James Mercer

On this date in 1970, musician James Russell Mercer was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He frequently moved with his family because his father was in the Air Force. Mercer has been an atheist since he was about 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.)

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’  2007 album “Wincing the Night Away” was nominated for a 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 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 in 2006. They have three 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.”

Photo: Mercer performing with Broken Bells in 2014 at Coachella. CC 1.0

Freedom From Religion Foundation