Har Mar Superstar: Singer, Songwriter, Connoisseur of Weird

The music scene, especially in Los Angeles, isn’t widely known as an accepting or inclusive community. The stereotypes of fake friends and ladder-climbers all ring true and rear their ugly heads often. Among them, Har Mar Superstar — real name Sean Tillmann — has managed to cooly surf above the gross fumes of LA’s industry gutters. One part singer-songwriter and one part diva, Har Mar, 34 (who takes his name from the Har Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota, where he’s from) is an enigmatic, overtly sexual tour de force of erotic stage presence and electronic R&B, and his everyday philosophy can be boiled down to “just be your weird self.”

The man is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde creative. He has written songs for Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Osbourne, and he’s opened for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Strokes. Onstage, he writhes around sweatily discarding his outfit, rubbing his plump body, and cooing to front rows. But when we meet in Los Feliz, he’s in civilian attire: sneakers, jeans, and a Sade t-shirt. We caught up with the enigmatic singer — now at work on his fifth solo album — on a break from Petty Fest.

For those who haven’t had a chance to see you perform, how would you say a usual Har Mar show goes down?

A usual Har Mar show is a sweaty celebration of life. I like to get involved with the audience and get people moving. Inhibitions are banished from the room. It’s all about having the most fun for an hour.

There’s a lot of body-feeling, flying garments, some interpretive-dance style rolling around on stage. What’s with the nudity?

R&B is really sexual music. I think singing something with a particular rhythm kind of just lends to it and makes it the obvious choice. 

Do you think that sexual energy and flare is expected of you at this point?

I started stripping down early on 10 or 12 years ago. It was mainly an attempt to save myself from completely destroying my custom made tour outfits. Now it’s kind of expected. I don’t mind the expectation. People want to see my killer body.

Was there a point when you weren’t comfortable with yourself in that way? Taking your clothes off and getting weird on stage …

Oh definitely! I think everybody is that way. I was never like “oh no, my body!” but I definitely wasn’t like an exhibitionist or anything like that … I was a bit uncomfortable with it. But my style has always been to accentuate what I’m uncomfortable with, in a way that makes other people more comfortable with themselves. I’m carrying the flag for every dude with a gut. 

How do you describe your craft?

Brutal, sexual R&B. A bit all over the place. I can’t really pinpoint exactly so, I guess for the most part my art is random.

You know, I haven’t met one person ever who’s had a bad word to say about you. 

Well, shit, thanks man!

Do you think there’s any particular reason for that?

It probably has a lot to do with being from Minnesota. I think Midwesterners are pretty inclusive and hardworking. 

Do you think there’s a particular superficiality to LA? Does it transfer or is it just here?

No. LA is the same as everywhere else. I mean, there are places you can go that are superficial — if you’re on the Sunset Strip or hanging out at velvet rope clubs. But every city has that douchebaggery. LA is more famous for it, I guess. But that strip can be fun as hell, too, if you know how to do it right. 

You’ve toured all over the world with bands like Tenacious D, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gayngs, Incubus, Marijuana Deathsquads … a lot of people don’t enjoy touring, especially that much.

I love it. I love the feeling of your real life fading away, you know what I mean? When you sit in your house you think about paying the rent. Real life stuff all the time and weird things you have to deal with. But once you leave for tour — for me at least — all that just sort of goes away and tends to work itself out. And I love driving long distances. 

If there was a life philosophy of Har Mar, what would it be?

For a long time my motto was: Who cares? Like when people would come to me with their drams and just, you know, dumb things, it’s just answering: Who cares? Does it affect you? Why would you care about what I’m doing when I’m just doing it and having a good time? I feel like once you get older, most things aren’t as important as you think they are.

What can we learn from from Har Mar?

A celebration of your own personal weirdness. I feel like that’s the point of my shows. They’re uplifting in that way cause I’m gonna get up there and be weirder than you so you can feel the freedom to have fun and not worry about what other people are thinking and get stupid for a night. I would love if other people were more comfortable with themselves because then there would be less discomfort in general. The better people feel, the more fun shit’s gonna be.

Alan Hanson

The Strokes frontman, Cult Records founder, and solo artist extraordinaire Julian Casablancas sits down with Har Mar for a rare interview on today’s Nocturnal Emotions! Julian & Har Mar talk about movie soundtracks, not being natural in front of a camera, and Julian’s ability to sing falsetto to write. Then they explore the idea of creating a mini-movie series about human evolution during Let’s Create A Show and are challenged while playing a game of Let Me Ruin Your Favorite Song with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

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