Great Unknowns: Roofs May Be a Mystery, but Their Middle Room EP is Excellent

by Nick Hanover


I don’t know shit about Roofs. Their band name makes it impossible to figure out anything about them online. Their Bandcamp page only tells me they’re a post-punk band from Austin. I haven’t seen their name on any flyers. I don’t know any bands that know them. And to be honest, I can’t think of a better critical scenario. Removed from all context or personal association, all I know about Roofs is that their Middle Room EP’s art makes my brain ache in a funny way, and the music within is a pretty great Texified update of the brief window of post-punk when jangle and fuzz collided, when secret pop geniuses with thin, reedy voices made music in leaky warehouses, operating strictly on instinct without much consideration for any kind of future.

“Every Single Night,” the song the group has synced up to play first when you visit their page, is the EP’s anchor and strongest track, driven by a bright, unironically classic rock oriented guitar line and a hopeful riff that carves out a countermelody before the vocal comes in, filling out the gaps of the syncopated floor tom and snare beat. The vocal delivery has a Springsteen bent to it, but not in that obvious, hamfisted way that was en vogue around the time the Killers reinvented themselves. It’s earnest and plaintive, but also charmingly unsure, like the vocalist is struggling to be heard over the den behind him, begging a certain someone to “Not worry about the rejects.” Richard Linklater’s Slacker is brought up near constantly in all things Austin pop, but Roofs seem to be pulling more from the subUrbia end of the auteur’s ouevre, where there’s an ominous, bleak twist to “just talking” and hanging out because you can’t help noticing you’re maybe a little too old for that shit now.



Middle Room actually starts with “Noise is Nice,” though, and it couldn’t be a more blatant contrast. “Noise is Nice” shifts from a frenzied, nearly incoherent verse reminiscent of early Walkmen to a minimalist, dark sort of chorus where the song’s first truly clear phrase emerges: “I need some traction.” From there the song goes upbeat, the guitars morphing into twisty, hooky riffs that play off each other while the drums emphasize bursts of cymbals. As the track windows down, Roofs gets lyrically clear again, reiterating the title like a mantra: “Noise is nice/when noise is true.” The band follows that up with “No Sea,” a perfectly simple garage rock song with hints of Thee Oh Sees and their nastier brethren A-Frames. In “No Sea” everything is more rhythmic, the drums a relentless push of toms and snare, the guitars driven by frantic single note pulses instead of full chords, the vocals following suit with simple, short speak-singing refrains. By the time it climaxes in a flood of surf guitar lines, it’s hard not to be hooked.

Roofs’ biggest deviation comes at the end of the EP, as the band channels the Wire of “Heartbeat,” all delay saturated drums and surreal vocals and minimal guitar. The song turns a corner about a minute in, as the drums go full Misfits and the guitars disappear almost completely, only returning for nearly random explosions of jangle and twang. The vocals repeat “And the minutes keep on going” like there’s a bomb ticking off somewhere, or a countdown to some other kind of oblivion. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what Roofs are trying to tell me. I don’t even know who they are. But I’ll keep listening until I get some answers.

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics.  You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletinwhich he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culturewhere he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover