Mystics Anonymous is the name of singer/songwriter Jeff Steblea’s musical project, best defined as eclectic independent rock. “With Mystics,” says Steblea, “the whole point was to establish a project where nothing is off-limits.”
From rootsy acoustic material with jazz elements to harder alternative rock to more experimental, ambient, and score music, Mystics Anonymous has been defined by its fierce independence and adventurous eclecticism.
While Mystics Anonymous draws from an impressive range of influences, Jeff’s distinctive voice and songwriting skill are the glue that holds Mystics together and keeps its sound unique. Jeff’s expressive, award-winning baritone and impressive vocal range have drawn comparisons to singers such as David Bowie, Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, and Mike Patton.
Jeff Steblea [pronounced Steb-luh], former lead singer for alternative band Go Figure, began the Mystics project in 1995 as a way to focus on artistic freedom and break free of the constraints of popular music expectations.
Jeff recorded the eponymous debut Mystics Anonymous CD while traveling the United States, and he enlisted many talented friends to perform on the CD. The CD focused on a ’70s-inspired rootsy alternative sound with poetic, confessional lyrics, and was compared to artists such as Wilco and early R.E.M. The CD was released in October of 1998 and garnered radio airplay in the United States and abroad.
After the release of the CD, Jeff spent several months assembling and rehearsing with a live band to tour behind the release. Unfortunately, the band lineup never became stable, and Jeff was rethinking his approach when he was asked to contribute original score to some independent film and television projects. In order to record his original scores, Jeff began the slow process of building his Gondwanaland studio. During this period, he decided to abandon any plans of forming a live band and instead focus on Mystics Anonymous as a recording project.
Jeff released a limited edition mail-order CD of seven new songs, The Brutality of Beauty, in the summer of 2003. The first Mystics CD consisting of Gondwanaland material, it showed a move toward lo-fi experimentation and greater eclecticism from the now-restless songwriter.
During this time, Jeff also composed and recorded an instrumental score, Middle Distance, for the 2003 art exhibition Of the Earth at Artworks Gallery in Connecticut. The installation focused on the American southwest, and the Mystics Anonymous score offered an intoxicating blend of sound manipulation, drumming/percussion, and groove rhythms evocative of the southwestern landscape. A CD of the score was released in October 2003, and showed marked growth in studio experimentation. Middle Distance also made more explicit Jeff’s interest in more experimental music, garnering comparisons to cult artists such as Brian Eno, John Lurie, David Lynch, and Angelo Badalamenti.
Mystics Anonymous quietly released Winsted in the Space Room, in 2004. The CD features 14 original songs that are simultaneously experimental and accessible. Myriad musical styles are represented in the release, and its lo-fi studio experimentation steeps the compositions in a pleasing indie aesthetic reminiscent of artists such as Guided by Voices, Sebadoh, and The Minders.
Mystics Anonymous returned in 2014 with Dreaming for Hours, the first Mystics full-length in ten years. The album received positive reviews and airplay, and Jeff launched into a year of playing live shows with a crackerjack band, including Brian Marchese, Matt Silberstein, and Andrew Goulet. This lineup enjoyed an intense chemistry and rapport, and it was easy for Steblea to decide that the next release should showcase the band’s virtuosic playing, tight arrangements, and almost alchemical properties.
Released in June 2016, She Wanted the Future is a 5-song EP that showcases the live Mystics band across strong material, from the power pop of the title track to the blistering, boisterous jam that ends the EP. It received strong reviews in the local press and airplay on local radio, especially for the titular track. Later that year, Mystics released its annual free digital holiday single, a duet between Jeff and Brandee Simone for the classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which garnered a fair amount of attention online and even a bit of unexpected airplay. Mystics Anonymous continues recording and playing shows, along with playing endless games of Risk and reading novelettes.