Peace, Love, and Tacos
Auerbach, Lone Stars and the Sophomore LP with Hacienda

Words by Audra Tracy

San Antonio, TX — Promoting Hacienda’s sophomore record Big Red & Barbacoa, guitarist Dante Schwebel is in-between bites as he talks the virtues of tacos, strawberry soda, and greasy, greasy meat.

Existing as the poised guitarist and cousin to the brothers Abraham, Jaime, and Rene Villanueva, Hacienda released Loud is the Night in 2008 on Alive Records. Since then the quartet has sprung from its San Antonio stomping ground, collaborating with Dr. Dog and touring with their producer Dan Auerbach (Black Keys).

So what is it exactly that makes this family band so inherently Texan? “It’s kinda written all over us”, explains Schwebel, “the way we look, the way we talk – it’s just an attitude, a vibe.” More so than their cowboy boots and tucked in shirts, Hacienda celebrates their love for the Lone Star state through their stomachs. Their real Texas pride is ingrained in their love for tacos. “I can always taste a South Texas taco for sure”, he professes. “It’s different, you can kinda taste the grill somehow – that’s part of the flavor. Austin does a pretty good job, but you have to go a little further south if you want the full experience.”

The way this interview was headed, it seemed like Schwebel could talk about food all day. Hell, Hacienda’s new album, Big Red & Barbacoa, is even named after a local delicacy. “There’s a restaurant here in town by my apartment that all the dudes in the band go to, and “Big Red and Barbacoa” is pretty popular there” he shares. “Big Red is actually a soft drink down here, it’s like a red soda” he explains. “Barbacoa is a really tender meat, and its most of it is from the head of the cow. It’s also really greasy and terrible for you. But it tastes amazing, like it was made by God – He took His time with this one!”

Schwebel better eat up, because, based on Hacienda’s 2009 exploits, the band may work up a hearty appetite in 2010. Just last year, Hacienda played frequent double headers for Dan Auerbach’s solo tour: first as Hacienda in the supporting slot, and then as 4 members of Auerbach’s Fast Five.

“It was great, – we’d play a Hacienda set, get all sweaty, go backstage and change, try to look cool again, and come back out and play with Dan”, Schwebel recalls. “He’s got a great audience, so there’s really no pressure being in that band”, Schwebel says in regards to The Fast Five. “You show up and they already like you!”

“You see them toe tapping, and you know somewhere inside they’re jumping for joy. You gotta bring it out of them somehow, ya know?”
– Dante Schwebel on Hacienda’s audiences

Between touring with The Fast Five and recording Big Red & Barbacoa at Auerbach’s Akron home studio, Schwebel has spent enough time with the mojo don to pinpoint the secret to the Auerbach’s success. “His voice is pretty special – that’s really the key to The Black Keys, and even Dan’s solo record”, Schwebel points out. “There are a lot of people making guitar music, but it’s not easy to sing like that. The way he sings is the great equalizer – that’s where the other bands sort drop off and he is really able to surpass.”

Hacienda may credit their vintage sound to the toys in Auerbach’s bat cave, but when you listen to a Hacienda record, you can easily peg a variety of musical influences. Soothing harmonies on songs like ‘I Keep Waiting’ resemble those of The Beach Boys, and carry you to that same warm safe place in the sun. Country boy roots are unearthed in the love song, ‘Got to Get Back Home’, a track that you could swear fell off the back of My Morning Jacket’s truck. Whatever homage you hear, Hacienda makes you feel good. Just try frowning while to listening to ‘Prisoner’ or ‘You’re My Girl”. It’s impossible.

As Hacienda approaches the on-ramp to the big time, Schwebel envisions life with an unlimited touring budget. “I think about that every day”, Schwebel admits. “I would certainly love to play with a horn section. Lights are just amazing – they really add a lot of dimension to the set. And maybe some dancers”, he adds. “Not like go-go dancers, but, sometimes, when you see people dancing, all of a sudden you feel like its ok to dance too.”

So go see this band live, and lighten up a bit! Because one show at a time, Hacienda is helping audiences put down their iPhones, raise their glasses, and return, if even for a moment, to a life of peace, love and tacos. “You see them toe tapping, and you know somewhere inside they’re jumping for joy”, Schwebel says of his audiences. “And you gotta bring it out of them somehow, ya know?” | Texas