All Access: The Shins

Dec 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Photos and text by Steve Jennings


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The Shins are currently out in support of their latest release, Wincing the Night Away (see “Recording Notes,” May 2007), an album that debuted at Billboard's Number 2 slot. Playing to capacity crowds in mid-sized venues, The Shins (James Mercer, vocals/guitar; Marty Crandall, keyboards; Dave Hernandez, bass; Eric Johnson, keys/guitar/lap steel/backing vocals; and Jesse Sandoval, drums) are pleasing the crowd with such hits as “Australia” and “Phantom Limb.” Mix caught up with the tour in early October at Berkeley, Calif.'s Greek Theatre; Rat Sound is providing SR gear, minus the P.A.


Front-of-house engineer Zack Reinig (left) is manning a Digidesign VENUE system with the D-Show console, opting to use few onboard effects, though he says he'd like to pick up the Sonnox Oxford package, Waves' SuperTap delay and the Phoenix analog tape emulator. Instead, Reinig brings his studio engineering background to The Shins' live shows, plugging in such outboard gear as the Chandler Limited TG 2, an Empirical Labs Distressor on the vocal chain and a TC Electronic M4000. “The M4000 is a spectacular box, and I'm really happy to have at least one of the M6000's four engines to help re-create the heavy 'verbed sound of The Shins' records,” Reinig says.

“I'm surprised at how much the D-Show has helped us,” he continues. “I'd always felt that I was able to do most of what needed to happen during the concert — in terms of effects, changes of EQ, fader moves, et cetera — but rarely was I able to go the extra distance and give the shows the detail I wanted. Instead of spending large amounts of mixing time putting out sonic fires, I'm able to focus on featuring the subtle beauty in The Shins' music.

“At this point, my favorite P.A.s tend to be [L-Acoustics'] V-DOSC,” Reinig adds. “They are able to achieve great coverage while pulling off a defined, yet lush, tonal quality.”


According to monitor engineer Jason Ward, “We decided that we wanted to carry as much production as we could fit in a large trailer on one bus. At a festival we did, a guy came in with a tiny Yamaha LS9 and I was sort of blown away by the incredibly compact size and the whole Centralogic situation, where eight channels at a time come up in the center of the console with dedicated knobs for EQ, et cetera, for the selected channel and touchscreen selection of many other parameters. I brought up how fascinating that was with Jon Monson at Rat while we were sorting out Zack [Reinig's] Digidesign system, and he told me he'd just had a tour out with production in a trailer with the [Yamaha] M7CL. Once I looked over the setup of it, I realized it was the best compromise between performance, weight and price. The ability to set up user quick keys that solo the mix and bring up a fader for every input allows me to quickly make changes to numerous mixes. We have three people switching instruments several times during the set, as well as a number of guide instruments that Jesse [Sandoval, drummer] needs louder during different songs, so it's a pretty active monitor mixing job.”

Ward uses the M7CL's built-in dynamics for his mixes. As the band is on in-ears (Shure PSM700 wireless for all bandmembers except Sandoval, who wears a wired PSM600; all use Ultimate Ears UE-7s), Ward uses a 4-band parametric EQ and “a little of the Rev-X plate reverbs on acoustic guitars and keys, which sound quite amazing.”

Photos from The Shins' 2007 tour

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