More than a decade ago, Sean Tillmann decided to leave behind indie guitar rock for a more crowd-pleasing, sex-charged version of R&B. And performing, often shirtless, as the dynamic Har Mar Superstar, he found a newer, bigger audience. Since then, he’s moved from Minnesota to New York City and hit the road with bands like the Strokes, Father John Misty and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Har Mar Superstar (above, performing “EZ Pass”) has a new album, Bye Bye 17, out next month, and ahead of his show on Monday at The Bowery Ballroom with the Virgins, he exchanged e-mails with The House List while on a long drive through the Midwest where he revealed himself to be a fan of Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (“Footloose, bro”) and Philly rockers Free Energy, plus he answered Five Questions.
What’s the best part of playing New York City?
I love taking a taxi home from the show. It gives me whole new levels of partying possibilities. The show always benefits from that luxury.
Living in NYC, is there any special relevance to playing The Bowery Ballroom?
The Bowery Ballroom is one my favorite places to see shows. It’s a classic. It feels like homecoming playing there mid-tour. People are always impressed when you tell them you’re playing there.
Your fifth Har Mar album, Bye Bye 17, comes out next month. When you release new music is there some sense of relief that it’s done, or is it really just the beginning and you’re excited to play the new tunes live?
This is definitely just the beginning. I love playing live, and new songs make it so much more exciting. Bye Bye 17 is particularly exciting because the response has been huge and immediate. The songs make people pay attention.
After all these years on the road, what have you learned to make touring easier?
Touring with your friends makes everything easier. Stay at hotels with free breakfast.
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
Love songs are best when they’re sad. Real-life experience helps you channel the emotions. Next time someone tears your heart out, write a love song. It feels good. —R. Zizmor