Har Mar Superstar
Sean Matthew Tillmann aka Har Mar Superstar has been blowing audiences’ minds for more than 10 years with a voice that sounds a little like a young Michael Jackson coming out of a man who looks a little like a young Ron Jeremy. His voice isn’t the only sexy thing on stage, as Tillman proceeds to remove articles of clothing throughout his performances, leaving him wearing nothing but his tightest of whiteys and a shower of sweat. This one-of-a-kind live show has made Har Mar a superstar and has sent him touring around the world as the opener for bands such as Incubus, The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
"I was probably so precocious and annoying in the beginning," Tillmann explains over beers inside Milk Made’s Los Angeles offices. "I mean, this all started when I was 16 or 17 and I was still so insanely excited about meeting bands and basically any gig we ever booked. I wasn’t afraid of anything. I kinda miss that sometimes. I used to get so affected and emotional about girls and stuff. Now it’s this, like, this even numbness of feelings most of the time."
Tillman laughs at the somewhat dark examination of his feelings with a deep fervor, almost as a way to cushion the weight of his statement. It’s a contagious laugh. His mouth opens up wide and his shoulders bounce as he rolls back in his chair and lets his laughter bubble up through his stomach, getting his whole body into the act. He’s like a giant kid with a raspy voice and thinning hair. He’s exactly what you’d want a musician who’s been around for as long as he has to be like: open, friendly and inviting. The conversation flows like we’ve known each other for years as Tillman talks to me more about touring for his latest album Bye Bye 17 and the path his career has taken.
"I’ve been basically touring non stop since the album dropped in April. I love touring though. I started doing all this music stuff to be on stage. The music writing always comes in big spurts, so I just kind wait for that so I can make an album and get back to touring. I mean, I kinda write songs to slay live. I’ve also always loved those 10 minutes backstage before you go on and the feeling you get. It’s just fun. It’s like you’re in the locker room about to play some big game, but there’s no way you can lose." He can hardly get the last few words out of his mouth before he’s already back to laughing.
The release of Bye Bye 17 also finds Har Mar under the new label Cult Records which was started by Sean’s long time friend Julian Casablancas, the front man for The Strokes.
"It’s awesome working with Julian. We’ve been friends for a long time and I love him and I trust him cause I know he loves my shit. Plus the ideas he brings to the table and the people he curates to get together to work on stuff… he’s right on the money. It’s cool too because my record was the second record that came out on Cult, so it feels cool because I am with something from the ground level. It means I get to have a lot of say in stuff that we do and there’s more attention given to each of the bands. I mean, if you have a good manager and good team you work with, it’s completely different. People will see big names of big record companies, but it’s not always the right way to go because those people don’t always care about a smaller artist. It’s better to trust a friend that’s trustworthy and believes in you than to go for whoever has the biggest names or whatever. It doesn’t work. You get looked over."
Since the first time Har Mar set foot on stage and started stripping, he has been known for giving the crowd a good time. With songs like "Tall Boy" and "Gangsters Want To Cuddle Me," it’s easy to see that Har Mar didn’t build his career playing Mr. Serious. However, with Bye Bye 17, Har Mar puts the party to rest to sing us something somber.
"I think it’s taken me this long to accrue enough life experiences to sing the way I’ve always wanted to and have it really mean something. I love everything I’ve done. I love all my stuff, but now it’s time to stop fucking around.” Tillman winks in my direction as he slaps his leg and laughs. “I guess there is still a little bit of the old me in the album with, like, the double entendres and shit, they just mean something a little more real now… or something like that. You know what I mean? I still wanna make fun shit, but this is what’s fun to me now. Talking about real shit.
Don’t get him wrong, there is still a lot of fun to be had in Har Mar’s music. The same way Otis Redding or Sam Cooke are able to put a swing in your step while singing about a broken heart, so can Har Mar as he moves you on Bye Bye 17 with songs like Restless Leg and Lady, You Shot Me. Like the rest of us, Har Mar has had to deal with all the stuff that drags us kicking and screaming out of our adolescence.
"I was kind of at a weird standstill in LA and started to realize that I had sorta trapped myself into a shitty situation that wasn’t vibing with me creatively. So I just picked up and moved to New York. I did a residency there for a bit in the winter and sorta let the coldness of winter bum me out and make me emotional so I could write about it. I mean, the winters in New York are so emotional.”
Photos By: Martha Galvan