Members: James Mercer, Dave Hernandez, Marty Crandall, Jesse Sandoval, Eric Johnson
The Shins began in 1997, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a side project of Mercer (previously of Blue Roof Dinner) and Neal Langford, who were both members of the lo-fi musical group Flake (formed in 1992). By 1999, Flake (which by then had been renamed Flake Music) was disbanded and all of its former members became The Shins. (The name was based on a fictional family in the Broadway show The Music Man, which was a favorite of James Mercer's father.) The band released two 7" singles on Omnibus, "Nature Bears A Vacuum" (1999) and "When I Goosestep" (2000), before going on tour with Modest Mouse. During the tour, they were met in San Francisco by a Sub Pop representative, who eventually offered to release their debut album.
The Shins' first album was 2001's Oh, Inverted World, released to critical acclaim for its lyrically deft, jangly pop sound. Songs from this album featured prominently in the film Garden State, opening the music of The Shins up to a much wider audience. Dave Hernandez, former member of Scared of Chaka, joined the group following the departure of bassist Neal Langford. In 2002, the band relocated to Portland, Oregon. Chutes Too Narrow followed in 2003 to much fanfare in indie music circles, featuring even more multi-layered lyrical inventions and a musical approach that explored new genres, song structures, and levels of production fidelity.
The band's third record, Wincing the Night Away, was released on January 23, 2007. It debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart with 118,000 copies sold in its first week, the highest sales week and chart position an album solely released on Sub Pop has ever achieved. The album was leaked to the Internet on Friday, October 20, 2006. It was available for pre-order with an extra track on iTunes.
The Shins played a show at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA, with Scottish band Belle & Sebastian on July 6, 2006. Both bands described playing at the venue as a career highlight. During live shows, the band members (particularly Crandall and Hernandez) are known to frequently swap instruments, making it somewhat difficult to define their exact roles in the band.
In a Pitchfork Media interview, Mercer announced that Eric Johnson of fellow Sub Pop band Fruit Bats had joined the Shins. In the interview Mercer spoke about wanting to work with different people, making it appear that Johnson has signed on as a collaborator and not just as a touring musician.
ABOUT THE RECORDS
Wincing The Night Away
To play music for a long time, you have to surprise the people that love youâwhile also surprising yourself. Recorded in singer/guitarist James Mercer's basement studio, Phil Ek's Seattle digs, and in Oregon City with veteran producer Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, U2), Wincing the Night Away is The Shins' third full-length album. It's also the sound of a band growing up and out. Mercer's infectious, indelible melodic style is still at the core, and unfaltering. But anything can happen around itâand in this case, it does. While the vocals channel the spirit of Morrissey, "Sea Legs" pairs a loping hip-hop beat with lush melody and searing guitars. Elsewhere the band toys with tweaked-out, liquid piano steeped in kaleidoscopic strings ("Red Rabbit"); fractured synth samples ("Spilt Needles"); gauzy, arpeggiated keyboards cloaking thunderous anthems ("Sleeping Lessons"); and, taking cues from early Jesus and Mary Chain albums, sweeping, fuzz-toned epics ("Phantom Limb"). Finally, "Turn on Me," "Girl Sailor" and "Australia" are the lilting, thrilling, rollicking, rock-solid pop songs we've all come to covet from The Shins. Consider yourself surprised.
Chutes Too Narrow
The Shin's debut full-length, 2001's Oh, Inverted World, was a stunner; resoundingly well-received and landing itself on numerous year-end best-of-lists. MOJO placed it at ..14 of the year and commented, "This quartet from Albuquerque, New Mexico captured our hearts this summer with their pristine pop perfection." And, Seattle's The Stranger went even further with, "...a referential, brilliant record which had better blow up, or the world has forgotten what pop music is all about." As far as we're concerned it did blow up - seems there's still some hope for the world and its conception of pop music. Since that first record, singer/songwriter/guitarist James Mercer and drummer Jesse Sandoval moved from Albuquerque to Portland, OR and bassist Neal Langford was replaced with Dave Hernandez (ex-Scared Of Chaka), who played bass on the stand-out track from the first record, "New Slang." Chutes Too Narrow, their heavily anticipated follow-up, was recorded in James' basement home studio, with later mixing assistance from Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, David Cross, Les Savy Fav, etc.). And, with 10 songs, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the new record is a brief yet entirely scintillating glimpse at chiming, reflective and perfectly skewed pop innovation.
Oh Inverted World
Originally hailing from Albuquerque, NM, The Shins sprung from the ashes of Flake/Flakemusic in 1997 (though those previous incarnations date back nearly a decade) same members, different instruments, different approach. Counterpoint guitars have given way to a single guitar pitted against calculated keyboard passages; swarming indie rock machinations led to pop-based melodic endeavors (who knew?).