The Cover Story

The Warning: “Rock makes me feel powerful… everyone connects in such a big way”

A decade on from going viral for a cover of Enter Sandman, The Warning have become one of rock’n’roll’s most attention-grabbing young bands. And, yet, they’re still only just getting started. On the eve of fourth album Keep Me Fed, and with a headline date at London’s O2 Academy Brixton set for 2025, the Villarreal Vélez sisters reflect on all they’ve accomplished so far, and why nothing is more important than inspiring others…

The Warning: “Rock makes me feel powerful… everyone connects in such a big way”
Emma Wilkes
Danielle Ernst

The Warning are feeling jet-lagged. When we join the Villarreal Vélez sisters at home in Monterrey, Mexico, they apologise if they seem a little less energetic than usual, having just touched down from Japan after a tour supporting Band-Maid. But their encroaching fatigue cannot completely dampen their excitement, especially given where they’ve just been. “It was amazing!” beams drummer Pau. “We played three shows out there which were sold out, which is crazy to think about.”

Trips like these aren't unusual for Pau, lead vocalist and guitarist Dany, and bassist Ale. Aged just 22, 24 and 19 respectively, they’ve already invested half their lives into playing music together. The spark was first ignited 10 years ago when their cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman went viral – when they were still literal children – and ever since, they've been coming of age onstage, while racking up hundreds and thousands of miles’ worth of experience. Their CV boasts opening slots with the likes of Muse, Royal Blood and Halestorm, but they’re more than capable of helming huge crowds on their own as well, and will be headlining the O2 Academy Brixton when they return to the UK next year.

So how did we get here? Back when they were kids, the first instrument the sisters ever touched was the piano, while the second instruments they got their hands on were made of plastic. Indeed, the first time Dany, Pau and Ale played together, they were in front of a TV screen, bashing away on imitation guitars and drums on the videogame Rock Band. They might have been nailing the high scores, but there was much more at work – it was a means of exposure to an untold universe of music, from Paramore and Panic! At The Disco to classics like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.

Rock Band wasn’t the sisters’ only gateway to music, however. Already familiar with classical music from playing piano when they were barely tall enough to reach the keys, their childhood was coloured by their father putting concert films on the TV, which they’d sit and watch as a family. They lost themselves in iconic shows from the likes of Elton John, Pink Floyd, Muse, Queen and Billy Joel from the comfort of the sofa, where the dream of following in the footsteps of giants began to form.

“Rock is a genre that makes me feel powerful,” asserts Pau. “When we play it, I feel very powerful out there with my sisters. It’s a very energetic genre, but one where everyone connects in such a big way.”

It was only a matter of time before the trio would try their hand at making music.

“We decided to play a song together and there was no going back. It just felt so amazing,” adds Dany.

Their first show came at a Christmas party when they were just 13, 11 and eight years old. Perhaps understandably, a few people raised their eyebrows at the time.

“We didn’t feel like we were kids [when we started], but I see pictures of our first shows and we look like toddlers,” laughs Pau. “I can understand why people around us were like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But since we started working, we had our vision of what we wanted to do and we kept growing as a band.

“Now we’ve been doing this for 10 years and people are like, ‘That’s so cool, you’re amazing, we’re so proud.’ Back then, [family and friends] were a little bit apprehensive about it, but now the people close to us see the success and the tours and the fans, and they feel more at peace with what they’re doing. They’re confident that it’s a real job, you know?”

Unquestionably, The Warning's dynamic has been enriched by the fact they’ve spent their whole lives around each other, but though they’re bonded by blood, their differences as people mean they each have naturally fallen into different roles.

“Ale keeps us in check,” suggests Pau, turning to her sister – notably the quietest of the trio. “When we’re in rehearsals, you know when to draw the line on something.”

“You’re a creative motor, for sure,” Dany says to Pau. “You just keep the ball rolling creatively all the time.”

“You’re such a great frontwoman and you have a talent for connecting with people,” Pau returns. “I’m at the back on the drums and sometimes I don’t have that ability. I feel like more than anything, even though we have [our own] roles, [the others] step in when we need it, like if Dany’s feeling a little bit sick, Ale and I compensate. We’re very flexible with it because we know each other and we know what we need to do for the band.”

