In the six years since he left the Twin Cities for Los Angeles, Har Mar Superstar has always come back with a surprisingly long list of names to drop, ones straight off the A-list like Drew Barrymore, Ben Stiller, Kate Moss, the Jonas Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers and, most recently, Eva Mendes and Ellen Page.
So it was more surprising to hear the singer/actor/whatever-you-got-for-me-performer talk excitedly about the less starry group of people he met at a recent excursion to a songwriting camp with his close pal Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches.
"It was me and Adam at the Hanson brothers' ranch in Oklahoma, with Weird Al Yankovic, the guys from Morningwood, Miles from Fastball," Har Mar recounted by phone from the road last week. "It was intentionally a weird bunch, and really inspiring."
Clearly, nothing is too weird for Har Mar. His journey to MMM-Bop Ranch was on the long list of answers to the question, "Where you been?"
Ridiculously conspicuous during the mid-'00s, the artist formerly known as local indie-rocker Sean Tillmann, 31, has been noticeably off the radar the past couple years. He hasn't put out a Superstar album since 2004's "The Handler." His only on-screen appearance of late was a bit role as a fighting coach in Barrymore's rollergirl comedy "Whip It!"
Returning to town tonight for a Varsity Theater gig behind his new disc, "Dark Touches," the HMS explained that most of his work of late -- and you knew he wasn't just lying low -- has been behind-the-scenes.
"I've actually been busier than most of the people I know who are in bands putting out records full-time," he said.
Foremost among his ventures is a new sitcom called "Stitch N' Bitch" with "Juno" star Page. It's now in development at HBO (so confirms the Hollywood Reporter) and will star Page and "Arrested Development's" Alia Shawkat as young hipsters in Hollywood who desperately try to blend in, with Har Mar playing himself and co-writing scripts.
"Ellen, Alia and I are all from smaller towns and all know what it's like making a jackass of yourself trying to be cool enough for Hollywood," Har Mar said with a giggle.
His other projects of late have included a music-video-remake show called "Shoot to Kill" (shelved during a VH1 regiment change), plus he's co-written a screenplay with "Die Hard With a Vengeance" and Mac commercial star Justin Long.
He never lost interest in his bare-all music career, though.
"Har Mar tours are the most fun I have, so it's constantly on my mind," he said.
"Dark Touches" features Har Mar's trademark sexed-up, come-hither R&B sound with a heavier dosage of dance-floor grind. As with "The Handler," the music is often way more sophisticated than the tongue-wagging-in-cheek lyrics would have you believe. He again collaborated with Twin Cities-reared producer-to-the-tween-stars John Fields, plus a guest list that includes members of the Faint, Neon Neon, the Bird & the Bee and his former Perpich Center for the Arts classmate P.O.S.
The phallic single "Tall Boy" is already earning him newfound notoriety. His performance of it last month on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" -- fully clothed, by the way -- went to the top of the Google Trends list the next morning. Its Mendes-starring video also earned a spot on Entertainment Weekly's "Must List." All of which leaves one wondering if the starlet for whom the song was written might've actually had a hit with it.
"We sent it to Britney's people and they said they were interested, but then they sent it back, I think because of the content," he recalled. "It might've been a bad idea for her, but I was totally fine with keeping it."
All these unrequited flirtations with TV shows and hit songs raised a rather blunt and serious question: Has Tillmann actually been able to make a decent living as the Superstar all these years?
"There were questionable times when I've been broke," he admitted, "but now I own a house in L.A. and I haven't had a 9-to-5 job since I was 18, so I think I've done all right."
He recalled a conversation with Adam Green: "He and I feel like we're the Harry Nilssons of today. Everyone we work with is going to be more famous than us, but when we're gone we're going to leave behind a catalog of stuff that will make people wonder why they didn't pay more attention to us when we were here. And we kind of like it like that."
Willie or won't he?
I was all set to call it a comeback for Willie Murphy, who was supposed to play an Electric Fetus in-store Tuesday promoting his first nationally released album in about a decade, and a bulky double-disc set at that. But then the local blues legend up and broke his arm, forcing a cancellation at the Fetus and other gigs.
The good news is, Murphy's new collection is still slated for release Tuesday on Red House Records. It's essentially two discs in one: The funky and boisterous "A Shot of Love in a Time of Need," plus the more intimate and acoustic "Autobiographical Notes." The first set fittingly opens with a spot-on cover of Allen Toussaint's "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On)" and features a bevy of horn-blown, Stax-style R&B tracks. The "Autobiographical" disc has more rugged and worn songs with loads of soul and soul-baring behind them, such as "Story of My Love Life" and "Road Song." Here's hoping Murphy is well on the road to recovery.
Uptown is down, not out
Even as the kegs and liquor bottles were being emptied (the food had run out a day earlier), there was a surprising amount of optimism flowing at the Uptown Bar on Sunday night for the farewell gig with the Twilight Hours, Happy Apple and Hawaii Show.
About 6,000 names were signed to a petition asking the city to transfer the Uptown's liquor license to a nearby location, and the website www.SavetheUptownBar.com finally had gone up.
The next step will be the formal processing to retain that license, and the selection of a site (a few are being eyed). Staffers were especially happy to see Mayor R.T. Rybak stop by Friday night before Janis Figure's reunion and pledge his support to manager Dennis Willey.
"It must've helped our cause that we were sold out that night, and we've been packed all week here," Willey said. "It just makes good sense to keep a strong business with excellent, hard-working employees up and running."
One thing Rybak will do for sure is declare Saturday "Suicide Commandos Day" in Minneapolis. The punk vets will play two sets for the Walker Art Center's "Ten and Under" series that day at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (free with admission), and then they will make the not-so-punk-rock conversion to an acoustic trio at the Dakota that night at 11 p.m. ($10). ...
Tim Mahoney, the Blenders, GB Leighton, Patty Peterson, Katie McMahon, Mick Sterling and more local musicians are featured on "Home for the Holidays: A Minnesota Christmas," a new CD that goes on sale at area Target stores Tuesday and benefits local charities, including Second Harvest Heartland. ... Rebekka Fisher, Jill Holly, Alison Scott and the KGB Band will perform at the Women Reign showcase Sunday at O'Gara's in St. Paul (6:30 p.m., $6), which benefits the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. ...
Viola-playing singer/loop-maker Anders Ponders -- who's been compared to Andrew Bird (for obvious reasons) -- promotes his debut, "Nodes of Overtones," with a release party Saturday at the Bedlam Theater (9 p.m., $5). ... The Current (89.3 FM) debuts a promising new show this weekend hosted by Bill DeVille, "United States of Americana," airing Sundays at 9 a.m. Rosanne Cash guests on the first one. ...
Soul Asylum couldn't make the Uptown Bar finale, but the band is set to play First Ave earlier than usual before the holidays, Dec. 4. Sounds like bassist Tommy Stinson will then be on tour with Guns 'N Roses most of next year. Also, Ike Reilly's annual Thanksgiving Eve gig is on for Nov. 25 (same night as the hard-buzzing Big Pink in the Entry). ...
Lastly, a curious show to plug: The guy who always urges you to "stand up and shout" for Joe Nathan and other late-in-the-game needs, Miljenko Matijevic, is booked with his band SteelHeart at Biff's Sports Bar in Spring Lake Park on Saturday (9 p.m., $15). Matijevic was the screaming voice behind Mark Wahlberg's character in "Rock Star." Surely, he could use a shout of support himself.
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