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July 18, 2002
Sean Tillman is the force behind Sean Na Na, but also contributing to Sean Na Na's sound is an ever-changing array of band members brought together for each release. The band behind My Majesty, Sean Na Na's newest release, consists of Tillman's old friend "Lucky" Jeremy, Dillinger Four's St. Patrick, Selby Tigers' Nathan Grumdahl, and Bryan Hanna, who produces and plays drums and guitar on the album.

Sean Na Na is an evolving endeavor, having recently played with Atom and His package, Mates of State, Appleseed Cast, Jimmy Eat World and the Strokes, to name a few, and has achieved a status worthy enough to warrant a song entitled "Sean Tillman is a Fucking Star" in the last couple of years. Does it really matter that he is actually the one who wrote it? No, I don't think so.

So if Tillman was, as he puts it, a fucking star a few years ago, what is he now? Oh, one can only dream what My Majesty might make him. Each song on the album can compare only to the very best on his pat releases - three singles, 2 EPs and one full length. It features the same pop melodies with sometimes-dark lyrics, this time with more of a full band sound that works well. Incredibly well.

Tillman attributes much of the album's greatness to something simple: more effort put in. Sean Na Na putting more effort into his music is a hard thing to imagine, considering the fact Tillman is already known for the rigorous nine months per year touring schedule he's been on since he was seventeen years old, fronting for Calvin Krime. This impressive schedule is something he has continued to do over the years with his numerous projects, including Har Mar Superstar and the afore-mentioned Sean Na Na. Taking a year off from his constant touring with Sean Na Na gave Tillman more time to make My Majesty wonderful, even though he was still busying himself with other projects at the same time.

That aspect of Tillman's career, that constant touring, is one of those things you have to love in a musician. Seemingly doing it for the music, Tillman is generally not playing for the fans, a fairly original attribute in the music world. It's not to the point of one of those obnoxious, "I don't care about the fans" sort of things, though. Tillman is a great guy; he simply knows that fickle quality most music lovers emanate all too often.

With this I-play-music-because-I-love-to-play-music attitude in hand, I have no idea how a music lover couldn't like Tillman, at least after listening to My Majesty, at any time, no matter how fickle. It's just good, old-fashioned, catchy music brought to the next level by lyrics about things like wishing venereal diseases on a girl who rejects you. Catchy pop melodies alongside lyrics about things not so easily associated with catchy pop melodies, all done really well. What couldn't you like?


Photography by Matthew William Rubin.


LAS: I would call My Majesty Sean Na Na at its best, or, at least, so far. What do you say to that? Would you agree?

Sean Tillman: Yeah. I think so. I agree.

Ok, so what do you think made the difference on My Majesty, making it better than your previous releases?

Um, just the fact that it was more of a band effort and I paid a lot more attention to writing the songs, demoing them and picking them apart while we recorded it so we spent a lot more time in the studio trying to get it all sweet.

So what did you do this year since you weren't touring, I mean other than making your new album?

I worked on Har Mar Superstar tours and basically, yeah, just wrote songs, kept traveling pretty constantly but not playing shows with Sean Na Na.

If you were going to be in an homage band, whom would you imitate?

Probably Thin Lizzy.

Why?

Cause they're the best. I think they're one of my favorite rock, rock/pop bands with screaming solos (laughs) that I can't do. But I don't know they just write a lot of songs that I wish I'd have written.



What's with the new wave girls?

It's just like I guess most of the girls I know and hang out with could be categorized as new wave girls. I don't know. It's not like a fascination, but they're just they people I end up hanging out with.

Who's the biggest asshole and/or bitch on the planet?

I can be the biggest asshole or bitch on the planet probably, so I'd probably say myself to avoid getting in any trouble cause I don't wanna talk shit about anybody.

What haven't you written a song about that you should?

What haven't I written a song about that I should? Hmm…I don't know, um, I'm trying to think. I've written a lot of songs. I don't know. Maybe, yeah that question's really hard to answer while I'm driving. (Laughs) Yeah, I don't know. I've gotta say no comment there because I have no idea.

How do you go about penning the more dark, twisted elements of your songs, like in "The Human Raft"?

