When The Aces began writing the songs that would make up their third LP, ‘I’ve Loved You For So Long’ — a sparkling indie-rock album that’s by far their most personal and self-assured work to date — they never anticipated the emotional journey they were about to embark on. It was 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The quartet — sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (lead vocals/guitar and drums, respectively), Katie Henderson (lead guitar/vocals), and McKenna Petty (bass) — had recently released their second full-length, ‘Under My Influence,’ that July. Right away, the album made a splash. It debuted on numerous charts, including #53 on Billboard’s Top Albums list and #9 on the outlet’s Current Alternative Albums list. To date, ‘Under My Influence’ has garnered more than 75 million streams; its lead single “Daydream,” has amassed more than 36 million alone. Still, at the time, the foursome had to come to terms with the fact that they wouldn’t be able to tour or promote Under My Influence as planned. “I felt really invisible during that time,” says Cristal. “We went into this grieving process where we were just kind of numb, getting through the days.” Though quarantine was a challenging time for The Aces, they used that period to reflect, confronting personal mental health issues as well as processing formative experiences they’d each had when they were younger. Although the band members go way back — they met as kids in Provo, Utah, and formed the group when they were between 8 and 10 years old — they’ve each had their own journeys navigating their relationships with Mormonism, the religion in which they were raised, as well as with embracing their queer identities: “I felt like we all had so many transformations individually,” McKenna says of the pandemic. “For me, it was the first time I really looked at the culture that we grew up in and left the religion that we were raised in.” “That solitude forced a lot of self-reflection on how we make music and why we make music,” adds Alisa. “It brought us to reflect a lot on what brought us here—that [playing together] was a safe space for us as closeted young queer people. All four of us felt a little bit disenfranchised from our community and we were each other’s safe space,” she continues. “And so we started talking about that.” Around the same time, the band returned to the studio. At first, they viewed those early sessions as a coping mechanism or a way to get out of the house. “We just started going with no other purpose than to create and to feel childlike and to feel closer to each other,” says Cristal. “And that’s what really laid the groundwork to make this new record.” And so, just as the pandemic interrupted the release of ‘Under My Influence,’ it created the necessary environment — one of complete trust between the group — for The Aces to dig deep enough to write ‘I’ve Loved You For So Long.’ This same dynamic also informed the band’s decision to keep their circle small this time around and enlist just one collaborator: Keith Varon, who also produced “Daydream” and is the brand’s sole co-writer and co-producer on the record. Listening to ‘I’ve Loved You For So Long’ is like time-traveling through the band’s most personal history, and through the often-difficult moments that shaped each of them. Lyrically, the songs cover a period of more than a decade. On “Suburban Blues” a pop-punk-tinged track about growing up closeted, Cristal ruminates on whether she’ll survive making it out of her small town; on “Person,” she grapples with her demons head-on in her twenties (“How come at the age of 25 / Nothing makes me feel alive like surrendering my peace of mind?” she wonders). Although the record deals with love, longing, and heartbreak (like the bright, driving singles “Attention” and “Girls Make Me Wanna Die”), the central relationship in ‘I’ve Loved You For So Long’ is the one The Aces have with themselves. On “Always Get This Way” and “Stop Feeling,” Cristal describes her own mental health challenges, while on “Solo,” an electronic track (think: hyper-pop meets LCD Soundsystem), she reflects on an unhealthy relationship dynamic — and looks in the mirror to assess how she got there. “I’ve really struggled to be in relationships that are healthy and good for me,” Cristal says of the inspiration for the track. “Growing up and being closeted in a small, conservative, and religious town, you don’t think that you’ll ever have that. The song is a reflection on the problems I have and realizing how I’ve been fueling my own suffering.” But ultimately, the album begins and ends on a positive note as The Aces use lessons from their past to look toward the future. “I’ve Loved You For So Long,” the album’s opener and title track, is a gorgeous, acoustic guitar-driven anthem reminiscent of The Cranberries. Though the lyrics can be interpreted romantically, the group feels that it’s about their band, too — about how, through it all, their relationships with one another will endure. “Younger,” the closing song, which the band says is inspired by The Cure, is an upbeat bop that’s both nostalgic and hopeful. “My band was always a place where I’ve felt like I could be myself — and we want to create that energy for everyone,” says Katie. “I love that ‘Younger’ creates that hope at the end of the album. Despite the hard things we’ve been through, at the end of the day, we’re exactly where we want to be.” With ‘I’ve Loved You For So Long,’ The Aces are poised to reach new heights — it’s a record that’ll work its way into your head and heart and will have you singing along all the way through.