It’s difficult to classify Sean Tillmann, aka Har Mar Superstar, to just one genre or as being just one certain type of artist.
He’s voice is amazingly beautiful and his music perfectly showcases who he is as an artist because there’s many layers to his artistry. He soulfully nails melancholia and can dance and sing like nobodies business. His songwriting, dancing, and performing shows a glimpse into his multifaceted artistry and the GATRS were fortunate enough to interview him.
GATR Naomi: I love that the idea of ‘Best Summer Ever’ is a greatest hits from 1950-1985, what was the inspiration behind it?
Sean Tillmann: Once I had all of the songs written Julian and I realized that there were a lot styles/ themes represented. We decided that making it a greatest hits from an era I wasn’t alive/ and or writing yet in was the best idea. It was a way to make the production of the album cohesive.
GATR Naomi: The first time I heard ‘Best Summer Ever,’ I probably replayed it at least 7 times. It’s such an eclectic collection of songs. Did working with Shawn Everette and Julian Casablancas help contribute to the variety of the mix?
ST: Thanks. Shawn and Julian definitely helped make the final product sound amazing. There was a lot of love put into the writing and production of this record.
GATR Naomi: “Youth Without Love” was a demo that Julian Casablancas had (to me, it almost reminds me of The Strokes’ “Games“). What made you want to add on ‘Best Summer Ever’? Also, no disrespect to Julian (I adore his work) but the song sounds like the perfect Har Mar Superstar song. Did the demo change or stay true to the original?
ST: I just fell in love with the song immediately when I heard it. It makes a lot of sense within the Best Summer Ever world and definitely curbs some of the heartbreak.
The demo was a lot more guitar oriented. We recorded a version with Matt Sweeney playing a Girls Just Want to Have Fun style guitar part initially (which I love as well), but once we started adding synths it was clear that the song had to be very synth heavy.
GATR Naomi: The album is equal parts whimsy and equal parts melancholia, would you say that it’s a reflection of who you are?
ST: Pretty much me in a nutshell.
GATR Naomi: How was the writing/recording process like for ‘Best Summer Ever’?
ST:Writing was mostly me in my bedroom alone or with a friend. Many people stopped by. I wrote songs with Karen O, Matt Sweeney, Ty Segall, Adam Green, Julian, and James Levy. Many didn’t make the album due to keeping with our themes. The ones that didn’t get used yet will appear on various projects in the future. They’re all my babies. Recording took place at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX to start. Ryan Olson and Chris Bierden of Polica, Matt Sweeney, Ryan McMahon and I did all of the basic tracking there. Then I added horns/ keys at Public Hi-Fi (Jim Eno of Spoon’s studio) in Austin. Then we did more tracking in NY at Red Bull Studios and Rubber Tracks. All of the mixing went down in Shawn Everett’s downtown LA lair that has now been renamed Subtle McNuggets.
GATR Naomi: ‘Best Summer Ever’ is a sleek 10-song album. Some songs are dance anthems while others are more doleful or even macabre (like “Famous Last Words”). Was it intentional to be a bit darker at the end of the album?
ST:I didn’t intentionally go dark at the end with the sequencing. The songs just found their own order. Classically I do like to end albums with a soulful downer though.
GATR Naomi: The track “Haircut” is a collab with Karen O, how did that come to fruition?
ST: Karen and I have been friends/ writing partners for about 15 years at this point. If I’m in the writing frame of mind and she’s near I always give her a call. She brings a very eloquent way with words to the table. I appreciate her love of the art form, and she makes me a better writer every time we sit down together. She really makes me think about what my words mean.
GATR Naomi: In one word, describe ‘Best Summer Ever’.
GATR Naomi: “It Was Only Dancing (Sex)” transports me to the ’80s, what was the inspiration behind it?
It seems perfectly fitting in a John Hughes movie (which are some of my all time favorites).
ST: I wrote that song entirely in a dream. I was fighting a fruity street gang on the Santa Monica pier because I got tangled up with the wrong girl. When I woke up the lyrics and melodies were all there. I just sang it all into my iPhone as fast as possible then went and took mushrooms with Ryan.
GATR Naomi: ‘Confidence’ is the closing track and it gives us some insight into your mind and most people relate to such an identifiable topic. Was that the lasting impression you wanted to leave listeners/fans with?
ST: I always like to end with the most personal/ confessional song.
GATR Naomi: Your live performances are so lively and high energy and makes everyone want to dance. Is it easy to slip into the persona or is that how you normally are?
ST: The songs guide the way. I like shows to be entertaining. I’m a show man! The live show becomes less and less of a persona and more of a celebration.
GATR Naomi: Favorite thing about touring?
ST: I love seeing my friends all over the world and making people happy. I’ve been at this for 22 years. It’s really fun.
GATR Naomi: Favorite guilty pleasure artists/albums?
ST: I don’t feel guilty about any music I like, but maybe revisit the Cocktail soundtrack.
GATR Naomi: Most embarrassing song on your ipod/phone?
ST: Nothing embarrasses me.
GATR Naomi: Any new type of music or sound that you’d love to do next?
ST: I want to write Willie Nelson’s next record with him.