People Issue

People 2015: Sam Villavert Lives Her Dream as a Dallas Rocker Grrrl

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. Click here to find all our People Issue profiles.

Life has played out pretty much the way Sam Villavert hoped it would. For as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be a performer. Even when she was 5. Later, her dream was to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. And today? She plays bass for Sealion, a surf punk band here in Dallas.

While Villavert has spent most of her life playing music, she never saw herself in a band like Sealion. In fact, when she was invited to audition in 2013, she didn’t even own a bass. She had to borrow one.

Fortunately, she’s plenty adaptable: When Villavert was in elementary school, she enjoyed presenting a different talent at each year’s talent show. One year she taught herself guitar. Another year, she took on piano. She even sort of learned the drums.

Villavert played in marching band and coffee shops growing up in Grapevine. Meanwhile, Sealion was already playing together. Initially, when she became the only female in the band of four, she found it intimidating. She wanted to be one of the guys, to not let the band down.
Now she can’t get enough of it. She’s grown into more than a background player, trading off singing duties with lead vocalist Hunter Moering, and her bandmates have become like brothers. When she’s not playing shows with Sealion — which is rare, because for them a night without a concert is a night wasted — Villavert’s usually out at one of the clubs in Deep Ellum, supporting her friends’ bands. (Oh, and she plays in Son of Stan, as well.)

Playing in Sealion has also, in a roundabout way, brought Villavert closer to her family. Her mother and father moved to Texas from the Philippines around the time her older sister was born, and they’ve held on to more traditional values. At first they saw music as little more than a fun hobby; their daughter shouldn’t be living out of a tour van.

But that’s only made her work harder. Last year, Sealion toured the West Coast. This summer, they head east. And when her parents came to see her play — at Three Links, of all places — they finally understood.

Others have been converted, too. Somewhat by accident, Villavert has become a female role model: Earlier this year, Sealion played Homegrown Festival, and it turned out she was the only woman on the 12-band lineup. She took it in stride; as a 4-foot-11-inch girl in a rock band, Villavert’s used to people being surprised that she’s actually, you know, a talented musician. But she admits she wasn’t prepared for the women who came up to her afterward, inspired by what they’d seen.

Maybe not quite what she’d expected, but probably even better.