SEAN NA NA interview
By alexander laurence
Sean Na Na is the new band by Sean Tillmann (aka Har Mar Superstar). He was
actually doing Sean Na Na and Calvin Krime back around the turn of the century,
but then the Har Mar Superstar record took off in the UK and lead to many
worldwide tours. The new album Family Trees: Or Cope We Must is the third Sean Na
Na album. I actually went to downtown LA to watch the filming of an
independent film “Valley of Angels.” Sean Tillmann and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) were
in the next room at Hanger 1018 record this album. Other people are playing on
this record like Maria Taylor (Azure Ray) and Dave Hernandez (The Shins). I
got to talk to Sean before he embarks on a tour with the Cribs. Also Har Mar
Superstar still goes on: he is playing some shows this week in Los Angeles. Sean
Na Na will be performing at the Troubadour on July 24th, and San Diego Street
Scene on September 23rd.
AL: What is going on in the Sean Na Na / Har Mar Superstar world?
Sean: I am working on a few different projects at once right now. I am ge
tting ready to tour. I am also writing the new Har Mar album and recording that
AL: Har Mar is still alive and well?
Sean: Yeah. I will be doing the next Har Mar record on Dimmak as well. I had
a two record deal with Record Collection and that has finished. I haven’t been
over there in a while. I think that they are more interested in doing stuff
like the Superman 3 soundtrack. I have moved on.
AL: You were originally doing these Sean Na Na records. Then the popularity
of the Har Mar records put those Sean Na Na songs on the backburner for a
while. How did that happen?
Sean: Definitely. Things got out of hand in Europe. Things were slow in
America. I was just following where the action was. I did a tour with The Pattern.
I opened for them. It caused quite a stir. Many people showed up for those
shows early. People started talking. That led to Reading and Leeds. I was playing
in the tent when it started raining. So a bunch of people who were watching
Foo Fighters came in there and it was crowded. Then a bunch of photographers
were there, and then next week pictures were everywhere. It blew up from there.
AL: What do The Pattern do now?
Sean: One of them runs the Noise Pop festival in San Francisco. I played the
opening parties at Noise Pop a few times. It was a party vibe.
AL: Do you like to provoke people in the audience?
Sean: It’s fun to win people over. It can go either way. If there is not
over-reacting, there is under-reacting. You have to go for it.
AL: Sean Na Na is more like a band?
Sean: We are not taking ourselves seriously. We are trying to make every n
ight a party. We take shots onstage and have a good time. We make sure the crowd
gets rowdy and has a good time.
AL: So it’s more like Guided By Voices?
Sean: Yeah, I guess. I wouldn’t go that far. Those guys have been doing it
for twenty years.
AL: Do you have a tub of alcohol right there onstage?
Sean: We will do Jaegermeister shots all during the set. That is our liquor
AL: Are there actual members of Sean Na Na?
Sean: It’s a rotating lineup. It’s a five-member lineup. We have two guit
ars, bass, keyboards, and drums.
AL: Did you pick up where the last Sean Na Na record left off?
Sean: Yes. I had to sit down and to re-learn how to play guitar. I had to
learn how to write songs on guitar again. Once I got the first song done the rest
fell into place. It wasn’t too much of a shock.
AL: What was it like working with Greg Dulli?
Sean: He’s awesome. We were having fun. It was casual. He came in for a day.
I didn’t know him from before. He is not like any stories that you heard. He
was lending a helping hand.
AL: Was it like acting with Deniro?
Sean: I guess so. We were hanging around and driving around for a while by
AL: Was Greg Dulli impressed with the fact that you know a bunch of Hollywood
bigwigs and can get into all the clubs?
Sean: I don’t know how to respond to that.
AL: Did you credit everyone that played on this record? Did Jack White or
Karen O play on this record under a pseudonym?
Sean: Not this time.
AL: How did you go about recording these songs?
Sean: I did a demo of everything myself. I wrote everything on the record. I
went to Austin and did a bunch of stuff with Ben Webster. We did all the bass
and drums, and guitars there. When I got back to LA, I had Jeremy and Tony
play on some stuff. Patrick Costello and Maria Taylor did their stuff. Then I
recorded some in Portland. It was mixed in New York.
