Shin Music

Indie quartet emerges from a decade of obscurity to find itself the great pop hope

Mercer's attention to craft and the resulting patchwork of catchy melodies caught the attention of Sub Pop kingpin Jonathon Poneman, who signed the Shins to a three-disc deal and quickly released "New Slang" on the label's long-running seven-inch-single series. Oh, Inverted Worldand its wave of critical acclaim soon followed.

"They take care of things," Mercer says of Sub Pop. "You know, the Shins was always a bedroom project. We put out our own records and you'd have to do everything, from calling the pressing plant on down. It's kinda nice having someone else do those things."

Mercer adds that he's heard major labels are kicking around the idea of signing the Shins. But he sounds wary. He says he's seen how his friends in the band Modest Mouse have been treated by Epic Records, who, according to Mercer, "have no idea [Modest Mouse] exists. There's just one guy that knows that they're around. I think we're doing fine right now. I don't really think that we would make that much more money. Sub Pop does a well enough job of shoving us down people's throats. A major label seems like it would just confuse things."

The Shins: Equally divided between Portland and Albuquerque.
The Shins: Equally divided between Portland and Albuquerque.

Things are confusing enough right now for the Shins. This is, after all, a band that survived more than a decade of neglect in a barely existent music scene to find itself the latest edition of the great pop hope.

"It's kinda strange," Mercer says of all the attention. "Doing interviews like this, it's all new to us. I remember having a conversation with a friend and saying, 'You know, I think I'm probably gonna end up being unknown and poor for the rest of my life doing this.' Because I wasn't having an easy time fitting in at college, and the idea of getting a corporate job didn't appeal to me. So this all came just in time. Just as my parents were probably fed up with me. They've always been really supportive, but they want their kids to do well and I was definitely struggling. But now they're really proud."

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