New Shins Album Could Feature Amputation, Hawaiian Folk

'Phantom Limb,' 'Cave of the Ice Giants' among tentative song titles for third LP.

The Shins' James Mercer would like you to know that contrary to recent reports, he and the rest of his band have not been spending all their time smoking weed and listening to Pink Floyd, nor does he suffer from what one journalist referred to as "crippling insomnia."

But he's pretty flattered that writers would go to such great lengths just for him.

"I guess it makes me look like a big rock star or something — though my parents weren't exactly happy when they read all this stuff about me being an insomniac pothead," he laughed. "Basically, everything that's been printed about me lately is wrong. Really, the only things I've been doing are working on a new Shins record and fixing this house I just bought."

But that's life for Mercer and the rest of the Shins these days, as they begin work on album number three and attempt to build on the buzz they generated thanks to Zach Braff's dramedy "Garden State," which prominently featured several of the band's songs (see "Shins Ready To Attempt Topping Their 'Garden State' Success"). For the first time in their career, the Shins are keenly aware that they've become a rock band that journalists will write hyperbolic (and not always accurate) stories about. Which, according to Mercer, took some getting used to.

"Realizing all of a sudden that this band is a pretty big deal helped me a great deal," he laughed. "I mean, we're just working on songs at my house, and it's easy to feel forgotten about. But, the other day I went into a coffee shop and they were playing a Shins song and it was like, 'Wow, people are anxiously waiting to hear new music from us.' And it makes you better, because you always feel like you have to prove yourself."

The band laid down drum tracks for the new album, tentatively titled Sleeping Lessons, in September at producer Phil Ek's studio in Seattle, and for the past month they've been expanding on the tunes at Mercer's home studio in Portland, Oregon. Now they've got 15 tracks, running the gamut from "sugary-sweet psych-pop" to "Hawaiian-folk numbers." Tentative titles include "Phantom Limb," "A Comet Appears" and "Cave of the Ice Giants," though Mercer is quick to add that anything could change.

"Everything is still pretty tentative. I'm still working on lyrics, but those are pretty much the last things I do anyway," he explained. "But right now the goal is to have the album out in like July or August. I know we're supposed to submit it to Sub Pop on April 1st, and I know that's April Fools' Day, but hopefully that won't prove indicative of the album."