The Philadelphia four-piece are returning to Australia, fresh off their most impressive and erudite record, A Distant Call.
It’s a glam rock-inspired, riff-heavy call to arms that’s electrifying in both its everyday relatability and social critique.
“It’s short for Sheer Magnitude,” says Halliday, the band’s vocalist and frontwoman, on the group’s name and the formation of the band. “We had a big house together, and we recorded all our music in our connected bedrooms … The idea behind the band was stadium rock with a DIY sound. We love all those glam rock bands, but I think adding vulnerability and different viewpoints in our lyrics is what helps us stand out from them.”
On A Distant Call, Halliday’s vocals are immediately more grizzly and powerful than previous Sheer Mag releases – a hard feat considering the vocal grit the band have become known for. The lyrics are cathartic, politically charged and ultimately hopeful, all the while wrapped in melodies that sound, more than ever, really fun.
“We recorded the album with Arthur Rizk who had done a lot of metal records,” she says. “We wanted it to be a concept album about my experiences. A lot of stuff was happening to get me down, a lot was going wrong. I definitely learnt a lot about my voice recording this album. We wanted people to be able to hear the message clearly.”
Throughout A Distant Call, Halliday’s talent as a singer and lyricist is mirrored by Sheer Mag’s ability to craft songs that make you want to bang your head and rip an air guitar a la Spinal Tap, while never losing sight of the record’s overarching themes.
According to the Philly rockers, political struggle is everywhere and change only comes from inspiring people to act. Many of the songs on A Distant Call are framed in the context of failed relationships as a metaphor for greater societal issues. Somehow, you want to dance to it all.
“On this record, it’s showing the personal as political and vice versa, and pairing those things together,” says Halliday. “It’s important for people to realise that everything is political, people are struggling every single day. When people don’t want to be involved, or stand up and speak out against injustice it shows they have a privilege of not worrying or having to think about it.
“If we’re ignoring the problems, it’s not going to get better, and it’s hard to realise that if people aren’t talking about it.”
The contrast between such a politically-charged record lyrically, and it’s connecting music that honours a bygone era of social apathy, makes for an album and band that is refreshingly engaging and wholly believable.
“The story behind the album shows the strength to pull yourself out, personally and collectively, of those kinds of situations. Everyone has those kinds of stories,” she says. “I hope people can relate to them.”
It’s evident on A Distant Call that Sheer Mag are writing songs that encourage listeners to become more politically apt, and that it’s possible to have a good time doing so. In light of so much inequity and inequality, it’s voices like Halliday’s and bands like Sheer Mag that have proven to be empowering outlets for listeners.
Sheer Mag last visited Australia in November 2016 as a relatively small band at the time, only having just released their first music. They return in March to headline Brunswick Music Festival with an adoring Australian fanbase, a fantastic record at their heels and a live show that’s going to rock you whether you like it or not.
“Last time in Australia was so hot, and so fun. This time around it might be even better,” Halliday concludes.
Sheer Mag hit Estonian House on Thursday March 19. Grab your tickets via brunswickmusicfestival.com.au.