By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 07, 2016 at 5:16 PM

For a period of time about a year or two ago, it felt like you couldn’t turn up at a music festival or poke around for a show in Milwaukee without seeing Vic and Gab’s name on the marquee. The sister duo of Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos was inescapable, which – considering their hypnotic pop rock sound – was not a problem in the least.

And then they were gone, performing a sudden farewell show last October at the Pabst. It was a whiplash-inducing turn of events for fans of one of the Milwaukee music scene’s brightest stars.

Thankfully, all good things don’t have to come to an end. Sometimes, they just get reinvented, which is exactly what happened. Out went Vic and Gab, and – as announced this past January – in came Reyna, featuring the same two sisters but with a different full-on synth pop sound. Part follow-up to their debut "Love of Mine" and part reintroduction, their new album is expected to be a mid-July release, according to the sisters.

Before then, however, they’ll be bringing that new sound to the Miller Lite Oasis at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 9. OnMilwaukee caught up with the sister act before the show to look back at the old material, look ahead to the new material and look at some Summerfest memories in general. 

OnMilwaukee: What was the moment when you realized you wanted to reinvent Vic and Gab as this new project?

Vic: I think that when we went to South By Southwest, we encountered this A&R from RCA, and she kind of recommended us to her management. Once we went out to L.A. and started the process of writing songs and collaborating with people and producers and writers, once we were done recording the songs and we heard everything as a whole, it just sounded so different from Vic and Gab that we thought it needed its own name and its own identity. Which is why we changed the name.

Were you concerned about creating a new identity and new sound in middle of being a band on the rise in Milwaukee?

Gabby: It was nerve-wracking; but in a way, it gave us a free license to do whatever we wanted, and we didn’t feel like we had to stick to what Vic and Gab would do. Even now when we go on stage, it’s nerve-wracking to go out there with a new name, new music, but at the same time, it’s exhilarating because we really pushed ourselves in the studio, we pushed ourselves writing and I think really shows growth. And as an artist, that’s one of the best feelings.

What was that first concert experience like going out as Reyna and redefining yourself in front of an audience like that?

Gabby: Well, we had a show at Cactus Club, and before the show, we were really nervous. We didn’t know how people were going to react. It was a show of all brand new music that people hadn’t heard before, but it was amazing how people just enjoyed the music and enjoyed the performance. Everyone completely encouraged us and welcomed us back with open arms.

What was kind of the inspiration for the move to a more synth-pop sound?

Gabby: I think we always had that music with Vic and Gab; we just didn’t have the tools to make it. We just had our bass guitar and guitar, and we had the basics, and that’s how we would write songs and record them. So we didn’t have the tools to really get the sound that we wanted. And in time, we really focused and really wanted to make sure we got the exact sound that we had always wanted to have.

What’s it like looking back then on the old Vic and Gab music with that perspective?

Gabby: It’s bittersweet. Some songs feel like looking at an old yearbook picture; you just look dumb and inexperienced. But other songs, you’re like, "Whoa," like they still feel like us. So we’re still very proud of them.

Vic: We’re very attached to the Vic and Gab songs because they are so personal. Obviously, we wrote them, but at the time, every single word that is on those songs, it’s still something of who we are.

Were there any particular songs or artists that you were listening to while working on the album that helped inspire and focus what you were looking for on this record?

Gabby: Yeah, we were listening to a lot of College, CHVRCHES …

Vic: Sylvan Esso.

Gabby: Sylvan Esso! We were super inspired by Sylvan Esso. I think that is such a great album. So many things. We were also listening to older music, a lot of New Order. (laughs) I feel like it was in us all along and we were finally able to get it out.

Obviously, you’re playing Summerfest this weekend. Do you have any particular favorite Big Gig memories as either a performer or as an attendee?

Vic: Actually, before we moved to Milwaukee – we moved here in 2009 – we came here to see Rush at Summerfest in 2008. And I remember walking through the grounds, and Gab and I were just amazed at how many people were there and all these bands that were playing. I remember going to the local stage, and Gab and I said, "We’re going to play on this stage one day." And it happened. (laughs) So it’s pretty amazing; we moved here, and then we played Summerfest for the first time on that local stage in 2011. And now we get to play the Miller (Lite Oasis) stage, which is amazing.

Gabby: When we opened for Bleachers, that was a really important show for us. It felt like one of the biggest things we’d done as Vic and Gab, and the crowd was really into it. It was such a fun show, and coming off stage, the band was like, "That was a great show; good job." It was super reassuring, and it just made all of our hard work feel worth it.

You were talking about the local stage. Unfortunately, the local-dedicated stage is gone from Summerfest this year. How do you feel about that?

Vic: It’s pretty sad. I think it’s such an important platform for local musicians. You get to play on a big stage at a big festival, and not a lot of cities have that, and not a lot of bands get that exposure. So it’s pretty sad to see that we won’t have a local stage this year, but I think Summerfest is doing a pretty good job of including local acts, with New Age Narcissism opening for The Roots, we’ve got our time, GGOOLLDD opened for Passion Pit.

I think they’ll bring it back; I think they’ll figure it out. But for this year, I think they’re trying their best to compensate.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.