Sort of, like, I wanted to make the story of the song take a dark turn. I don't know. I don't know how I came up with it. It just sort of came out. Its one of those things, I can't really describe where it came from. Just sort of happens. I don't know. I wrote all those lyrics in like ten minutes.

Is that a usual thing for you?

No, I mean I thought about it while I was driving. We were on tour and I just sort of like wrote it down when I stopped and like made up little bits and pieces that fit. And it just sort of like came out. I don't know. I was just really tired and hung over.



The more bitter your lyrics get, the happier your sound often tends to get. Is that a conscious decision?

Yeah. Definitely, because I don't want it to be, like, overpowering with evil. (Laughs). I don't know. I like to balance it out. As the lyrics get more dark, I try to make the songs more bright, if you will.

Yeah. What about "I need a girl." Does this exemplify a Sean Tillman that more grown up, at least with women?

No not at all. Are you asking if I'm more grown up with women?

Yes.

No.

How far do you want to go with Sean Na Na? Compared to another musician or band, what kind of fame do you want to achieve?

I don't know. I'm comfortable with any level. If it got to a point where it was out of hand. Like, I don't know. I don't really have any specific goals as far as fame goes. I don't know. I wanna like write songs, not have to work. That's all I care about. (Laughs) So as long as I keep doing that, I'm fine.

Is there a limit? Would you not want to reach a certain amount of popularity?

No, I don't care how popular I get. If I get so popular that everyone who likes me now hates me, that's fucking great. You know what I mean? I don't set a cap to how famous I could get because there's no point.

So you wouldn't mind having a show on MTV or something? Or being in The Enquirer?

I wouldn't mind, but I don't think it would happen. I wouldn't, like, whatever. I'm not going to stop it, I'm not going to spit in someone's face if it happens or make it not happen.



How has the latest Sean Na Na tour been going for you?

It's been good. The tour's been great. Our van broke down the first day so it's been kind of like in this rental van toughing it, which is kind of weird to do. Were wasting a shit load of money but its been a fun tour all the shows have been great. We've seen a lot of our friends, we've played all good showa so far and we're only halfway done. So its been good.

What about people's reaction to the new music. Do they seem really into the new songs?

I can't really tell. Who knows? It doesn't seem like anybody's into anything anymore. But, you know, whatever. It's just like, town to town. Like, I don't know. It's hard to describe. People get harder and harder to impress, and I could really care less. People are still at the shows having a good time its just really hard to gauge an audience while you're playing because sometimes people will be blank-faced and you'll sell a thousand records and sometimes people are rocking out and they'll leave with nothing. You know what I mean? I mean, I think the new songs are a lot better. It's really hard to gauge that kind of thing. There are a million different factors.

What's your favorite place to go on tour?

Japan. Yes, Japan is the best.

When were you there?

That was the last Sean Na Na tour, like in December of 2000, and then there was a Har Mar tour like a month ago. So that was really good.



What's the craziest thing you've done on stage?

I dance around in my underwear a lot, but that's not really that crazy. I never really do anything that crazy on stage. I like to face off at hecklers though. That's fun. I like to get them to the point where they really want to fight me but they can't because everybody hates them already (laughs).

So what about Har mar Superstar?

Um…

What about in comparison to Sean Na Na?

I don't really prefer either. I like both Sean Na Na and Har Mar in totally different ways. They're completely different. To compare and contrast is like trying to compare an art gallery to Elvis Costello or something. There's no reason to.

Is there ever a time that you feel like playing in one over the other?

No, I like them both. I don't know. Like, yeah, no. When I'm on a Sean Na Na tour I like Sean Na Na, when I'm on a Har Mar tour I like Har Mar. I don't ever wish I was in the other band or anything.

Would you ever go back to play the kind of stuff you played with Calvin Krime?

No, no not like that. I'd play rock but I wouldn't play it like that at all.

SEE ALSO: www.seannana.com
SEE ALSO: www.harmarsuperstar.com
SEE ALSO: www.frenchkissrecords.com
SEE ALSO: www.paperbrigade.com

--
Jeanette Samyn
A contributing writer for LAS and a former music director WBAR at Barnard College.

See other articles by Jeanette Samyn.

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