Border Kids: The Los Sundowns And Nuevo At The Continental Club

Beto Martinez and Daniel Villareal's new project The Los Sundowns will perform with Nuevo for a night of bilingual soul and rock at The Continental Club.
Beto Martinez and Daniel Villareal's new project The Los Sundowns will perform with Nuevo for a night of bilingual soul and rock at The Continental Club. Photo By Mauro Lopez
Beto Martinez and Dante Schwebel each have many musical projects that have made them familiar names; Martinez with Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and Money Chicha and Schwebel with his bands Spanish Gold and Hacienda. With each artist's respective new project, their talent and heritage are continuing to shine.

Martinez along with Chicago based Daniel Villareal of Dos Santos started The Los Sundowns and Schwebel and bandmate David Jimenez started their new band aptly titled, Nuevo. Both bands will be performing at The Continental Club on Friday, February 18, for a special evening of Latin-based music.

Though both bands have a different sound with The Los Sundowns tapping into a more psychedelic and atmospheric vibe and Nuevo describing themselves as “Tejano Soul,” they share the same strong roots and make for a perfect team through their experiences in their hometown of Laredo where Martinez and Schwebel are from.

“In Laredo we really had one English radio station that was playing like Top 40 hits but what's unique about growing up down there is you are constantly hearing Maná or Luis Miguel and all these other acts that were popular at the time too. Maná was just as big in our world as Guns and Roses. You don't realize how unique that is until you move,” explains Schwebel who shares his time between San Antonio and Nashville.

"Maná was just as big in our world as Guns and Roses. You don't realize how unique that is until you move,”

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When the pandemic limited artists' abilities to travel and tour, the two groups focused on playing together with their residencies at C-Boy's Heart and Soul in Austin last summer. Martinez describes the environment as a “musicians hang” where there’s always a familiar face in the crowd and people are more than happy to jump onstage and jam if invited.

“C-Boy's and Continental have really come out as the spots where if you want to see good music and the comradery of musicians hanging out and trying stuff out there's really not another spot like it here in town so it's definitely like an incubator and a home for that,” says Martinez of the Austin staples that have survived in the ever changing landscape of the city.

Their residencies there proved to be a perfect testing site for their new sounds which really resonated with audiences. They recently restarted their weekly performances there which became the jumping point for both bands to consider taking their show on the road. Houston will be one of their first performances out of Austin.

“If it makes sense to us and feels authentic to us, that’s how we approach everything” says Schwebel. “With Beto it's great because everybody speaks the same language, not just actual language but musical language.” Both bands have been recording at Martinez’s studio in Buda Lechehouse Music further extending their creative partnership.

To try to describe the many influential facets of living on the Texas border with Mexico can be pretty difficult. The nuances of language and culture are very specific to the region and can be hard to understand for someone in another state. With both of these bands, it doesn’t matter where someone is from, they are bound to feel something  and be transported when listening to the rich sounds which simultaneously celebrate Latino music while making it modern.

“There's like so many artists that are out there that have a traditional sound going and what we were thinking was, how do you keep that alive?” says Schwebel how he and his band initially debated incorporating traditional instruments like the bajo sexto before realizing they needed to go their own direction.

“If we want this sound to survive, we gotta take it somewhere where it can thrive so maybe people can hear that it's not as far away from stuff they like already,” he says. Particularly for me, David and Beto who are border kids, there's something about that sound where it just takes you back, it hits you in a spot,” he adds.
Nuevo, who released their first album in March of last year, just kicked off the planned rollout of their newest material this week with the single “The Ride,” a slow and steady acoustic track that showcases the sensitivities in the duo’s harmonizing and bands instrumentations while perfectly embodying the ‘60s soul movement the band is built on.

The Los Sundowns also released their first self titled EP last year of songs recorded prior to the shutdown. They were originally set to be used for a full length album but due to the pandemic, the band decided to move forward with the songs they had and are currently planning a full length release.
The Los Sundowns have one foot in soul and another firmly planted in ‘60s psychedelic ballads made popular at the time by Los Angeles Negros from Chile and Los Pasteles Verdes from Peru as evidenced on “Al Final de la Tarde.”

“That was the sound that we wanted to emulate and ultimately we did do that but then we made it our own. In terms of my projects, who have always had a more solid background of Afro Latin rhythms whether it's cumbia, salsa or Cuban music behind it as the backbone, this one has a soul and rock background. We don't have any auxiliary percussion and we are not basing it on those rhythms but ultimately, we draw on that experience and on that repertoire,” describes Martinez.

Making music based on their ethnic roots and lifelong influences for both artists has been a very intentional and meaningful process and though initially business minded people may have been skeptical of their reach as Latin-based artists, there is no denying their potential for impact in spreading awareness and respect for Latino music.

“I think of it sometimes as if you're dealing with traffic and there's so many musical lanes, there's a lot of traffic. If you want to make Americana music right now, Jason Isbell is way ahead of you and you’re way back here, it’s gridlocked. But if you're making something that no one else is making, that’s kind of like taking the shoulder. I'm going to make my own lane here and who knows, maybe we will get farther by just doing our own thing,” says Schwebel.

“What I'm hoping and I'm discovering already just from every time we play is that the response we get is genuine,” he says, describing how audiences often report that they have never heard anything like Nuevo. “This music is for everyone. This music is for Latinos but it's for Americans. It’s for anybody who wants it and I think there's enough for everyone.”

The Los Sundowns and Nuevo will perform on Friday, February 18 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main, 8 p.m., $10-20.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes