Harry and the Potters
Harry and the Potters
|Genres||Wizard rock, geek rock|
|Associated acts||Draco and the Malfoys, Downtown Boys|
Harry and the Potters are an American rock band known for spawning the genre of wizard rock. Founded in Norwood, Massachusetts in 2002, the group is primarily composed of brothers Joe and Paul DeGeorge, who both perform under the persona of the title character from the Harry Potter book series. Harry and the Potters are known for their elaborate live performances, and have developed a cult following within the Harry Potter fandom.
The band is often backed up by musicians like Ernie Kim, Andrew MacLeay, Brad Mehlenbacher, John Clardy, Mike Gintz, Jacob Nathan, Ben Macri, Adam Kohrman, Phillip Dickey, Jason Anderson and Zach Burba. Most of them played drums. The band's most recent songs feature drummer Mike Harpring and bassist Paul Baribeau.
Since 2002, Harry and the Potters have released three studio albums, five extended plays, and a single. The duo founded the independent record label Eskimo Laboratories, and appeared in the documentary films We Are Wizards and Wizard Rockumentary. They also co-founded charity organisation The Harry Potter Alliance, and formed the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, an extended play syndicate.
The origins were quite accidental. In Cambridge, MA, Paul DeGeorge (born June 10, 1979 ) was developing vaccines for a biotech firm as a chemical engineer. Paul had recently graduated from Tufts University. Outside the lab, Paul was a musician whose indie band—The Secrets—had toured in the northeast from 2001 to 2002. To promote his band, Paul co-founded a small indie label called Eskimo Laboratories. One of the other bands in Eskimo’s stable of talent included an act called Ed in the Refridgerators [sic], which was fronted by Paul's 14-year-old brother Joe. Joe DeGeorge (born July 4, 1987 ) was a student at Norwood High School. He and his school friend Andrew MacLeay (A.K.A. Shaggy) had been playing in rock bands together since they were 11 and 12 years old.
A couple of years earlier after reading the Harry Potter books, Paul formulated the premise for Harry and the Potters where the principal Harry Potter characters would be the musicians: Harry as the front man, Ron on guitar, Hermione on bass and Hagrid on drums. Then a crisis of sorts struck the brothers on June 22, 2002. During a barbecue at the DeGeorge family’s Norwood Massachusetts home, Joe organized a concert in his backyard featuring Ed and the Refridgerators, The Secrets, and Soltero. However, the latter two bands cancelled the day of the event. To rescue a nearly lost opportunity, while waiting hopefully for a band to show, Harry and the Potters came into existence over the next hour when the two brothers wrote seven Potter-themed songs. They performed that first concert as Harry and the Potters for six people who remained of their audience. Of those seven backyard songs, five were to make it onto the band's first album in 2003.
Harry and the Potters and Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! (2003–04)
After recruiting drummer Ernie Kim, the band recorded their eponymous debut album over a weekend in the DeGeorge family living room. Released in June 2003 under the Eskimo Laboratories record label, the album contains six of the seven songs composed on June 22, 2002, and another twelve written spontaneously and immediately thereafter recorded. In "the summer of" 2003, Harry and the Potters set out on an American tour, performing at libraries. The fifth Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – came out that summer and on June 21, 2003, the highly anticipated day of release, the band played five sets in a span of 24 hours. The library gigs drew crowds of mostly children and their parents. The brothers played a show at the library in Dorchester, Massachusetts, that August where they noticed the children in the audience singing along. Joe said, "Paul forgot the words to one of the songs. [The kids] were like, 'You sang it wrong!'" Paul said, "They'd be like, 'Hey, why'd you skip that song?' because they knew the exact sequence of the album." The DeGeorge brothers quickly developed an on-stage persona of dressing in the fashion of wizard-school Hogwarts: white shirts under gray crew-neck sweaters, red-and-yellow striped ties, wire-rim glasses. In a show of quirky egalitarianism, both brothers play the role of Harry Potter and dress almost identically; Paul is older and to conform to the character’s persona, he is Harry of Year 7; while Joe is the Harry of Year 4.
