The two new singles Steff And The Articles readied for a 10-date Western tour represent two aspects of the quickly rising band.
The songs both found immediate national attention online, with "Call You Mine" getting a double-dose premiere, the audio releasing on Tiny Mix Tapes and a video debuting on American Songwriter, and "I Want More" premiering on Under the Gun.
"I Want More" represents the band expanding its sound, with a groovier, bass-centered tune, the usually prominent piano and violin melodies giving way to more a rhythmic pop groove.
"It was fun to think differently and piece that song together," says frontwoman Steff Koeppen. "'Call You Mine' was more expected of us, but we still get to rock out more in parts."
"Call You Mine" sticks closer to the jazz-inflected sound of Steff And The Articles' 2012 debut Stories You Can't Tell and 2103 EP Why It Was So.
Ahead of a tour that takes the band from Tucson through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada, the two songs are planned as attention grabbers, singles released to push through the media saturation.
"We're trying to turn new heads," Koeppen says. "People have so much media in their faces every day. If you can work hard at getting one song out and present it and connect, you can bring people in that way."
Steff And The Articles formed five years ago. Koeppen, a steady songwriter with a sophisticated piano style combining jazz, pop and rock, knew she didn't want to play alone.
"I didn't want to play as a solo act," she says. "The whole time I had a band in my head. I wanted that energy of a full band."
The band solidified with Chris Pierce on bass, Alex Tuggle on violin and Tom Beech on drums, their sound a unique blend of styles, with a focus on strong melodies.
"It makes musicians happy, but it's also very hook-oriented," Koeppen says. "In the structure of song parts, there's always a return to the obvious hook, but at the same time there are unpredictable changes a lot. To musicians it's cool and for someone who has an ear for pop it keeps them interested."
Pierce says he and Beech work to keep the rhythm section as a bridge between the pop elements and the more challenging musical structures.
"We've talked about it many, many times. You have to keep it a pop song, but we make a very concerted effort to make the rhythm parts as interesting as possible," he says. "We've all been really happy with the dynamic range and the fact that it's a different thing. You don't see too many bands that don't have a guitar. There's always been an underlying jazz thing, but we all come from different influences. Everything that has influenced me as a musician up until this point comes out."
The new songs, Pierce says, reflect their five years as a band, developing an intuitive sense of how they play together as well as a fearlessness to try new challenges.
"We're moving in a much more pop-oriented direction, rhythmic pop. The singles are really heavy on these tight grooves and lot of harmony," he says. "I want to keep being as varied as possible."
Koeppen is a prolific but patient songwriter, bringing material to her bandmates slowly to allow for time and focus on every song individually.
"I have a bank of a ton of songs. But we haven't finished things we've been dabbling on in rehearsal," she says. "Every song is different. It's super circumstantial how they start. Sometimes I'll sit down and have the lyrics and a melody that makes sense and go back and finish around that. I'll pull from what's written in my lyric book or I'll mess around on the piano."
Lyrically, she has drawn from journals, writing every day from 2008 until earlier this year.
"I really try to be as honest as possible. I actually stopped journaling so I could focus on putting that stuff into lyrics. I'd rather make notes that turn into songs than try to do both," Koeppen says.
This is the band's third West Coast tour, with Las Vegas being the only new city added to the agenda. Steff And The Articles are mixing headlining shows and opening slots, trying to tie in with existing fans where they're not well known yet.
"I love to be on the road," Koeppen says. "People are always surprised by the sound we have. They think 'Oh, another chick with a piano.' They expect it to sound like something generic, so it's a good reaction. In certain cities people can't wait for us to come back."
In addition to the new singles, Steff And The Articles just released the band's third video, for last year's "What a Terrible Thing to Do." The clip teams the band again with their friend, director Aaron Grimes, who created the video for "Two Cities," which was in rotation on MTV.
"He approached us wanting to do something else. He had some ideas in mind and he really liked that song, so we started collaborating on a treatment for that," Koeppen says.
The new songs and new videos are all ways for the band to reach new fans, those single introductions seen as valuable moments to capture new attention.
"With what we do, one song is totally doable to reel people in. One song can be just as powerful as an album for somebody," Pierce says.