Relative Teamwork

Family band Hacienda finds a producer and mentor in the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach

December 7, 2011
From left, Hacienda members Jaime Villanueva, Dante Schwebel, Rene Villanueva and Abraham Villanueva got an assist from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on their third LP.

When you’re in a band with three cousins who are all brothers, disagreements are bound to arise. “Family that works together can be a chore to be around,” says Hacienda singer/guitarist Dante Schwebel. “We can be a handful.”

Luckily, the four relatives in Hacienda met their producer and mentor, the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, before they even knew what they were doing. “When we did the first [album], we were hardly a band. We were family just writing demos of songs together,” Schwebel says of 2008’s “Loud Is the Night.”

Auerbach has since served as Hacienda’s unofficial fifth member, managing its personalities in the studio, acting as tiebreaker when needed and producing the group’s records. “He’s not afraid to be critical, like: ‘Sorry, man, this sounds like [expletive]; you need to start over,’” Schwebel says. Auerbach also took the group on the road in 2009 as the opener and backing band for his first and only solo tour.

So on the San Antonio-based band’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled third LP (due next spring), the group let Auerbach take the reins. On top of producing and engineering the record, he also picked the songs. “We brought him the demos and he said, ‘This is where you need to go. I know what band you’ve been, I know what band you want to be, but I know what band you can be,’” Schwebel says.

Auerbach’s fingerprints are all over the disc’s first single, “Savage,” a funky, disco-indebted track that’s unlike anything Hacienda’s recorded. “There’s really nothing else on the record that sounds like ‘Savage,’” Schwebel says. “Dan had the idea to make it this dance number, a kind of back-and-forth.”

The rest of the album should fall in line with the soulful, garage-y roots rock heard on the debut and 2010’s “Big Red & Barbacoa.” “For the most part, it’s a pretty fast, up-tempo rock ’n’ roll record,” Schwebel says. “It’s really easy to play live, which is great because the first two records we had no idea what to do with ourselves live — we had to turn [the songs] upside down.”

Feels Like the First Time: The last time the members of Hacienda played at the 9:30 Club, they opened for and performed with Dan Auerbach and the Fast Five, a group that also included My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan. That February 2009 gig, the Fast Five’s first, came just before the wave of popularity that washed over the Black Keys in 2010. “Something special about that tour,” Schwebel says, “was every now and again during one of our 25 solos, Dan would kind of creep up and have a big smile on his face … and be, like, ‘Man, what are we doing?’ And I’d be, like, ‘Man, I don’t know; I’m just following you.’ I think he was surprised that he could [tour under his name]. It was pretty special because it was still somewhat contained.”

9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with City and Colour, Daniel Romano; Sat., 8 p.m., sold out; 202-265-0930. (U St.-Cardozo)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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