New Blog

If anyone is out there, listening or visiting. The music part of our program is complete.
Please visit my new blog scene called INVENTORY for further adventures and please drop me a line if you make it over. There will be visuals and some audibles too.


The Basement Shapes

We'll start recording The Basement Shapes - (the next Underpainting record) in approx. 2 weeks.

At the Electric Cave in Portsmouth NH.

With Djim Reynolds, Gregg Porter, Guy Capecelatro III, Marc McElroy and hopefully a host of other friends.

this will be a rock record, in the form of the Underpainting.



Work continues on a daily basis. There will be a new record this year, maybe an EP, maybe longer. In the meantime, here is a roughly cut rough one. I share this prove I cannot play any sort of piano:


Or do nothing at all, It makes no difference in how much your loved, or in what your capable of...




Playing live on the radio was always a goal of mine and I am lucky to have done so a number of times. There is some great college radio in Massachusetts too. WMFO is the station of Tufts University in Medford MA and it is a truly great station. They are one of the few free-form stations left in the country. This was the 4th visit I'd made to their landmark local music show, On the Town. The band was very happy to have Joel Simches engineer the show - Joel has been a long time supporter of my music, so I knew he would make it sound sweet. Plus, he is an all around good guy. So all of the stars were in line for a great show but I have to say, I missed the mark for most of it. I don't know what it was - but I felt WAY OFF for this performance.

Sorry to say that most of you will never hear the proof of how wrong it went. Just trust me.

The good news is the sound was terrific, as is evidenced by this recording of this song off of the Inventory record.



Djim Reynolds and I worked on and completed an album for the 2007 RPM Challenge. Challenge was to make a record in 1 month, February 2007. We did it as Thee Elementals and called the album, The Slippery Slope. The surprise to me is that it so completely stuck in my head. It was exciting and enjoyable in a way that felt different from what we had done before. We will be releasing some version of the record at some point in some form of some future. But what I want to share with you now is two songs from the record as it exists today.

Renewal By Razor:
What do you do when you need a fresh start? Shave your face man, that might do it.

Sometimes you feel like showering the lawn with gas just to see if anything can grow. And if anything can grow, what sort of poisonous weed will it be?


Jason Anderson

Good friend Jason Anderson has been playing bass in the Underpainting as available for a few years now. He does it with a perfect sense of the song and, like all of my mates, really cares for my compositions. Many things have and could be said about him but I think the best word right now is AWESOME. This year brought so much new Jason Anderson music. The most recent being the LP on K Records called the Hopeful and the Unafraid. His music is true and honest. Sneak out your bedroom window to pick flowers and sell them by the subway to get this record.

Also he is on tour RIGHT NOW with Jim and Gregg backing him up and Harry and the Potters on the bill too(!):

Jul 16 2008 8:00P
The Glass House w/HATP Pomona, California
Jul 17 2008 8:00P
The Troubadour w/HATP Los Angeles, California
Jul 18 2008 8:00P
The Bottom of the Hill w/HATP San Francisco, California
Jul 19 2008 8:00P
The Bottom of the Hill w/HATP San Francisco, California
Jul 20 2008 8:00P
Jul 21 2008 8:00P
Wonder Ballroom w/HATP Portland, Oregon
Jul 22 2008 7:00P
The Capitol Theater w/HATP Olympia, Washington
Jul 23 2008 8:00P
Neumo’s w/HATP Seattle, Washington
Jul 24 2008 6:00P
Ukraine Hall w/HATP Vancouver, BC
Jul 25 2008 7:30P
South Main St. Block Party Pendleton, Oregon
Jul 26 2008 8:00P
Kilby Court w/HATP Salt Lake City, Utah
Jul 27 2008 8:00P
If you've not seen the live scene, you must. If you have, you know.


