“This band will change your life,” predicted sage Scrubs star Zach Braff of the Shins in Garden State. The band’s importance may be debatable, but not the impact of Braff’s assessment, which transformed the modest Albuquerque indie rockers into overnight stars and upped the ante for their third album, Wincing the Night Away, which arrives three years after its predecessor. We spoke with bassist Dave Hernandez about keeping it real when everyone thinks you’re rolling in cash.
The new album leaked out months in advance. How much time did you have between completing the disc and learning that it was already making the rounds?
I don’t know the exact amount of time, but I’m going to say…a month?
Yeah, that was it. It was kind of cool that people wanted to hear it, but also shocking, because we know the motivation and it definitely wasn’t respectful. It would have been one thing if it was a fan, but it was a pretty selfish act. So there it is.
It’s such an odd thing, because it gives the album life before it even hits the store.
And that’s both good and bad. The reason it’s bad has nothing to do with the release date. It’s about the finished product. There’s some question about whether or not what leaked was mastered. Then there’s the album art. But more than anything else, James [Mercer]’s lyrics on this record are, I think, pretty good, and reading along with the lyrics the first time you listen to a song completely changes the song. I love that whole experience, and want other people to have that experience, too. It’s kind of lost if you just find it online.
Did you ever consider just crapping out a fake album, then leaking that as a decoy?
No. [Laughs] But that’s a great idea.
People have made a big deal about the wait between records, but three years is hardly Guns N’ Roses territory.
Yeah, this is totally our Chinese Democracy, except that it’s out. You know, the Garden State experience definitely changed it. I mean, it did wonders for us, but we were very, very scared about doing this record.
Was it written in the script that the characters were listening to the Shins?
The first thing we heard about the movie was “dude from Scrubs.” We thought it wasn’t going to be that big, just a little independent film. We were like, cool, send us a copy, because it’s not going to see the light of day. [Laughs] But Zach Braff just turns out to be a fan.
You’ve sold a few hundred thousand records. On an indie level, what does that mean for you, financially?
We’re definitely not well off, but I’m definitely doing better than I ever have in my life. Which is not saying much! I’ve always had to work, so it’s cool that I don’t have to work outside the band, but we’re definitely not rolling around in gold Hummers.
Maybe you could all chip in and just buy one gold Hummer that you could share.
I wish! —Joshua Klein
The Shins play Congress Theater Saturday 10.