Jason Campbell has been playing as Mirror Mirror since early 2008, and up until recently it seemed as if he never played with the same backing band twice. An organ player would quit, only to be replaced by another. Sometimes he’d perform with no organ player at all. Or the band’s drummer would leave, and there’d be an electronic drum machine in his place at the next show.
“It’s never been my intention to have a different lineup every time,” Campbell said. “I’d lose somebody in the lineup, and then somebody would come along and say, ‘I want to play in your band,’ and we’d start over again.
“There always seems to be someone who wants to play with me, and I have no idea why,” he added with a laugh.
But Mirror Mirror’s lineup has remained the same since mid-2013, and it’s a Spokane supergroup of sorts: Playing alongside Campbell are guitarists Travis Goldberg and Ben Jennings, both of the local band Normal Babies, and drummer Jeff Glinski, who also plays with the surf rock quartet BBBBandits.
Campbell normally works alone when he’s writing or recording – “98 percent of the recordings are mostly me,” he said – but he recently put together a song with his current lineup, “I Won’t Breathe a Word.” It’s a bit brighter and less sinister than Campbell’s usual material, and it seems to signal the rebirth of a project that’s been in one form of creative stasis or another for the past few years.
Born and raised in Spokane, Campbell, 40, assembled the first incarnation of Mirror Mirror in Olympia, and he’s been performing consistently since moving back to his hometown in 2011. Growing up, he became enamored with Top 40 pop and the polished hair metal of Def Leppard and Van Halen, but it was the electronic and dance music scene of the mid-’80s that most defined his style.
“I was just drawn to it,” he said. “I’d never heard anything like it. My friends introduced me to stuff like Depeche Mode, really fun music that didn’t have anything to do with guitars but was exciting and big sounding.”
Mirror Mirror’s music occasionally dips into the shallow end of new wave, but it mostly resembles the darker post-punk of the early ’80s. It’s more melodic than, say, the gothic howl of Bauhaus, but it certainly conjures images of shadowy corridors and lonely, tortured souls, and it isn’t surprising that Campbell’s influences are as cinematic as they are musical.
“A lot of what I do is based around some of the movies I used to watch,” Campbell said. “Ideas I’ll have are based on older movies – like film noir, French New Wave films from the ’50s, (Jean) Cocteau stuff.”
Some of Campbell’s songs – particularly the faraway vocals and mournful guitar of “U” and the propulsive, haunting organ riffs of “Shattered” – could conceivably soundtrack an F.W. Murnau film. But it’s not all gloom and doom: You can also hear the pop fuzz of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the angular eccentricities of the Velvet Underground, the twisty melodies of the Beatles at their trippiest.
“I’m not really that skilled as a player, but I think I’m more skilled as a writer, trying to convey a mood,” Campbell said. That mood appears to be transforming, and Campbell says that now he’s comfortable with his lineup, he’s excited to move Mirror Mirror in its first new direction in awhile.
“I find it strange that I’m almost 41 and I’m still like a kid about this,” he said. “I think about writing constantly. It just drives me, to be creative and have something to offer. It turns me on.”