AL: Is it hard to be in the Midwest and be a band?
Sean: I think it was easy for us to be a band from the Midwest. It might not
be easy anymore.
AL: What are the songs about on this album?
Sean: Whatever came to mind. I didn’t feel like I had any issues to tackle.
AL: Are the songs about your life? Are they a snapshot of the past year or
whenever you wrote them?
Sean: A little bit. These are straight up honest songs. There is no theme
that goes through the album.
AL: What is the song “The Hunter” about?
Sean: It is about hard living and not getting tied down.
AL: Should we legalize marijuana and prostitution?
Sean: I am not sure if I am saying that in the songs. But that would make
living easier for me. I couldn't care less if it is legalized. You have to write
about what you know.
AL: You have spent much time in Amsterdam?
AL: Are you touring soon? People want to hear these songs!
Sean: Yeah. We are going out with the Cribs. We are going to do the west
coast and the Midwest in July. We will take a break and then do the south. We want
to play everywhere a few times with this album. We are just not playing to
play. We want them all to be awesome shows.
AL: Are you going to play old Sean Na Na songs?
AL: What about if someone yells out for some Har Mar Superstar songs?
Sean: We wouldn’t play any of those songs on this tour. They are two totally
separate entities. We don’t like to cross the stream.
AL: Will people yell out for “Power Lunch?”
Sean: They do sometimes.
AL: You have already toured with The Hold Steady as Sean Na Na. How did that
Sean: That was awesome. Those guys are old friends of ours from Minneapolis.
It was fun to be out with them. They have a crowd like no one else. There are
a lot of older guys in their 40s.
AL: That’s a lot different from opening for Kelly Osbourne, and rocking the
Sean: All those crazy girls.
AL: What about Fab Moretti?
Sean: He plays drums in Har Mar Superstar. He will play random shows here and
AL: What is going on with the Strokes?
Sean: They are taking a long break. Some of the guys in the Strokes are
having kids. They are starting to write some new songs. Fab Moretti is writing his
own songs. I heard some and they are great.
AL: You are very active on the scene. I heard you were at a Duke Spirit show
Sean: Yeah. They are one of my favorite bands.
AL: Do you like any other new bands?
Sean: I just saw CSS the other day and they were amazing. They have a fun
live show. I go out so much that I can’t remember everything. Sometimes I go to
the record store and can’t remember what I came there to buy.
AL: You have been living in LA for a while?
Sean: I have been here three and a half years. I like LA. I don’t plan on
moving any time soon. I bought a place here and I like it.
AL: I see this guy Preston at a lot of your shows. What does he do?
Sean: He has been doing some acting. He is a music fan.
AL: Are there any other bands that you like?
Sean: Yes. I like Klaxons.
AL: What was that second band?
Sean: I just said Klaxons. I was thinking out loud.
AL: You seem really active and productive. Is that because you have a lot of
kids out there that you have to send monthly checks out to?
Sean: If I do have any kids, I am not aware of them.
AL: Do you still DJ?
Sean: I used to. I find it pretty boring. Once in a while there will be an
after party. But I don’t do that very often anymore.
AL: What part of the world do you want to go back to?
Sean: I always love going to Japan and Australia. I hope that those tours are
in the future. I just got back from an Australian tour as Har Mar with the
Red Hot Chili Peppers. That was my fourth time over there.
AL: Those must have been big shows? Did Tony go over there with you?
Sean: Yeah it was me, with Tony Bevilacqua and Fab Moretti. We did eleven
shows down there.
AL: What was the reaction like?
Sean: There were all the reactions from love and hate. Some fans might get
upset that they don’t have an Australian band open for them.
AL: Are there any books that you like?
Sean: I really love Jonathan Lethem. I love The Fortress of Solitude and
Motherless Brooklyn. He has a new one out about a rock band.
AL: Do you get a lot of messages on Myspace?
Sean: Mostly propositions.