Every once and a while you are fortunate enough to meet someone who changes the entire direction of your life for the better. One moment you are completely unaware they even exist and then, suddenly, in a single unlikely meeting you are now happily stuck with a person you can’t imagine your life without. In the case of Brien Allen and Ruben Zamora, the two founding members of Austin TX based metal band Bridges Ablaze, life happened for them that way. In this segment of our rising artist spotlight, we sit down with these two and discuss the events that lead to not only a great friendship but a collaboration that may change the world of metal music as we know it.
Bridges Ablaze is Brien Allen (guitar/vocals), Ruben Zamora (guitar/vocals)
I’m Derek with Top Shelf music magazine. I’m here today with Bridges Ablaze, an awesome new band out of Austin, Texas. How’s it going today, guys? Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys got your beginnings?
- Ruben- Oh, man. So we met back in summer of 2014. I had just decided to pack up and leave El Paso,Texas, where I am from. So I left and I was staying up north with one of my buddies at the time. We were just killing time one day so we decided to head over to a local Guitar Center. As soon as I walk into the doors, Brien is just there shredding! Like intensely, just going off! I kid you not, I got caught. Literally, like a deer in the headlights! I just stood there staring at him for a long time thinking “Damn! This guy is so good!” So this was during the days when Guitar Center had the wall dividers so people could play in sections. My friend and I were on one side and he was on the other. So I start trying to shred some guitar solos and he hears me and he starts going at it. Before you know it we just start going back and forth for I don’t know, it seemed forever. Just back and forth, back and forth. And I’m just thinking to myself, dude, this is awesome. Like, this is like the best time of my life. So fast forward, he ends up coming around the corner. He’s like “Yo, was that you shredding? Holy shit dude you are amazing!” I was really humbled and said so are you. We exchanged numbers but sometimes when you have those experiences there is about a 10% chance you actually follow up with each other. So I didn’t expect to hear from him again.
- Brien- Yeah, I remember hearing this miraculous shredding from over the wall. And I was like, good God, who is that? And so we just kind of did this dueling thing for a second. I remember looking around the wall and seeing two dudes and I was like, which one of you is shredding? And Reuben raised his hand and I got his number. I was like, I’ll probably never hear from this dude again, but lo and behold, he moved to Austin and hit me up. I remember that was right around the time I graduated college and started my career in music, you know, because up until then, I had just been a bedroom player, just because I didn’t want to start my career until I was at a certain level. I wanted to be competent with my instrument. When I heard him I thought “Wow this is the dude!” We would jam out throughout the years, you know, 2016, 2017, I remember, Ruben moving back to El Paso and then coming back again. And eventually, in 2019, nothing was working out with the bands we had been doing things with before so we just looked at each other and said “wanna do something together?” and that is how Bridges Ablaze was born.
So currently, your band lineup is just you two with other musicians filling in on drums, bass etc. What’s prevented you guys from going out and finding other permanent members? Do you have more control of the vision without having to involve other people?
- Brien- Essentially, I mean, you know, past experiences dictated that when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen things get a little messy. The more people you have the more you have to deal with different visions and things like that. With this we figured we’d build something for two or three years in the shadows, and build up everything and then start showing people who are interested and saying, “Hey, you want to hop on? The songs are already written, right? But we can provide you with all the stems and all the song files, like the MIDI files, and we can teach you all the song parts.” So for now that is kind of our approach. All of this is just based on wanting security for our work and not having everything just fall apart and taken from us like it has so many times in the past.
- Ruben – I want to say maybe 95 percent of the time or higher, we’re always on the same page. You know, if I’m not voicing it out, Brien’s already voiced it out, or vice versa, he knows my thoughts, it’s weird that we’re always on the same page… So having that chemistry and just having that same vision, it just makes it so much easier. Instead of having a bunch of additional opinions.
So you guys are planning on releasing a new single soon called “Hellbent”. I have heard it and it’s awesome! Can you tell us a little bit about the creation of that song?
- Brien- Well, I remember coming up with it maybe last summer (2021) I was starting to push the frontier of what I could do in logic. I started messing around with MIDI programming, all kinds of things. Something just started to come together, just kind of a riff soup. It wasn’t exactly the most coherent idea. But all I knew is it sounded a little bit like the Alan Parsons Project mixed with the Chicago Bulls theme song a little bit. Then I began to think that I wanted to have a rapper on the song but eventually we decided to just do it all ourselves. We then took it to our producer who deleted some sections and notes which added some fresh atmosphere to it. Before we knew that we had this glorious instrumental and then that’s when the vocals really started flowing. You know, I’ll never forget Ruben rapping in the studio and it was so natural for him.
- Ruben- I’ve never done anything like that before. I’ve always had the mentality of “try to do something Howard Jones from Killswitch or Matt Heafy from Trivium would do, you know? I remember, I was wearing my Apple watch and I saw my pulse literally went from my resting rate of 62. And it just shot up to 110 or 120. I was just so excited! The section of the song where the lyrics are “my body aches, but I just keep going”. I was referring to work. I was so dead from working 12-14 hours a day. I was like screw this, I gotta talk about something and it just came out!
- Brien- We didn’t even really plan it out. But when we listened back it all made continuous, lyrical and logical sense. Even though it was just kind of like something that just happened. You know? We did have a bit of a theme at heart, which is mostly overcoming adversity, but so much of it just happened. Just putting heads together.
How do you guys know when a song is done?
- Ruben- That is a good question. Personally, I feel content within my soul. For example, we just got a final revision of our latest music video. I kid you not as soon as I saw the final edit, I almost wanted to cry. I don’t know, that’s just my personal experience. I always have this overwhelming emotion of just joy. And the first thing that comes to mind is it’s crying. It’s weird. I don’t know.
It’s not weird. It means you are passionate about everything you do. I think sometimes certain musicians do things because they are good at it but not because they are passionate about it.
- Brien- Man that is so true, there’s always a part missing somehow, right? Like, I posted a thing on my YouTube the other day, and people are like, oh, people that can shred typically can’t write a song. And that’s not us, you know, cuz we’re very emotional people who just happen to also be guitar freaks. We’ve had to live through an immense amount of heartbreak, adversity, and darkness so, creating the songs it’s like, chiseling beautiful monuments to our pain, and nothing is more fulfilling. And so yeah, to answer your question, you know, how do we know it’s done? Well, with stuff like this, at a certain point you just know. You just know.
Who are some of the people in the industry who inspire you the most?
- Ruben- Me? I look to Brien for inspiration right away. I look up to him a lot. Also Gabe Pietrzak from Visenya. He is such an amazing person! He is our guitar teacher. He helps us out so much and he can break down just about anything with music theory. Good human, good soul. Also, Jason Richardson, Andy James, Jessie Cash, I look up to all of those guys.
What are some of your goals going into 2023?
- Brien- Well for now, all we have released is one cover of “The Kill” and that was just a proof of concept to see what would happen. It did pretty good and we were surprised and really happy people loved it. That was kind of the green light for us to commence the rollout of original songs. Otherwise we have just been recording, recording, recording and getting a backlog of masters and music videos. Currently we have like three or four music videos in the queue ready to go. So that every two to three months we do a release. This year will mainly be quarterly releases, nonstop promotion and just getting our music out there to the people that appreciate it and want to hear it. Other than that just recording more songs and videos, practicing and getting ready for some live gigs.
Big thank you to Bridges Ablaze for chatting with us today! Be sure to check out their debut single and video for “Hellbent” out on all streaming platforms January 13th!