Milwaukee pop rock duo Vic and Gab, led by sisters Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos, released their first full-length album, "Love of Mine," on July 9. Just because they’re making their debut, however, doesn’t mean they’re strangers to the spotlight. One of their earliest songs made its way onto MTV’s controversial show "Skins," and they even opened for the ultimate headliner, President Obama.
The band’s brushes with the big time haven’t put a damper on their work ethic. The band has packed three shows – including performances at Ayre in the Square, the Brady Street Festival and Peck Pavilion – within the upcoming week. OnMilwaukee caught up with the peppy pair to talk about their Spin-promoted album, their love of Rush and performance etiquette for rock stars.
OnMilwaukee.com: How did you guys come together? Obviously, you’re sisters so that helps, but what was the main spark for getting the band started?
Victoriah Banuelos: We were into music since we were eleven. We moved to Milwaukee about four years ago, and we were feeling ready to start a band. We saw Jesus Nanez, our drummer, playing for another band at Summerfest, and Gab and I were like, "Man, that guy is really good. That’s the kind of drummer we want!" So we started talking to him and slowly seduced him into becoming our drummer.
OMC: You had a recording contract previously in your careers with Sony as a pop group called Caramello.
VB: Yeah, that was in 2008.
OMC: It doesn't sound like it was a particularly great experience.
VB: Yeah, it gave us a lot of experience as musicians and having the pressure of going into a studio and being in front of industry people at a young age. But it wasn’t really musically what we wanted to do. So we walked away.
OMC: Was it hard making the decision to walk away?
Hannah Gabriela Banuelos: No.
VB: We knew what we wanted, so we were like, "No, we’re going to go do our thing the way that we want to do it." That was our main goal.
OMC: So how did this new album, "Love of Mine" come together? When did you decide it was time for your first full-length album, and what kind of sound you wanted for it?
VB: We were writing the songs for this album during touring last year. We decided to make a happier album. A little more dance-y and lively. We had this idea about writing about love for a while because our last album was really dark and sad. So we were, like, let’s write about love and let ourselves go.
OMC: No one would say that "Love of Mine" is a dark album, but you are balancing these peppy hooks and melodies with a lot of lyrics about breakups and relationships that flamed out. How do you balance that?
VB: It’s kind of the contrast of love. Love is hard. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. It’s an everyday struggle, and for us, I feel the music of the songs is kind of like the hope of the relationship. Even though it’s hard every day, we want to make the music lively and happy and say we can get through it, even when times are sad.
OMC: How has the feedback been on the album?
VB: It’s crazy. We’ve had little kids come up to us at Summerfest and saying how much they love "Let You Down." There’s also an app called Video Star, and our song is on there. So there’s a bunch of videos of kids singing and dancing to our song on YouTube. It’s really crazy. It kind of made us tear up a little bit.
HGB: I’ve seen so many fan videos like that in my life, so when you see someone make one with your song, it’s like, "What! Am I dreaming?"
OMC: It’s been a very interesting career path for you guys with lots of great opportunities. I mean, you had a song on MTV’s "Skins," and then you performed for thousands of people at an Obama rally. Is the latter the highlight of your music careers so far?
HGB: Obviously that was a huge show. Just the fact that we had the opportunity to open for Obama was a big deal for us. I think it definitely has been one of the highlights for sure. It was so amazing.
OMC: Have there been any really memorably bad shows on the road too?
VB: (laughs) Certainly. We went on tour last year to New York, and we played a show. It was packed, and they even asked us to do an encore. So we were like, "Oh my god; this was an awesome show!" But then at the end, the booking guy comes up to me and hands me the money from the show … and it’s $2. And then he says, "For gas money." I was like, I can’t even go across the street with this. He said, "Welcome to New York."
OMC: Now, I know you guys are huge fans of Rush. Did you get a chance to see them at Summerfest?
HGB: Not this year. We had a show booked that day, which was really sad for us. We actually cried a little bit that morning. Well, at least I did; I don’t know about Vic.
OMC: What is it about Rush that you love so much or that speaks to you?
VB: They are just what a musician should be. It’s all about musicianship for them. Geddy Lee said it: It’s what you can do for the song, not what the song can do for you. That always stuck for us. Some people go for like 20-minute guitar solos because that’s what they need instead of what the song needs.
That’s something we always think about when we write. What can we do for this song? That’s what we love, apart from how they play their instruments, how great they are, how they’ve been relevant for 40 years, how funny they are … they’re just the whole package.
OMC: You’ve played with Low in the past, and a few months back, they got into a little bit of hot water for a performance at Rock the Garden in Minneapolis where they played one, long 27-minute song. A lot of people were upset, but others said they get to perform what they want to perform. How do you feel about that as performers?
HGB: I can see why they did that. It was the band trying to make a message and stick it to the man as they say in "School of Rock." (laughs) But I also think that, as a musician, you are what you are because of your fans, so I think you should try to make your fans happy. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t think that’s you selling out if you’re trying to make your fans happy at your show.
So really what you’re doing is, instead of actually making a point, you’re just upsetting your fans, and I don’t think that should ever be the case.
OMC: So it’s fair to assume you won’t be doing one 20-minute song for any of your shows coming up in the next couple of days?
VB: No way! (laughs) It’s funny because we have the EP out from last year, and we’ve been playing some shows where we haven’t played any of the old songs. So people will come up to us and say, "Hey, I thought you were going to play the old stuff. I was looking forward to that." So I can only imagine what those Low fans were thinking, wanting to listen to all of these hits but instead I got 27 minutes of one song.
Then again, it’s rock ‘n’ roll.
For more information on Vic and Gab's upcoming concerts, check out the band's official website.
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.