Broken Bells is an American indie rock band composed of artist-producer Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the indie rock band The Shins. Broken Bells compose and create as a duo, but are joined by a full band on tour. The live band included Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band sidemen Nate Walcott and Nik Freitas, and Jonathan Hischke and Dan Elkan, both ex-members of Hella. Following their 2010 self-titled debut album, the duo released an EP, Meyrin Fields, in 2011 and their second studio album, After the Disco, on February 4, 2014.
Brian Burton and James Mercer decided to work together after meeting at the Roskilde Festival in 2004 and finding they were fans of each other’s work. It took four more years before the two started working together and by March 2008 Mercer and Burton began recording together in secret at Burton’s Los Angeles-based studio. The project was first announced on September 29, 2009. The two described their material as “melodic, but experimental, too.”
Prior to the formation of Broken Bells, Mercer and Burton both worked together on the track “Insane Lullaby” on the album Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse. Broken Bells have since performed the song several times, often as a tribute to the late Mark Linkous, the Sparklehorse frontman who died in early 2010.
Broken Bells self-titled debut album was released in the United States and Canada on March 9, 2010 through Columbia Records, and has sold over 400,000 copies domestically, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album has received positive reviews. Rolling Stone magazine gave it a four-star review and stated that it was “the year’s coolest left field pop disc.” Besides their album being among the year’s highest charting debut albums, the band had sold out gigs on their first ever tour.
Broken Bells released an EP titled Meyrin Fields on March 18, 2011.
On February 14, 2012, in an interview with KINK.FM (a Portland radio station), James Mercer stated that he was currently working on Broken Bells’ sophomore album. On October 8, 2013, the band announced the release of its sophomore album, After the Disco. Broken Bells released their lead single from the album, titled “Holding on for Life”, on November 4, 2013. After the Disco was released on February 4, 2014. That same day they covered “And I Love Her” alongside footage of Ringo Star on an old television as part of the “Late Show With David Letterman” “Beatles Week” to celebrates the 50th anniversary of the band’s debut appearance on “Ed Sullivan”. The band performed “Holding on for Life” on the March 7, 2014 episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”.