By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Being in an acclaimed indie-pop band might seem very different from being a desk jockey, but for Office, the order and structure of the working world is one of the keys to success. The Chicago band started as a freewheeling solo performance-art and songwriting project for Scott Masson, but its recent growth and accomplishments as a quintet require a little more discipline. A Night at the Ritz, released by James Iha's Scratchie Records, is filled with mouthwatering melodies and perfectionist pop that looks back to artists as diverse as Queen and Greg Kihn while rubbing elbows with like-minded homeboys OK Go. Masson tops off the flavorful mélange with humorous and insightful lyrical paeans to romantic missteps, philosophies and fantasies. The addictive result — combined with engaging live shows and an ingenious music video — has gained the foursome international attention. Masson recently took a break from the band's first national tour to talk to us about touring, perfectionism and, of course, Office rules.
Westword: How does it feel to go from being local celebrities in Chicago to having to prove yourselves every night on tour?
Scott Masson: It's humbling. At our show in Vancouver, there were maybe five people who knew who we were, and it was definitely good for us, because it makes us play better. We're not cocky about where we're at in Chicago, because when you play in front of your friends, they can be your harshest critics.
You're a self-confessed studio troll who obsesses over every detail of your recordings. What challenges does this create for your live performances?
We just try to be as truthful as possible to our songs. You can play them on an acoustic guitar and they'll still be there. We tossed around the idea of doing backing tracks, but I really don't like when bands hide behind that. On stage, it's about the truth, the songs and being your imperfect self. If you're gonna listen to the record, just stay home. The live experience should be flawed. That's where the most exciting results can happen. For the band, you're no longer this idea in the listener's mind; you're one of them. You're this flawed, self-conscious being.
Speaking of flaws, your website appears to have a list of rules for being a member of Office, including a sick policy.
Everyone gets one sick day per month. For the first year, once or twice a month, someone would call in because they had a headache or a hangover or something stupid. I don't want to treat it like a business all the time, but it is a job. There's a significant amount of money, and a lot of planning, scheduling and personal investing going on. The more professional we can be, the more like a real office we can be. You have a group of people working for one common goal, with delegated responsibilities and specific rules and compromises — all for the good of the work.
And the reward is that big, fat paycheck every two weeks?
That's the funny thing about how music works these days. Some of my old friends are like, "You're huge!" and I'm like, "You're making more money than I am! I just spent my entire per diem on a salad!"