Fame is a fickle thing. Viral fame can be especially poisonous.
For the Villarreal sisters – the trio of vocalist/guitarist Daniela “Dany” Villarreal Vélez, vocalist/drummer Paulina “Pau” Villarreal Vélez and Alejandra “Ale” Villarreal Vélez on the bass – who collectively make up The Warning, a lifetime head over heels in love with rock music translated into worldwide fame thanks in no small part to a timely, and undeniably kick-ass cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, a cover that earned praise from the band themselves and kick-started a journey from the Monterrey, Mexico trio that resulted in appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and global media attention. Did we mention they were 15, 13 and 10 at the time?!!?!
But viral fame can only last so long. To really make it stick, you have to be good at what you do, and the Villarreal sisters are the real deal.
Fast-forward to 2022, and the sisters have punched supporting stints opposite rock staples Aerosmith, Def Leppard, The Killers and Foo Fighters (to name a few). Their latest studio album Error drops on June 24th through Lava Records, an affiliate of Universal Music Group, and the band has been tirelessly burning across North America, with tours on deck with the likes of The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm and Three Days Grace.
Hours before the band took to the stage in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada supporting grunge legends Stone Temple Pilots, Dany, Pau and Ale sat down with Metal Injection for a career-spanning interview, reflecting on viral internet fame and all that comes with it, life on the road and the bonds of family that reinforce one of the next generation’s leading forces in hard rock.
What’s the feeling like being back on the road? I know there’s been start-stops in momentum with the pandemic and now your tour schedule is just ridiculous.
Pau: It feels good. We haven’t done this in a long time, but it’s like such a big part of what we love doing. And to not have been able to do that for two years straight and being back at it with full force, just feels really satisfying.
Dany: And our bodies are kind of like remembering like yeah, we know how to do this. We know! It feels awesome! Let’s go!
Those first couple of gigs back, were there nerves? Were there those thoughts of ‘what if I forget how to do this?’ Which of course wouldn’t happen, but two years is a hell of a gap between performing live.
Dany: We were nervous! The first gig that we did coming back was our first festival in the US. We played Welcome to Rockville in Florida. So we were just like, okay! That’s the first gig in two years. Let’s go!
Pau: Yeah no, we were definitely nervous. But the moment that you’re on that stage, like your body just remembers what it’s supposed to do and you’re just enjoying it. So it’s been a process, but I feel like we’ve gotten used to it.
Momentum is a hell of a thing in this business where, obviously, you guys came right out of the gate with your cover songs and “Enter Sandman”. Everything starts happening at once with the Ellen DeGeneres appearance and all these big things, but you have to keep going. The fact that people have latched on and embraced your original music, as artists and people who wanted to do this in your entire lives… like just today “Money” cracked a million views on YouTube. After a ton of hard work it’s really all happening.
Pau: You know, it’s exactly like that. Like I feel like today with social media and things, there’s always a possibility that you could go viral, but it’s keeping that momentum, as you said, and just really working at it to keep that attention after it, because it’s really easy to go viral and then just drop and never be heard of again.
So just like really working hard at that and honestly, it wouldn’t have been possible if people didn’t like our music. So to have started out and people immediately find something that they liked with our music, because we started out really young. So I could understand if you were not that excited about 13 year olds songwriting, but people really liked it and it just meant the world to us. And it’s always a great motivator to remember where we started out and all those people that have been supporting us from the beginning.
Was there a fear when you guys started branching into original songs that, maybe people like our cover songs, but we’re artists and we want them to embrace this other side of us as well. Like we said, viral fame can happen and be gone in an instant and that momentum and needing to build upon that. It’s all very fragile.
Pau: I wouldn’t say it was fear, but again, we were so young. We just kind of like, didn’t register it that way. It was like okay, we did covers, now we want to do our own songs. I was 13, (turning to Dany) you were 15 and Ale was ten. So I don’t think it was like the most present thing in our minds. We were just like will they like it or not? I feel like now I’m a little more conscious about it.
