BY JOEY SWEENEY
Since their singles began to emerge in local record stores about two years ago — each a blurry vision in Kinko’s black-and-white, each bearing the now-signature handmade heavy-metal-high-school-copybook logo — Sheer Mag has been a case study in a whole bunch of values that feel endangered or maybe even extinct not just in music right now, but in our own lives and our own senses of self-expression full stop. What are those things? Let’s itemize them this way:
1. The beautiful power of “No.” Every person I know who’s in and around the record industry has told me the same type of story over the last few years — that this label or that has made a grab for the band, and without fail, Sheer Mag has looked the dead rock ‘n’ roll dream — getting signed! — right in the eye and been like, “Nah.” It’s always occurred to me that this is less out of any antiquated notions about “selling out” than it has been about the practical reality and personal determination that the band experiences every day: When you work as hard as this band does (their tour schedules are routinely insane), you don’t need a label. Not anymore. And so their first proper full-length album, Need To Feel Your Love, will come out this July on Wilsuns RC, the same in-house label that’s put out everything else they’ve done so far; you can hear the first track from it below. That’s a detour into the current status of the music industry, but: being that clear-eyed about what you want out of this life versus the invariably disappointing nature of previously established, systemic career options whilst tryin’ to get paid in an empire in decline — well, that’s something that everyone can learn from.
2. Always leave ‘em wanting more. This is the both the logic that has propelled Sheer Mag’s initial string of 7-inch Eps (now collected on Compilation: I, II, & III) and the pace of the songs themselves. Each jammed four songs onto two sides, each a concise thesis and variation on a simple theme: Let’s rock. The average Sheer Mag song clocks in somewhere just on the other side of the three-minute mark, with some of the best ones well below that. Only Phil Spector or the Ramones really give Sheer Mag a run for their money when it comes to the quality/brevity ratio (you might mention Guided By Voices here but my friend, I am talking about brevity and quality, together). How this could relate to you or I on a personal level could scale from the social media strategy of, uh, your personal brand (share less, make the content more) on down to reinforcement for your love of the comedy stylings of George Costanza. In fact, it’s a piece of advice that I should be using right now.
3. Your personal style is actually political empowerment. This goes across everything Sheer Mag does as a cohesive stylistic statement: From the lo-fi dirtball visual aesthetic in play on their records and their merch to the independent-minded style in which they conduct their business affairs, everything is of a piece, and Sheer Mag is only ever itself, and nothing else. Cruise their Facebook page; it barely exists, no in-studio shots, no branded promos or shares of petitions or any of that stuff. There is only the music and only their very controlled visual presence, and in that, the band transmits something very powerful: They are only in this to express themselves the exact way they want, and nothing else is worth doing, even if everybody else is doing it.
None of this, of course, even begins to address the actual music of Sheer Mag, so let me just put this out there: It is exquisite. It’s like Thin Lizzy got taken over by the toughest girl in school in some wonderful, heavens-mandated thunderclap and now they’re on a mission to spread the word that you too could live a life free from anything you don’t really feel like doing but people expect that you should!
It is a timeless message, and thanks to your hometown heroes Sheer Mag, it’s getting louder every day.