“This One Thing On Bandcamp” is a weekly feature that digs deep into the archive of music available on Bandcamp.com to find indie artists worthy of your attention.
It’s a Friday night and you and your best friend are celebrating pay day. Sure, it’s not a ton of money and there’s still bills to take care of, but screw it you’ve earned a night out. You walk down the block to your usual place. The door pulls in the smell of cigarettes from outside when you enter and your feet get a little stuck to the floor every other step. The bartender gives you a nod and sets out two tall boys and two shots of the cheapest whisky they’ve got. Don’t worry, the shots are on him.
Toward the back, a crowd has formed around the makeshift plywood stage, and you already know why. The house favorites are back in town after a short string of small shows around the neighboring counties. As the guitars plug in, people nod their heads in anticipation. They crack inside jokes with the band and debate with you about what will be on the set-list tonight. When the band starts up, it won’t matter what they play: every song is your favorite. This band is your favorite.
This is what it’s like to listen to Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag is a special breed of band. Hailing from Philadelphia, this 5-piece group has taken the basics of classic rock, mixed in some DIY punk aesthetic, and made music that owes as much to Fleetwood Mac as it does The Stooges. Sheer Mag will make you fall in love with them more and more with each song and every listen.
The songwriting is, at its core, pure pop-rock: Verse, chorus, verse with guitar solos and a healthy dose of ’70s swagger. It’s simple and effective and produces incredibly infectious and expressive results. It’s like they wrote these songs with some sort of neurological precision, treating the human brain as a series of buttons that, when pushed in the correct order, can produce pure enjoyment.
However, Sheer Mag covers the songs in a grungy, deliberately unpolished sound that makes each track exciting. The guitars are rolled in sonic grit and gravel that give each riff serious attitude, and the solos are perfect moments of guitar heroism. The rhythm section backs it all up with thick, fuzzy bass and percussion that happily thumps along.
Completing the group is lead singer Tina Halliday. Her voice is not unlike Janis Joplin’s: bristly and coarse, but with an undeniable soulfulness and devotion. On “Can’t Stop Fighting”, a rallying cry against violence toward women, Halliday is the general leading the charge: “All my life I’ve felt the eye of the catcall/We’re striking back baby and you can find me in the vanguard”. She has the no nonsense growl of an American muscle car and it is, in a word, badass .
The band has a focus on individuality, self-confidence and anti-establishment in their lyrics. “Night Isn’t Bright” tackles distrust in politics and the power of uniting for a cause and “Button Up” promotes being true to yourself and sticking to your convictions. It’s empowering stuff and provides a triumphant defiance to the songs, especially with lines like “I’m a bad bitch if I please/I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again/I brought many a man to his knees”.
A million good things can, and have, been said about Sheer Mag. Their third EP, III, is already on some best of 2016 lists, and will surely remain by year’s end. This band is one you form a bond with, like your favorite bar. Sure, it’s got a rough exterior and most of the repairs and improvements involve duct tape. But it’s always been there for you, the bartender knows your name, and your usual spot fits just right.