Ale: Back then we didn’t think about it.
Dany: I think we were more excited to explore what songwriting would be like for us than oh my God, will people receive it properly?
Going back for a minute, thinking about that period surrounding “Enter Sandman”. Did that feel like it happened in the blink of an eye? You have Kirk Hammett shout you guys out and then the Ellen thing happens. Those couple of years, and at your age at the time, did that feel like a long process or a flash?
Pau: It was from one day to another. But like the whole time where things were happening, like we were starting to do interviews. I mean, we were kids. It did feel like a long time, but it was a good time.
Dany: Yeah, it was a good time, but it was such a drastic change from what we usually did everyday that it felt like a different life at some point. So it felt long in the sense that it was just so different and we were kind of getting used to it.
Pau: But again, I like to think that we were living those experiences at that age. I’m just thinking about it now and it’s like oh, that’s insane. Basically our first English interview was with Ellen DeGeneres. That’s crazy. So looking back at it, we’re just really grateful that it happened. But it was very different.
I love that you guys kind of fell in love with Rock Band and Guitar Hero and all that sort of thing, because I feel like that was an interesting moment in time for music fans. It opened up so many new worlds and avenues of music you might not have been down before. Was that an addictive thing for you?
Dany: It was not only music, but it was like the whole live performance love for it, because you got to build your own character, your own look, choose guitar, bass, piano, drums.
Pau: I just look back at it with a lot of love. It was like a really nice way to fall in love with the idea of playing music. I feel like that was more it than anything, falling in love with a genre that our parents really liked. But us kind of like living it in some sort of way through the video game really pushed us to do what we do today.
I know music was always an important part of your household. Classic rock, hard rock, bands and artists like Queen, Elton John, AC/DC, Metallica. Does it feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that you were always immersed in music and that love of rock?
Pau: Yes! I feel like it played a huge part in who we are as people. Just as people, not even musicians. All this love for music, like we were really raised with it. And so now I feel like we enjoy music.
There’s two ways for us to enjoy music, just as people, but now we can enjoy it as musicians, but also knowing how to enjoy music as people and have that same kind of feeling as we were like when we were kids just watching a concert. Having the opportunity to grow up with that was I feel like a really big part of who we are now.
Are there still any pinch me moments when you do get to do something with an Aerosmith, Foo Fighters or The Killers in a 60,000 person stadium? I know you guys, aside from being musicians who are gaining a following, are massive music fans. So I’m sure that doesn’t get lost on you when you get these big opportunities.
Dany: Yeah definitely, there’s a lot of pinch me moments. So yeah, as you mentioned, Foo Fighters was one of the last ones we got to play in a 60,000 people arena in our country, in Mexico City.
Pau: It’s like the biggest stage in our country and it’s a place that we have been to before as well. I have never been more nervous in my life about a show than that one. It was shocking, like you couldn’t move.
Danny: It did not feel real.
Pau: You saw all those people. And it was really scary because Mexico City is a very passionate crowd. They either love you or hate you. There’s no in between. And we were scared that it was going to be the hate you part. But no, it was such an amazing crowd. And to be opening for a band who we admire so much, who we’ve covered in the past, which is like being there, being in that moment. It was insane. That’s a big pinch me moment.
You have so many fantastic things coming up where I feel like it’s going to be lots of different types of learning experience as well. You have this kind of like all hardcore women of rock tour with The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm and Lillith Czar, and then opening for Three Days Grace. It’s all kind of one into the other of cool opportunities.
Dany: Yes! And we’re so ready for them. We can’t wait.
Pau: Like when I look at my calendar I’m like what even is life?! From going from two years of doing nothing, to doing these incredible shows with people who we admire so much, it’s just unreal. We’re very excited about it.
I know we’re a couple days away from the record release [Error], which is of course exciting.
Pau: We recorded this album in 2020. So we’ve had this album in the vault for two years and now it’s just about to be released.