During May and June 2004, the band worked on their next album, Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! in the DeGeorge family shed. Following the release, the band toured heavily. The two brothers drove 13,000 miles across the U.S. and into Canada in their "Potter Mobile", a silver 1998 Ford Windstar minivan with a black lightning bolt emblazoned on its hood. In live concerts, Paul and Joe used pre-recorded backing tracks for much of the tour, but during the second half, Joe called on his childhood friend and former bandmate Andrew MacLeay to join the band temporarily as drummer. During the Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! tour, Paul and Joe DeGeorge received a letter from Warner Brothers that stated that the brothers were breaking copyright laws. Although Paul sent a letter to Warner Brothers in an attempt to smooth things over, Marc Brandon, the company representative, asked to speak to Paul personally. The two later settled upon a Gentlemen's agreement that, in essence, would allow Harry and the Potters to continue to sell music online and tour, but all other merchandise could only be sold at live shows.
Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love (2005–06)
The following winter, the band began their first overseas tour. In February 2005, they toured the United Kingdom – playing London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Chester, and Liverpool – and then followed it by playing some gigs in the Netherlands to coincide with the release of the Dutch translation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which took place in November 2005. In the Netherlands, they played one of their earliest songs "Platform Nine and 3/4" in Dutch. In late 2005, Harry and the Potters enjoyed more tongue-in-cheek critical success from respectable quarters. The web based music ’zine Pitchfork Media even hailed Harry and the Potters as having one of the best five live shows in 2005, quipping that "The Decemberists wish they could lit-rock like this." In the fall of 2005, Joe entered Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. While Harry and the Potters play infrequently at rock clubs and other venues—a Yule Ball at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in December 2005 attracted an audience of 600 with 200 turned away at the door
The previous year was the watershed when a simple joke between two brothers had developed into something they had never imagined. The band continued its odd success and toured early in the year with a new wave 'sock puppet rock band' called Uncle Monsterface who opened for in March 2006. During the summer, they embarked on their 3rd cross-country summer tour ("Summer Reading and Rocking Tour 2006"), this time accompanied by fellow wizard rock band Draco and the Malfoys. Brad Mehlenbacher from Draco and the Malfoys handled drumming duties for the Potters for the entirety of their summer tour. They returned to home recording with the Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love but with a bigger sound and with the assistance of recording veteran Kevin Micka. While in the earlier albums the band's musical style was goofy inept pop-punk, the EP Scarred for Life became musically darker reflecting the penultimate book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as it takes as its central conceit a Harry Potter who has started a hardcore rock band. Paul and Joe departed from their proud DIY home recording and sought a studio for Scarred for Life (as well as their split EP with the Zambonis), and consequently feel that the songs on the Scarred for Life are among their "most badass".
Extended plays and film appearances (2007–09)
By 2007, Harry and the Potters and their unexpected fan based indie music genre of wizard rock have grown into an international phenomenon. Recently, the band has engaged in charity side-projects and activism within the Harry Potter community. In January 2007, Harry and the Potters created the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, a mail order subscription club that released an extended play by a different wizard rock band each month. Reflecting wizard rock's literacy focus, the club raises funds for First Book, a non-profit organization that gives children the ability to read and own their first new books. In 2007, the Club raised over $13,000 for the organization. They released their first extended play The Enchanted Ceiling in 2007. May 2007 was also the beginning of their large 70-show summer-library tour across the US and Canada called simply "Summer Tour 2007". Like their initial year in 2003, the summer of 2007 would see the release of another Harry Potter book. Harry and the Potters scheduled the mid-point of the tour to arrive back in their home state and celebrate the July 21 midnight release of the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Harvard Yard. The festivities became an excuse for a meet-up of a number of wizard rock bands including The Hungarian Horntails and their nemesis Draco and the Malfoys which all played to a large crowd of Harry Potter fans in the Cambridge, Massachusetts college venue. Harry and the Potters resumed their tour which finally wound-up in late August. In Vancouver on July 7, 2007, hundreds of people crowded outside the Vancouver Public Library to see Harry and the Potters. ABC News reported that the band usually charge $5 to $10 for tickets to their shows, though some performances are free. Harry and the Potters said 600 people turned out for a recent show, July 10, 2007, in Portland, Oregon.
