Fifteen years ago, the creation of Harry and the Potters invented the wizard rock genre.
On June 18th, Harry and the Potters celebrated their 15th Bandiversary by playing at Mount Greylock, home to Ilvermorny, the North American school of magic. Founded in Norwood, Massachusetts by brothers Joe and Paul Degeorge, they have been performing as Harry Potter (from year four and year seven) since 2002. Since their first performance as a last-minute replacement band for a concert Joe advertised, they have played nearly 800 shows in libraries, NerdCons, art spaces, bookstores, basements, and pizza places all over the world. They are known for having an unusual and energetic live show, complete with confetti wands and giant snakes.
“It all started with the name. It was just a lark. A goofy thought: what if Harry Potter had a band,” the band members said in an email correspondence with Bookstr. “But what sets my brother and I apart from other folks is our willingness to indulge stupid ideas in complete seriousness and pursue them rigorously. And that’s why, nearly 17 years after I had that stupid idea to put Harry Potter in a band, we’re here doing this interview. Don’t follow the road less traveled. Hack your own way through the forest.”
As their 15th Bandiversery was approaching, Bookstr caught up with the duo to learn more about their HP journey:
Why do you like performing in unusual places? What places have been your favorites?
“We are all about subverting expectations about what a concert experience should be. We toured heavily for years focusing almost exclusively on performing in libraries. For us, writing songs about books was almost a sneaky way to bring loud punk music into the library. That’s not something most people are expecting when they head to the library and it’s fun to give people a completely new experience…
One of my favorite shows we ever performed was on the night the sixth Harry Potter movie came out. The cave plays a central role in that book and we wanted to perform in a cave. We couldn’t find a cave, but we did know about a cool chasm… We all met in the parking lot and as the sun went down, we hiked about a quarter mile into this place called Purgatory Chasm. We played an acoustic set as it got dark and just had this massive singalong which sounded incredible inside the rock formation.”
How do you come up with your various props to go along with the unusual live shows? What’s your favorite?
“We don’t actually have a whole lot of props on stage with us. My favorite thing is this ratty old handmade Hogwarts banner that was given to us by the Riverside, CA, library back in 2006… It looks real punk, has a bunch of stains on it, and it has a lot of sentimental value to us now that we’ve used it as a banner behind us on stage for so many years. I can’t believe we haven’t lost this thing yet.
What makes Harry the perfect front man?
“I wouldn’t say that Harry is the perfect front man. In fact, we’ve had to put our own twist on Harry’s character to make him a more compelling front man. The Harry we put on stage is a lot more outgoing… I think the Harry from the books would largely prefer to be kept out of the spotlight.
I think Fred and George would really be the ideal front men. They’re the true artists of Hogwarts.”
How do you balance having a fun performance with mixing in a serious message?
“I honestly think that it’s a natural extension of the books, which are lots of fun to read, but also very serious. We want to be true to the spirit and complexity of these stories. But since we’re not shy about confronting political issues on stage, I’m getting asked questions like this a bit more frequently now that Trump is in office…
…Anyone with a platform has an obligation to speak up, and in the social media age, we all have platforms. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize Elie Weisel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
If you had one sentence to tell your fans, what would it be?
“I’m just gonna (sic) use that Elie Weisel quote again. Really let it sink in:
‘We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’”
Anything new in store for fans?
“We’re mainly taking the year off from performing this year… we’ve only got a few things planned this year. We’ve just got a Harry Potter fan convention – LeakyCon – in Dublin at the end of summer and then every holiday season we host an annual show called the Yule Ball. If you want to get festive with us, we’ll have some fun shows happening in Boston, NYC, and DC this December.”