James Mercer

On this date in 1970, musician James Mercer was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mercer has been an atheist since he was 10, breaking away from his family's Catholic faith. "There was a half-assed attempt to give me religion," Mercer said. "They sent me to a Catholic Sunday school . . . and they showed me videos of the end of the world. It seemed like a comic book and Satan was just another villain, like Lex Luthor or something. It seemed totally preposterous . . . " (Magnet magazine, No. 86). Because Mercer's father was in the Air Force, he frequently moved around the United States and Western Europe with his family. Mercer's first break as a musician came with the album, Your Land is Here, It's Time to Return, with his band Flake Music. This led them to go on tours with bands such as Modest Mouse. Mercer is well known as lead singer and songwriter of the indie band, The Shins, which formed in 1996. The Shins' four albums include "Oh, Inverted World" (2001)," Chutes Too Narrow" (2003), "Wincing the Night Away" (2007), and "Port of Morrow" (2012). "Wincing the Night Away" was nominated for a 2008 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Mercer's indie rock project was named Broken Bells. His co-member was Brian Burton, known as Danger Mouse, who, along with Cee Lo Green, made up the band Gnarls Barkley. Broken Bells' debut self-titled album was released in 2010 and peaked at number two in the United States on the Billboard Independent Albums' chart. Mercer's music has been featured in many movies, including "Garden State" (2004), and "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012). He married designer/decorator Marisa Kula. They have two daughters. Mercer said in a 2012 SPIN interview: "There's no real reason for me to be so obsessed with trying to understand the true nature of things. You can live a perfectly happy life being utterly confused and not knowing."


"I do like talking with friends about big concepts, you know, the stuff that will ruin a party. To me, the party hasn't begun until we're talking about the nonexistence of God."

—James Mercer, interview with Kelly Clarke, SPIN, February, 2012

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; photo by Mat Hayward, Shutterstock.com.

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