In February 2008, Harry and the Potters launched a website called "Unlimited Enthusiasm". The website led users through a series of images and eventually to a forum, which contained much speculation concerning the nature of Unlimited Enthusiasm. Unlimited Enthusiasm ended up being the name of their Summer 2008 tour alongside bands Uncle Monsterface and Math The Band. Harry and the Potters undertook a summer tour, Unlimited Enthusiasm, with Math the Band, Uncle Monsterface and Jason Anderson. One of the stops in that tour was Nerdapalooza. This fall they released a short punk rock EP, In the Cupboard as part of the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club. Two full-length feature film projects documenting Harry and the Potters and the wizard rock movement, We Are Wizards and The Wizard Rockumentary, were released in 2008.
The band played its 500th show in June 2009 at Norwood Elementary School (MA) the founding members' hometown. The group continued the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club in 2009, and as a member of the club, they released their third extended play The Yule Ball EP, which featured a CD and a DVD of their performance at the Fourth Annual Yule Ball.
Further career and Lumos (2010–present)
In Summer 2011, Harry and the Potters embarked on another summer tour entitled, Ride The Lightning. The tour was to the biggest since 2007, playing dates all throughout the United States. The first show was held May 25 in Portland, ME and the last show was July 31 at the Knitting Factory in New York. Drummer Jacob Nathan played with the group throughout the tour. Jacob is a member of the band 926 Main Street Apt. 2 that he formed with Joe DeGeorge and Emily Barnett while attending college at Clark University.
In 2015, Harry and the Potters released the EP Hedwig Lives for digital download, which included the tracks "The Great Motorcycle Explosion of ’97" and "Ridin' in the Night".
At a live show on March 30, 2018, the band debuted songs from their forthcoming fourth studio album that will be about The Deathly Hallows. They later announced that the album would also feature the anti-folk musician Kimya Dawson as a guest vocalist. Parts of this album were recorded in a studio, and others were recorded at the Lawrence, Kansas public library. On April 23, 2019, the band unveiled a Kickstarter to help recoup the cost of recording the album, which they revealed was named Lumos. Backers could also choose rewards that include an additional album entitled Mostly Camping, as well as a vinyl single called the "Harry Potter Boogie."
Lyrical themes and style
Harry and the Potters couple their rough-edged music with themed lyrics, which define the band as much as the costumes. The straight-forward but quirky presentation of adolescent concerns and direness in the simplest of worries gives an easily likable quality to fans. They poke fun at awkward situations from the books. For example, in the song "The Human Hosepipe", they sing, "Maybe you shouldn't have brought up Cedric Diggory/ Because I'd rather not talk about your dead ex-boyfriends over coffee." Two other examples of the bands distinctive take on teenage angst are seen in the song "Save Ginny Weasley" where they sing, "Are you petrified of being petrified?" and the song "The Godfather." where the gothic or mock-morbid line "Why do I always think that I am going to die?" is sung to an up-beat tune.
For the Harry Potter fandom, Harry and the Potters refer to words and phrases in the books, including Hogwarts, Harry's Firebolt, Felix Felicis, the Flying Car, wizard chess, platform nine and three-quarters, The Burrow, the three-headed dog Fluffy, Mrs. Norris, the basilisk, The Marauder's Map, various spells and incantations, and the Invisibility Cloak.
Harry and the Potters with its strong persona or theme is as much a performance art project as it is a rock band. Musically, they sound much like other indie rock music with the exception that the band adheres to a novel conceit: the Harry Potter books will inspire the lyrics. As Joe said in a 2005 interview, "We try to take the themes from the books and amplify them." Their musical sound is described as "simple, catchy rock – think The White Stripes crossed with Raffi – where everyone sings along which is easy because in songs like 'Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock' the title is pretty much the only line." Another reviewer’s ear hears "a touch of the Ramones in their ultra simple lyrics."
The band is organized quite simply with Paul and Joe playing their songs in a simple basic guitar-synth-and-drums indie pop style and they sing in the semi-deadpan way; a review found the vocal delivery similar to that of They Might Be Giants. The raison d’être of the band is to put enough energy and spirit into their songs to make them fun.
