Shortly after 5 a.m. on a Saturday in early December, Brujas del Sol singer/guitarist Adrian Zambrano awoke to urgent voicemails and text messages from both bandmates and colleagues in the local music scene informing him the Grandview Heights rehearsal space shared by a number of Columbus bands had been burglarized overnight.
“I hung up the phone, threw on some clothes and drove straight there,” said Zambrano, 28, seated across the table in a German Village coffee shop in late January. “And everything was gone.”
Word spread quickly via social media sites like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, and a list of missing equipment belonging to more than a dozen bands circulated online. At 9:30 a.m. Zambrano received a text from a friend who works at a local pawn shop that included a photograph of a guitar and a message asking, “Is this yours?” It wasn’t — the instrument actually belonged to Ryan Moya of Ride to Ruin, who also stored his gear at the practice space — but the discovery sparked a frenzied search.
“After Ryan identified [the guitar], it was literally a frantic search down West Broad Street looking at pawn shops,” Zambrano said.
By mid-December, arrests had been made and charges filed against a trio of individuals captured on camera selling the stolen property. For the involved musicians, however, the effects of the theft are ongoing. Many of the instruments still have not been recovered. Zambrano said he’s still missing a baby blue ’92 Fender Jaguar, while Struck by Lightning’s Greg Lahm has been unable to locate six guitars.
The burden of having to purchase gear back from the pawn shops — Zambrano noted the musicians are supposed to be reimbursed, though compensation remains “up in the air” — and replace missing components has caused financial hardship and, in some cases, even delayed recording plans.
“It certainly halted progress for us,” Zambrano said. “We didn’t practice for four weeks because we had nothing. We were supposed to go into the [recording] studio, and we had to push that back.”
The events have also had a deeper, less immediately obvious impact, bleeding into the new material Brujas del Sol has written over the last couple months.
“I’ve got so much angst built up from this that the music we’re writing, while it’s not angry, there’s definitely a tension and there’s definitely an aggression that wasn’t there before,” Zambrano said. “I was never one to write songs about breakups, which obviously everyone has experienced, and I’ve never tied a moment in life to a piece of music I wrote. But this … [trails off]. It’s so absurd. They’re just pieces of wood, but in some way you don’t really know what those things mean to you until they’re gone.”
Additionally, keyboards have taken a more pronounced role on new songs like “Starquake,” moving front-and-center since the thieves left the band’s vintage Moog synthesizer untouched. It’s a trend the frontman envisions will carry over into the group’s next full-length, which it plans to start recording in late February with an eye on a late 2014 release.
While it’s difficult to spin any reverberations of the theft as a net positive, Zambrano said he’s been floored by the way the music community has responded since word of the break-in first started to spread. Within hours of the burglary, the guitarist had already fielded numerous calls from fellow musicians offering to lend him gear, and there are loose plans in the works for a March fundraising concert to help ease financial concerns for the affected artists as they attempt to piece their bands back together.
“What it has done is the scene here has gotten tighter,” said Zambrano, who joins a smattering of local bands for Beach Fuzzzz at A&R Music Bar and The Basement this weekend. “I’ve gained more friends out of this and more people that care about the band and me as a human being than I ever could have imagined. The Columbus faithful have been amazing.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston