Me and james mercer.

by Tim Soter

I was listening to an interview with Broken Bells yesterday on Soundcheck on WNYC; Broken Bells is project comprised of James Mercer (lead singer of The Shins, above) and Danger Mouse.  I photographed The Shins for Rolling Stone a few years ago and had a fantastic goofy time.  Now I had people tell me I looked like James several times before actually meeting him so while I was at the shoot putting my camera together, I kept my face turned away from him and asked, “Hey James, when people say that you look like someone, who do they say you look like?”  “I don’t know” he replied, “but I look like you.”  Then we moved on to Kevin Spacey.

I shot in a tight space just six feet away from the reception desk in the Rivington Hotel.  James was role-playing a therapist, taking notes while the rest of the band (three guys) squeezed in on a not-too-wide leather chez lounge.  They were all lying on their backs, freely associating quite loudly while James nodded and wrote it all down.  Guest were checking in (people who had no idea who The Shins are) while bandmates Marty and Jesse were yelling things that are listed below (see “Dr.” Mercer’s notes.)  The Hotel was not happy.  I’ve never laughed harder while shooting.

A year or two after that I ran into Marty (who is no longer with the band) out in Seattle at the SubPop 20th Anniversary festival and had a chat with him.  He admitted seeing me from across the lawn and mistaking me for James (and this is someone he would see every day.)

The photograph above points to our similarities but I think more to our differences.  And my strange bent fingers.