“I like to inspire confidence. I feel people are too self-aware and worried about their looks or their gut or whatever and I feel if I go onstage and go “who gives a fuck?” it really inspires people and helps them throw those inhibitions out the door.”
Bye Bye 17 by Har Mar Superstar was written in New York City and recorded in Austin, TX. The ten songs, a departure from his previous work, are soulful glimpses into a world of hedonism and heartache, magically embedded in a 3rd generation VHS tape.
Poised to break free from the claustrophobic confines of the underground club scene, and after many years of wild shows and after-hours adventures with strangers, Har Mar Superstar will soon be touring extensively to support his strongest record yet.
Sean Tillmann named his flamboyant alter-ego after the Har Mar mall in suburban St. Paul, MN where he spent his youth watching movies and writing songs about passers-by in the food court.
“Har Mar Superstar used to be a different person, it used to be my excuse to get away with the more fantastic things in life…it was easier to get onstage as this other guy and be outrageous and have it be glorified. I guess the confidence I got from being Har Mar Superstar translated into my real life so now we’re one and the same.”
For this new LP, Tillmann was inspired by the excitement and the isolation of New York City, and crafted the songs for Bye Bye 17 there, occasionally collaborating with writers like Fab Moretti (Prisoner), Kelly Gately (Rhythm Bruises), and Ryan Olson (We Don’t Sleep), before deciding to permanently relocate to the East Coast from Los Angeles.
“Just walking around NY and seeing people constantly being together alone is, I think, a huge influence on the whole record. I was influenced by the city in general because I wrote most of the songs here before I even lived here. And I just didn’t want to leave, that’s why I moved. It’s a very New York record.”
Tillmann co-produced the tracks with Jim Eno (Spoon) at his Austin studio with a full live band, before finishing work and remixing the album at Cult Records’ New York studios. Focusing this time more on his voice, Tillmann says, “I was listening to a lot of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke at the time, and I’ve always been obsessed with those guys… Restless Leg, We Don’t Sleep, Prisoner and Rhythm Bruises came out of people playing together. But the rest were just like me in a room, gettin’ weird, by myself.”
plus special guests: LIZZO
Born in Detroit in the late 80’s, Lizzo spent much of her formative years in the church, where she was raised on the gospel sounds of The Winans, The Clark Sisters, and Fred Hammond, along with mainstay secular artists such as Stevie Wonder and Elton John. At the age of 10 her family moved to Houston, TX, and Lizzo was exposed to a wide array of emerging Southern musical styles, from the trademark chopped and screwed rap tracks of the underground, to the progressive and polished R&B sounds of groups like Destiny’s Child that were raising the city’s national profile to new heights. In fact, it was after she stumbled across a Destiny’s Child performance at Wal-Mart that Lizzo—then a 5th grader– was inspired to start writing music on her own. Over the next decade that decision would take her through the trenches of some of the most varied musical genres: R&B girl groups (I.N.I.T.I.A.L.S., Cornrow Clique), progressive rock bands (Elypseas), solo rap ventures, and electro-pop duos (Lizzo & The Larva Ink).
In 2011 she made the move to Minneapolis with Larva Ink in order to be a part of that city’s blossoming and collaborative musical community. Lizzo & The Larva Ink was well received there, and the group earned a few encouraging nods from the press. Lizzo was soon introduced to Sophia Eris and Claire de Lune, with whom she would form The Chalice, the three-piece all-female rap/R&B group that would elevate Lizzo’s profile and reputation. In 2012 The Chalice released We Are The Chalice, an album that would gain them instant local success amongst fans and critics alike, garnering City Pages’ prestigious Best New Band and Picked To Click accolades in the same year.
The success brought setbacks, though, and a falling out soon led to the demise of Lizzo & The Larva Ink. Feeling discontent with the loss of one group and the hurried blur of success of another, Lizzo was creatively drained from writing We Are The Chalice in two short months. She found herself in the throes of her first full-blown case of writer’s block. Unable to create music for herself, she began listening to several different local albums in hopes of finding inspiration. It was LAVA BANGERS, a 20-track instrumental mixtape from Doomtree producer and Minneapolis music vet Lazerbeak, that ultimately caught her ear. Beaks’ beats proved the fix for Lizzo’s problem. “I sat at home and listened to LAVA BANGERS, and when “Lift Every Voice” came on, my writer’s block was cured,” says Lizzo. “I think it revived my gospel roots. I wrote pages and pages of songs, and finally reached out to Lazerbeak, not thinking anything would come of it.”
Her timing could not have been better. Beak, impressed with Lizzo’s output with The Chalice, as well as her guest appearances on several other local releases, was looking for a change of pace from his daily Doomtree production and business responsibilities. He immediately signed on to work on some demos. Beat tapes were exchanged, songs were written, and mutual friend and musical collaborator Ryan Olson (Totally Gross National Product founder, Gayngs/Marijuana Deathsquads mastermind) was brought on board to creatively oversee the project. Olson recorded and edited all 15 tracks in his bedroom studio, bringing in laid back hype-man Cliff Rhymes along the way to add even more layers to Lizzo’s dynamic vocals.
LIZZOBANGERS is the culmination of that four-way collaboration, an album that manages to capture all of the varied musical influences of Lizzo’s upbringing and combine them with the forward-thinking experimental production style of Beak and Olson. The end result is a brave new project that encapsulates the best parts of both the familiar and the future.