Although Philadelphia rockers Sheer Mag are scheduled to release a new album in August, the Tina Halladay-fronted quartet is still figuring a few things out.
After spending the time between 2014 and 2016 self-releasing a trio of 7-inch EPs, the band dropped its debut studio album in 2017. Need to Feel Your Love was produced by bassist Hart Seeley and looked to streamline the heady combination of punk and classic rock influences found on Sheer Mag’s EPs.
With its sophomore follow-up, the soon-to-be-released A Distant Call, Sheer Mag is taking things even further.
For the first time ever, the group holed up together in a DeRuyter, NY, cottage to experiment with a new way to get their creative ideas on tape. And while each member’s principal duties didn’t change considerably — Seely once again recorded, his guitarist/drummer brother Kyle engineered, and rhythm guitarist Matt Palmer wrote all the lyrics — the new logistics did stir the pot.
“Our roles pretty much stayed the same,” lead singer Tina Halladay said recently while trimming her toenails at a tour stop in Portland. “But there was a lot more dipping into each other’s areas. There was just a lot more collaborating and that wasn’t easy for us. But at this point, we’re just trying to be more like a normal band.”
They also recorded Halladay’s vocals in a new way — this time with Philly-based metal producer Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy) at the helm — something the powerfully voiced frontwoman said made things much less stressful.
And while Palmer sculpts the words that are ultimately found in the songs, they all start with the ideas that Halladay provides for him.
“These are my experiences,” she said. “We’re definitely not the first to do it this way, but I always compare it to The Band. It’s like how Robbie Robertson was writing about Levon Helm’s experiences of living in the South. I write pages and pages of ideas. Matt is just better at helping me interpret them and arranging the words into songs.”
The songs also tend to have a political bend to them and those ideologies continue on the new album. A Distant Call follows a protagonist trying her best to navigate the world’s current state of political unrest and railing against the pitfalls of capitalism.
Sheer Mag’s music may sound like a rockin’ good time, but they aren’t shy about making sure its message is one that makes fans think.
“We’re a political band,” Halladay said. “We’re all pretty political people and we do embrace that. I think it’s a copout when bands say they don’t want to be known as political. That’s just showing your privilege right there.”
On Sheer Mag’s last tour, the band worked with Disrupt J20, a Trump protest group, and while they’re not currently aligned with any specific organization or cause, Halladay isn’t shy about speaking her mind on stage.
It’s all just part of the band’s continuing evolution and the desire to refine its process. Or maybe the members are just getting smarter. Either way, it bodes well for the future.
“We are becoming more focused,” Halladay said. “But we always try to take our time. We waited until we had the proper footing this time and were really ready to put out a new record. We just needed to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be, instead of just declaring it and letting everyone else decide. And I think that’s always a good thing.”
Sheer Mag w/ Ceremony
When: 7 p.m. July 3
Where: The Irenic, 3090 Polk Ave., North Park