9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall - Early Show
Har Mar Superstar
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Har Mar Superstar
Bye Bye 17, the new album from acclaimed singer, songwriter and performer Har Mar Superstar (aka Sean Tillmann), is currently out on Cult Records. Already receiving widespread critical praise, BULLETT calls the album, “impossibly groovy and infectious,” while KCRW asserts, “I’d call the album a guilty pleasure but I don’t feel guilty at all. It’s just packed full of hooks.” Additionally, of the album’s first single, “Lady, You Shot Me,” Death + Taxes declares, “Har Mar Superstar returns with the song of his career,” while MTV Buzzworthy calls it a “Buzzworthy Obsession.”
Of asking him to join the label, Cult Records founder Julian Casablancas notes, “First time I saw Sean was at the Mercury Lounge years back, and I was blown away by his voice, his confidence and his showmanship. When he recently played me his new record, I felt it was something we could help make truly great. He’s the man with the golden voice, and we’re excited to try and turn people on to that fact… Like the dude himself, the record’s just tough, sad, hilarious and rad.”
Written in New York City, the 10-song album was recorded at co-producer Jim Eno‘s (Spoon) Austin studio with a full live band. 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.” See below for full track-listing.
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. Tillman explains, “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.”
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.
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