The band was formed by Mercer and original drummer Jesse Sandoval as a side project to Flake Music, who were active from 1992 to 1999. The band released two 7" singles on Omnibus Records and were touring with Modest Mouse when they were signed to Sub Pop Records. The band's first two records, Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow performed well commercially and received critical acclaim. The single "New Slang" brought the band mainstream attention when it was featured in the 2004 film Garden State. Consequently, the band's third album, Wincing the Night Away, was a major success for the group, peaking at number two on the Billboard 200 and earning a Grammy Award nomination.
Following this, the Shins signed to Columbia Records and Mercer parted ways with the entire original lineup, deeming it "an aesthetic decision." Following a near five year hiatus, Port of Morrow, the band's fourth studio album, was released in 2012.
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