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March - June, 1998
PopSided Magazine
Quarterly #9 1998

Sean Altman has been making his living for the past seven years as the leader of Rockapella, the group from the teen TV series, Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego? Altman's first solo record, seanDEMOnium, is an 8-track DIY that mixes several acappella tunes with standard pop fare.... You might be surprised at how good the "tongue accompaniment" is; percussion, bass, lead and all. Be it... "Pretty Baby" or "Person" (sounding early Wham-my), the 10cc quirk of "Baby Go Bye Bye" or the Beach Boys lipsurfing vibe via "Married Man," you'll be duly impressed. Other tracks combine Altman's gimmick with real guitars and percussion (thanks to David Yazbek) for similar results. Power pop fun will surely be had with "Polly Gets" and the ballad "Presto Change-o," while the disc's most memorable melody resides in "Rebecca"'s soft, warm hands. Similarities to Barenaked Ladies, Culture Club, They Might Be Giants and Bobby McFerrin are on display here as well, as this engaging listen seems to have spawned a new breed of music - the BarberPop Quartet. (

M.J. O'Brien
The Herald (Charlotte, South Carolina)
Friday, May 15, 1998

Candy Bar Keeps Musician Sane

Thanks to a candy bar, singer/songwriter Sean Altman has engaged in free psychotherapy. The royalties he receives from three recurring Mounds/Almond Joy commercials that he wrote and recorded qualify him for a New York City union's health coverage minimum.

But there's a string attached: Altman must continue to prove his insanity every week. "Simply desiring personal growth doesn't merit acceptance into the free shrinkage program," he states in a press bio. "You've got to be a bona fide loon to get in, and then demonstrate an ongoing nuttiness to avoid expulsion."

Like Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," Altman is beating the system. "I am continually forced to exaggerate the severity of my angst," he says. "I've even invented a new eating disorder -- Condimentia -- which is characterized by an obsession with ketchup, relish and the like."

Former frontman of Rockapella, the a cappella group featured on PBS-TV's famed Carmen Sandiego show, Altman now shoulders the added stress of his debut solo album. The self-financed seanDEMOnium (Big Sean Music) wallows in neo-doo-wop glory and minimalist pop rock melodies.

Made up of home demos originally recorded and mixed on 8-track cassette, Altman is his own one-man band, even producing percussion sounds with his mouth, yet eschewing the overhyped pap of Bobby McFerrin. Acoustic guitars, overdubbed vocals and tongue-in-cheek lyrics make for pure pop heaven.

"I Won't Mind" recalls the quieter moments of Columbia's The Virgin Ironpants, and "Polly Gets" mines the territory frequented once upon a time by The Knack. While "Pretty Baby" invokes Boyz II Men, "Sullen Malaise" seems to pit those hip-hop harmonizers against cheeky spoken-wordsmiths King Missile.

"Married Man" has Beach Boys-styled harmonies, while "Julie Gone" could easily be mistaken for a more upbeat selection by Alice Mudgarden, the one-off group (with members of Alice In Chains, Mudhoney and Soundgarden) that recorded tracks for A.I.C.'s 1991 "Sap" EP.

For real comic relief, Altman includes soundbytes of his grandfather crooning in Yiddish at his bar mitzvah party. "Elektra" is a comical telephone conversation of Altman calling said major-label record company and asking if he could come over and sign a recording contract.

Until the album receives a wider distribution, the only way to land a copy of the CD or other related merchandise is by calling 1-800-711-3627 or by visiting Altman's Web site (

Chris Ayers
Pause & Play
(the music column)
May 3, 1998

Sean Altman Can't Be Pigeon-Holed

Sean Altman can be best described as quirky. How else can you explain the oddball cover sleeve on his indie debut album, seanDEMOnium?

The founder and former member of Rockapella, the vocal group featured on the children's TV series "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?," has his head superimposed on a New York City pigeon. Altman loves the symbolism.

