Back in the summer of 2020 I had my very first artist interview with the amazing electro-pop duo REYNA. Vic and Gabby (Gab) Banuelos were gracious enough to hop on a call with me and bear through my nerves while I asked them questions about their lives, art, and dreams. They had just released their single “Lonely Girl” and have since put out a remix of their hit song “Coachella” featuring Katzù Oso as well as “7’11,” which features an awesome Spanish chorus the two hinted at while we were chatting. Catch the first 3 parts of the interview and be sure to snatch your copy of Issue 01 - Quarantimes for the full feature.
Can you give me a little background of REYNA?
Gab: So we grew up in El Paso, TX - I was born in Juarez, Mexico and Vic was born in El Paso and we grew up in both cities. About 10 years ago we moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin which was very crazy weird and so different. But I feel like Milwaukee was where we really started actually being a band. We started playing shows here and I feel like Milwaukee has been a big part of us growing into the band we are today.
Vic: We grew up listening to all the stuff our mom listened to, like Luis Miguel, Juan Gabriel, Ana Gabriel. All the classic artists.
Gab: She was obsessed with Madonna. That’s something that we listened to a lot like a lot. Like that blue album (True Blue) she would listen to it all the time.
Vic: My dad would listen to all of the classic rock so it would be like Rush, The Police, The Who. So I feel like we got a ton of information musically from all over the world at a very young age. We also listen to a lot of classical music because our dad is into it as well. Plus I was in band so I played classical music and Gab was in orchestra. So we were both just very musical from around age six I think.
Gab: Growing up we were also in a Mariachi band because our school offered that for some reason. If you go to school in El Paso, TX that’s an elective you can take haha.
Our Grandmother was also in a Mariachi band and she put on shows with Mariachi music in it. So we were both very involved and very exposed to that type of music growing up as well. Everywhere we went she would be like “sing” and we would sing Mariachi songs with her. So I feel like that’s how we started singing those songs.
So going from Texas to Milwaukee is a big change. Would you say that all the culture you were previously around made you feel like you needed to express yourself differently in the form of your music? Going from Vic & Gab to REYNA, which is very poppy, how did you two fully come into fruition?
Gab: I think what happened with Vic & Gab was kind of just an accident really. We wrote a song in our basement when we had just moved here. We didn’t know anyone and we were very lonely. We wrote a song called, “So Long So Tired” that ended up being on Skin’s MTV show. They played the whole song. When that happened we were like, “Hmm maybe we should actually take this seriously. Maybe we do have what it takes to be a real band.” We just started writing more songs and then our friends asked if we wanted to play a show with them and we were like, “Hell ya.” But we didn’t have a name for our band and they needed a name for the poster so it ended up being “Vic & Gab.” I feel like as we got older and grew up we started writing with other people and things began to feel more on purpose. We knew what we wanted to sound like and what we wanted to be. It just made sense for us to change our name to REYNA, which means Queen in Spanish. That name really spoke to us. We wanted to represent strong independent Latina women. Overall, we wanted to have more of a purpose.
Vic: Musically I think Vic & Gab was very organic and everything that you hear was us doing everything ourselves. The themes were very dark, very teenage coming of age music. If you listen to our first EP for Vic & Gab it talks about our cousin being murdered in Mexico. It means so much to us personally that when we started writing in Los Angeles for REYNA we really wanted to protect what Vic & Gab meant to us. We were making more poppy love songs but also we changed our name because we wanted to protect those precious moments from our early music. For me that’s the main reason we changed our name.
With the pandemic shutting everything down, how have your lives changed since March?
Gab: It’s changed so much. We had so many shows in the works and booked for the summer. Summer is our busiest time and we play so much. So in that sense we haven’t played a show since. That was really hard to get used to.
Vic: Have we played a show this year? I was thinking about that today, like when was the last show?
Gab: I think the last one was January.
Thats been really hard. We also usually travel a lot to LA so we’ve been homebodies. We’ve had to make music videos on our own in our bedroom. It’s definitely been a very isolated time but we have gotten very creative with it. Or tried to be haha.
Vic: We had to learn how to adapt to what we are living. We wanted to go back to finish a bunch of songs that we started in January. For example, “Lonely Girl” was one of them and we ended up doing everything over the internet. So we were recording the guitar parts here and then sending them to our producer and it was just a whole different dynamic. But it was cool you know, like we learned how to send a WAV file haha, which is not that easy. So we’ve been learning new skills and were just trying to go with it.
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