Remembering Rufio: The Pop-Punk Band Who Shredded Like Metalheads
In 2003, Rufio were the absolute peak of what a pop-punk band could achieve, creatively. Having signed to Offspring frontman Dexter Holland’s Nitro Records (the label that launched AFI) Rufio were poised to become pop-punk’s new heroes during the genre’s most explosively popular period. Rufio didn’t take the prototypical pop-punk approach, however; they used their metal influences to write complex tracks filled with shred guitar, punishing drums and densely-layered arrangements.
Rufio’s 2001 debut, Perhaps, I Suppose…, was an unexpected smash for newly formed label The Militia Group, who reportedly moved 100,000 copies of the album with absolutely no radio play. Instead, the gospel of Rufio was largely spread through a video by Maple Skateboards, who used “Above Me” to score their street skaters. “Above Me” showcased everything Rufio was about — high energy, catchy choruses and raw production — but the song’s lead riff and non-stop guitar and bass fills dropped jaws. No pop-punk band had ever attempted something with such surgical precision.
Tracks like “Dipshit” and “Save the World” kept fans in a whirlwind with inventive precision, but it’s the closing track to Perhaps, I Suppose… that truly shined a light on what was behind Rufio’s style. Rufio’s two-minute “The Wrath” is still, to this day, the heaviest track to ever grace a pop-punk album. Part thrash, part groove, “The Wrath” is a crunchy shred fest filled with mind-altering guitar work. Did it make any sense? No. But did pop-punk fans dig it? Absolutely.
When 2003’s MCMLXXXV was announced, the entire pop-punk community waited in attention as if a new Blink-182 or New Found Glory record was about to drop. The sophomore effort was no slump, turning out to be Rufio’s biggest career success. The extravagant guitar work of Scott Sellers and Clark Domae, the roaming bass of Jon Berry and ridiculously fast and inventive drumming of Mike Jimenez had found a huge audience, allowing Rufio to tour the world.
The band’s ‘80s heavy metal influences shined through again on tracks like “Science Fiction” and “Pirate,” utilizing a dual guitar attack for both leads and licks. “Decency” is easily the album’s most shred-tastic track, however, as Rufio threw in a killer solo that lifelong metalheads could respect. Even Sum 41’s Dave ‘Brownsound’ Baksh, pop-punk’s most metal-tinged guitarist, waited until 2004’s Chuck to really let the Metallica worship fly, so Rufio were first to the punch on that front, without ever touching the sacred graces of TRL’s Top 10.
Unfortunately for Rufio fans, the California band would cease to exist following their somewhat disappointing 2005 The Comfort of Home album. Inspired to never make the same album twice, Rufio got even more experimental with off-time vocal melodies, numerous instrumental interludes and their heaviest production by far. Though the songs didn’t connect as strongly as their two previous albums, Rufio still threw down some all-timers like “Out of Control” and “Drowning.”
The album even had some Avenged Sevenfold style metalcore riffing in “Interlude #2” and almost Iron Maiden-like back-and-forth soloing on “My Escape.” Production on The Comfort of Home sadly relied a little too much on guitar effects and caused some of the album’s most expressive work to get buried in the mix.
After breaking up in 2007, founding members Scott Sellers and Clark Domae reconstructed Rufio with a new rhythm section and delivered the infectious Anybody Out There in 2010 — a massive step up from The Comfort of Home and an album that fully embraced the warmth and bounce of modern pop-punk. Still, that didn’t stop Sellers from kicking off the album with some impressive tapping in “Little World.”
Rufio finally bit the dust in 2012, ultimately saying goodbye to a cult fan base spread across the planet. Sellers formed a new band called Mercy Street, releasing the Let Me Live album in 2014 to surprisingly little buzz despite exceptional songwriting and a very Rufio-esque sound.
On March 29 of this very year, Scott Sellers released a collection of seven tracks he had been demoing on Soundcloud called The Judge. Once again, the stylistic imprint is classic Rufio, mixing poppy tearjerkers with big choruses and technical mastery. To check out Sellers’ The Judge, head over to his Bandcamp account.
As for Rufio, their music has withstood the test of time, with the old “Above Me” skate video having accumulated well over a million views on a random YouTube channel. You’ll also find big numbers on tracks like “White Lights” and their fiendishly satisfying cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” from the first ever Pop Goes Punk compilation. For fans who cross the pop-punk/metal railroad tracks, however, Rufio will always be remembered as pop-punk’s most ambitious band with a technical pedigree that none of the Green Days or All Time Lows could ever touch.
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