Gregg Porter

In keeping with the new releases of band mates, I present you with word of the release of a wonderful (some even call staggeringly beautiful) EP from my good friend and Underpainting drummer, Gregg Porter. Less of the country of his former band Milkweed that I wrote about yesterday and more of the abstract awe of another of his bands Hotel Alexis. This EP is just bubbling with special moments and full of a cast of talented help. I am proud to have been a part of this recording. It is available for way cheap money from CD Baby:

Gregg Porter - Final, Final EP

Buy them all and hand them out at the airport for people to calm their fear of flying.



I met my bandmates Jim Reynolds and Gregg Porter back in 1993. It is rather unclear to me but I think they went to the same college as I did. Whatever their scene was, I knew they were very very cool. They introduced me to Lou Barlow's lesser known (at the time) side project called Sentridoh - yes, very very cool. They gradually disappeared from the crowd of college but I still knew of them. It was probably 3 or 4 years later that I saw Jim again and with a crazy mountain man beard. He told me he just got back from Oregon and that he was playing the banjo. Jim was the first peer of mine to play the banjo. Over the years I would run into Jim and Gregg or just Jim in the weirdest, most random places. I always hoped one day I could play in a band with them. In fact, I even had an imaginary country band dreamed up called the Rifles and they were part of the imaginary line-up.

One thing I was hearing around 1997 was about their band Milkweed. They made quite an impression on many with their drinking, drugging, stumbling country/folk/old time music. So Milkweed put out three CDs and their most recent one is thankfully now available. It is a lovely lump of country chamber folk-grass. I think maybe you should take a listen and scoop one up.

MILKWEED - Further to Fall

I consider myself very luck to have the good fortune to call these guys my friends and be able to play music with them. Cheers to Milkweed.



When you get through with something you make a judgment in your own head. How did I do? How will it be perceived? How do I feel about it? This song is my definition of striving. We as people can ALWAYS do better and that sentiment is particularly prescient as commentary to this song. There are some sweet spots but overall I could have done it better. But then again, let's follow this to the chorus:

I don't need this any more
The sun that tans the skin
the bark that's broken in
No I don't need them any more.

These are the things I rely on:

My critical voice -ENOUGH!
My hindsight - ENOUGH!
My consistency - ENOUGH!
My aesthetic - ENOUGH!

I don't need them any more.

Production note: I sent this to DMC to listen to via email back when it was being worked on. He commented on it saying he liked the demo - I explained it was not a demo. Maybe I should have taken that comment more seriously. I think there are time when the demo approach works for the finished product: rambling notes (jazz notes as DMC calls them), distant misspoken lyrics, erased and replaced anything - I don't know for certain it does here.


Ummm, Almost Over

I guess this is close to my day of reckoning with this project. I have one more song left to post. Sure there are tons of unheard bonus tracks, live recordings, and other miscellany - but there is one more "released" song left to go. The Underpainting will make it here as soon as the next record is released (recorded too).

This leaves me with the question of: then what? Is the unreleased stuff of interest? Should I quit while I am ahead (behind)?

Any thoughts?




What am I against?

Well, what have you got?

The template for my human condition. Rally against, ponder, break free, forget. I am deliberate in my absorption of that condition - trying to feel each pinch and twinge it offers. These terms are to be abided! This is a fault that came up in college though. My friend and professor Ethan warned me about making all of my "art" a reaction against something (or somebody) outside of me. He was right. That is a narrow way to experience the world. Years later, another very wise man had another word for me. This was about that deliberate condition: you have to experience the gritty lows to experience the soaring heights. So I try not to react and I try to accept and take it all as it comes. Here come dusty roads...

When I took a chance,
I ended up on top.
Went from a saunter,
to a trot



First put the core of this down after seeing a show of some particularly free folkie stuff. i don't recall who it was, but I do recall thinking I wanted to write something less straight forward folkie and more abstract after I saw that show. But this idea and this expression was a long time coming:

You can blur your worries
into climbing vines
it's only in your mind

Yeah, that's where this gets heavy.

Production note:
Jim Reynolds slide guitar was so real and gritty - perfect. We had recorded this song before. We'd played it live. We'd played it slow. We'd played it fast but never before did we get it down like this. The doubled vocals are a warm oven. So to me this is the definitive version of the song.



