As James Mercer began to plan for the Shins’ new album “Heartworms,” the first thing the singer, songwriter and sole permanent member of the indie rock band decided was that this time he’d produce the album by himself.
Not, mind you, that he wasn’t happy with past producers. The previous album, “Port Of Morrow,” overseen by Greg Kurstin, is “the strongest production that we’ve ever had, and it just sounds so good,” Mercer says.
The difference, he says by phone from his home studio in Portland, Oregon a few weeks before the Shins were set to play the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 29, is that Mercer wanted take his time.
“I wanted to be able to record this album at my leisure,” he says. “When you work with somebody like Greg it’s more of a professional relationship. So I realized I wanted to take my time and explore stuff, and be able to do it at home and not have to fly to L.A.”
Friends encouraged him to oversee the recording too, and Mercer says he also felt like making an album that sounded a bit more like the band did on its earliest albums such as “Oh, Inverted World” or “Chutes Too Narrow.”
“I wanted it to have a more classic Shins vibe to it, which I don’t even know exactly how that’s done,” he says. “My understanding of production is not really that sophisticated, but I knew that if I was just in there twisting knobs long enough it would be that weird vibe that I’ve gotten before.”
Work on “Heartworms” started in 2015, after Mercer came off the road after touring with Broken Bells, the group he and Brian Burton, aka producer Danger Mouse, formed as a side project in 2009.
“I really started trying to whittle down on the number of ideas I had and focus on ones I felt were really promising,” Mercer…