Recently in Melbourne to promote Heartworms, the upcoming new album by The Shins, frontman James Mercer admits that he regrets letting McDonald's use their hit song New Slang in a commercial — though in 2004 he told Pitchfork he didn't "regret doing it at all".
Speaking to The Music, Mercer says, "I mean, really honestly, I regret it now. I’m willing to admit I regret it." The McDonald’s commercial in question aired in 2002 around the Winter Olympics, which were hosted in Utah.
"That happened so early on," he shares, "I didn’t know that we would be around another year... and I was in debt and all that, blah-blah-blah. And I’ve never been a vegetarian or any of the things that maybe would’ve given me the sorta political understanding of what it meant. It was right before the shit hit the fan with, like, Super Size Me.
"We got paid good money to do it and we knew it was not cool — we knew it wasn’t, like, a punk-rock cool thing — but I was kinda so anti-punk rock," he continues.
But Mercer stresses he regrets agreeing to the sync because it alienated fans of The Shins: “It sucks that that had to be the fly in the ointment and it’s my fault, I guess, for not understanding the culture. I think when you’re from Albuquerque in New Mexico — where I was living at the time — we just felt like we were on the ass-end of the universe [laughs]... you just don’t put a lot of self-importance on what you’re doin’. I just had no idea that it would have the impact it did, unfortunately... There were a lot of people who just kind of abandoned us because of that; they just turned their backs on us, you know."
Mercer says back when the band was considering the deal, peers told him things like, "‘Dude, you’re gonna regret it if you don’t take this money. In five years you’re not gonna be in a fuckin’ band, you’re not: you’re gonna be back at the goddamn — in the cubicle, working with everybody else.'"
"There was that fear of regret; everything goes through your mind. At that time it was early to do that sort of a licensing and, of course, it fuckin’ had to be McDonald’s, right? If it had been VW it would’ve been waaaaay better," he laughs. "It would’ve been a thousand times better."
Stay tuned for the full interview with The Shins on The Music.