School’s in for Summer: Metalhead Sisters the Warning Hone Chops at Berklee

Mike Keefe-Feldman
August 14, 2015
The Warning study at Berklee
The Warning attend Berklee summer programs classes
Daniela, guitarist for the Warning
Alejandra, bassist for the Warning
Paulina, drummer for the Warning
The three sisters in the Warning rock out at Berklee
After incredible YouTube success, the three sisters from Monterrey, Mexico, who make up the Warning attend Berklee summer programs to advance their skills.
The Warning and other students discuss songwriting in a Berklee summer programs workshop.
Daniela, 15, guitarist for the Warning, in ensemble practice at Berklee summer programs, says, “We all started with classical music but then my father bought the video game Rock Band and we fell in love with it—well, Alejandra couldn’t play because she was too tiny—and when my dad told me you get to pick another instrument to play, I was like, ‘Yes! I want the guitar.’”
Alejandra, bassist for the Warning, says, “My teacher told me we were going to do a solfège concert, so I’m doing a theme from Super Mario Brothers in solfège, and I’m getting the hang of it.”
Paulina, drummer for the Warning, says, “When we’re improvising, I know what they’re about to do and they know what I’m about to do. Dani transmits her feelings to me and it’s just like electricity.”
The Warning practices its “RAWK” stance. Before attending Berklee summer programs, Paulina says, “I hated harmony because I didn’t understand it. Not that I’m an expert now, but now I know a lot more about it.”
Photo by Kelly Davidson
Photo by Kelly Davidson
Photo by Kelly Davidson
Photo by Kelly Davidson
Photo by Kelly Davidson
Photo by Kelly Davidson

When the three sisters from Monterrey, Mexico, who make up the Warning posted a video of their band playing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on YouTube, they did so with an expectation of sharing it among friends and family. Paulina, the middle sister, recalls how excited she was when she saw that the video had drawn 100 views on YouTube. Since then, the video from the trio often referred to as “the metalhead sisters” has racked up more than 9 million views and the Warning has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and in Rolling Stone, TIME, People, and countless other publications.

Despite their almost overnight success, the sisters’ primary focus at this early juncture in their music career has remained to improve upon their already-impressive skills in order to deliver a stellar rock experience for their many fans, and for that, they turned to Berklee.

Watch the Warning’s video of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica:

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together

After raising the tuition to attend Berklee summer programs via a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign on the GoFundMe website, the Warning—which consists of Alejandra (10), Paulina (13), and Daniela (15)—achieved its goal. The sisters are now finishing up their fifth and final week of summer studies at Berklee, during which time they have built upon and added to their considerable rock chops.

On a recent humid evening, the trio gather in an ensemble practice room with a view looking out on Boston’s Back Bay in Berklee’s 921 Boylston Street building and rip into a new version of Black Sabbath’s “Crazy Train” with a mix of zeal and precision that many veteran rock bands never quite attain.

Alejandra is at ease while playing a bass nearly as big as herself—so big, in fact, that her mother has to carry it to her classes. Paulina attacks the drums with an intensity seldom seen outside of a vintage AC/DC concert, while Daniela shreds through a gutsy, searing guitar solo before the trio turns its attention to original—and no less rocking—material for a debut full-length album to come in the future. As they play, it’s immediately clear that the sisters share an innate sense of musical communication with one another—a sibling connection that it takes many bands much longer to develop.

“We have kind of like a telepathy thing where we know what the others are going to do before they do it,” Daniela says.

The girls’ parents, both avowed rock and metal lovers, attend the rehearsal, too; their mother writes the set list for the day’s rehearsal on the practice room’s whiteboard, and their father, who is also the group’s comanager, chimes in with occasional suggestions on issues such as tempo and dynamics. Although it’s summer, the girls’ schedule is similar to what it was back home in Monterrey: school, homework, dinner, rehearsal. It’s a demanding schedule, but not quite as grueling as the long hours involved with recording their first EP.

For that, Paulina says, “I had to drink so much chocolate milk to stay awake.”

School of Rock

Before coming to Berklee, the sisters found their friends asking if they were looking forward to an experience like those depicted in Camp Rock or High School Musical. The Warning knew that studying at Berklee wouldn't be quite like those fictional music education settings, and that's just fine with these three girls who started out studying classical music with individual lessons but shifted into rock collective mode after falling in love with the popular video game Rock Band.

The youngest sister, Alejandra, admits that she was a bit nervous about being a 10-year-old bass player in courses largely filled by 15- to 18-year-old students, but, she says, “It’s been really good being here. Everyone is so nice and we’ve been learning a lot here in an environment full of people who love music.”

Watch a video diary from Daniela, Paulina, and Alejandra compiled for the Ellen Show:

Asked about some of their favorite courses and instructors, the three sisters rattle off just about every class and teacher on their schedule. At the same time, they echo the common concerns of many entering Berklee students. When Alejandra mentions her extensive solfège homework, Paulina and Daniela groan, “Oh, solfège.”

Paulina explains, “All of our lives, we’ve seen fixed do. In Mexico, it’s like ‘fixed do, fixed do,’ and in classical music, it’s fixed do. When they said, ‘moveable do,’ I was just like, ‘Wait, wait, wait—what are you talking about?”

In addition to the instruction, Paulina says they have particularly enjoyed forming bonds with fellow students in courses such as the Singer-Songwriter Workshop. Daniela notes, “Before I got here, I didn’t think this would be so important to me, but now that I’m here, I’ve realized the importance of playing with other people and figuring out how they do stuff so that I can learn from that and apply some of it to my own sound.”

“It makes you very vulnerable,” Paulina says, “but it’s so helpful to get other points of view.”

In the days ahead, the Warning has its sights set on creating an album that will put forward its hard rock sound more so than anything it has released to date. As much as they have already figured out about music—from their classical instruction, from playing together, from their parents, and now from Berklee summer programs—the “metalhead sisters” recognize that they still have much more to learn, and say they hope to attend college at Berklee when they are older.

By then, they’ll probably be dominating the rock charts—and Alejandra will likely be able to carry her own bass to class.