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Teen blogger: An interview with Harry and the Potters

This Sunday, the wizard rock band that started it all is playing Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)! That’s right, Harry & the Potters will be “wrocking” out from the library steps. (“Free to the People” indeed.)

Details:

Harry and the Potters
Sunday, May 29, 2011
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
CLP, Main (right out front!)

In anticipation of the show, we asked seasoned teen volunteer Renata to interview the band. (And she did a great job!):

Harry and The Potters How did you get started? What made you start one of the first Harry Potter inspired bands?

We started our band back in 2002. We were really interested in the massive cultural effect that the Harry Potter books were having on a generation of readers. At the time, we really just thought it was a silly and weird idea that Harry could have his own rock band and maybe we could convince some librarians to book a loud rock band to play for the kids. But it was also a way for us to recontextualize Harry Potter for our own subversive purposes. We’ve been able to bring punk rock to a new generation of kids by speaking to them in a language they understand: Harry Potter.

How do you come up with the catchy lyrics?

Thanks. I think our main focus with the lyrics is to, hopefully, be smart, witty and tuneful all at once. There’s certain instances where we get pretty serious abotu stuff that happens in the books, but we want our music to reflect a lot of the joy that these books have brought to the world, so we mostly keep it rather lighthearted. We have to do some extrapolation about Harry’s character – JK Rowling never mentions his rock band – but for the most part, we try and keep our songs and our lyrics true to the canon of the books.

How do you feel to be a part of the Harry Potter Alliance?

Full disclosure here: I co-founded the Harry Potter Alliance and currently serve on the Board of Directors for the organization. The Harry Potter Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that uses enthusiasm for the Harry Potter books as a way to engage young people in social activism. The Harry Potter fandom has generated a lot of really innovative re-appropriations of the original work (specifically things like wizard rock and quidditch as a sport), but I think the HP Alliance is maybe the fandom’s most important offspring. It’s acutely harnessing the enthusiasm of Harry Potter fans and giving them an outlet for creating social good. It’s allowing them to be a part of real world Dumbledore’s Army and to become the heros that they read about. So how does it feel to be a part of this? AMAZING!

Who are your favorite characters and or theme to sing about in your songs?

Recently we’ve been really embracing the arcane elements of the book series. We got so deep into the mythology and we noticed how serious people were taking it (intense fan discussion and entire books being written on certain subjects). The thought there was some humor in that level of detail hunting and we started writing to that. So we’ve got a song called “the Economics of the Wizarding World Don’t Make Sense” that wonders how unicorn hairs can cost 10 galleons and Ollivander only charges 7 galleons for a wand (where unicorn hair is a typical wand core). It just doesn’t add up. In another song, “Alohomora,” we ask the wizarding world why anyone would ever bother locking doors when a first year magic student can just cast a spell that unlocks pretty much anything. So I guess that’s how we’ve been amusing ourselves lately. But more generally, I think I get the most satisfaction from exploring the adolescent romance happening at Hogwarts. That seems to be the stuff that Harry would actually write songs about if he really had a band, so I guess I feel like we’re really being true to his character when we write those sorts of songs.

How do you come up with the catchy names? (They are truly hilarious)

Some of our songs just have very plain old utilitarian titles. But I guess with some others, we just try to take some of the humor of the song and infuse that into the title. I didn’t anticipate this at the time, but the songs with better titles always sell better on iTunes. Llet that be a word of advice for aspiring comedic songwriters.

Did you ever think it would get this big?

Certainly not. We always envisioned this as a weird weekend side project. We figured maybe once or twice a month we’ve have a Saturday afternoon show in a library around Boston. Keep in mind that back when we started 9 years ago, we had no idea that there was already a thriving and well-networked legion of Harry Potter fans out there. So once they heard about what we were doing, everything changed and suddenly anything seemed possible. A few years later I quit my job as an engineer to become a full-time wizard.

What is it that you like most of what you do? I guess what I like most is knowing that what we do has a real and tangible net positive effect for humanity. We just booked a show last week with a band called ShiSho. They’re opening for us in Cleveland on the day after our Pittsburgh show. The band consists of a 14 year-old girl and her 10-year old sister. They’ve been playing together for 6 years. Apparently they got inspired after seeing us play in the basement of bookstore in Cleveland on our first tour in 2004. The frontwoman, Vivian Ramone(!) would have been SEVEN at that time. It’s just beyond awesome to know that we helped inspire these young women to start their own band.


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