People take notice when Vitera takes the stage, sometimes as early as soundcheck. But it’s not always the band they notice; it’s the small string instrument that sits on its stand and resembles a miniature Flying V guitar.
“People will ask me, too, is that a little mandolin? No, it’s a violin,” said Haydn Vitera, the man behind the rock en español band Vitera.
But his violin, though eye-catching, is no gimmick. Haydn Vitera is a classically trained violinist. Growing up in El Campo, his mother and grandmother filled the house with music.
“They were always singing some song. Always music playing,” Vitera said.
Haydn and his brother David started the band in 2007, which they decided to define by their last name.
“Because at first it was like, well, do we pick the last name or what should we call ourselves? Well it’s brothers; be like Van Halen,” Vitera said.
After a year of playing together, his brother left the band. Though David is not on stage anymore, he still contributes to the songwriting.
“He’s more the family man and the stay-at-home kind of guy. He’s the brainchild of all the songs. I’m the guy out there rockin’ and rollin’,” Vitera said. “I can safely say that most of the songs on the CD were his idea. I bring in a different dynamic than what he’s bringing. It’s a really cool chemistry that we have, but those are his babies.”
Those “babies” are featured on Vitera’s debut album Súbete. The album fuses the music of Vitera’s upbringing—Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC—with his Latin roots. Though the Latin influence is present, Vitera said he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a Latino genre. He wants to be a rocker. Period.
“Ultimately, what I want to be known as is a rock band who has Latin influence,” he said. “It’s in the Spanish language that’s in our songs. Plus, it’s in the congas, the horns. But the music is American rock. Old school American rock.”
Vitera collaborated with some familiar names in the local scene. The album was recorded at Vallejo Music Group’s studio, which is owned by Austin’s own Vallejo. The Vallejo brothers each performed on a track, and Omar Vallejo co-produced the album with Haydn, who happened to grow up with the Vallejo brothers.
“I was there for their very first gig in Austin, and I watched them just build into the biggest thing in Austin for awhile. Those guys are some of my idols and my childhood friends, so to record at that studio with Omar playing bass and then have A.J. and Alex join us on the title track is just 30-something years in the making,” Vitera said.
“I really wanted to have a collection,” Vitera said. “Yeah, it’s our record, but this is a showcase of Austin’s Latino talent as well, so I’m really excited about this collaboration. I can’t wait to do more.”
Vitera said he thinks that in the music business, more specifically the Latino music business, people seem to be greedy with the spotlight. However, he is willing to share it.
“If you spread that love, you get it back,” he said.
It started with the compilation released on Cinco de Mayo at Rockerofest with five bands: Vitera, Kalua, Boca Abajo, Este Vato and La Guerrilla. He said, with the help of Diaz, he wanted to put together an album that was less about Latino artists in general, but more specifically about the Latino rockers.
“I wanted to create one just for the rockers, because rockers are alive and well,” he said. “It’s like why don’t we all just get together and show them what we’re all about.”
The showcases followed afterwards. A month after the release, an opportunity came along that allowed monthly Movimiento Rockero showcases for the rest of the year. Currently, they’re held at Ruta Maya, but plans are in motion to move the showcases to another venue to Antone’s starting in January, Vitera said.
“If you’re not interesting enough to make people look away from their phone, then maybe you need to look at what you’re doing” — Haydn Vitera
The next Movimiento Rockero showcase is Oct. 6 at Ruta Maya. In the meantime, people can catch Haydn Vitera and his Flying V violin at an acoustic show on Sept. 29 at Maria Maria.
“I love the moment when I strap that thing on. The minute I start playing, whether it’s in the show or soundcheck, the cameras come out. People are zeroed in on the stage and I love that feeling, because I’m showing something they haven’t seen,” Vitera said.
It’s pretty common these days to attend any show and see a wave of cell phones and cameras filming what’s happening on stage. Although it may seem like a distraction for the performers, Haydn Vitera sees this as a great opportunity.
“I think some people would be offended and would want people to put their phones down and listen. But first of all, if you’re doing something, you need to be doing something that makes people look away from their phones for a second, even if it’s just for a song or for 30 seconds while you’re doing a solo or singing some song,” said Vitera. “If you’re not interesting enough to make people look away from their phone, then maybe you need to look at what you’re doing. That’s the way I see it.”
To Vitera, his way of giving the fans something interesting is by playing rock en español with his violin.
“Thank God for that violin,” Vitera said. “Thank God I didn’t quit in the sixth grade when I wanted to go play baseball, because I suck at baseball.”
Watch Vitera’s music video for “Todo, Mi Vida” below.
*promo photo by Teresa Jolie.