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Yes, Even Rock Stars Can Build an App

We're used to having an app for just about everything these days, but when James Mercer, the frontman for indie rock band The Shins, couldn't find the perfect digital collage app, he decided to build it himself.

Mercer's free app, called Pasted, launched on Tuesday. It makes it easy for users to create digital collages that would be worthy of a high school yearbook — on your phone.

"It was really just me wanting to buy something I couldn't get," Mercer told NBC News at SXSW last month, where he gave reporters an early peek at the beta version of the app.

Image: Pasted is an iOS app that allows you to make photo collages
Pasted is an iOS app that allows you to make photo collages. Pasted

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You may remember The Shins from the movie "Garden State," where Natalie Portman's character claims the band's song "New Slang" will "change your life."

While it's debatable whether an app can change your life, Pasted can, at minimum, spice up your Instagram account.

The secret sauce for the app is facial recognition technology, which eliminates the need for tedious cropping around your friends' faces. The collage-style cutouts are then transferred on a blank canvas for you to play with, reposition, colorize, and gussy up however you see fit.

While Mercer had the idea, he turned to longtime friend Zeke Howard, a musician and partner at digital agency The Brigade, to help get the idea off the ground.

For someone who has been busy touring the world for two decades, Mercer got a crash course on the world of tech. The experience, he said, has some parallels to making an album since it's a collaborative effort.

Image: James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins and co-founder of the Pasted App, plays an intimate show at the SXSW Conference
James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins and co-founder of the Pasted App, plays an intimate show at the SXSW Conference. NBC News

"It's been a year and a half of messing around and having meetings trying to figure out aesthetic things, color palette, all of us giving user interface feedback," Mercer said.

Although Pasted is specifically designed for photo sharing, Mercer sees even greater applications. He used it to design The Shins shirts, stickers, and even the art for their new single, "Mildenhall."

"I used to spend hours back at Kinko's in the nineties creating this stuff," Mercer said.

He hopes bands looking to infuse more of their own creativity — and save some money — turn to Pasted.

"To create art? Often you just can't afford it. You have to do it yourself in the early stages, so anything that can help you do that is great," he told NBC News. "That's the world I came up in. For me, I see a niche that would be really cool."