Harry and the Potters are playing tonight at the Wonder Ballroom. I've seen them twice before, and you just can't beat this band for the sheer fun of their live show. (I know some of you have seen them, back me up here.) They are funny, self-aware about their goofiness, and write hooky, low-fi pop songs about... you know, wizards and shit. They also like hot dogs.
Paul DeGeorge, AKA Harry Potter, Year 7, was kind enough to answer some questions via email:
Mercury: Not to put too fine a point on it, but now that the books are all out, how do you guys avoid being seen as a band whose hook has outlived its appeal?
DeGeorge: Actually, now that the books are out, we're really just trying to capitalize on the nostalgia factor. We're hoping that people will come out to the shows because they remember the "good ol' day" of 2007 when there were still Harry Potter books being published. We've also created our own mascot (Wandicorn: a half-wand, half-unicorn, half-squid, half-dragon, half-phoenix with a flux capacitor), and we're hoping that debate over his good or evil nature will spur some real grassroots debate and interest in the tour.
Which brings me to... what is this "Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo" all about? What about Wizard Rock the Vote? It seems like you guys are harnessing the energy of your shows in kind of a political/activist direction, can you speak to that at all?
The Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo is the name we've given to our summer tour. We wanted this to be much more than a normal rock band going on tour: we wanted it to be an event. And more than that, we wanted it to be the defining event of summer. We recruited 3 other bands (Jason Anderson, Math the Band, and Uncle Monsterface), all of whom are powered by similar levels of enthusiasm and exuberance, and we're trying to compress all the fun of a week at summer camp into a 4-hour concert experience. I don't want to reveal too much of what will happen at the show, but it goes far beyond a few bands getting up on stage and playing 30 or 40 minutes of music. There are videos, there's a camp post office, there's usually food and Kool-Aid. At one show we had a guest lecture on special relativity, and at another some volunteers made a robot-shaped cake that actually had blinking lights installed in it!
At each show, we also have members of the Harry Potter Alliance on-hand getting people registered to vote. The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit organization that I co-founded in 2005 whose aim is to harness some of the enthusiasm for the HP books and translate that into political and social activism. So far we've been working on a number of issues including the genocide in Darfur, media consolidation, and equal rights, and this year we added Wizard Rock the Vote as one of our major campaigns. Many Harry Potter fans will be voting age for the first time this year, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to make their voice heard. Hopefully this will serve as a way to get people politically engaged. Voting is only the first step. Through voting, people will learn more about the political process and how our country works and if they end up unhappy with the election results, hopefully that will inspire and motivate them to become more involved and active. Civic engagement is a good thing!
Are you still inspired by the books to put out new material? / Can we
expect new material at the Wonder show?
We did write a small handful of new stuff before we set off on the tour this summer. Most of it was written for an EP that we'll be putting out as part of the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club (a subscription club whose proceeds benefit the HP Alliance and First Book). I'm not sure if we'll ever do another full length, but so far we've written a couple songs about Book 7 stuff, and that's been really fun. We have a pretty "killer" song we've been doing about Hedwig.
I read a comment somewhere to the effect that one of the coolest things about you guys is that you introduced lot of kids to indie rock who maybe wouldn't be listening to non-mainstream music otherwise.
Actually, that was part of our mission from the start. We always viewed this project as sort of like an indie rock-community service effort. Harry Potter has such a broad, mainstream appeal, and at the same time has a lot of counter-cultural overtones. We just wanted to highlight those aspects of the books and hopefully turn kids on to a world that they didn't really even know existed. The Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo is a continuation of that, because we've taken a few lesser known bands on tour and so far the response has been tremendous. And the entire genre of Wizard Rock is almost a testament to the success of this idea. There are over 500 bands playing songs about the Harry Potter books now and lots of these are kids picking up instruments for the first time and starting their own bands. Idealistically, it's way more punk than some band who sounds like Blink 182, and hopefully it will only serve to foster a life-long appreciation of underground and independent music.
Harry and the Potters play tonight at the Wonder Ballroom, 7:30 pm, $12-14, all ages (natch)