I was pondering the idea of divorce. Not the standard association with the word that we (unfortunately) have, but a different meaning - to remove yourself from, maybe even by force. Two alternate titles come back to me: Divorced Thought and Logic Divorced.

Was the break-up with my thoughts mutual? Or was there a disagreement that swelled and bred resentment forcing my thoughts to pack their bags. A third scenario, though unlikely, was that I became disillusioned with the relationship with my thoughts and kicked them to the curb.

I'm sorry I thought it, I divorced the logic
a portrait of ideas that fail
Wheel that did not touch the rail



I just found another word for nothing left to lose...

What was I thinking ripping off the lyrical structure of "Me and Bobby McGee"? Could I really be so inspired by that insipid & used song? Can't say. But sometimes I get struck by a concept and I must pursue it till the end.

That is odd - I would like to define what prompts me to write one idea down, plan it out and stamp it a "song", while another (and maybe more viable) idea gets juggled around the brain a bit and eventually gets forgotten. NOWHERE and its loose Kristofersonian ramblings made it; stamp it done.

Windshield wipers shoving rain, I think they've had enough...

Cheers x 1,00,000,000 to Rich for the brillaint harmonica part - a great idea.


Folk Me, Laztana

Around the time "A Sweet Science" was released I got an very nice email from the proprietor of the Spanish micro-label Moonpalace Records. He asked if he could do some CD "distribution" locally. He'd send it to zines (online and print) and make the CD available for sale on his website. I loved this idea and really there was nothing to lose except a few copies of a CD and postage. The worst case scenario would have been there was some con-man taking advantage of an unknown indie-folk artist by using a micro-label as a front - what are the chances of that. He got some great reviews published (and translated them) and I got to further my unknown music in a way that really interested me (in another country!). Our relationship continued through out the years. We'd talked about doing a true Moonpalace release and finally in 2006 the concept came to fruition as "Folk Me, Laztana (a split CD)".

His idea was brilliant. Split the disc with a Spanish songwriter who sings in Basque - Joseba Irazoki. 5 songs me, 5 songs he.

My concept was simple: guitar, piano, vocals. This was the first time I recorded with my friend Rich Brouillet. We did not actually record this in the same room or even the same city. We rehearsed at his house, I went home and recorded the basic tracks and then sent him a disc of the files. He recorded the piano (look at the site banner on the top of the page for the guts of his piano) on his own time and them sent me a disc of the files. I LOVE THIS WAY OF WORKING. Jim Reynolds did much of the engineering and brought some fancy equipment over to my basement - he lent his trained ear to all aspects of the mixing too as well a some slide guitar on one track. Where would I be without this web of friends***....

The songs are a mix of older compositions that never made it to tape and a couple new songs that were hot of my mental press. It was released in 2006 in a limited edition of 100 and sold out after a half a year or so (mostly due to the show schedule of Joseba, to be honest...). This was a great experience and so unique - a proud moment. Oh yes, and Laztana means "my dear" in Basque. Folk Me, My Dear.

(if you've got it, see "Delving Inward with Brian Roff" for where I'd be.)



Things will be revving up again here soon. We'll get into the 2006 Spain-only release "Folk Me, Laztana (a split CD)". Adjusting to the adjustment has left me with less than a little time for now but I have not forgotten my little ones to share with all of you.

Until then, here is a great resume Muxtape from friend and collaborator, David Michael Curry (DMC).

Empty House Co-Operative Muxtape


I Just Wasted My Dream - BONUS TRACK

Written from the perspective of a man whose dream was murdered while it was walking alone on a quiet street through a bad neighborhood. It wasn't me, but I feel bad for the guy.

Some great keyboard nonsense in this song. Note to self: Need more of that in the future.




a self indulgent collection, let me know what you think.


Stop Drop Enroll - BONUS TRACK

The title is a rather obvious play on the fire safety campaign, "STOP DROP AND ROLL". Commuting on the train to and from Boston did some odd things to my lyrical content and inspiration pool. But this song keeps my interest 6 years later. It has some of my favorite images and maybe even some of my proudest moments. Why would I keep it s secret until now then? In particular I am fond of the triumphant last line of the second verse:

I'll get up on the table

Getting a new perspective sometimes can make all the difference.


