It’s the double bill America didn’t know it needed: Soul singer Har Mar Superstar is traveling the country with Macauley Culkin’s The Pizza Underground, Mac’s Velvet Underground cover band that sings about pizza. Har Mar Superstar, who goes by Sean Tillman in his off-stage moments, says the decision to tour together was easy.
“I’ve been good friends with Mac for a long time. He jumps in my van and goes on tour with me a lot, so once he started his own band, it was kind of a no brainer to join forces and travel together.”
Tillman says Culkin is a pretty great travel buddy, too. “He’s like a well-stocked tour mama. Anything you can think of that you might need, he has. You’re like, I need some lefty safety scissors, and he’s like, oh yeah, I got that.”
Just what might an audience member expect from an evening with these two? “It’s like a circusy feel. Everybody gets involved in each other’s sets, and it’s just like a variety show of sorts until it leads up to our Har Mar headlining set, which is just the classic sweaty dance party that we’ve been known to incite,” says Tillman.
Tillman, long known as much for his getups onstage as his tendency to shed most of them partway through his sets, has a new number specially prepared for this tour. “I had my friend Elyse make this hockey jersey that’s kind of an homage to the Flying Burrito Brothers and Velvet Underground at the same time. It’s like a pterodactyl midflight, that’s half banana, half pterodactyl, which is kind of my nod to the Pizza Underground slash Velvet Underground.”
If you’re now pained by jealousy that you don’t own this magnificent piece of high fashion, you might be reassured to know that only two exist in the world, and the other one belongs to Julian Casablancas. Tillman’s latest record, “Bye Bye 17,” was released by Casablancas’ Cult Records, which Tillman seems pretty happy about. He calls Casablancas “an idea factory,” whose suggestions are always welcome and “constantly” on point.
“Every time he makes a suggestion, even if it seems crazy at first, I’ll try it out, and it always works out. It’s almost annoying. It’s like he’s almost psychic,” Tillman says with a laugh.
“Bye Bye 17” represented a more serious turn for Tillman, but he’s always been interested in soul music, pointing to Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke as early influences. “I’ve always been obsessed with music that’s poppy and seemingly happy on the surface but when you get into the lyrics, it’s really sad subject matter,” says Tillman.
And for those still asking about the man’s performance alter ego, Tillman offers up a simple “You gotta name yourself something.” While Har Mar Superstar started out as an aggressively confident stage persona, Tillman says, “I think it’s not as much of a persona anymore as it’s just kind of my personality. Sean Tillman and Har Mar Superstar kind of became the same thing after fifteen years.”
Silver screen moments
You might recognize Tillman from his efforts in front of the camera. He was Ben Stiller’s dance off partner in “Starsky and Hutch,” a part he got after director Todd Phillips saw him perform live and invited him to audition. He’s also appeared in “Whip It,” and popped up in “Pitch Perfect” as a member of the older a capella group the kids get in a fight with after a big competition. Sadly, he wasn’t able to reprise his role in the sequel. “I was supposed to. I got asked to and I was going to do it and go back but they changed the dates on me when I was on tour in France and I couldn’t get back in time to do it, but I think Reggie Watts replaced me.”