There are certain times in life that we were never meant to experience alone. There are pains and losses the human heart can endure only in the presence of something or someone else, walking alongside us, carrying us when our feet fail, assuring our heart that it doesn’t have to muster the strength of the next beat on its own. This is the wasteland. These are the ruins…and it is here that the music of The Ruins resonates. It’s here that the lyrics of a wounded soul wrap around the melody of a heart redeemed, offering solace to the listener walking through their own world of disarray and decay. But it’s here too that the music of The Ruins strays from other such cleverly-written, emotive-alt/pop anthems. These songs meet the listener wherever they are—in despair or disillusion—but in despair, they refuse to linger. Reflecting the souls of the creative minds behind the music, The Ruins songs are arresting, comforting, challenging and provocative.
Comprised of Debra Black, raised in the country suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia by her parents, and Victor Gonzalez with his Hispanic upbringing out of Miami, Florida, The Ruins is a duo of dynamic passion, musical excellence and unparalleled creativity. Perhaps what distinguishes them most, however, is their unrelenting desire and penchant for empathy. The first and foremost goal in life and in music is to meet others wherever they may be—without judgment or pretense.
“I’ve always been very empathetic,” says Debra. “I have this heart and desire to see and speak truth and for others to see and understand truth. I want to see with His eyes.”
It’s this vantage point from which the duo’s EP was born.
Before there was music, however, there was a journey to the birthplace of the group. For several years, Debra had been leading worship, writing worship songs and had even put out a worship album. During this time, she and Victor developed a friendship and a positive creative, collaborative relationship. So when Debra began questioning her own musical direction, naturally, her thoughts turned to Victor.
“I had released a worship album a year and a half ago and had led worship in the church for years, but I kept feeling a tug in my heart to expand my musical passions beyond worship. I wanted to sing what I love to hear,” says Debra. “It was a really big and difficult decision, but it was crazy how God reached down and gave me little nudges from heaven. I heard a message on fear and then my mom called and shared a devotional about what fear does to you and I realized I had been hesitating going the pop route because it was unknown to me. I knew worship. Worship is safe for me. But God was calling me to do new things.”
As Debra came to terms with her own reticence and opened her heart to new possibilities, it became clear that this was not a journey she was to take on her own. “Victor and I had been talking about writing possibilities, but was about to leave the country for a three month missions trip in a closed country,” she recalls. “As he left, though, I just had the sense that God was aligning us for music. I prayed that if He wanted us to do music He would have to create an opportunity for something fresh.”
Halfway around the world, opportunity began knocking. While Debra was laying bare her heart before God, halfway around the world, Victor was doing the same. “During my missions trip, at one point we went to see these ancient ruins,” Victor shares. “We climbed to the top of this precipice and could see them for miles in every direction. I was so struck that people were flocking to these broken down, decaying remains, seeing them as beautiful. At one point, the buildings were created for a specific purpose, but over time had been destroyed. Now, while they are crumbling and dying, they represent something beautiful and appealing. It opened my eyes to the reality of God in my own life in a way unlike I had experienced before. I have tons of issues and baggage, but God looks down on me and doesn’t see ugliness. He doesn’t see something ruined. He sees something—someone—redeemed.”
As Victor shared the experience with Debra, still on the opposite side of the globe, something clicked. The fresh opportunity had just fallen into their laps. Together, they knew God wanted them to bring their baggage, their insecurities, their doubts, their ruins…and make something beautiful.
When Victor returned home, they started writing. The resultant EP resonates with their soul-stirring revelation of grace and redemption; their razor-sharp pop sensibilities and the generosity of two artists who know how to ebb and flow, give and take, while balancing reality with hope. The debut single, “Deliverance” is a pop-alternative gem that captures the essence of the duo—sonically and philosophically.
“We want music to be the catalyst for our journey and story,” says Victor. “‘Deliverance’ allowed for us to do this. It has a ton of imagery that paints a picture for the listener of being trapped by depression, anxiety, addiction…and realizing that the time has come to break out, stand up, walk out, run out, come out and find life again.”
Like brushstrokes on a canvas, each subsequent song on the EP adds nuance and depth. With its unabashed honesty, “Bow Down” doesn’t mince words, pairing straightforward lyrics with driving beats for a swash of color that collides with the hopeful transparency of “Run,” where atmospheric production meets seamless vocals, leaving the listener wanting more.
The remaining tracks don’t disappoint, bringing to life the themes of “Deliverance” with the kind of intensity that tells you these two have been there. They don’t just sing about “Monuments” being resurrected from ruins; they do the heavy-lifting with a vocal delivery that shines a window onto a childhood, though tainted with addiction, redeemed in an adulthood of second chances.
When they deliver a promise of “Only Going Up,” the ambient instrumentation and 80s-inspired nostalgic feel, the listener doesn’t just receive some inspiration and a theme song; they get companions for the journey. Because when Debra and Victor sing a song, they give a piece of their heart away. Perhaps that’s never quite as clear than on the triumphant “Who We Are.” More than a declaration; it’s as if they invite the world into their moment of self-discovery—when the clouds cleared away and the journey, with all its twists and turns, finally made sense. It’s a moment that, as they share it in song, those of us on the receiving end get one step closer to in our own lives. And The Ruins wouldn’t have it any other way. Why?
Because there are times in life we aren’t meant to experience on our own; things that can only be endured with another. The ruins in life…it’s here where we meet our need. And if we’re blessed, we meet a friend to share the journey. Victor and Debra were fortunate enough to meet each other and now, the rest of the world is lucky enough to meet them.