Shins Break New Tunes

Indie rockers take time off from recording to tour

Sprightly indie rockers the Shins will take a break from recording the follow-up to 2003's widely lauded Chutes Too Narrow to launch a month-long tour tonight in Portland, Oregon. "That's what I'm supposed to be doing," says singer James Mercer of the new album, which is due by year's end. "But it's fun to go out on the road."

As for the new material, he warns that early projections may be deceiving. "I'll have thirty or so songs that I'll be messing with, and then a month or two before we have to have the record done I'll decide, 'OK, these ten,'" he says. "So it's hard to say exactly what songs will be on the record."

Still, Mercer's method does not preclude him from envisioning the album's general vibe. "This record is more bedroom-y," he says. "It's hopefully something closer to your ear, and recorded in-the-bedroom style, where we really work over pieces instead of going into the studio for three days and cranking them out. I actually want to get back to a slow, painstaking process of production."

The tour will see the Shins courting a growing audience after a high-profile mention in last year's film Garden State, in which Natalie Portman's character implores Zach Braff's to listen to the song "New Slang," saying "It'll change your life." "It was such a flattering way to be in a movie from a guy who seems to be a fan," Mercer says of Braff, also the film's writer and director.

But, for the Shins, the spotlight is not cause to rush the new record. "Since there's a lot of people who just learned about us, I suppose if we were really clever we'd get it out right now," Mercer says, laughing. "But I think it's probably a good time to let all those people forget about us . . . so we don't tip over that hill."