"It's funny. I'm actually at the moment trying to type up a letter to post to fans [to explain the long stretch between albums]," he explains via telephone. "There's a million little things that happened. We're all getting older and we've never really made any money at this, [so] life just got in the way."
Add to the mix a national lineup (Bufano, Chris Corak are based in Phoenix, John O'Reilly in Philadelphia, Ryan Kennedy in St. Louis), a couple marriages, and some births, and it's easier to get a grasp on the 8-year gap between 2004's The Bull, the Balloon, and The Family and the newly-minted Sons of Men. But the delay wasn't just due to assuming domesticated lives.
"The more I think about it, one of the main things is that everybody in the band's always felt like a band shouldn't release a record knowing that it's really not as good as the record before it," Bufano says. "We've had this conversation: 'Do you think when a band puts out a shitty record, do they think it's awesome?' Or do they know, if you put out a record, even if it's shitty, you're going to make money? Like, 'We're going to put this out, and hopefully write a better record next year.' [Laughs]"
Sons of Men doesn't aim to top the former record's expansive grandeur, but it's by no means a restrained record: the orchestral sweeps of "I'm Leaving" and "The Losing Curse" are epic, and pedal steel swells and classic pop of closer "Less Pain Forever" (named for the Valley band of the same name) is perfectly suited for wide-screen viewing, but there's a certain rangy quality to the proceedings. "This Desert" isn't quite as scrappy as the band's debut, Blame it on the Scenery, but it's close, and the apocalyptic honky-tonk of "No Motion" trembles and quakes with gritty soul.
And unlike previous records, which featured David Bazan of Pedro the Lion, Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, and members of Calexico, there's no massive guest roster. Friends Jon Rauhouse, Davey von Bohlen of The Promise Ring/Maritime, and songwriter Matt Maher stop by, but the band pared down with Sons of Men.
"The first two records we wanted to have as many guests as possible because that's what was fun for us," Bufano says. "It was so fun to have people we're fans of come play. This time around, we kind of got it into our heads that maybe we should try and do as much as we can on our own. Not that there's not guests - because there definitely is - [but] instead of [saying] 'Let's have so-and-so play piano on this,' it was like, I'll just stumble through it. The take will be a little bit more raw, but [we were fine with that.]"
Sons feels like a natural record, one that comfortably maintains the trajectory of the band without sounding tired or lazy. It's cinematic pop music, and one expected benefit of the break between records is that few will use the dreaded "e" word to describe the record. It hasn't always been the case with Reubens.
"The [emo] term just got broader and broader," Bufano says, grouping the band comfortably along side friends Jimmy Eat World, but much less so with acts like My Chemical Romance and the like.