4 To Watch: Office

Music Features

Hometown: Chicago
Members (L-R): Erica Corniel, Scott Masson, Alissa Noonan, Tom Smith, Jessica Gonyea
Fun fact: Office is working on the soundtrack for a short film on Colony Collapse Disorder – a theory linking the end of mankind to the dwindling population of honeybees.
Why they’re worth watching:The band’s self-recorded full-length, Q&A, was catchy enough to draw the attention of former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha and his record label, Scratchie/New Line.
For fans of: Beulah, The Cars, New Pornographers

It’s like the first scene from a great rock film. Back in 2004, aspiring musician Scott Masson was waiting tables in Chicago. His hours were long, his manager was a jerk and Masson’s songwriting was going nowhere. Cue the climactic moment: “I quit in the middle of my shift. I had 12 tables I was supposed to serve,” Masson says, laughing. “I remember I ducked behind the bar and literally snuck out.” Leaving his boss to cover his tables, Scott went to a bank, took out a $10,000 loan and spent the next seven months recording a full-length album in the comfort of his bedroom.

That album was Q&A, and would eventually be released by Masson’s band, Office, in 2005. Instead of sending Masson into financial insolvency, Q&A’s catchy mix of synth rock and indie pop caught the attention of the Chicago press, earning the band a flurry of praise-filled write-ups and a month-long residency at respected Chicago venue Schubas. Q&A’s title track even enjoyed a stint as the “Single of the Week” at the iTunes Music Store.

Listening to the band’s newest release, A Night At The Ritz, it’s clear why Office has been such a hot commodity. The band’s bouncy sound is clean and catchy—the kind of pop that would fit well on a radio playlist between Modest Mouse and The Shins. And while the band’s name heads in the opposite direction with giddy songs about love, yearning and doomed relationships that never really started: the decadent contradiction between the dour lyrics and the cheery melodies is part of the appeal. As for that $10,000 loan, it’s paid off. As Masson says, “I haven’t worked a day-job in about a year in half.” Roll credits. Fade to black.

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