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The Shins are an American indie rock band comprising singer, songwriter, and guitarist James Russell Mercer, guitarist/bassist Dave Hernandez, Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats, drummer Joe Plummer and bassist Ron Lewis. Their sound draws on several musical genres, including pop, alternative rock, alternative country, and folk. The Shins were formed in Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker, but are now based in Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker.


From Flake Music to The Shins (1992–2000)

The Shins began in 1997 in Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker, as a side project of Mercer (previously of Blue Roof Dinner) and Neal Langford, both members of the lo-fi musical group Flake (formed in 1992). By 1999, Flake (now Flake Music) had disbanded and its former members became The Shins. (The name was based on a fictional family in the Broadway show The Music Man, a favorite of Mercer's father.) The band released two 7" singles, "Nature Bears A Vacuum" (1998) and "When I Goosestep" (2000) — and embarked on a 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.

Signed to Sub Pop (2001–2007)

The Shins' first album was 2001's Oh, Inverted World, released to critical acclaim for its lyrically deft and jangly pop sound. The song "One by One All Day" was featured in the 2003 film A Guy Thing, starring Jason Lee. Two other songs from this album, ("Caring Is Creepy" and "New Slang") were featured prominently on the soundtrack for the 2004 film Garden State, starring and directed by Zach Braff, exposing the music of The Shins to a much wider audience. Their music was also featured in the television series The OC and the film The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Dave Hernandez, former member of Scared of Chaka, joined the group following the departure of bassist Neal Langford. In 2002, the band relocated to Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker.

Chutes Too Narrow followed in 2003 to much fanfare in indie music circles, featuring even more multi-layered lyrics, as well as a musical approach that explored new genres, song structures, and levels of production fidelity. Oh, Inverted World appeared at #71 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of 2000–2004 and Chutes Too Narrow appeared at #47. In 2006, the band helped to curate an edition of the British All Tomorrow's Parties festival.

An enhanced single release in 2004 included a live version of "New Slang" recorded with Iron and Wine, a studio mix of "Fighting in a Sack," a multimedia tack of "So Says I," and a cover of the Marc Bolan song "Baby Boomerang". The Shins have also recorded a cover of "We Will Become Silhouettes" by The Postal Service, which was released on that group's 2003 single "Such Great Heights".

In a Pitchfork Media interview, Mercer announced that Eric Johnson of fellow Sub Pop band Fruit Bats had joined the Shins.

The band's third album, 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 released solely on Sub Pop has ever achieved. The album was leaked to the Internet on October 20, 2006 and was available for pre-order on iTunes, with an extra track. It was nominated for a 2008 Grammy award in the category of Best Alternative Music Album.

In 2007 the band did a Take-Away show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon, and recorded a version of "Little Boxes" for the Showtime series Weeds. On November 27, 2007, the group was featured on a Darfurmarker charity album released by Waxploitation.

On January 24, 2008, "The Past and Pending" was played at the funeral of Heath Ledger.

Leaving Sub Pop, Aural Apothecary, the future (2008–present)

On June 20, 2008, the band announced that they were leaving Sub Pop Records for James Mercer's own label, Aural Apothecary.

According to an interview published on Pitchfork Media on May 6, 2009, "keyboardist Marty Crandall and drummer Jesse Sandoval had been replaced by Ron Lewis from Grand Archives and Fruit Bats on bass and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse on drums". In the same interview, Mercer said the next record "is still in its very early stages" and that he's "aiming for a release early next year". Regarding the lineup change, he commented that "I started to have production ideas that basically required some other people", but that he "wouldn't say I'd never work with them again".

On August 10, 2009, in a lengthy interview published in The Portland Mercury, former drummer Jesse Sandoval claimed that his departure from the band was not due to "aesthetic differences", but rather that he was fired, saying, "I understand he's probably doing it out of respect for me reading interviews, it might be hard for him to say it, but... I got fired. There's no other way of looking at it."





Year Song U.S. Hot 100 U.S. Modern Rock UK Singles Chart Album
2001 "New Slang" - - - Oh, Inverted World
2001 "Know Your Onion!" - - -
2003 "So Says I" - - 73 Chutes Too Narrow
2004 "Fighting in a Sack" - - -
2006 "Phantom Limb" 86 16 42 Wincing the Night Away
2007 "Australia" - - 62
2007 "Turn on Me" - - -
2007 "Sea Legs" - - -

Other releases as Flake or as Flake Music

  • (Flake) 7" Mieke 1993 Resin
  • (Flake) 10" Spork 1995 Science Project
  • (Flake) 7" split with Henry's Dress 1995 Omnibus Records (Henry's Dress/Flake 7")
  • (Flake) 7" Been There Done That compilation 1995 Science Project (80's covers)
  • Sue Defender 7" 1996 Headhunter/Cargo
  • When You Land Here, It's Time to Return 1996
  • 7" split with Scared of Chaka 1997 702/Science Project
  • 7" compilation w/ Luxo-champ, the Rondelles, and more...Pocket Protector Record


Awards and nominations


  2. Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of 2000-2004 on Lists of Bests
  3. The Shins | Pitchfork
  4. 50th annual Grammy Awards nominations - Entertainment News, Award Central News, Media - Variety
  5. Kent, Melissa. "Heath's goodbye is a celebration of life". The Sydney Morning Herald. Feb. 10, 2008.
  6. The Shins Releasing Next Album On Frontman's Label
  7. Shins' James Mercer Spills About Lineup Changes, New Album, Other Projects
  8. Portland Mercury, Interview with Jesse Sandoval.
  9. - accessed April 2009

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