Remember when Heart was a novelty because they had sisters as the lead singer and the lead guitarist? Remember The Runaways featuring Joan Jet? What about The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Ronettes, or The Supremes? You didn’t know there were that many female bands in the classic rock period 60’s, 70’s, and Early 80’s? Don’t feel alone. It was a rarity to be sure. The industry seemed determined to package the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle embodied in male vocals often singing in falsetto with males playing the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. There were some exceptions like Fleetwood Mac or the Talking Heads, where women played keyboards or bass guitar while also singing, but it was far from the norm.
The music industry has changed a lot since then. I was about to say it’s evolved, but in many ways, it’s devolved into its current state of overhyped, autotuned, commercial tripe. Supposedly, Rock died around 1996. At least that’s when I first heard someone proclaim that. At the time, I thought it was an uninformed opinion. You see, Rock music has always been rebellious and at least initially counter-cultural, distinct from the mainstream, even when it dominated the music charts and was considered the principal money-making vehicle for the industry. I believed it was wishful thinking on the part of tone-deaf executives looking to create a factory system to churn out cookie-cutter pop stars that they could exploit while ever cashing in on the latest trend. But then came Napster and later on Ipods. Music became more portable than just a CD or cassette player you could walk around with while you rocked out to tunes pouring into your ears through earbuds. It could be digitally converted into a compressed format suitable for sending and receiving over the Internet and storing en masse on a disc drive for easy playback.
I think a certain branch of Rock music actually did die around 1996. It was the sort that was heavily rooted in the Blues, the sort of stuff that Clapton and Page played, the kind of music that continued to live through Stevie Ray Vaughn until his untimely death, yet hangs on even now because it is essential and evokes a visceral response. Much to the detriment of the overall Rock genre and its many splintered sub-genres going off in different directions, along unusual tangents, its soul was anchored in the past to The Blues to which the up and coming artists rarely paid homage. Modern Rock became abstract, disjointed, and disconnected from the gut-punching emotion that has driven it from the mid-fifties until the nineties. Continuing forward as a viable medium depended on adopting some of the very things that were killing it.
Meanwhile, the Grammies began snubbing Rock bands, pushing their awards into the lower tiers of importance, not even worth a mention on the awards broadcast. Oh well, it had been a while since anyone in Rock took those awards seriously anyway, perhaps since Jethro Tull was picked as the best Heavy Metal band over Metallica, much to the surprise of anyone who followed either group and the chagrin of both bands. And being a Rocker from way back, I frankly never gave a crap about the Grammies. Only occasionally did they ever get things right in my estimation, about as often as the proverbial blind squirrel finds the elusive acorn. As proof, how many bands currently enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame never won a Grammy? But then again, The Hall of Fame’s credibility is often suspect as well. They seem notoriously slow to honor some of the greatest bands of all time.
I mention all this because long ago I sold my collection of vinyl albums. It was cumbersome to transport and I had entered a period of nomadic existence, exploring the world. Now, I pay monthly for the immediacy and portability of Spotify because I can take it anywhere, even if I only listen to it whenever I’m writing or editing. As important as music has always been to me, things have changed so radically over the past twenty-five or so years that very little about the current environment excites me. Certainly, there are some talented bands that stand out as exceptions, but you have to dig through the multiple layers of superficial crap on top to get to them because I’m convinced, the music industry does not want to give you and me anything truly fresh and original. They want to keep regurgitating the same tired tropes in the same mundane genres that already pollute the commercial airwaves of our corporately controlled world.
But then a band came along, a new power trio that serves as an inspiration, countering the prevailing narrative, bucking the system, maintaining artistic integrity, and all of a sudden it feels like there is a chance for a resurrection of Rock, performed the way it should be, the way it should have always been. They connect with their fans directly via social media on a regular basis and members of their ‘army’ have traveled from as far away as Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and from all across the US to attend their live shows. And maybe – just maybe – you, too, are about to be warned.