"Rockapella's image was very clean and shiny and smily, and I wanted my first foray into solo recording to be something that was visually the antithesis of what Rockapella was trying to do," Altman said recently. "Its image was all about Rockapella looking handsome and happy, and I wanted to do the weirdest, most disturbing thing I could do that was completely unattractive.

"I had this picture taken of me when I was unshaven, my hair was kind of unkempt, and I thought, 'What is one of the most grotesque things that I could do?' A pigeon is a typically New York bird, it's a rat with wings. It's a scavenger, but it's also a survivor."

Altman is a survivor, too. After 12 years, he felt creatively stifled by Rockapella and made the big decision to leave.

"It was terribly scary, for financial reasons as much as anything else," Altman said, "because Rockapella was a solid gigging unit and the band did a lot of commercials and had regular record releases in Japan and sold a lot of independent records in America. I gave up that security for something that I thought was going to be more artistically gratifying, but it was totally worth it."

seanDEMOnium proves his instincts were right. The 30-track album is riddled with vibrant power-pop, a cappella finesse and keen wit, including a taped rejection by a major label. A Philadelphia Daily News writer summed it up best: "Imagine Dion meeting Marshall Crenshaw at the Beatles' house, with the Kinks, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Persuasions all dropping by for a song swap."

"The record is me," Altman said. "If you listen to it, you'll get the many facets of me. There's the funny part, the bitter part, the romantic side. It was what I was going for, especially being an independent record. I felt like it might be one of my only chances to do exactly what I wanted to do, and not have to worry about if someone's saying, 'Oh, the record's too long, it's got too many songs, it's too funny, it's got too much schtick.' I want to make a record that's going to make me happy."

Altman began singing a cappella at age 17, immediately attracted to the Beach Boys' harmonies. His true musical heroes, though, are the Beatles. He lights up just talking about them.

"I think songwriting is always going to be the important thing for me," Altman said. "I constantly look to the Beatles for inspiration on many levels. When I was in Rockapella, I was totally enamored with the Beatles' image as a band of four individuals, each of whose personalities was presented separately. It wasn't just the Beatles - it was John, Paul, George and Ringo. Ringo was the funny one, John was the sarcastic one, Paul was the cute one and George was the shy one. And as songwriters, the body of work is overwhelming."

Altman is thankful for his years with Rockapella.

"We made probably 10 albums and every album was this massive democratic process between band members and management and a Japanese record company," he said. "There were just so many levels of red tape every which way I turned, so it was an absolute pleasure to make this record in my own studio and not have to answer to anybody.

"It was hard to give up something I had nurtured for so many years. I guess I've always been a frustrated guitar rocker, and I always knew that at some point I wanted to do this. The only way I could truly focus on it was to leave."

BWF (before we forget): seanDEMOnium is available only through a toll-free number (800-711-3627) and at Altman's Web site (

Gerry Galipault
Time Out New York
April 16-23, 1998

Altman is a one-man popster in the Matthew Sweet/Michael Penn mode. His album, seanDEMOnium, is a quirky mix of killer hooks and cheeky instrumentation; there's even a handful of a cappella tracks on which Altman makes like Bobby McFerrin. Power-pop fanatics looking for something fresh should cancel their appointments and check him out.
Hits Magazine
March 27, 1998

Sean Altman seanDEMOnium (Big Sean Music):
Rockapella mastermind, Internet entrepreneur and recent divorcee Altman tells barbed, musically diverse tales of his romantic misadventures, making liberal use of his acappella skills to emulate drums, guitars and other instruments. But this record rocks with traditional instruments too, and the result is a dark, funny, resilient, postmodern doo-wop concept album about love and loss. Standouts include "Person," "Rebecca" and the funky "Falling Over You." Make some mouth noises and ask for your copy @ 800-711-3627 or
The Music Business Daily
Volume II - 03.23.98

Former Rockapella Star Has New Release

Sean Altman -- former lead singer/songwriter and founding memeber of PBS-TV's famed group Rockapella and a featured performer in New York City's hip Loser's Lounge series -- qualified for the union's health coverage minimum due to royalties from three recurring Mounds/Almond Joy commercials he wrote and recorded. The hitch: Altman has to continue to prove his insanity week after week!