There is No Free Lunch - BONUS TRACK

So true!

There is no free lunch
in this world of prompts
so erase that thought from your book

Written and recorded around the time of the Errors Intact EP. Full of Roland Juno and some scrappy guitar work. I was surely influenced by Andy Cohen on those guitar solos. He believed the emotive guitar solo was not dead, he may still believe that.


Thanks for the Stammering - BONUS TRACK

The banjo was a Sovereign 4 string. I was working on weekends for an ephemera collector. On of his obsessions was Hawaiiana. He would go to auctions throughout the week prior and I would clear out his car. Posters, books, coins, stamps, radios - things some would call junk but to me it was inspiring. They said he never lost a bid at auctions but that did not mean he was always right on target. One Sunday I was clearing out the car and found the Sovereign and asked what the story was. Story was short - for some reason he thought banjos were Hawaiian. Once he discovered that was not the case, he let me have it. Years later, after I had upgraded to a Goodtime, I sold it to Paul from Sunburned.

I just rediscovered this song while digging through some other unreleased songs. The equivalent of a hidden bonus track for me. It is curious to me how as a songwriter, I can put so much into the writing, performing, and recording of a song (relative of course) and then is vanishes from my mind. But as soon as I heard the first notes of this, the whole thing rushed back from that dusty corner of my brain. But don't ask me to perform it for you....


Pour the Batter

A lot has happened here since my last post. I am a now father of a beautiful baby girl, with the initials F.A.R.

So, Pour the Batter is a great way to signify this glorious event. My wife was always confounded by this song. She has said to me on numerous occasions, I can't believe you made this song. And that sums up perfectly how I feel about the birth of my daughter: I can't believe we made that baby girl.

(up next are some more bonus tracks and then on to the 2006 split CD, "Folk Me, Laztana")


This Thick World

Previously I wrote about this song HERE when it was on the Error Intact EP. But now it comes out less drowsy bedroom pop and more properly realized mope-soul.

So maybe that is why it feels a little more desperate. The walking bass and the weary viola talk to me saying, "yeah but" and "what about". I am glad we did it again even though some of my lyrical twist s are less than direct:

Hawaii is an island
No man is a shed
sloppy and soaked
I've bitten my bread

I was thinking about the phrase, "You've made your bed, now lay in it". And I thought that biting your bread was an equally understandable metaphor - You've bitten your bread, now swallow it. Again, phrase coinage rears its confusing head.


I Fell at the Opera

On family reunion trip to the Catskills in 2004 I went horse back riding for the first (and last) time. After about 10 minutes of vague "lessons", I was suddenly on top of a 8 foot tall monster of a horse. Totally gripped by fear, I tried to concentrate on keeping off the ground and keeping this animal calm. Through the tree-lined paths I am sure I saw a brown bear stalking a doe. Perhaps this was an odd fear induced hallucination.

I can train a bear
to follow behind

a doe, a doe, a doe

The idea of falling at the opera, tripping up when you are supposed to be staying cool is interesting. I suppose there is always worry that when I am expected to be a certain way, the real me won't be able to be held back - the guy who slips on the ice at the opera.

Production notes:
Jim once again scores with a smart banjo line throughout, plus the unleashed end romp. Casey Dienel plays her piano with a soft touch that leads in to a playful blooming at the end. Gregg Porter's drum are sure fire - get how he smacks one beat down in the middle of silence in the last break before the end glory. Classic.


Drank the Lake

I did what I shouldn't have done
When I touched the sun

Kind of like Pandora's box. Sometimes we all do things even though you know they'll turn out bad - but you cannot resist. The sun looks harmless enough. I was trying to push away from purely self referential songwriting. At some point I began thinking of more universal ideas that would speak less abstractly to listeners. I think this is on that path - less "woe is me" and more "woe is we".