These three women make a powerful trio as it is, but they’re also making strides few others from their country get to make…

How many Mexican rock bands do you know? Mariachi El Bronx don't count. Perhaps The Warning is the only one you’ve heard of, and speaking to the sisters today, they're very aware of the fact that Latino rock acts aren't exactly dominant on the global stage. But just because there aren't many who do breakout, worldwide success stories doesn't mean the people don't adore music.

It’s certainly helped The Warning that they grew up in Monterrey. Located in the north of the country, it’s one of Mexico’s most economically prosperous, metropolitan cities, but it’s also its spiritual music capital – both in terms of the fervour for live music and the infrastructure it has to support emerging musicians. Growing up, the Villarreal Vélez sisters had easy access to music shops and tuition, helping them to flourish as a unit and break free from the confines of their country’s borders. Even as they’ve grown, they’ve remained anchored to the city. While others in a similar position might have uprooted themselves to move to a bigger hub – Los Angeles for example – the trio don’t plan on leaving.

“There’s nothing more special than going on tour and seeing the whole world then coming back to your language, to your culture, to your food,” says Pau.

At the same time, when they win, their compatriots in other Mexican bands also win. A rising tide lifts all ships.

“It’s very exciting that when we take these steps internationally, more people start looking at the music that comes out of Mexico because we have such incredible musicians and a big music culture in our country,” she continues.

“The mainstream things that are playing is the same stuff from the Western music industry, but rock is definitely not mainstream at all. It does [however] have the biggest and most passionate crowds. Every time we meet a band they’re like, ‘We love going to Mexico, the fans are crazy there and it’s always super-packed and all the tickets sell out!’”

“It’s very special to see your music is connecting with people all over the world”

Hear Pau on The Warning’s ever-growing multi-generational fanbase

Flying the flag for Mexican music remains a point of pride for the sisters – to stress this point, Dany gestures to the bright teal Mexico football shirt she is wearing.

“Some people like that we’re representing them, some people don’t like that we’re representing them,” she explains. “We’re very proud to be Mexican and we do what we do very proudly.”

However, it isn’t without pressure. “Every time we meet somebody or work with somebody, we’re conscious that we’re representing our culture as a whole because people don’t have the best image, usually – they expect our culture to be what they see on the TV all the time. Every time we tour with other bands, they’re like, ‘You’re the kindest and warmest people we’ve ever worked with’. That’s our culture – that’s just us being normal.”

Given that they’ve been handed the mantle of pushing back against Mexican stereotypes, what do they wish people better understood about their culture?

“People will go out of the way to get the job done,” Ale suggests.

“Everything revolves around passion,” adds Pau. “If you’re going to do something in our culture, you give everything. I’ve never worked with people as hard-working as they are in Mexico.”

When it comes to homegrown music, Ale says that some of the smaller bands are starting to develop a “distinctive sound” that’s unique to their motherland, but The Warning aren’t subscribing to it. Indeed, there’s plenty of influences thrown into the pot that will sound immediately recognisable to Western listeners – there’s something in the buzz of their riffs, for example, that instantly signals that they were immersed in Muse’s discography growing up. Instead, their cultural history bursts through in more tacit ways.

“I don’t feel like we need to consciously show our roots through our music,” Pau says. “The way that it shows is through who we are as people, because it comes from the heart and our culture is ingrained in us and the way we feel things and we express things. English isn’t our first language, so we do see it through a different lens. In some way or another, I think that’s how we show our roots.”

Dreams are not static, as The Warning know all too well. They’re not items to be ticked off a list, but experiences you live through. Touring the world in a band sounds like a dizzying concept, but it’s an unusual, tiring mode of life, and it moves faster than your brain can keep up with. It’s a lifestyle that’s shaped the making of their fourth album, Keep Me Fed, immeasurably.

The record was pieced together during rare pockets of time between tours; the constant demand for the band meant there was never a long enough stretch to knuckle down and focus. While not an ideal scenario, it proved rather helpful, and perhaps appropriately for an album title that references feeding, it reflects the band’s need to pause and digest.

“We lived through a lot of things [on tour] that we weren’t able to process at the moment and writing the record was an open space for us to let that all out,” explains Dany. “We didn’t have a lot of time to sit and revise the music and check every little detail.”

