In 1999, Sean Tillman started Har Mar Superstar in Minneapolis as a one-man show. Har Mar Superstar’s R&B/Soul/Pop sounds provided Tillman with a break from his indie-pop band Sean Na-Na. Tillman brought his bands to Fayetteville’s Clunk Music Hall so many times in the early 2000’s that they became legendary. He gained a cult following fueled by fliers taped around campus, and word-of-mouth buzz about the shows that ended with Tillman being mostly naked and covered in confetti.
Who: Har Mar Superstar / The Gebharts
When: 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23
Where: George’s Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville
Cost: $10 in advance or at the door
More: See the Facebook invite
After a few records that added more dance songs, Har Mar Superstar became a full band for Tillman, and developed a richer sound. The band’s newer records “Bye Bye 17” and “Best Summer Ever” feature slower and more soulful songs, along with guest spots and production from Karen O and Julian Casablancas. The recently released EP “Personal Boy” is another departure for Tillman, and further proof that he can write great songs in multiple genres. “Personal Boy” also includes an incredible cover of The Afghan Whigs’ song “Demon In Profile.” (Listen ASAP)
Har Mar Superstar is back in Fayetteville on Monday, Oct. 23 at George’s Majestic Lounge. I can highly recommend going. Fayetteville band The Gebharts open up, so get there early.
I talked to Sean on a break from tour, and here goes…
Lots of people in Fayetteville have fond memories of your shows at Clunk Music Hall. What do you remember about those shows? How did this connection affect you?
I’ve always loved playing in Fayetteville. We had tons of friends in town in the late 90s because of various band connections there and in Little Rock. Clunk Music Hall was always a blast. We played there so many times in many different projects and line ups. The whole thing was bolstered by the spirit of Chris Selby (Clunk). He’s just so hilarious and joyful that it was impossible to not have so much fun there. The place had a certain magic that always spilled over into a house party situation where you’d end up sleeping in a pizza in the floor. I loved it.
You’ve refined your sound over the years, seemingly starting from scratch every time. Is this something you aim for with each new record?
I go into each new record session with an open mind about what it should sound like. It frees up my creative brain, and I eventually find where the sound should go. I try to let go of the uptight portion of my brain and let the proverbial wind move me. Just entertaining myself as a means to entertain the audience I suppose.
You’re on tour right now with The Afghan Whigs. How does it feel to share a stage with them? What’s been the highlight so far?
The Afghan Whigs are great to tour with. They’ve been legends to me since I started making music, just sonically ferocious with a love-torn fringe. Every night I sing their song “Demon in Profile” with them, and it’s a total blast. They’re great people, and we are all mutual fans of each other, so the tour environment is great. I like the nights when everyone really cuts loose.
You just released an awesome new EP. How did those songs come about? Is there a new record coming soon?
The EP was kind of an accident. I went into the studio with BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Hippo Campus, Sylvan Esso) and Lazerbeak (Doomtree, Lizzo) with the intent of making a purely all upbeat dance album, but once I laid down the chord progression that became “Personal Boy” we knew we had to go full on Seal / George Michael with it. It just begged to sound like a lost cut from the Titanic soundtrack, so we just followed the feeling and made it its own little world on a 45 rpm 12″ record. Now that we got that out we can finish the newer dance tracks this winter. I’ve got a ton of new material. Just deciding what to do with it all is the tricky part. There will be a new record, probably two, but I have no idea when.
What was the last record you heard that made you want to write a song?
Any time I hear Sam Cooke I want to write. As far as newer stuff goes I’d have to say the debut album by Velvet Negroni really made me excited to create again. Definitely check him out.
What have you been writing about lately?
Feelings. Always feelings. Ha!
What’s the first thing you look for on tour in a new town? What do you like to do before shows?
We are majorly into pinball and have apps that track what bars have what machines. We’re always on the lookout for bars with Medieval Madness, Aerosmith, Kiss, Batman 66, and Wizard of Oz machines. That’s what we do. Eat, nap, play pinball, and rock crowds.
You’re playing at George’s Majestic on Monday, Oct. 23. What can we expect at the show? Should we go ahead and plan to take Tuesday off?
Expect to have fun! We want you to dance and sing along, even if you don’t know the words. Make ’em up! There are 6 of us on stage now, and we’ll be 7 weeks into this tour, so we’re sounding extremely good. Horns, keys, guitars, dance moves, sweat, all of it. We deliver the party, and hell yes, always take the next day off after a Har Mar show.