The Shins - Biography
After a decade of grunge, post-grunge, nu-metal, and ultimately garage rock the witty sweet saccharine sounds of jangly guitar rock reminiscent the mid-80’s alternative scene finally came full circle with the advent of The Shins. Starting out as cult icons during the early part of the new millennium, the quartet hit their stride when a few of their tracks made it onto the uber popular Garden State soundtrack. Next thing you know, The Shins are catapulted to mega-stardom playing arenas around the world and giving Amoeba Music Hollywood one of the most memorable in-store performances in our history. Thanks to the band, the jangly pop sound soon began to appear all over the indie rock scene with the The Shins the undisputed kings of the craft.
The Shins initially formed as a side project for Albuquerque, New Mexico songwriter James Mercer in 1997. Disaffected with his full time band, Flake Music, the vocalist/guitarist enlisted the help of Flake Music bassist Neal Langford and the two began to develop The Shins signature indie pop sound. Eventually fellow Flake Music members Martin Crandall (guitars/multi-instrumentalist) and Jesse Sandoval (drums) came aboard and the group officially disbanded Flake Music and carried on as The Shins, with Mercer as the principal songwriter. In 1999 the band issued their first 7” single, “Nature Bears A Vacuum” (Omnibus) followed by another, “When I Goosestep” (Omnibus) in 2000. Subsequently the band embarked on a tour with their old friends from the Flake Music days, Modest Mouse. While playing a gig in San Francisco the band was approached by Sub Pop label head Jonathan Poneman who offered to release the group’s debut album.
The Shins next single, “New Slang” (Sub Pop) appeared in early 2001 and although the single fell under the radar the band’s debut full length, Oh, Inverted World (2001 Sub Pop) certainly did not. Still a relatively unknown band, the album catapulted The Shins into the top tier of the indie rock movement of the early 2000’s on the strength of popular radio friendly singles, “Know Yr. Onion,” “The Past and the Pending” and “New Slang.” Tours with Preston School of Industry and Red House Painters carried the band into the following year. After relocating to Portland, Oregon in 2002, original bassist Neal Langford amicably left the group and was replaced with former Scared of Chaka member Dave Hernandez. A few months prior to the release of their sophomore full length, Chutes Too Narrow (2003 Sub Pop) the film Garden State was released and became the sleeper hit of the summer, which boded well for The Shins as many of their songs were included on the soundtrack. Since a significant portion of Zach Braff’s film revolved around The Shins songs, the soundtrack subsequently became one of the biggest sellers of the year with the languid ballad “New Slang” the anthem of the summer. By the time Chutes Too Narrow was released in October the band was a household name. Although the album followed the same indie pop thread of its predecessor, the band abandoned the lo-fi production in favor of a more polished fidelity.
It would be two years before the band resurfaced. In the interim, The Shins had become one of the most popular rock bands of the time and many figured the group would make the inevitable jump to a major label. Just before the release of their third full length album the band made the surprising announcement that they would remain with Sub Pop, putting to rest some pesky sell-out rumors. Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop) was released in January of 2007 and became the highest selling release in Sub Pop history, moving a whopping 100,000 copies its first week. Seeking to expand their sound, Mercer filled the record with a darker tone than previous releases and peppered the album with ambient electronic elements. A few days after the album’s release The Shins performed a free record release show at Amoeba Music Hollywood to over 900 adoring fans. Overwhelmed with the mass influx of people, the store had to shut it’s doors and appease the safety regulations set by the fire marshal before the concert could be begin. In July of 2007 the band shared a bill with Scottish folk pop outfit Belle and Sebastian at the famous Hollywood Bowl, an event the group described as the highlight of their career. Later that year Mercer announced that touring keyboardist/guitarist Eric Johnson of the band Fruit Bats was officially the fifth member of the band.