"Simply desiring personal growth doesn't merit acceptance into the union's free shrinkage program," Altman reports. "You've gotta be a bona fide loon to get in, and then demonstrate on ongoing nuttiness to avoid expulsion. I am thus continually forced to exaggerate the severity of my angst. I've even invented a new eating disorder - Condimentia - which is characterized by an obsession with ketchup, relish and the like."

Altman recently released his debut solo CD, seanDEMOnium, available from his web site ( or by calling 1.800.711.3627. He performs regularly in New York City, with upcoming concerts as follows: 3/14 Arlene Grocery; 4/5 Luna Lounge; 4/18 CB's Gallery; 5/2 Fez.
Daily Digital Opinion
Volume 1, Issue 134
March 19, 1998

Pick Of The Day
Sean Altman / seanDEMOnium
Description: Self Pop
Rating: 8 (out of 10)

The man who once led the chant "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" puts together 8 a cappella tunes, 11 tunes with some instrumentation, and 12 throwaway tracks in a fun compilation of 8-track demos straight from his own house. This ain't quite for the kids. While songs like "Married Man," "Presto Change-o" and "Baby Go Bye Bye" are all bouncy and light, their subject matter is a bit more mature than what he tackled with Rockapella. The a cappella tracks just rock the house as they try to top each other with catchiness. The tracks with the band...especially the aforementioned "Presto Change-o", could be top ten smashes with full production. This is fun and independent in every sense of the word. It's only available at, so go there now and get what's sure to be a fun disc for pop fans and the disc many a cappella fans have been waiting for.

J.F. Parnell
Wireless FLASH
Wednesday, March 11, 1998

NYC Musician Psychologically Obsessed With Ketchup

A musician in New York City has a mental disorder not yet found in medical text books: it's an obsession with ketchup.

Musician Sean Altman, who wrote the theme to the PBS kiddie show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, says he often suffers from panic attacks if the food he's eating isn't moist enough or slathered in ketchup or sauces.

Altman says he has no one to blame but himself for the bizarre condition.

It seems he made up the disorder about a year ago so he could take advantage of free psychotherapy sessions offerred by the musicians' union, but he soon found himself developing very real symptoms of the ketchup obsession which he calls "condimentia."

Dr. R. Reid Wilson, a psychiatrist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says he's never heard of "condimentia" but he says Altman's antics suggest he may have obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding food.

Altman's obsession with ketchup hasn't hurt his musicial abilities: he's just released a solo album called seanDEMOnium.
Philadelphia Daily News
March 6, 1998

seanDEMOnium - Grade: A
Sean Altman - Big Sean Music

Best known as the front man of Rockapella, the a capella group featured on the ``Carmen Sandiego'' TV show, Sean Altman is now out on his own with a chipper, charming album of minimalist pop harmony music, seanDEMOnium.
Homemade (hence the "demo" part of the title), the 19 tracks mix guitar-backed and all-vocal rock and chronicle a romantic tale of one guy's falling in love, courtship, marriage and then (what else?) split from his wifey. The words have a cynical edge, but what really grabs you is the old-fashioned sweetness and punch of Altman's neo-doo-wop vocals playing off incredibly hook-happy tunes like "Julie Gone" and "Polly Gets."

Imagine Dion meeting Marshall Crenshaw at the Beatles' house, with the Kinks, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Persuasions all dropping by for a song swap. For added amusement, Sean throws in a bit of his bar mitzvah party and phone calls to major labels, inquiring if he can come over and get a recording contract.

For the moment, at least, the only way to get seanDEMOnium is from 800-711-3627 or via Sean's Web site, Worth the trouble.

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Last updated: December 11, 1998

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