On 20 January 2020 Steff and the Articles celebrated ten years as a band together with an anniversary gig at 191 Toole—one of downtown Tucson’s myriad venues. Since, the quintet—and frontwoman, Steff Koeppen, in particular—have gone through a little more than the average band has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Diagnosed with vocal cord dystonia, Koeppen has been unable to vocally perform for around the last year. Recently, she has been making progress. Although, current plans see Steff and the Articles mastering revisited demos with new music tracks to fill the void between now and 2017 when the band last released music.
“Inhibition” is the first Steff and the Articles tune released in just about five years. Here, Koeppen and company deftly navigate infectious alt-pop melodies and warm, jazz-inflected undertones. Her full, hearty vocals—recorded four years back—ring throughout, met by adept piano, percussion, bass, and midi synth. “After studying with a jazz teacher, I found myself adding lots of seventh chords to my music,” she remarks, reflecting on the band she often labels as “prog-pop” herself.
Looking back on the process of mastering old demos, Koeppen tells PopMatters, “I was feeling really bummed out that I couldn’t record new music. So, I found a batch of demos recorded on my computer and had the guys in the band send me some stems. We worked on this during lockdown with a vocal that I recorded four years ago in my bedroom. This will be the first single of what will probably become a short EP of songs released in this fashion. Even though the songs are old to us, they’re the newest material that we’ve been able to share as a band since 2017, and that is exciting.”
On the song’s lyrical content, Koeppen finds glee in the irony of its timeliness, describing her four-year-old tune as a “social anxiety anthem”. “My character in the song is at a party, or something, observing social interactions and wondering what the point of it all is. Then the chorus is when they get sucked into it all and try not to worry about it.”
Regarding goals for the future, Koeppen’s comes to a singular focus: recovering her voice. She states, “It took so long for me to even figure out what was going on, and so now I’m just finally digging my way out. That’s been taking all of my attention, getting my voice back. Hopefully when it comes back, it will be even better. I took it for granted, but now? I just want to be able to open my mouth and let it out.”
Steff and the Articles’ “Inhibition” releases on 28 May.