Unfit for Office released their debut album, Alternative Fax, on April 1. The group combines the gritty plaintive vocals of 90s-esque alternative bands with background tracks sampled entirely from contemporary and retro office equipment. I was able to contact the band’s lead singer the day before the album release through his active Twitter account to learn a little more about the group and the inspiration behind this unprecedented series of compositions.
What inspired you to leave traditional instruments out of your tracks?
Guitars and drums aren't working anymore. Alternative needs something new, and our copies and fax are just better. The copy machine is original.
I’ve heard a lot of people are skeptical...it's a drastic step for a group that doesn’t have any experience with music.
Musicians are doing everything wrong. Our lack of experience will make this the best album out there. Trust me. It's gonna be great.
An album is a huge project; did you have any external support to help you along?
We know recording better than anybody. We didn’t need anybody’s advice.
Okay, that’s interesting… what do you plan to do following the album release?
We’re going to tour for as long as we can. We’ve already started recording our next album, Bigly Yuge: Collected Hits of Unfit for Office.
Really? That’s sudden. Will it follow the same format as this one?
We’re building on the concept, but being consistent on the original ideas isn’t that important to us. Pink Floyd’s The Wall has always been an inspiration.
The album’s titular and first track begins with a slow fade-in of phone static, which is then punctuated by the jarring tones of the fax machine. Packing tape, an old CD drive and a ringing phone take over as the main focus, though with no discernable organizing structure. This song serves as an introduction to the overall feel of the album, which seems a bit disjointed and often quite terrifying. By removing traditional instruments, the music feels cold and the songs don’t even seem to follow any sort of rhythm pattern. The group’s collective lack of background in music is apparent, as they are unable to piece together a melody or even just a steady beat. The lyrics are often just as incoherent as the accompaniment tracks, and just when you think nothing will surprise you anymore, the song will take another abrupt turn.
In Crowd Sighs the tinny sound of paperclips pouring onto a desk plays at intervals with a four second pause in between each group. In the break, the angsty lead croons out various numbers that don’t seem to have any relation to the number of paperclips that fell. Whether it references any real phenomenon at all is unclear, but the singer’s calls are so insistent, it almost seems like these arbitrary numbers have some deep, personal meaning for him.
As the songs went by I kept hoping Alternative Fax would start to act more like a typical alternative album, but it never did. If nothing else, Unfit for Office does deliver on their promise to bring entirely new material to what they’ve described as the “failing alternative genre”. Nevertheless, I don’t think that this can be considered an alternative album if they refuse to follow any of the conventions of the genre.
*An article from the April Fool's Issue. Don't take anything in this issue too seriously.