A few months ago I discovered (or rather rediscovered) The Warning, the trio of Villarreal sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. The band is bi-lingual, singing most of their songs in English. Daniela (Dany), the eldest at 21, plays the lead guitar and sings lead on most of their songs. Paulina (Pau), at 19, pounds the drumkit and sings backing vocals except for several times when she takes over the lead. Alejandra (Ale), at 17, is the youngest but curiously the tallest of the three, though she claims she is also short. She plucks and slaps the bass while she also sings background vocals. All three play piano, having taken lessons from an early age. In fact, all three compose their original music on the same piano in their home where they learned. Some of their songs utilize the keyboard and when performed live, one or another of the trio switches from their primary role.
Like a lot of people, I first heard of The Warning in 2015 when they appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the time they were a curiosity – a novelty of some note, mind you – because they were so young (Ale was 9 at the time) and yet already so professional. Their schtick was doing competent covers of metal songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. But the fact that they could play real instruments with such a high level of skill should have served as my warning to keep a closer eye on their further development. You see, they took advantage of every opportunity beginning with a YouTube video gone viral. They leveraged the flash-in-the-pan fame of millions of views to launch a Kickstarter to fund their first recording sessions and live performances. And with the help of Ellen granting them a summer course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, they were primed to focus on a career as professional songwriters and musicians.
Seven years, two EP’s, and two albums later, they have become an inspiration to a lot of young girls who dream of one day following in their footsteps to become rock stars, or at least learning how to play an instrument or two and experience the beauty of creating music. And it’s about time for that to become the norm in music. The sisters have crafted a system for maintaining control over their art, having released all but their most recent EP with only the organic funding from their fan base’s purchases of their albums, clothing items, and swag on their website as well as the loyal support of their followers on Patreon. And over the past few years, they have opened for such legendary acts as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper and plan to open for The Foo Fighters for a show on their upcoming tour.
In August of 2020, following lengthy negotiations spanning several months, The Warning signed a contract with Lava/Republic Records to produce the first of five albums for the label with multi-platinum award-winning producer David Bendeth while the band retained an almost unprecedented level of control over the process. Now, along with a growing handful of youthful bands, The Warning is already at the vanguard of Rock’s resurrection.
Their debut EP with Lava/Republic, titled “Mayday”, which was released on October 8, 2021, features six original songs. I’ve heard that its release resulted from a compromise with the label that wanted to delay the release of a full album due to current market conditions caused by the resurgence of the pandemic. The band had already begun launching and promoting singles since May of 2021 in anticipation of a tour, and they wanted to maintain the momentum they’d already achieved from the popular songs and music videos that had created a buzz throughout their growing fanbase, including a number of reaction channels on YouTube.
The EP’s first track, “Disciple” is a driving rocker warning us about our dependence on social media and the influence of those wanting to control us. “Choke” is about the feeling of being stifled and dominated by others. “Animosity” is a rage song that is ostensibly about breaking up with someone but written in such a way as to be construed in a number of other ways. “Z” is about being born into the world of Generation ‘Z’. “Evolve” is about overcoming expectations to become yourself. And “Martirio”, the final cut on the EP and the only one sung in Spanish, is about Martyrdom where some live a life dedicated only to the sacrifice of self. Additional material is expected later this year as either another EP or a full album comprising the original songs along with the previously unreleased material. I don’t know which is the official plan as I’ve heard rumors of both.
The Warning was also slated to begin a North American tour back in 2020 which was first delayed but then canceled due to the spread of Covid. A new tour was scheduled to begin this month but has also been delayed due to the surge of cases. Expect new dates to be announced for later this year when, hopefully, things get back to normal and we can all enjoy live music performances again. But until then we have “Mayday” and the back catalog of their first EP, “Escape the Mind”, and their two albums, “XXI Century Blood” and “Queen of the Murder Scene”, along with solo single releases of “Narcisista”, their first single performed in Spanish which serves as a response to those who complained about them singing only in English, and “Enter Sandman” (featuring Alessia Cara), a track from “Metallica Blacklist”, a Thirtieth Anniversary tribute to the Black album’s release comprising covers performed by over fifty artists.