Rock ’n’ Roll, Family-Style
Dante Schwebel ’03 and Rene Villanueva ’06, of the four-piece band Hacienda, are finally back home to chill for a bit and catch up with family and friends after their exhaustive, 11-month tour of the United States, Australia and Europe—but they won’t be home for long.
Hacienda will hit the road again in October to promote their 2008 debut album, Loud is the Night, which includes an exceptional remake of Sonny and Cher’s chart-topper, "Baby Don’t Go," as well as original material ranging from the Beatles-inspired track "She’s Got a Hold on Me" to the catchy and upbeat "Where the Waters Roam."
The recording has earned excellent reviews from music critics across the country, including Jim Beal of the San Antonio Express-News, who noted, "The band’s sound is a mixture of power pop and straight up rock ’n’ roll. It has a ’60s vibe with an alt-rock groove and they go together well."
Hacienda consists of the three Villanueva brothers—Rene, 23, bassist-vocals; Abraham, 25, pianist-vocals; and Jaime, 20, drummer-vocals—and their cousin, Dante, 29, guitarist-vocals. The quartet’s formation was almost a lucky accident.
After Dante graduated from UTSA in 2003, he and Abraham (also a former UTSA student) began performing together after seeing Rene and Jaime on stage with a band of their own.
"Abe and I used to go to their shows," Dante says. "It was kind of like, well, if they can do it, why can’t we?"
Dante and Abraham looked for two musicians to join them, but were unsuccessful. Fortunately, Rene and Jaime’s band soon dismantled, and the three brothers and their cousin formed Hacienda in 2005, taking the name from a popular nightclub in Manchester, England.
"We played on weekends just for fun," Dante says. "We all liked playing instruments and were just excited to play a tune that we liked and make it sound as good or close to the original version."
By chance a demo of six of their songs made it into the hands of Dan Auerbach of the blues-rock duo The Black Keys. He was so impressed that he invited the boys to his Ohio studio to record Loud is the Night.
"It’s our first record, so by the time we recorded it we had 20 songs," Dante says. "We were able to record all that music and pick and choose what we wanted for the record. Once you get a record released like that, you can tour behind it."
Performing throughout the United States and traveling overseas has given Hacienda national and international exposure, although appearing as the opening act for Auerbach and then doing double duty as his backup band, the Fast Five, proved to be a bit hectic.
"It was tough. There were times when we played two sets, so you rack up a lot of hours," Dante says. "We would have to load in, do our shows, then have to load out. Our days were really long."
One compensation for that stress, Rene says, is that performing alongside his two brothers has allowed the band to form an even tighter bond.
"It’s pretty nice because it’s great to be traveling with your family when you’re away from home so much," Rene says. "And we don’t have to worry about speaking our minds and one of us taking it too seriously."
The rest of 2009 will find Hacienda touring extensively, including stops in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. They’ll be backing up Auerbach at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on the first weekend in October. For the rest of that month, Hacienda will tour with Grammy Award–winning Los Lonely Boys and San Antonio–born singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, then beginning in November, they’ll be back on the road with Auerbach as part of the Fast Five. When their schedule allows, the group will return to Ohio to complete their second album, slated to be released in spring 2010.
Hacienda is taking their success in stride, and with positive responses from audiences here and abroad the quartet has high hopes for their future.
"A lot of times people think the odds are stacked against you, but there are bands out there who make it," Dante says. "Why not us?"