Harry and the Potters: Is there a wizard rock life after 'Deathly Hallows'?
In the list of reasons to start a band, "inspired by a pop-culture phenomenon" likely falls somewhere below boredom, rebellion, girls, etc. Yet it's given Harry and the Potters nearly a decade-long career in keyboard-driven pop rock, all of it somehow alluding to the world conjured by author J.K. Rowling.
Yet now that the eighth and final film in the series, "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows -- Part Two," is on the verge of being released, can the rock 'n' roll tale of brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge continue to survive? With a discography that includes a number of EPs and a handful of live albums and full-lengths, the 32-year-old Paul concedes that the duo's mission to "fight evil with rock music" may be winding down. The songs, however, such as "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock!" and "My Teacher Is a Werewolf," will live on forever.
For now, Harry and the Potters will tour libraries through the end of the month, and then the band that spawned the genre that's now known as "wizard rock" (see also: Draco and the Malfoys, the Parselmouths and others), may be vanishing onto more grown-up pursuits.
Well, scratch that. Paul also plays with his 24-year-old sibling in a band called FUFL, a concept act about Florida, and the pair have also started a band that's entirely dedicated to clams.
Pop & Hiss talked with Paul about what Harry and the Potters have accomplished, as well as life after the "Deathly Hallows." He also addressed why he believes two-minute songs about horcruxes are "subversive."
Yeeeeaaaaaah. It’s whimsical, what we do. I wouldn’t necessarily say a joke. We’re serious about having fun. We saw that "Harry Potter" was having a big cultural impact, and in some ways we were interested in subverting that and re-contextualizing it.
Expand on what you mean by subvert.
I think, on one level, you can look at our band and how we do it as essentially taking control of pop culture and reappropriating it. There’s the way we do it, which is kind of DIY, grass-roots, punk rock. Then there’s the way big corporations will also reappropriate the same properties and repackage and resell it. But that’s when you end up with "Disney on Ice."
I think what we’re doing is sort of like pop counterculture. We’re rolling into libraries all over the country and setting up our sound system and playing loud rock 'n’ roll music. And because we’re doing it in Harry Potter costumes, it’s somehow OK for parents to bring their young kids out to these rock shows.
At what point in the history of the group did it become clear that this could actually be a real, sustainable thing?
At the outset, we did think of it as our goofy side project. We were trying to book shows on weekends at libraries around the Boston area. But then pretty quickly we tapped into the "Harry Potter" fandom. We were "Harry Potter" fans, but not involved in the fandom of it.
The fans were very active and engaged online, and once they caught wind of our music, things happened really quickly. Our music really spread among the fans, and that enabled us to tour. All of a sudden, people were emailing us asking to play shows. Once we started touring we were making enough money to support ourselves. I quit my job and Joe, my brother, had just graduated high school. We were playing 130 shows per year.
What was your gig?
I worked as an engineer at a vaccine company.
Is this still a full-time gig?
Essentially. It’s definitely our summer job. But things die down for us when we’re not on tour, so we have other things we’re working on. My brother has been self-publishing comics and we both have other bands we work with. I also serve on the board of directors for a nonprofit organization called the Harry Potter Alliance.
Some of your other bands are theme-based as well?
My brother and I enjoy concept bands. We keep making up concept bands. We have another one called Black Wampum, which is all songs about quahogs, these hard-shelled clams. We spent our summers on Cape Cod as kids, and our mom really loved picking quahogs.
You know, I really don’t know what we were thinking with that.
What's the appeal with concept bands?
It’s more of a challenge. How many songs can you write about clams, and how can you make them different and interesting and funny and weird? It’s just how our brains work. We want to see how deep we can go with something and still have it be interesting.
But isn't it just a novelty?
In some ways we love the novelty of it. We love that there are in-jokes for people, and the people who read the books will know the details. I love that there are those sorts of nuggets in there.
We also appreciate the power of music. When we play shows, while our songs have a novelty element, I think they’re still accessible enough for people who only have a rough, Wikipedia knowledge of "Harry Potter."
Since you're taking liberties with the story and the characters in your songs, do fans ever engage you in debates?
They go easy on us. They allow us certain liberties with "Harry Potter" that aren’t necessarily canonical. We used to get to do more debating while the books were coming out, but people have let up on that now that all the books have been released. I think the people who come to our shows just want to get back into the "Harry Potter" world.
Is there a rivalry between the wizard rockers and the "Twilight" bands?
Oh man, I never read that series. I decided that for professional reasons I would never read them because I probably won’t have nice things to say. I do, however, think it’s cool that played a hand in opening up the field. The cool thing about wizard rock is that so many of these kids are inspired by these books, and wizard rock gives them a way to be creative, have fun and feel empowered.
So is this summer tour the swan song for Harry and the Potters?
We haven’t discussed that too much. We’re not at the stage now where we tour all the time. When cool ideas and adventures get into brains, that’s what we’ll pursue.
Some guy sent me an email and asked us to do a tour of Marine Corps libraries. That sounded cool. We’ll do that, but I haven’t heard back from him yet. We don’t rule anything out, but this is not our sole focus anymore. We always just went with the flow. We've got a little bit left on this tour, so we'll be wrapping things up and going back to home life in August.
Have you reached out to Universal Parks and Resorts? Perhaps you can become house band for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando?
Yes. I met somebody from the park when it was in its planning stages, and I said, "You’ve got to get us to play at the Three Broomsticks!" They were not interested. They were definitely not interested. Who knows? We’re the sort of counterculture to that.
-- Todd Martens
Photo credit: Emily Barnett