If you’ve followed us at all over the past year, you know we’re pretty keen on Sheer, a group of upstarts making a beautiful ruckus from Simi Valley to L.A. One of their several singles, “Skin”, even charted in last year’s “Best Of” tracks list. But it’s a new year, it’s a new day, it’s a new life (or something to that effect), Sheer is readying the release of their debut LP, Uneasy, as well as their first dreamy-looking video. They even corralled producer Michael James (Reverend Horton Heat, Jawbreaker, L7, New Radicals) into a revisioning of their single “Uneasy”, turning quiet insistence into something more beautifully monstrous. We caught up with Gina Almaguer and Sean Sakamoto of Sheer to get the update. SO many questions…
DKFM: First, WELCOME! It’s damn good to catch up with you! Tell us about the LP, Uneasy. What made you take the giant leap from a few well-received singles to a full long-player?
Gina: We’ve been working on all of the material since we first starting jamming back in May 2014. We released singles here and there because once we recorded one track, we were so excited to hear it in a digital format that we wanted to share it with everyone. We finally had to sit down and just record all that we had and put it out in bulk. It’s been hard to keep it all to ourselves for this long, but we are so excited to finally share it!
DKFM: How on Earth did you enlist the help of producer Michael James? Surely no small feat getting him on board for the title track?
Sean: He is a mutual friend of mine through my work and he asked to hear our music one day. He told me he liked it and he offered some of his expertise on our title track. It was nice getting a fresh pair of ears on something we have been working on for a better part of the year. Mixing our own album was very mind numbing at times and it was refreshing hearing a mix from another producer.
DKFM: Now that we’ve got rather ahead of ourselves, tell us how Sheer came about? Surely there will be some new fans only just now catching up with you. How did the squad come together?
Sean: Anthony plays guitar in another band (Black Prism) and was telling me he wanted to play bass in a band around the same time that me and Gina started jamming a little over a year ago. At that time me and Gina were trying to write more heavy riff driven music. I have known Jules through mutual friends for a long time and we would mess around on guitar and drums, so once we had Gina, Anthony, and myself, I asked Jules if he wanted to jam with all of us, and one thing led to another and we have been doing it ever since.
DKFM: Your sound is big and bold, but not at all derivative. The new album is filed with texture and color, but it’s not a carbon copy of anything else. Any influences come to mind that helped inspire this sound, this direction for the band?
Sean: I think our sound comes directly from our vastly different but somewhat similar backgrounds in tastes of music. One of my personal main influences would have to be Boris, both sound and direction. I really like that Boris has such a wide array of different music in there catalog and all of it is great. It’s really hard to describe them to anybody and I like that about them.
Gina: There’s so many bands that have such a different sound from one another that inspire me a lot when I write, almost too many to mention. I think one of the more prominent ones would be Slowdive, although I try to create my own personal twist on some the styles I admire about them. Rachel’s subtle yet powerful vocal melodies inspired me a lot as well as the overall ambiance of the band in general. Who doesn’t get inspired by Slowdive though, honestly? G.O.A.T.
DKFM: WE’D be hard pressed to describe the ‘Sheer sound’ to a newcomer. It’s part gazey, part indie, and all earnest and open. How would YOU describe the sound?
Sean: I find myself getting asked this question a good amount lately and honestly I can’t really describe it. It’s best for someone just to listen to us or come see us and let them label us as they see fit (haha). I think everyone hears things very differently and some people will listen to our music and compare us to a band while someone else would compare us to a band that is nothing alike . We definitely try to have our own “sound”, but I kind of like that its a challenge to describe us to people who have never heard us.
Gina: I agree with Sean. People ask us all the time and I don’t think either of us have ever had a direct answer. We all have adopted so many various styles from different genres/artists that it’s very difficult to pinpoint just one.
DKFM: What can fans expect from the album?
Gina: I think each track has it’s own sound and style. No two tracks sound that same. I even think a few of the songs could have easily been released by a completely different band and no one would know it was us (lol). I think that’s what makes “Sheer” who we are though.
DKFM: From what we know, the album is more about quality songwriting than being reliant of effects. But, for the record, describe your setup?