I can't help but hear a major Alejandro Escovedo influence on this one. The band was enjoying playing the songs in a louder way and this track is just meant for the full band treatment. David's rolling viola is actually two simultaneous tracks thanks to Jim's brilliant mixing concept. And Jim's solo is a tasteful burner. Anyway I had been listening to a bunch of Alejandro's stuff around the time of this songs emergence and this is like BMR/Deer by way of Alejandro and the Stones.


Unfantastic Few

There is a chance this could all be too much. There is also a chance that this "honest" world I am writing in and around is all artifice. Thing is, I am so wrapped up in it that I can't tell the difference any more. I had this thought last night at the show at the Red Door. Perhaps because it was such a great and attentive audience. Thoughtfully listening to my words. I was totally in a fog also but maybe that was impending fatherhood or maybe I was just too high on caffeine. Nevertheless, I had this thought that my songs are all about the same thing and they are altogether too serious - as I was playing this was going on (never a good idea to be thinking about other things while performing) in my head. A few people afterwards told me the set was beautiful and then I understood this is going just right.

Went from 10 to tense in an instant when
I was 12 I wasn't well
Drink a cup full of grounds and dust
and think of just how you felt

Not much more I can say about this then.


This Yellowed Yield

This is a true story - the first lines:

It makes you realize you're alive
you wash your face with your glasses on

This fascinated me when it happened. There is an understanding you get by doing something so utterly absurd. So that is when this song began. The "yellowed yield" being the yield like that of a dying garden (see "Up Twice" and the line "the garden has hardened" for reference). There is hope when you step in a puddle sometimes, just as there is hope when your garden turns the corner into winter. In fact, I was just listening to Tom Waits, the Black Rider and the line in the song "That's the Way", where he lazily and barely sings "that's the way the potato mashes" - this is where I am coming from. It may take the will of 1,000 owls, but we all get by and sometimes we try and sometimes we just barely survive.


Winter Will

I'll smear his name, while you defend
A season that's indecent

I am always writing about the seasons. Their inevitability prompts comfort and dread. If you met winter at a party, you might not want to talk to it. You'd think to yourself, "what a prick, this winter is". New England winters are mountains to scale and they make my mind into a precarious avalanche looming over an unsuspecting hiker.

Production notes:
This was written for a Christmas/Winter compilation that Jon Solomon meant to put out in, I don't know, 2000 or so., but never did - too bad. I don't know if he accepted it or not, but I sure enjoyed writing it. It was another chilly song written in stifling attic apartment heat. Djim played a charming banjo part on this and I played his classical guitar in a most unclassical way. There are at least 3 other versions of this song around my house - I will try to dig those out for comparison.


Some Business & An Interuption

Here is a note on the set-up of this blog. My concept is that I will not post for download whatever my newest release is. In this case it is my bands S/T 2007 Cd, The Underpainting. Which is still available in its limited edition from Catbird Records. The packaging has wonderful art by Matthew Feyld and is hand printed by Ryan Catbird. I highly recommend buying the limited edition stuff...they are special pieces of hand done art. I mean downloads are great and all but hard to hold in your hand.

So this brings me to the survey of sorts. I am planning on releasing a limited edition CD this year (maybe a full length, maybe an EP, maybe on my own, maybe with a label) and am trying to gauge interest in beautiful limited edition releases. Looking for an e-show of hands here. Please drop me a line (bmr (( @ )) brianmichaelroff.com) or leave a comment, anonymous is ok if you must, and let me know. The good news is when I put this thing out it will unleash the Underpainting as a free download, so a ton of interest will certainly light a fire under me.


For Pledges

The promises we make ourselves which we know we can't keep. The flimsy pledges we vow to abide by but only until faced with the overwhelming criss-crossing of circumstance. So my behavior may seem a little odd sometimes - it is because I go through phases and I burn through pledges. When I listen to this song I have to laugh at how much I say and how little I flesh out.

If I explain this pledge
then they're other things that need explaining too
For pledges - superficial
draw parallels you wish you never drew

I can't get into it, really. But believe me, it is not as sexy as I am making it out to be.