on.”

One example of unpredictable fan behavior, immortalized on social media: On the tour’s first stop in Seattle, while the band played “Kelly” — a song about an obsessive love affair — someone in the crowd threw a red bra onstage, which Cristal Ramirez picked up.

Performing isn’t just for the fans’ enjoyment, though — it’s also a thrill for the band members.

Getting back onstage after the pandemic-induced break, Alisa Ramirez said, “felt like we returned to ourselves. … Getting to do that again, it felt like, ‘Oh, this is why I’ve felt so terrible for the last two years. Because I haven’t been able to do this.’ This is a huge part of my happiness, and who I am.”

Petty agreed. “I don’t think I realize how much I lacked that,” she said. “I knew, obviously, that I love playing shows and I miss it so much. But doing it again, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve been missing this a lot.’ … We’ve never gone that long not playing shows. It just feels so good to be doing it again.”

The Aces play Utah

The Aces, the all-female indie-pop quartet from Orem, performs for their Utah fans for the first time in two years.

When • Friday, Nov. 26; doors open at 7 p.m.

Where • The Depot, 13 N. 400 West, Salt Lake City.

Tickets • $20 (plus service fees) general admission, at livenation.com.

Information • It’s an all-ages show. Madeline the Person is the opening act.

Safety protocol • The Depot requires ticket holders to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of showtime.


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