Music News

Scenery Stealers

It's a hot August night, and although Neil Diamond is nowhere to be found, the cast of MTV's Real World is, in full color and surround sound in Chris Corak's south Tempe home.

Three quarters of Valley indie pop combo Reubens Accomplice -- guitarists/vocalists Corak and Jeff Bufano and bassist Andy Eames -- are sprawled out in the living room of the house, glued to the TV set as a marathon of the music channel's hoary reality show flickers across the screen.

The three, suffice it to say, are not fans. Flipping the dial, they happen to glimpse one of the cast members sporting a Jets to Brazil tee shirt. A game of "spot the indie band" quickly turns into rubbernecking, with the boys unable to tear themselves away from the human accident on the tube, as MTV's Gen Y poster kids reveal themselves as hopelessly vacuous, trend-trawling gits.

"Chris, did you hear what he said?" asks Bufano incredulously, after a one of the roommates -- a self-absorbed and thoroughly talentless female singer -- auditions for a band.

"The guitar player told her, 'Damn, girl, you were blowing me up something fierce.' Blowing me up something fierce," he repeats with a fair degree of horror. "Jesus," he spits venomously, "I hate when people say shit like that."

Bufano's furor is very real and very funny to his bandmates; Corak punctuates his laughter with an equine snort that sends Eames into a fit of giggles.

With his slender frame and mat of close-cropped black hair, Corak comes off like the adorably geeky older brother from some 1950s sitcom, a direct counterpoint to the misanthropic slacker cool that Bufano exudes. Eames, meanwhile, is an altogether different story. A charming man-child, he bounds around the room, pleased to be back with his friends after a long stretch in a self-inflicted purgatory.

As the band remains glued to the show, there is an element of subtle irony at work. Unlike the made-for-TV musicians of the Real World, the members of Reubens Accomplice have genuine talent, and they've also been knee-deep in actual drama for the past few months.

But right now, all that is of little concern, as Bufano focuses his ire on another of the cast members, a frat-boy mook who's just told a national television audience that he "was owning the pit" at a Linkin Park show.

"Christ," mutters Bufano again, marveling at the depths of humanity, "what a bunch of fucking idiots." Corak stifles another guffaw.

It's some three weeks earlier at Reubens' rehearsal pad, and this time it's drummer Jim Knapp who's laughing. The wiry trapsman -- newly married and a recent graduate of law school -- is doubled over and red-faced as he listens to an early Reubens demo tape playing over Corak's bedroom stereo.

Bufano has raided the band's archives for a bit of a nostalgia trip, pulling out old vinyl and dusty cassettes, as he and the rest of the group listen, bemused with -- if not slightly embarrassed by -- their younger selves.

Formed in 1994, Reubens Accomplice -- dubbed so during Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens' porn-theater escapade -- has come a long way since its salad days.

Back then, Bufano was a budding little anarchist, just learning to play guitar from his junior high friend Eames -- an experienced vet of his uncle's blues band -- when he first found Corak.

"I walked into a class where I didn't know anyone," recalls Bufano of the pair's initial meeting, "so I decided to sit next to the skinny kid in the Suicidal Tendencies tee shirt." Meanwhile, Knapp, a year older than the others, was already well on his way to paradise city, manning the drum kit for a local Guns N' Roses cover band.

Talking about the early years sets the band off on a hilarious litany of high school high jinks: how the group fired Knapp before its first show because the drummer refused to cancel a snowboarding trip to play the gig, stories of talent-show appearances marred by pathetic pyrotechnics, and the like.

Inspired in equal measure by hardcore outfits like Bad Religion and melodic three-chord thrashers like Green Day, the band's embryonic pop-punk quickly yielded a huge batch of material.

"Once we figured out that with just a power chord you could write hundreds of songs, we were off," says Bufano.

With the recording and release of 1995's shambolic We Can Hold Our Own -- a 20-song cassette rife with titles like "Another Beer" and "Jedi Master" -- the members of Reubens scored an unexpected hit with their high school classmates. By the middle of their senior year, this group of misconstrued oddballs and outcasts had improbably become the toast of the Thunderbird High School campus.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr