How to describe Light in Mirrors, at least from a style standpoint? Even they don't really know where they fit in terms of tidy genre descriptors: Their music has been covered by as many country music blogs as indie rock sites, and they even booked a gig at a summer EDM festival, where their guitar seemed to be the only one for miles.
So the local trio defies easy categorization, but it's not something they're leaning into deliberately.
With his shoulder-length hair, fedora and animal print shirt, frontman Joshua Swerin — who goes by the stage name Robert Voxx — seems like he could just as easily be fronting a classic rock bar band or an electronic dance ensemble. He first worked with Light in Mirrors' drummer Alex Quam when they were stagehands for Northern Quest's summer concert series, and they ran into each other again in 2016, right as Voxx was contemplating starting a new project.
"It was fate at that moment," Voxx says.
The group started soon after with bassist Holly Loduen, who Voxx knew from the audio engineering program at Spokane Falls Community College. Voxx was originally playing the keyboard and a guitarist friend took lead, and they adopted a more folky, singer-songwriter vibe then. When that guitarist left a few months later, Voxx taught himself how to play guitar — "It was a grueling process for me, but hopefully not too bad for them," he says of his bandmates — and the trio has been driven by a poppier sensibility since.
That new sonic exploration is present on the band's 2018 EP Through the Static, which goes from R&B-inflected funk to down-and-dirty blues-rock and back again. Their 2019 single "I Need You," meanwhile, flirts with folk-pop with its strummy guitar, blatting trumpet flourishes and woo-ooh-ooh chorus.
It's appropriate, then, that their process often involves feeling their way through a song, starting with a good riff or a vocal melody and then figuring out where it's going to go from there.
"He'll play a guitar riff and I'll just play the drum part for the chorus over it," Quam says.
"Sometimes when you're writing, parts just feel natural, like that's what should be there," Loduen adds.
Voxx concurs: "That's typically how we do it. The first thing that comes to our mind is usually what ends up going on the record. Because it's in that moment, and it has that feel."
Light in Mirrors is premiering their new song "Desperado" this week, and in this era of streaming, they're one of countless indie bands that are forgoing releasing full-length albums in lieu of singles or EPs.
"These days, it's not really beneficial to put out an entire album. It's a lot more beneficial to work on a single, put it out, and then a few months [later] have another single," Voxx explains. "You can see how each individual song does, then you can condense them down and release them as a collection."
The title alone might inspire images of the dusty American frontier and lonesome cowboys, but the first few seconds of "Desperado" immediately push away memories of an old Eagles ballad. The song kicks off with a burst of arena-filling vocals, which is actually 25 to 30 different tracks layered on top of one another, and while there might be some country-western flair in the acoustic guitar that weaves its way in and out of the melody, it's much poppier than it initially lets on.
Recorded in Voxx's home studio and mastered at the local studio Amplified Wax, the track also features Voxx's childhood friend Josh Sampson, a guitarist living and working in Nashville who contributed additional guitar, mandolin and vocal parts. "He really filled out the song and brought it to life, and helped it move a lot better," Voxx says.
This year marks a return for Light in Mirrors: They took a monthslong hiatus following an accident that resulted in Voxx suffering serious hearing loss. But he's since recovered and says the band has about 20 other songs that have yet to be recorded but have been worked into their live rotation. Now it's all about getting back in the swing of performing.
"We're just three friends jamming," Loduen says.
"And we like to make everyone feel like they're part of that," Voxx adds. ♦
Starting Friday, "Desperado" is available on Spotify and other streaming services. Light in Mirrors will headline a free show at Lucky You Lounge on Feb. 27, supported by Enamity and Ten Speed Pile Up.