Friday, May 7, 2021

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The Sound

Har Mar Superstar gets personal


“Personal Boy,” the titular song on Har Mar Superstar’s new EP is epic. Like eight-minutes-long epic. It’s like a mini “Lemonade” by a chubby white boy from Minneapolis, though Beyonce wasn’t who Har Mar had in mind while creating the song with Lazerbeak of Doomtree and BJ Burton.

“I didn’t really set out to write an eight-minute song,” said Sean Tillman, who performs under the stage name Har Mar Superstar. “We were in the studio and starting to mess with chord progression, and things started to get spaced out and a little slower. Once those parts were down, it was already pretty long, but it had no build up. BJ said it sounded like Seal, or a song that would be on the ‘Titanic’ soundtrack. It was kind of a joke that became reality, because you don’t set out to write a really serious, eight-minute song.”

The EP also includes a cover of the Afghan Whig’s, song “Demon in Profile,” which came together in a roundabout way. Tillman is in the video for the Afghan Whigs version, lip syncing to Greg Dulli’s voice. Tillman enjoyed the song enough to put his own spin on it. If he ends up making a video for the Har Mar Superstar version, he wants Dulli to lip sync to his vocals.

Earlier this year, Tillman also performed the theme song for the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” relaunch on Netflix. Tillman said the cow town puppet show that mocked B-movies was part of what inspired him to become a performer.

“The show started in Minneapolis, so there was always this connection as a kid,” Tillman said. “I always loved the show and was mystified by the fact that people an hour away from my town could make such a cool show and have it be so widespread across the country. It really inspired me to work on shit, knowing you can be from anywhere and still achieve anything.”

Prep Iowa

If you look up articles about Har Mar Superstar online, you’ll start to notice a recurring theme. Phrases like “quasi novelty act” get thrown around regularly. And when you listen to a track like 2009’s “Tall Boy,” which Tillman wrote for Britney Spears (she passed on recording the song), the label might seem apt. But listen to something like 2013’s “Lady, You Shot Me,” and you’ll find a legitimately great soul song.

Part of it no doubt stems from the fact that Tillman doesn’t look like most modern musicians. Porn star Ron Jeremy is a comparison that gets thrown around with some regularity. But close your eyes and just listen. Har Mar Superstar songs are often novel, but they’re not novelties.

“I don’t like it,” Tillman said of the label. “It might have applied when I was starting out, but it hasn’t been like that in a long time. But I can’t control what people write about me.”

When he started performing, Tillman would sing over backing tracks, but now he plays with a six-piece band. The band adds to the musical legitimacy, but really it’s just about Tillman putting on the best band show he can as a performer.

“It’s a lot less pressure than performing alone,” Tillman said of his band. “It’s just a lot more fun for me. I liked the solo thing too, but this is more the killer show I would want to see.” ♦

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