Storytime Rock: Harry and the Potters
At a music hall inside an abandoned Durham, North Carolina, warehouse, children sporting sorcerer hats loll near their adult chaperones while teenagers donning the familiar gold-and-garnet tie of an iconic boy wizard linger nearby. The lights dim as Paul and Joe DeGeorge amble onstage wearing matching gray V-neck sweaters, Gryffindor-House-colored ties, and black-rimmed glasses.
"I am Harry Potter."
"And I am Harry Potter."
"We are Harry and the Potters and we are here to rock Durham!"
"These songs are about sticking it to the man. Because he's the one who keeps you from rocking and hanging with your friends!"
Paul, the elder of the duo at 27, crows what might as well be the Harry and the Potters mission statement before leading a 125-man, -child, and -mommy chorus in the opening verse of "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock".
Crafting a new form of lit-rock, the Massachusetts-based DeGeorge brothers use two-minute rave-ups about the characters and themes from English author J.K. Rowling's immensely popular Harry Potter series to encourage kids to be creative and keep reading. Think a new-millennium They Might Be Giants focused on a single cultural touchstone.
The main difference between Harry and the Potters and some of the other indie bands that have recently contributed to kids comps like See You on the Moon! and Songs for the Young at Heart is that they only make music for kids and primarily play free, all-ages venues. Although they've become something of a hit with the 18-and-over set—even recently touring with hot-shots Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin—performing for children primarily in public libraries is still a far cry from the cover-heavy benefit albums most adults think of when it comes to indie-rock for kids. The DeGeorge brothers are more focused on the overall impact of their music on the daily lives of their fans and just hope to continue sharing space with the books they sing about.
"We are interested in opening some alternative spaces to music," said Paul, the guitarist. "We have had librarians say they've been inspired by our shows, and they continue to book more bands and music programs into their library."
The duo's brief history follows closely to their do-it-yourself mentality. Harry and the Potters got started in 2002 when the scheduled bands pulled out of an all-day concert organized by the DeGeorge family at their Norwood, Massachusetts, home. The brothers quickly wrote seven songs at their kitchen table and spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining their guests. Both brothers have played in other bands—Joe is a member of Ed in the Refridgerators and Paul played with The Secrets—but neither previously experienced the popularity or resulting touring schedule that Harry and the Potters has gained. In addition to performing around the United States and United Kingdom, earning acclaim from the mainstream media, and becoming something of an Internet darling, the band also manages the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, featuring a lineup of other artists from the sub-genre Harry and the Potters helped to create.
The band's canon has grown to nearly 50 songs released over three albums on Eskimo Labs. The music has steadily evolved from basic garage-rock to include more textural flourishes, such as the sunny piano-pop of fan favorite "This Book is So Awesome", from 2006's Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love, and the light, organ-touched "The Human Hosepipe", from 2004's Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! Lyrically, most songs make more sense to Hogwarts aficionados, but the words are charming enough to make even the greenest Muggle smile:
Well maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Hermione
And maybe you shouldn't have brought up Cedric Diggory
Because I'd rather not talk about your dead ex-boyfriends over coffee.
"From the perspective of what a phenomenon these books have become and how they affect kids’ lives, there is no better source material than Harry Potter," said Joe, the keyboardist, who noted that J.K. Rowling thankfully hasn't contacted the band to extract royalty payments.
The brothers will have another chance to explore the world of Harry Potter and his posse with the release of the seventh and final novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, due out in July. When the book arrives on store shelves, the DeGeorge brothers will probably sequester themselves in the Potter Mobile, a Ford Econoline van adorned with a lightning bolt on the roof, to enjoy the closing chapter of the boy wizard’s saga and gain material for future jams.
"I'm tired of having the ending ruined for me," Paul said. "When Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out, we were on tour and we didn't have time to rip straight through the book. So by the time we did, we had people leaving stupid comments on our MySpace page like, 'Albus Dumbledore died.' So I'm going into seclusion when the next book comes out to tear through it."
Because, you know, they write songs about books.
-- Boris Hartl, 03/07/2007