Meet the Milwaukee Sisters Turning Social Anxiety Into Infectious Pop as REYNA

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

REYNA’s Gab and Vic Banuelos turn social anxiety into infectious pop on their plush new single, “Lonely Girl,” featured below.

“Last year I struggled with really bad anxiety/social anxiety and it was one of the hardest things I have ever been through,” Gab tells American Songwriter over email. “It got to a point where it was really hard for me to be around people who were happy and, in my eyes, normal. I sat down in my robe one morning and I was just so sick of feeling so anxious. I wrote ‘Lonely Girl’ on an acoustic guitar in like an hour which is very quick for me. It felt like I was writing in my diary and it just felt so good to be honest about how I felt.”

“Lonely Girl” is the Milwaukee sisters’ third single of 2020 following “Coachella” and “Saw You With Somebody Else.” The track hints at what’s to come on their debut EP and arrives with a homemade flick that Gab and Vic crafted during quarantine.

“We shot [the footage] all ourselves and mounted the camera to the back of our mom’s car and she followed us around the neighborhood while we rode our bikes,” explains Gab, referring to a frame that evokes Tennis’ sun-drenched “Cape Dory” video. “I have really become obsessed with making and editing music videos,” she continues. “It’s such a great way to add more life and story to a song and as a songwriter it feels so natural to tell the story visually.”

We caught up with Gab and Vic about “Lonely Girl,” REYNA’s origin story, and their favorite Cosmica Artists labelmates. Check out the full interview and watch their new video below.

American Songwriter: When did you start making music together? 

Gabriella “Gab” Banuelos: We are sisters so it feels like we’ve been making music together since we were born. Our dad bought us a guitar and bass when we were kids because we became obsessed with the idea of being in a band. We would pretend we were in a band and would write songs about being in trouble with our mom or getting detention. It all was very innocent and almost like a game but our dad encouraged us to keep writing and eventually record the songs we wrote. We have been writing and recording songs since then and now it’s like breathing. It’s what we do.

What’s REYNA’s origin story?

Victoriah “Vic” Banuelos: REYNA came into the world when we wrote “Spill Your Colors.” We had been making music under a different name for a while which was much more organic. When “Spill Your Colors” came to life, we decided it was time to give our music a different moniker. We wanted to take our time to pick a name this time, something that represented our heritage and that we are women. Which is why we picked REYNA because it means “queen” in Spanish and to us that represents a strong woman. We continued to make more music and the name just felt bigger and stronger. If you listen to our earlier music I think you can tell the difference of how empowered we feel now. It was a way to start fresh and give us a little confidence boost!

What’s “Lonely Girl” about? When and where did you write, record, and produce the track?

Gab: Last year I struggled with really bad anxiety/social anxiety and it was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. It got to a point where it was really hard for me to be around people who were happy and, in my eyes, normal. I sat down in my robe one morning and I was just so sick of feeling so anxious. I wrote “Lonely Girl” on an acoustic guitar in like an hour which is very quick for me. It felt like I was writing in my diary and it just felt so good to be honest about how I felt.

Vic: “Lonely Girl” was written half in Milwaukee and finished in Los Angeles back in February before the pandemic hit. We worked with Jordan Witzigreuter who we are very fond of. We came to him with the idea and part of the song done and he helped us turn it into what it sounds like today. After we returned home in March, we [made] a few changes over email. We actually changed the guitar parts a few times and came up with a completely different idea for the bridge. This was the first time in a long time that Gab and I recorded at our home studio. It was fun but we definitely miss being in the studio in L.A.

Tell us a little bit about the video. Did you shoot and edit it yourselves?

Gab: We were right in the middle of lockdown/quarantine when we made the video so we had no choice but to get creative. We have spent a lot of time at our parents’ house during the pandemic because it feels like a little paradise. We don’t have a backyard at home so when we go to our parents house we spend a lot of time outside listening to the birds and wind in the trees so we wanted to bring some of that into the video. We shot it all ourselves and mounted the camera to the back of our mom’s car and she followed us around the neighborhood while we rode our bikes. I have really become obsessed with making and editing music videos. It’s such a great way to add more life and story to a song and as a songwriter it feels so natural to tell the story visually.

What are some recent influences? Can you hear any traces of them on your upcoming EP?

Vic: We recently signed to Cosmica Artists. I ended up digging into their roster and fell in love with a few of their artists. My two favorites Salt Cathedral and Katzu Ozo have been on heavy rotation. I love how they blend Latin sounds into a unique and vibey indie pop blend. I know Gab has been into Arlo Parks for a while as well and I’ve been listening to a lot of Bad Bunny! So yes, expect some indie Latin pop sounding jams!

What else do you want listeners to know about the music you’re working on right now or what’s next for you in 2020?

Vic: I would want listeners to know that we are making the music we want to make. No pressure, no judgement, not trying to fit any trends or anything other than what we genuinely love. That’s pretty liberating so I am excited to see what the rest of 2020 brings and how this year will influence how we make music and how it sounds. It’s a bit scary but the unknown is also thrilling.

“Lonely Girl” is out now via Cosmica Artists.

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