For 10 years Sheer Mag were hounded by record labels but refused to sign: Now they're ready for the attention

Sheer Mag group shot
(Image credit: Natalie Piserchio)

Matt Palmer is reflecting on Sheer Mag’s early days of 2015-2019 when the Philadelphia power-pop band’s interpretation of peacocking seventies rock earned them a swift injection of buzz and exposure. But even then they had their eyes on the long game, and were wary of the attention being heaped upon them. 

“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t ride the hype rollercoaster and burn out too quickly,” Palmer reasons. “We wanted to make sure it was something sustainable that we could keep doing for years and years.” 

The quartet, made up of Palmer, powerhouse vocalist Christina Halladay and two brothers (bassist Hart and lead guitarist Kyle Seely) formed in 2014. By the end of the following year they had released two critically acclaimed EPs and were playing sold-out, sweatbox shows across the world with only eight songs in their arsenal. All the while ignoring every label salivating to sign them. 

“We could have signed earlier, or tried to make the jump into being a more mainstream band, but I think that it’s good that we held back,” shrugs Matt. “It was better to not flame out early, but get to know each other and realise how we wanted to represent each other, and what sort of music we wanted to make.” 

Joining her bandmate on Zoom, Halladay chuckles. “When we didn’t immediately sign to whatever record label was hounding us, they were pissed off. People are still mad!”

Delayed by the pandemic, the band’s third album, Playing Favourites, is their most refined to date – distilling ass-kicking, beer-swilling sleaze, disco and triumphant nostalgia into a feral adrenaline shot. 

“It’s a very meticulously crafted record,” says Palmer. “There’s a propulsiveness in the track listing that can move you through it on the first listen, but then there’s little sonic easter eggs that you can find on every song that will reward returning to.” 

In theory, it could put them in front of a larger audience than ever. Ten years since they first emerged from the dive bars of Philly, Sheer Mag have done the unthinkable: agreeing upon a record deal, and signing with Jack White’s Third Man Records. 

“The entire process of making the art with them has been really smooth,” Palmer reflects. “They seem like a great fit for us.” 

“Maybe we took too long, but we’ve just figured ourselves out and it feels like we’re very solid,” Halladay continues. “So, we’re trying out the next step of things we haven’t tried before.” 

With a new label, the glare of the spotlight beckons once again – only this time, Sheer Mag are embracing it. 

“It was super weird the way things happened for us,” Palmer muses. “We were worried about overexposure before. But I think we’re ready for the attention now.”

Sheer Mag's Playing Favourites is out via Third Man now.

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.