Jameela Alherz-Oberman

14:26 20th July 2004

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The Shins

“We got a good chunk of change… I don’t take myself that seriously,” lead singer James Mercer of The Shins proclaims when probed about his decision to write a song for that GAP advert featuring the notorious Ashton Kutcher. A seemingly contradictory choice, given the fact that the Shins are signed to the alternative SUBPOP label. James adds politely but defensively, “We’re very wary of doing anything like that now because we don’t need the money, we don’t need day jobs anymore. I know what it’s like to hear too much of a song on a commercial, it really can devalue it.” James’ day-job used to be working in a ceramics factory so he had a lot of time for creative energy.

“When I was in sixth grade I moved from Germany to Albuquerque New Mexico and this was a real culture shock. Umm…and I’m kinda referring to this time in my life when I was this kid for about a year who was totally out of sorts. I went through a real heavy anxiety period and then became depressed.” This may explain why the album is uplifting pop with a scuffed edge of youthful vulnerability.

The more The Shins roots are delved into the more you get why their fans love the conflicting element of their fun, laidback Beach Boys and early 60s Motown R&B influenced melodic pop-songs-with-spunk and the poetic, introspective lyrics, which are on their second album ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ - which has profoundly, better production than their debut ‘Oh, Inverted World’.

The album title is taken from the fourth track, ‘Young Pilgrims’, James explains that the underlying theme of this record is about, “how your own thought processes can needlessly get you down when you should just learn techniques to fucking get over it.”

James thinks that what’s cool about their band is simply, “We’re all a group of friends who started a band.  We hooked up after Sixth form; Dave Hernandez the bass player came from the poor part of town at a Hispanic valley kid who was into punk rock. Drummer, Jessie Sandoval is Hispanic who went to a Catholic public school and keyboard player, Marty Crandall is a white kid from the suburbs and my dad was in the Air Force so we moved around until settling in Albuquerque.”

The Shins have just finished their first European tour and reckon the Oxygen festival in Ireland was cool. “It was raining as Hell though”, James laughs. Bass player Dave adds with exasperation, “We were playing on this small stage directly facing the big stage that The Darkness were playing on and right through one of our quiet songs all we could hear was Justin Hawkins yodelling.”

The bottom line seems to be The Shins are a bunch of soft misfits that want to have a good time and don’t take life too seriously and this is what they want their fans to do as well. James quotes the lyrics, ‘Fate is not what we’re up against. There’s no design or flaws to find’ and reveals, “I had a revelation of not to believe in fate. I’m not a religious person. I found the logical reasoning that there is no intrinsic meaning to things in life so how could you get too worked up about them. Once you’re able to get over the idea of a meaningless life then you can go on to being free and happy.” He might be forgiven for hiding a pair of GAP jeans at the bottom of his wardrobe then.

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.

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