The band is not musically polished. Paul has joked that, if they had known of the band’s popularity, they might have made "an effort to sing in tune. But it’s hard to anticipate that sort of thing when you’re just writing silly songs and recording them in your living room over a weekend.". While musicianship is not the strength of the band, Paul says that the fans "know we're not the best singers and keyboard players, but we're okay. And they think, well, I could do that, too. I think that’s really encouraging to people ..." Paul sees the brothers as a "bridge between this mainstream phenomena of Harry Potter and the indie rock underground. Plus, we’re also pretty strong adherents to the DIY ideal." The two brothers promote this ideal of making music independently and have fused the legions of fans on to the DIY free-for-all of indie rock and punk music, albeit of the silly kind.
The Washington Post describes the brothers as having vast quantities of both passion and ability to engage an audience: the "combination of their happy, who-cares personalities and Harry Potter fanaticism has cast a spell over book-loving teens across the country." Paul said, "the band is neither geeky nor cool but 'geeky-cool'. I think the indie-rock community at the very least realizes we're taking a very DIY approach to this."
Campaigning and activism
In 2005 the duo co-founded the non-profit organisation The Harry Potter Alliance with Andrew Slack, Seth Reibstein and Sarah Newberry, an organization that uses the Harry Potter books as a platform for inspiring real-world activism, which amongst other activities, helps "wake the world up" to the genocide in Darfur. The projects invites its members to inform their local senator to support the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act. The Harry Potter Alliance raises awareness for these projects by holding wizard rock concerts and by selling memorabilia to help fund these campaigns.
Harry and the Potters have also collaborated the Harry Potter Alliance compilation album, Rocking Out Against Voldemedia with a song entitled “Don’t Believe It”. The purpose of the album was to achieve the right to free press and against media consolidation by asking site viewers to contact their member of Congress to support S 2332, the "Media Ownership Act of 2007." Paul said their third EP, the 2007 The Enchanted Ceiling was recorded in their living room.
Harry and the Potters actively promote literacy. Another example of this literary activism is the reference to Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center in the song "Voldemort Can't Stop The Rock," which contains the verse, "And we won't let the Dark Lord ruin our party/ Just like Tipper Gore tried with the PMRC."
Legacy and influence
Harry and the Potters have influenced similar acts, such as Draco and the Malfoys, The Whomping Willows, and The Remus Lupins. Wizard rock bands generally play all-ages shows at libraries, bookstores and schools, as the promotion of reading is a hallmark of the genre. In turn, because of their active promotion of literacy, young-adult and teen librarians have been promoting the band. While Harry and the Potters would become notable for making libraries their primary venue, Joe DeGeorge did not see a future in the modest venues, "I think we thought we'd play a few libraries." Paul added, "We thought it would be short-lived. We weren't like super fans, so we didn't understand this whole (Harry Potter) subculture when we started." As The Washington Post wrote, "wizard rock is an escape into a different world – a world of non-judgmental fun where grown-ups dress as wizards, evil is vanquished by song, and reading is cool." The peculiar success of Harry and the Potters has led Paul to "sense a growing affection for us amongst other musicians" and at home. The Boston Phoenix has called Harry and the Potters the "Pink Floyd of Potterdom."
In 2005 there was a tidal wave of new wizard rock bands. The brothers do-it-yourself musical ethos has caught on with bands forming as fellow Potter fans are picking up instruments for the first time. Like Harry and the Potters, these new bands also take on the persona, or dress as a Harry Potter-themed character. Though most fans of the music are previous fans of Harry Potter, some bands have attracted listeners outside of the Harry Potter fanbase. Paul and Joe are aware of around 200 other Harry Potter-related rock bands who at least record and post songs on the Internet. The Boston Phoenix wondered—in spite of fully booked calendars—how long wizard rock would last once there are no new stories to riff on, as their musical identity is contingent on the lasting success and popularity of a book series. "In some ways," said Paul, "we want to tie things off and consider it a done deal. We’ve always viewed this as a project that had a finite life and end point."
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- Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! (2004)
- Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love (2006)
- Lumos (2019)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harry and the Potters.|
- Harry and the Potters – official website
- Eskimo Laboratories – record label
- Harry and the Potters at Internet Archive
- CBC British Columbia radio interview - 5:40, Thursday June 23, 2011
- The Harry Potter Alliance - The Harry Potter Alliance, co-founded by Paul DeGeorge