Singer/songwriter James Mercer — the driving force behind indie pop-rock group The Shins — may not know exactly where Ommegang Brewery is, but he’s excited to perform there Saturday, he said.
“This will be our first time there ... The last time we played in Upstate New York would have been 15 years or so ago,” said Mercer, who formed The Shins in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the mid-1990s. When putting on a show, “we’re looking for a party – trying to create an energy that’s pretty rock ’n’ roll,” he said. “(Ommegang) should have more than enough beer to accomplish that.”
The Shins’ fifth album, “Heartworms,” was released in March. Ommegang Brewery is a stop on the accompanying worldwide tour, which is scheduled to last until November.
Saturday night’s performance near Cooperstown will be the fifth show in Ommegang’s Summer Concert Series. The show will kick off at 7 p.m. with special guest indie pop band Tennis, according to organizers. Gates open at 5 p.m.
With new bandmates and new music, the Heartworms tour offers a live show that, according to Mercer, is “I think, one of our best.” Concert-goers can expect a mix of old and new music, with unique instrumentation bringing a fresh vibe, he said.
“One thing that’s really cool about this tour is that we have three people who are great violinists,” Mercer said. “Onstage, we mix all the records together. We play a few of the new songs, but we’re also very aware that a lot of people really want to hear some old stuff that maybe you listened to in college.”
The “old stuff” Mercer is referring to includes tracks from The Shins’ debut full-length album, “Oh, Inverted World,” a melodic record that caused a shift in the indie rock world upon its release in 2001, selling nearly a million copies. The single “New Slang” brought the group mainstream attention when it was featured in the 2004 film “Garden State” featuring Natalie Portman and Zach Braff.
The Shins’ first two albums performed well commercially and received critical acclaim, according to the band’s biography. The third album, “Wincing the Night Away,” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. “Port of Morrow,” the fourth studio album, was released in 2012.
Almost five years later, “Heartworms” is “quite different” from the band’s other albums, according to Mercer, because his attitude going into songwriting was different.
“I think I have a certain amount of confidence built up over time,” Mercer said. “I’ve gotten better as a writer. With the first record, I was really just beginning to explore writing and learning how to put things together. … Now, I’m a bit more versed in that world, so I’ve been expanding into writing more often about hypothetical situations as opposed to biographical ones. ... I’m also a father of three now, so I have a greater perspective on certain issues. I think more about women’s issues in society.”
The group’s lineup is also different, according to Mercer, who parted ways with his original bandmates several years ago in an “aesthetic decision.” He’s now joined onstage by Yuuki Matthews, Jon Sortland, Mark Watrous, Casey Foubert and Patti King.
“The new band is awesome,” Mercer said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”
The day after The Shins play Ommegang, Mercer and his crew will perform at Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, and then it’s off to the West Coast, he said. Performing in Alaska recently was a trip, he noted, because there were only a few hours of darkness at night. He’s particularly looking forward to shows in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, he added.
On the road, there’s no such thing as a typical day, according to Mercer.
“I wake up, try to figure out where we are and have lunch with everybody (in the band),” he said. “We all hang out a lot and try to find something entertaining to do before the show. I try to sleep as much as I can and make sure to take care of myself because it can be pretty exhausting.”
The last two shows in Ommegang’s Summer Concert Series are Elvis Costello & The Imposters on June 21 and Glass Animals with Little Dragon on July 29.