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NAME: The Shins
PROGRESS REPORT: Writing songs for the follow-up to 2007′s Wincing The Night Away. Working on a collaborative side-project.

“You go a year without playing and you think, maybe I can’t do it anymore. Maybe I forgot how to do it. I don’t know,” says Shins frontman James Mercer. Worrying about “keeping our name out there,” seems kind of ridiculous for the Shins, who added a second Terminal 5 show in NYC this month, after the first one sold out quickly. But maybe the new tour dates are the best way to figure out where his band’s at right now. Two big changes will guide the direction of their next album–one is the band’s new line up, which we showed you yesterday. Ron Lewis, from Grand Archive and the Fruit Bats, joins the band on bass, and Joe Plummer, from Modest Mouse and Black Heart Procession, has taken over for drummer Jesse Sandoval. The shakeup wasn’t personal, it just ties to Mercer’s goals for the new record. The two new tracks they debuted this tour — “Double Bubble” and “The Rifle’s Spiral,” call for a beefier rhythm section: “[The songs are] just a bit more rhythmic. They’re kind of about the percussion and stuff. One of them is really angular and chunky. It’s jabs with chords instead of strumming,” he says. “And then the other one is really rhythmic and has kind of a mod, new wave sound to it.”

The second big change is in Mercer’s personal life: “I have been lucky in love, I guess, for the last two years,” Mercer says. He’s married (to designer and amazing home decorator Marisa Kula) and has a daughter. So his well-documented insomnia has returned, though now it’s because he has a baby to wake up for. “That aspect, bumming on relationships, isn’t going to be addressed on this record,” he says. “There’s going to be some positive things.”

The Shins haven’t recorded anything yet, but Mercer sees them traveling to L.A. He was down there to record a song for the Sparklehorse / Danger Mouse collaboration Dark Night Of The Soul, which features contributions from David Lynch, Julian Casablancas, Black Francis, and Gruff Rhys. He won’t talk about whether Danger Mouse is part of his mysterious Shins side-project: “I’m doing things with him, but [Dark Night Of The Soul] is the one thing I’m doing with him that’s slated to come out at some point.” Mercer is sure that he won’t be doing a “solo” album. “Because with The Shins I really do have that control. That’s kind of what I’d be trying to get away from, so more of a collaboration,” he says. There are other Danger Mouse connections in the works–frequent Danger Mouse collaborator Tenkuro Takahashi recently remixed the first Flake Music album. That album, from Mercer’s pre-Shins band, will come out on his new label, Aural Apothacary, in 2010.

Though they haven’t recorded it, Mercer sees the new Shins record coming out in 2010. His acting debut, in Matt McCormick’s Some Days Are Better Than Others, will also be out sometime in 2010. He says acting reminded him of recording with a great producer. “Working with [Danger Mouse] and [Sparklehorse] was really good, working with [Wincing The Night Away producer] Joe Chiccarelli was really good,” he says. “I totally can see the role they play and it’s really helpful to me. It’s almost like in the movie, being able to listen to the director and understand where he’s coming from and put yourself in his shoes and in some cases just trust him.” Mercer’s character in the movie was partly based on his own personality, 10 years ago. McCormick even had Mercer wear his own, old clothes in the film. But he says acting, even when he’s playing himself, isn’t so easy for him. “It’s hard work!” he says. “Writing songs is hard work too, but it’s more lucrative, and I’m better at it.”

[Photo from Showbox 5/4 by Laura Musselman.]

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Comments (17)
  1. The collab sounds better than the Shins.

  2. I love this band. Normally I am not big on changes in a band’s line up. But Mercer might end up with a better presentation of his songs with this move.

  3. ig  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    Way to rip off the Pitchfork interview and not give them any credit. Not very ethical of you guys journalistically.

    • TD  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

      I don’t see the above quotes in the pitchfork report. Of course Mercer’s going to pass along some of the same information though.
      Are you really surprised that two music blogs can make separate reports on the same band?

    • I talked to James via phone yesterday, so these are all original quotes. Bands like to line up all their interviews on the same day. And they tend to repeat themselves.

  4. Bless you James Mercer. You are one of the finest lyricists around.
    Also i think Aural Apothecary is a really cool label name. It’s very Shin-sy.

    I think it’s Joe the Plummer. Not Joe Plumber

  5. Bless you James Mercer. You are one of the finest lyricists around.

    I think Aural Apothecary is a really cool label name. It’s very Shinsy

    And i think it’s Joe the Plummer, not Joe Plumber.

  6. che  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    the shins are amazing but wtf 2010. i need this record now. James your ass better get crackin’. ill get my fix next week when i see them though

  7. wib  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    Not be a prick, but I have a hard time believing that just randomly kicking out two members of the band is as chill as James Mercer is making it out to be. I understand it is his band and everything, but when you’ve been playing music together for fifteen years and the ostensible reason for parting ways is that you aren’t playing “beefy” enough or whatever…it just seems kinda cold. There may be/probably are other reasons. As is, just seems like “Hey Ringo and George, good job for the past five years, but I need a ‘chunky’ sound on ‘Good Day Sunshine,’ see ya guys!”

    • He did say that he thinks both guys will be on the new album in some way. That’ll probably be the best way to tell how amiable and chill this was.

  8. i cant wait for 2010

  9. Lucas  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    Glad to see that Ron Lewis is in the band. His last Ghost Stories album was fantastic and not enough people heard it. http://www.sonicboomrecordings.com/ghoststories/

  10. Ben S.  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    Nice! I’m super excited about this one.

  11. Ryan  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    i’m a huge Shins fan, and i’ve always believed that the sound i love so much mainly comes from the heart and mind of James Mercer… that said, though, i’ve always found part of their overall charm is the fact that they don’t really take themselves too seriously… check out their photo shoots and videos, and you’ll notice that most of them time, the band is doing something goofy, yet clever at the same time… and i’d attribute this to Marty Crandall, as i’m sure anybody who has seen them live can attest, is a pretty fucking funny dude (domestic abuse thing notwithstanding)… anyway, i’m sure the next record will rule, and their live shows will still be fine and all, but i’ll miss Marty’s presence for sure, visually anyway… i always did think that drummer kinda blew tho.

  12. Stephen  |   Posted on May 6th, 2009 0

    ryans right… when i’ve seen them live mercer has always been really quiet and actually pretty dull ( yeah he can write great songs and sings ) but you cant kick out two members of the band….

    get the scoop, what do the rejects think about being fired!!!

  13. I CANNOT WAIT!!! :D :D :D

  14. jason karas  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    IN 2002 I HEARD THE SHINS. I RETURNED TO CALIFORNIA 5 YEARS EARLIER AFTER BEING AWAY FOR MANY YEARS (APPROX 15 ) AND THEY HAD THIS SOUND THAT REMINDED ME OF 70′S FAMILY PHOTOS OF CHRISTMAS! IS THAT WEIRD?

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