“That really changed the game for us. Sometimes, when you’re an artist and you don’t have the space and the time, you have to find the art in the assignment,” adds Pau. “You have to really express what you want to express in the limited amount of time that you have and that really forces you to work a muscle.”

Hit play on Keep Me Fed and you’re immediately transported into one of the huge halls or arenas that The Warning have become accustomed to playing. It’s intrinsically shaped by the live experience, engineered to come alive in the setting where they shine brightest. It’s raw, undiluted rock’n’roll, but with a road-worn wisdom that’s evolved from their increased experience – and every so often, the revs of its guitar might have you sitting a little more upright.

If anything ties its songs together, it’s the awareness that they are on a hamster wheel that’s bigger than the band, sustaining themselves while also keeping in motion a larger system.

“It sounds really dramatic, but we feed the masses, but we also feed on what other people feed the masses,” explains Pau. “But while we were touring and while we were writing, we were also feeding ourselves emotionally, doing what we love. It’s consumption in every area.”

“We wanted to show the growth that we’ve had over the past few years”

Hear Pau discuss the vision for Keep Me Fed

Lyrically, Keep Me Fed is wide in its scope. At times, it’s defiant – the sassy strut of Burnout sees them pushing back against someone draining others’ energy, while early singles SICK and MORE capture the feeling of hungering for more out of life. Bravest of all in its subject matter, perhaps, is Hell You Call A Dream, which confronts the difficulties of the musician’s lifestyle that artists might be reluctant to express. Sure, it might be more exciting on paper than sitting behind a computer for 40 hours a week, but there’s an ongoing pressure to be grateful all the time, even when the going gets tough.

“Onstage, during the 60 – 90 minutes when you’re performing, that’s heaven,” Pau notes. “You’re connecting with people, you’re sharing music, but you’re also in a bus for two months, sharing with 13 people. You sleep in a coffin, you’re afraid you’re going to die every day because the bus moves horribly. You’re like an athlete – shows are physical, you get exhausted, and when you can’t rest properly, that becomes really tiring. People think you step onstage, you play and then that’s it. We’re very grateful to do what we do and that we get to do it together, but there’s no sugarcoating the rest of the things you have to [go through].”

For a long time, The Warning found themselves fighting against a kind of imposter syndrome when it came to writing in English. Creating is difficult enough, but doing it in a second language comes with its own new set of rules and pitfalls.

“We worked with a lot of native English songwriters and we realised we’d try so hard to find complicated English words to try and prove ourselves,” recalls Dany. Occasionally, not even their colleagues would know the meanings of words they’d try to use. “We’ve realised now we don’t have to overdo it because it’s our second language.”

They have, however, always made a point of acknowledging their heritage by including tracks that are written in Spanish. This time around, it's the playful Que Mas Quieres (which translates as ‘What else do you want?’), a feisty takedown of the ‘gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss’ trope. Beginning life in English, they realised the phrasing of the words lent itself well to their mother tongue, so tore it up and started again.

Although writing in their native language isn't always the easiest route to go down. The grammar is complex and you can’t stretch out syllables across multiple notes like in English because it risks changing the meaning of a word. “It’s a complicated language, but it’s a beautiful one,” Pau emphasises.

Looking at their story so far, there’s a whole stack of accomplishments these young women can be proud of. They’re 10 years deep in the game, shattering ceilings for artists from their country, rapidly conquering bigger and bigger rooms. Frankly, there’s a lot to aspire to, especially for those who can identify with them. They’re almost too immersed in what they’re doing to stop and think about that concept, but when it's suggested that they’re heroes to someone, it feels rather alien.

“I know that when I come back from tours, I can’t function. I can’t even do my laundry,” says Pau. “I’m a human being and to think people look up to me when I don’t look up to myself is so weird. But if I know anything about the three of us, it’s that we’re very hardworking. If that inspires people, we’d be happy to be called role models.”

Yet, with all of this success and expectation on their shoulders, they remain a band with pure intentions, as Dany simply puts concludes, “As long as we do what we love and, as consequence of that, we start to inspire other people… We love that.”

Keep Me Fed is released June 28 via Lava / Republic

Read this next:

Check out more:

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?