Harry and the Potters Talk Wizard Rock and Fan Activism
It seems as though nearly every media outlet has joined in the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This includes world-renowned music magazine Rolling Stone, which has stepped into the world of wizard rock to commemorate the occasion.
Paul and Joe DeGeorge have been performing as Harry and the Potters since 2002, releasing six EPs and three full-length albums in that time. With their fourth full-length album set to be released in 2019, the band spoke to Rolling Stone about their influences, wizard rock, and the growing world of fan activism.
Despite being recognized as the first wizard rock band, Joe DeGeorge admits that neither he nor his brother had any idea how the band would develop musically:
When we first started, we were relatively limited in our musical ability. We intended to write songs that we could perform at libraries or kids’ birthday parties.
Taking influence from bands such as They Might Be Giants and Atom and His Package, Harry and the Potters soon produced a catalog of songs that transported listeners into their “rock[-]and[-]roll illustration” of Hogwarts. Their growing fanbase was aided by library tours and MySpace, which was a big platform for wizard rock bands in the early 2000s.
When talking about the origins of wizard rock, Paul DeGeorge reflected on the early days of the genre and the community that grew around the music:
That first decade of the 2000s was a brief but wonderful moment where both music and fandom became uncoupled from industry gatekeepers and the corporatized platforms you see today. The result was that all sorts of weirdo art was able to reach much wider audiences. It was so cool to witness because many of these wizard rock bands were young and they would post their first recordings online — often just created with GarageBand and the on-board microphone — and immediately have hundreds of people giving them positive feedback and encouragement.
Those supportive people quickly formed a community, and it is because of this community that Harry and the Potters have been able to use their platform to affect change in the world. Cofounders of fan activism organization the Harry Potter Alliance, the band frequently reference themes of social justice in their music:
The Harry Potter books are very political. J.K. Rowling has described them as ‘a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry,’ and that’s frequently been a source of inspiration for us, both in our songwriting and our live show. In translating these themes from books to music, our band was able to re-contextualize them. Andrew Slack — our co-founder in the Harry Potter Alliance — wanted to do a similar thing with the goal of mobilizing the power of Harry Potter fans for social good.
Speaking of the importance of fan activism, Paul also countered those who have said that fiction, and Potter in particular, is not a good starting point for learning about social justice:
I’ve seen a handful of think-pieces recently that are basically like ‘Harry Potter isn’t real and it should be a basis for any sort of activism,’ but I think those takes miss the point entirely. That’s fine if you came out of the womb super-woke, but people learn in different ways and follow different paths to activism. The Harry Potter Alliance has been particularly successful at creating thousands of first-time activists, many of whom have gone on to make this work an important part of their lives.
The band’s fourth album is reportedly their most “pointedly political work to date,” and there is hope that topics covered in the songs will lead to discussions about those issues:
We’re hoping that parents and their young kids might see us play at the library, hear a song explicitly critiquing pure[-]blood supremacy and then later have a real discussion about white supremacy and how it manifests in their own lives.