“We're just this little band from Mexico,” Paulina Villarreal says, demuring as she describes the recent successes of the Warning, the group she and her two sisters have tirelessly developed since middle school. It was then, in 2014, that their viral cover of Enter Sandman caught Metallica’s attention and earned them an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2015.

Flash forward seven years and the Warning are all grown up and quickly becoming one of hard rock’s most singular and intriguing acts. The incendiary trio of Paulina (drums), Daniela (guitar/vocals) and Alejandra (bass) Villarreal now tout tens of millions of streams — not only for their covers but a hell-raising catalog of original tunes — plus devout fans on four continents, who cross oceans to watch their exhilarating live show. More supporters are converted each day, as the band are currently opening for Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless this summer and fall. They’ve previously opened for Foo Fighters and the Killers on their Mexico tour stops. 

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After two years lost to the pandemic, the ascendant group from Monterrey packed their 2022 schedule with more than 100 North American dates. Their mission: further introduce themselves to U.S. audiences and promote their new album, a rock radio-ready beast called ERROR released June 24, their third LP and first on Lava Records, in partnership with Universal Music Group. 

The young women —  Daniela (22), Paulina (20) and Alejandra (17) — are also riding the momentum of scoring the lead track on Metallica’s massive The Metallica Blacklist compilation released last September, where they again covered “Enter Sandman,” this time in a duet with pop singer-songwriter Alessia Cara.  

While the Villarreals were thrilled for what they call a “full-circle moment” with the metal icons, they’re determined to rise beyond the cover band stigma, forging an addicting sound that merges the shred-happy styles of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses with Daniela’s exceeding vocal ability — she blasts off like Heart's Ann Wilson on the towering single CHOKE — and lyricism tackling tech-era disillusion, a la Muse and Radiohead. (Recently, they even released a new version of it alongside grandson & Zero 9:36, too.)

As the band continue their long roadshow, which earlier this year notched two sold-out headlining dates at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, AP caught up with the group — on Zoom from their tour bus — to chat about what the busiest year of their lives is teaching them, how their new album’s message cracks the Gen-Z mold and where K-pop fits into their raging sound. 

You’ve already played more than 60 shows this year. What has all this stage time, especially on the biggest stages of your career so far, taught you about who you are as a band? 

PAULINA VILLARREAL: On this tour [with Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless], people aren't necessarily there to see us. We’re the opening band. We know these people don't know our songs, and we have to really sell our show and make people fall in love with us and our music and energy. We always leave it out onstage, everything.

DANIELA VILLARREAL: It's really amazing to see how people react when we first step on the stage and how they react when we leave the stage. It fills you with this really big feeling of, "I did my job correctly.” 

PAULINA: The moment where we really find out if people are hooked from the show or not is in our last song, “EVOLVE,” where in the bridge, I call out to the crowd to clap along. We usually get a good response, but there have been some shows where not everyone claps. But where every single person I can see has their hands up, it’s just gratifying to see.

And how’s it been touring with such established acts as Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless? What have you learned from them?

PAULINA: It’s something that Lzzy [Hale] mentioned once — she was talking about staring people down in the crowd. It was something that I didn't do often. But she was like, "Make eye contact with the people who are already really hyped up to be there because they're the firestarters."

Let’s talk about the new album. Why is it called ERROR

PAULINA: It’s about this new age we're living in, and through more of a technological aspect. It's a concept, but it's not a concept. Imagine that in this little matrix system simulation that we've got going on, feelings and experiences are considered little errors in our coding. So we talk about these feelings and these experiences that we as a generation might go through.

Who are some bands or artists you were thinking about when you made this album? 

PAULINA: At the time, I was listening to so much Placebo. They were a really big influence for me. I remember Badflower also being an inspiration when we were writing it. But also Paramore because we were working with David Bendeth [producer for Paramore’s 2007 album Riot!].

Who’s a band or artist people would be surprised to learn influences you? 

PAULINA: So, K-pop is a very big influence for the three of us.

DANIELA: J-rock, as well.

PAULINA: Most of our harmonies are very K-pop-inspired. We sit down, and we're like,
"You know what? We want to pull a K-pop with this one. Let's do 100 stacks."

Of all the genres, and all the pop and classical music you grew up listening to, how did you end up gravitating toward hard rock and metal? 

DANIELA: Energy-wise, it just hits different.

PAULINA: Every time I sit down at the piano and I start writing a song, I'm writing a ballad, and I could think of any other genre. Honestly, we're not closed to doing something else.

DANIELA: [The songs] just come out like that.

Seven years after your cover of “Enter Sandman” went viral on YouTube, you appear on an actual Metallica album with Blacklist, performing the same song. How did it happen? 

PAULINA: Metallica’s management reached out to our management and wanted to invite us to this project. It was just insane. It was a very big, full-circle moment for us. We had a week to do the version and record it, and Alessia [Cara, who also appears on the song] was in Canada, we were in Mexico. [Producer] Matt Squire flew down to Monterrey.

Your rendition really reimagines the original with new rhythms and guitar leads. How’d you make it work while still respecting the song? 

PAULINA: We stripped away everything from "Enter Sandman," and we just did the chords, and we made it a pop song, just the chords and the lyrics. Then we rockified the pop version. So Alessia could have a clear influence and place within the song. It was weird, but it turned out perfect.

Nearly a decade removed from going viral as kids, do you still feel the pressure not to be defined as “the women who went viral playing Metallica”? 

DANIELA: Sometimes because people want more covers from us.

PAULINA: With [Instagram] Reels and TikTok, we've gone viral a few times doing little snippets of 15-second covers. And these people continue to be like, "Release it!" And we're like, "No, we’re doing our own original music," but sometimes it's OK. I feel like over time, it has definitely gotten better. People have started knowing us for our music, which is really nice.

What’s it like to have fans all over the world? I see The Warning Spain and The Warning Argentina pages on social media. How do you try to stay close and engage with them? 

PAULINA: I feel like the connection that we have with our fans is very unique. We started out with the support because of the covers, but then people stuck around because of our music. We were really young as well, so we grew up with them. Having the support has been really meaningful for us.

DANIELA: I think a lot of the community grew because we started our own Patreon page, and that's where a lot of our fans started meeting each other, becoming friends, even though they don't know each other in real life. We engaged a lot on that platform to know each and every one of them.

PAULINA: We've had these very big shows in Mexico and people travel from all over the ... When I say all over the world, I mean it. People from Europe, from the U.S., from Canada, from South America just come to Mexico for one of our shows. They meet each other for the first time, but they're already best friends.

What’s coming soon that you’re most excited about? 

PAULINA: Later this month, we're headlining two shows at Teatro Metropólitan in Mexico City. It's just so exciting. We play Rock al Parque in Colombia in November, which is the biggest rock festival in Latin America.

DANIELA: And we're going to play Louder Than Life [festival in Louisville in September] and Aftershock [festival in Sacramento in October].

Last thing: I know you all started your musical journey playing Rock Band and later got one of your songs into the game. Do you still go back and play, or is it strictly real instruments now?  

PAULINA: It's only real instruments now.

DANIELA: I'm actually terrible at Rock Band now. [Laughs.]