Debut album 'Motion and Picture' from Chicago band MIIRRORS a reflection of the times

“Motion and Picture,” the newly released debut album from Chicago band MIIRRORS, first drifts onto the soundscape like a ghost, singer Brian McSweeney's ethereal vocals tracing a haunting melody in the delicate opening track “Parallax.” But as the song builds to its climax, seamlessly introducing a blend of rock elements into a growing wall of sound, it showcases the power behind this band.

The aura of mystery surrounding MIIRRORS grew when it released a few songs just before and early on during the pandemic lockdowns — notably an electrifying revamp of “Gunshot Glitter,” an unfinished 1997 demo by one of the band's heavy influences Jeff Buckley. And while a few more songs trickled out with 2020's “Nightwalk” EP and on the “Situation Chicago 2” CIVL benefit compilation, MIRRORS had little in the way of public-facing spectacle. Between the perpetual stasis of venue shutdowns and a deliberate decision to hunker down to just write good music, the band also succeeded in refining a shroud of anonymity.

“After the first single was released, COVID hit, and there wasn't an urgency to finish things with the record. Time was moving so slow, and we couldn't go out and support it, so it just got stretched out by circumstance,” explained Shawn Rios, MIIRRORS' drummer and McSweeney's partner in founding the band. “It is long overdue. But we've also been very quiet and making other moves. We make a lot of plans for how we want to roll out the things that we want the world to hear and see. We really care a lot about aesthetic, we care about the way that it makes a person feel.”

“Motion and Picture” touches on feelings and themes across the spectrum — resolve, moving on, religion and mortality, hope and self-delusion. The lead single “Where Do We Go?” released in late February asks a question the band — McSweeney, Rios, Dmitri Rakhuba (now in Nashville by way of Wheaton) and Patrick Riley and Andre Miller originally from the Northwest suburbs — found itself pondering.

“The song is just kind of like existential, throw your hands in the air, sort of reflecting the times that we're in. So we figured there couldn't be a more appropriate moment than this to put it out,” McSweeney said. He added a lot of the band's music is “just what came out at that point in my life when I was writing the lyrics for these songs. And they were written over a decent span of time.”

Rios and McSweeney met by fate on an airplane in 2007 over a shared Discman and growing affection for post-rock band Sigur Rós.

“It was pretty much knocking me out, you know how you listen to something a million times in a row when you discover something you're really excited about? And Shawn was sitting in front of me. There's nobody else around us. And I just thought this guy looks like he's probably a musician, he'll probably like this,” McSweeney said. “I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he wanted to hear it. I gave him my Discman, and we just became friends.”

Life took the two in different directions — Rios played percussion for a number of singer-songwriters (and eventually bands) around Chicago, while McSweeney moved around the country pursuing music as a mostly solo project. But when he returned to Chicago in 2015, the two shared a lightning-in-a-bottle moment as they reconnected to play together and ended up conjuring some new songs over the course of five hours.

“We really just got together because his band broke up and my band broke up, and there was a vacancy on both ends. I think that we just needed to play something with someone. ... Once we started playing, we knew pretty quickly that we needed to pursue that together,” Rios said. “Out of those songs out of that session, three are on this record that we have coming out. That's pretty cool. When you have a significant portion of your record from some time ago, still transcending over that amount of time and it still means something to you that you're willing to document it.”

The musical interplay between all five members of the band results in a powerful, cohesive collection on the new album, but it's the strong friendship between the two founders that makes the dynamic gel.

“I think we have very similar sensibilities, aesthetically and musically. We like a lot of the same music. And we've both played music live for a lot of years,” McSweeney added. “We both very specifically know why we like what we like, and I think that really just works.”

“Yeah, to echo what Brian just said, it's kind of ... I'm laughing right now because it's like sometimes we have telepathy in a way, in the way that we create, but also in the moment, when we're literally both thinking the same thing in the same way, at the same time and at the same pace. And it happens all the time,” Rios added. “(Forget) MIIRRORS, we should name the band Telepathy. That'd be a cool name.”

Now that the album is out for streaming and downloads, courtesy of Chicago-based label Pravda Records, the band is looking to share its songs live with an upcoming release party at the Hideout and further appearances on city stages, including a set at Andersonville Midsommarfest on June 10.

• • •

Quiet Pterodactyl Presents: An Evening With MIIRRORS, Pink Frost, DJ Greg Corner

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 8

Where: Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago,

Tickets: $12-$15

"Where Do We Go?" - the lead single from MIIRRORS new album "Motion and Picture" - is a reflection of the post-pandemic times, according to singer Brian McSweeney, center. Courtesy of Colin Sipos
MIIRRORS is ready to hit Chicago stages in support of its debut album, "Motion and Picture," out Friday, March 24. Courtesy of Colin Sipos
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