Sean: Our setup is constantly changing. I’ll try and keep it simple and straightforward: Telecasters, p bass, high wattage heads (for more clean headroom), few speaker cabinets with high wattage speakers (so we don’t get that much speaker break up), boost pedal of some sort, fuzz pedal of some sort (usually some variant of a big muff circuit), overdrive pedal, delay pedal, chorus pedal, and a reverb pedal.
Gina: Sean’s the gear nerd of the band, so it seems he has something new every practice. I play a Standard American Tele out of a Music Man 100RD. The pedals I’m using at the moment are a Supernatural Reverb, Akai digital/tape delay/ loop combo, Walrus Audio Jupiter fuzz (honestly my favorite pedal ever) and a boutique clean boost that I got from Sean.
DKFM: Describe the songwriting process. Who brings what to the table, and how are the tracks fleshed out?
Sean: Songwriting is a joint effort. It really helps shape our sound since we all have different writing styles and influences. One of us will write something and bring it to practice and jam it and if we all like it or think we can make it into something we like, then we stick with it.
Gina: Basically, someone will present the band with a riff or chord progression they wrote and each of us will add a part onto it that has our own personal twist and we just keep jamming it until we agree to call it finished.
DKFM: As you may know, “Skin” hit our Top 50 songs of the year last year. And it’s a hell of a tune. The churning guitar, nuclear-powered rhythm section, and plaintive (but not weak) vocals laid over the top. What’s it about, how did it come together, what makes it so monumental?
Gina: I was “fan girling” pretty hard when our song came on the Top 50 stream. I was driving and almost crashed hahah. I wrote that song about my mom who passed away from cancer in 2010. She was sick for a long time so when the doctors told us that her time was ending soon, she actually spent that last days of her life in the home our family had just moved into. It’s basically about me being with her on her last days here.
DKFM: Seems like you’ve been “adopted”, not only in the LA scene, but by fans, by US, and by local bands in SoCal trying to make a difference. Tell us about the reception and support you’ve gotten thus far.
Sean: You guys have been very supportive since day one and we are forever grateful for that! We have only been a band for a little over a year and we have made so many great friends through this.
Gina: Well we definitely have DKFM to thank for playing our songs ever since the beginning. I think the night you premiered our first release “Orion” we got a lot of response right away. That gave us more motivation to play more shows locally which in return gave us the opportunity to build great friendships with other musicians in the area.
DKFM: There’s a video. We knew about it months ago. And waited. And waited some more. Tell us about translating your audio textures into visuals, the team that’s helping put it together, and when we might finally be able to see the finished product?
Sean: If you’re reading this its too late. . . see what i did there? it was filmed by my good friend Collin McCaffrey.
Gina: I see you Sean…
DKFM: Anyone can tell you, it ain’t easy being an independent band in this climate (recording costs, tour expense, etc.). How do you make it work?
Sean: It’s a labor of love. We do most everything ourselves. We track, edit, mix, and produce our own music. It does add up over time but in the end we are doing what we love.
Gina: Our drummer Jules is also a very talented producer who has his own studio. We kind of got off pretty lucky being able to produce everything ourselves. As Sean said, it does add up, but it’s an investment into something we love and are passionate about, so every penny is worth it.
DKFM: How did you guys hook up with The Native Sound and how has it been having label representation?
Sean: We have been in constant contact with them since about February this year. they found out about us through some form of social media or a blog and reached out to us. Once the album was done I sent it to them and I guess they liked it (haha). The Native Sound have been very welcoming and very helpful. They have an amazing roster of artists and we are stoked to be a part of it.
DKFM: Now, on the eve of the album’s release, any plans for a wider tour? And what comes next?
Sean: We will be making our way through California in support of the album. hopefully we can take it further in 2016 by touring further.
Gina: Kickstarter campaign for a Sheer world tour in 2016!!
DKFM: Finally, what would you like your new fans to know, about the band, about the album?
Sean: Thanks to everyone who has come out to a show, listened to our music, and we hope y’all like what you hear!
Gina: We’ve all dedicated so much of our time getting it together (sooooooo many late nights and coffee breaks) and we are just so grateful to see our hard work come to life. We really hope everyone likes it! Honestly, we are pumped if we only have one fan (hahah). We also have a lot of thanks to give for DKFM for supporting us all this time 🙂