Just about two years after releasing their infectious sophomore album MCMLXXXV (1985), Rancho Cucamonga, California quartet Rufio had assembled a dozen new songs that were just as catchy, punchy and bouncy as the tunes from their last disc - which is exactly why they decided to scrap it all and start again from scratch.
"It was just too similar to what we did last time," says bassist Jon Berry, explaining the band's decision.
"It was the same structures and the same formula all over again," adds vocalist and guitarist Scott Sellers. "We realized we didn't want to just stay the same, we wanted to move forward."
Rufio's need to move forward was strengthened by a series of events that struck the band during its last touring cycle. As a result, The Comfort of Home, reflects the difficulties of young adulthood and the tragedies that sometimes darken our lives as we grow. "Questions and Answers" and "Walk Don't Run," for example, were written about Berry's brother, Joe, who died in 2004, causing Rufio to take an extended hiatus to grieve.
"He got in a car accident, and two days later he went into a coma for almost two months before he died," Berry says. "That affected me in a big way, but music helped me deal with it."
Other songs on The Comfort of Home, like "Out of Control" and "Bitter Season" are about dysfunctional relationships, but "Life Songs," one of the most confessional cuts, addresses Sellers' relationship with his father.
"It's about how he doesn't realize how proud I am of him," Sellers says. "The reason I'm in this band right now is because he's always played music his whole life and he's the one that got me into everything. And he thinks I look at him like, 'Aw, you don't know what you're talking about. He has no clue how much I respect him."
The group's new, more confessional lyrical approach is accompanied by a bold change in sound - one much less informed by pop-punk and more inspired by its love for many different forms of rock music, from Coldplay to Metallica.
Determined to develop as musicians and songsmiths, Rufio started writing The Comfort of Home in the fall of 2004. The process was smooth and inspiring, and by February 2005 they had enough material to re-enter the studio. Five weeks later, with the help of producer Mike Green, Rufio emerged with an album of high octane songs that met the band members creative goals and demonstrated their knack for unconventional arrangements, contagious hooks, and revealing lyrics.
"I think your horizons broaden a lot with age," Sellers says. "I was 17 when we released our first CD and now I'm 22. At this point, I really want to play music that reflects what I want to listen to, rather than still be in a band that just plays pop-punk."
"Out of Control" starts with rapid, muted guitar picking and segues into a rousing riff-heavy number that climaxes in a soaring chorus, "Let Fate Decide" balances a surging rhythm and incisive guitar squiggles with a reflective, ringing pre-chorus and "Drowning" is a cathartic blend of turbo charged riffs, multifaceted beats and undeniable vocals.
While Rufio formed in 2000, their roots date back to the early '90s, when Sellers and lead guitarist Clark Domae, who lived three doors down, were in their pre-teens. The two discovered a mutual love of Skid Row and Guns N' Roses and became close friends. Then in junior high, they started jamming. "Clark was always really into metal and I was always really into pop," Sellers says.
In high school, they met Berry and eventually drummer Mike Jimenez and started taking their musical exploits a little more seriously. "We started writing these songs together and they were pretty good," Berry says. "So, then we said, 'Hey, let's see if Mike wants to play with us' because he was a drum slut; he played with everybody. He and I used to do a cover band together and we'd play NOFX and Blink-182 songs."
After only a few practice sessions together, the quartet knew something magical was happening. They started writing originals and before long, they had shows booked in and around their hometown. At first, the shows, were sparsely attended, then suddenly things changed.
"I'll always remember this one show we played in San Diego at a club called Epicenter," Berry Recalls. "For some reason, it was sold out beyond belief, and there were, like, 500 kids who couldn't even get in. We were like, 'What's going on? Do they know who we are?' That was when I started thinking, 'Man, maybe we really can do this.'"
Rufio released their debut, Perhaps, I Suppose, in 2001 and built up a strong, loyal fan base while on tour supporting the release. When they got off the road, the band members started writing for their second album, MCMLXXXV, which they released in June, 2003. Strong reviews and a slot on that year's Warped Tour helpwed the band further spread their word, and contributed to the impressive album sales of 75,000 copies.
It was an auspicious beginning, but now, with The Comfort of Home, Rufio strive to take their music to a higher plateau. "We're gonna stay on the road a long time for this album, which is great because I'm really excited to play these songs," Berry says.
"I still feel really young and excited about everything," adds Sellers. "Sometimes we'll talk to people and they'll say, 'Oh, you're one of my band's influences. I used to listen to you five years ago.' And we're like, 'Oh, shit, that makes us feel old.' But then we get out there and hear the crowd and I still feel new about everything. It's almost like starting over."