Dany: And we live right now by shows. Like I can’t even tell you what day it is today, but I know like the show that we have today.
Pau: So just thinking that we’re about to release our album, which we worked on for so long, it’s just very exciting. Very exciting.
We talked about the reception too, we’re seeing with “Money”, that you saw with “Choke”. It’s like this isn’t like flash in the pan. You’re charting, racking up views on YouTube, people are digging it live. That must be really affirming.
Pau: Sometimes we forget about that. You’re traveling, you’re touring and you’re playing. You don’t know who you are, where you are, you’re just playing, and sometimes you forget that all these incredible things are happening. So it’s really about taking a moment to let it sink in and just be really grateful about it because it’s amazing and it’s what we’ve dreamed about for years and what we’ve been working towards.
So to see it is really paying off and seeing that our music has impacted people’s lives and they’re listening to it and they’re enjoying it. It’s just really gratifying.
I’m curious what’s on your individual playlist right now? Any classics, new music, something you’ve grabbed from a festival? What’s cracking your tour playlist?
Pau: So we listen to a lot of music. All different types: English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese. Like it really doesn’t matter as long as we like it. But right now, personally, I’m really into Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys. It’s been weird because I went from listening to a lot of K-Pop to now like mixing it with rock again. Like it’s funky, but also a lot of classical music.
Dany: I’ve been listening to a lot of Måneskin and also of course, the new Halestorm album. Just like getting ready for it live.
Ale: I’ve also been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys. I’ve been going back to my Muse phase lately. Also, I love listening to instrumental music.
Pau: Lo-fi beats at the airport just hit different.
I love how you guys have been giving fans glimpses into tour-life through social media. That’s another cool way to give back to your fans. And also showing fans life on the road, which is not always incredibly glamorous. It can be tough, it can be a grind, particularly the type of tour you guys have been having where it’s essentially from March to November.
Pau: Yeah, but it’s going to sound really funny. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m narcissistic in some way or another, but I love watching them (gestures to her sisters). Remembering what we went through and looking at it and looking at our experience. It’s good because you’re living through so much in one day that sometimes it all becomes a jumbled mess in your mind.
But with the after-movies that we’ve been releasing, it helps you remember the good times and all those places, because it’s also kind of easy to forget that you’re having really good experiences sometimes because of course it’s tiring. Like we’re not going to lie, touring is really hard. It’s really hard. So watching those after-movies, I’d be like oh my gosh. Like we laughed so much. Like, remember all of that? And you start remembering all the good things that happened with the team, with your family and everything. And it’s just really nice to see it.
To close with something you probably hear in every single interview, the sister thing. Is it like second nature now on the stage?… Being on the road with your family must be the coolest yet weirdest but also most comfortable thing?
Pau: You described it perfectly! It’s like we get along really well. Really well. And I feel like it’s incredibly comforting getting to travel with your family. Sure it can be a little bit tough, but I feel like one of the biggest parts about touring is that you miss home and you miss your family. So you’re kind of bringing home to the tour with your family. And we get along really well, as I said. We mess up and we argue and we laugh about it.
Dany: We have a way of communicating telepathically (laughs).
Pau: I know it’s going to sound weird, but I know if I just launched a song and Danny’s supposed to like enter on a certain bar, I can sometimes tell when she’s not going to enter on that bar and we’re going to have to stop and start again. I can just like feel the vibe and I’m like, that’s not going to work out. Let’s do it again! So I feel like we’ve just gotten so used to working with each other.
Yes, we’re sisters. We’ve been together our whole lives. It just brings a lot of positive things when we’re working because we know each other so well. We can understand each other and we can help each other out in the places that we’re lacking and the place that we’re lacking, we can comfortably tell each other like, Hey, you need to work on this. And it’s not a personal offense because we’re just working together. We just want to be better as a whole.
*Catch The Warning on tour throughout 2022 on select dates with Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, Three Days Grace and more! Error is now worldwide!