Much of the press surrounding [artist id="3226420"]Broken Bells[/artist] — the new collaboration between Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton and the Shins' James Mercer — seems to focus on the status of the duo's other projects, including whatever Burton decides to do next and, most notably, the Shins.
It's been nearly three years since the band's Wincing the Night Away bowed at #2 on the Billboard albums chart and, in the time since its release, things have been sort of, well, rocky. There was the arrest of multi-instrumentalist Marty Crandall (and his then-girlfriend, model Elyse Sewell) on domestic-violence charges in early 2008 (charges which were subsequently dropped) and then, last year, the sorta-acrimonious departure of both Crandall and drummer Jesse Sandoval, with the latter telling The Portland Mercury he was "unequivocally fired" from the group. The band also parted ways with their longtime label, Sub Pop, for Mercer's own label, Aural Apothecary.
Since then, there's been very little in the way of Shins activity. Until last week, when Mercer — in an interview about Broken Bells — told the NME that he was drawn to the project because the Shins "had started to feel heavy." Fans picked up on the negative connotation of those words and started to believe that maybe the Shins were over for good.
Mercer would beg to differ. Earlier this week when he and Burton came by the MTV Newsroom to talk about Bells, we asked him to clarify his NME comment and perhaps shed some light on the status of his beloved indie act. Turns out he was more than willing to do both.
"There's some truth [to the NME quote], but I don't want it to be exaggerated," Mercer said. "[I was asked about] the idea right now of going back in and starting with those blank pages and working hard on a fourth [Shins] record. [Broken Bells] was just, like, something fun. So fun to do and so different that it was just so fresh and new, and also the fact that it was going to challenge me vocally, sort of having to come up with different approaches to my singing — I couldn't resist it.
"And not that I don't enjoy that more private process of coming up with the Shins material, but right now I'm really enjoying this," he continued. "Honestly, right now both of us are focused on Broken Bells and we're so happy with the record and we can't wait to get back and start working on more."
Mercer added that he has no plans of abandoning the Shins and that there may be a new record from the group coming in 2011. But in the meantime, he's going full-speed ahead with Broken Bells. And that's not going to change any time soon.
"This is the project right now. We're already working on another album," he smiled. "I'm really interested in this."