Rock Against Purebloods
Harry and the Potters brings wizard rock to Eugene Public Library
By Henry Houston
In the 1970s, when an epidemic of racism hit the streets of England, the movement Rock Against Racism emerged in reaction, discouraging young people from becoming racists. Decades later, Harry and the Potters, a band based on the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, is — sort of — continuing the fight.
Harry and the Potters is a band that exists in a timeline in which Harry Potter decided against being a Quidditch jock and started playing punk rock.
“That’s the fan fiction our band exists in,” Joe DeGeorge tells Eugene Weekly.
When DeGeorge was 14 years old, he looked like Harry Potter and often heard this from the crowd when he played in another band. So, in 2002, he started a band with his brother called Harry and the Potters.
Since the band started, they’ve played in more than 800 venues — including pizza places, bookstores and backyards. This summer, Harry and the Potters brings its wizard rock on a summer-long public library tour. DeGeorge says that playing in a library enriches the shows because it’s free, “a magical thing in this world where many things get commodified so much.”
“We come from this punk rock environment where it’s a culture of amateurism that helps foster healthy community if you’re able to do something that looks like anyone can do it,” DeGeorge says. “That’s very empowering.”
One of the foundations of punk rock is to call out authority figures. In the 1980s, the Dead Kennedys sang about former President Ronald Reagan and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, for example. With Harry and the Potters’ songs, the group works to find a direct parallel between what’s going on in the world today and what happened in the Harry Potter series, like talking about Voldemort’s rise to power. By combining punk rock and the Harry Potter series, DeGeorge hopes that listeners will use the songs to reflect what’s going on politically.
Of course, finding subject matter of some songs from the group’s recent album, Lumos, that applies to today’s political issues isn’t difficult.
“No Pureblood Supremacy,” a song that has musical elements of They Might Be Giants, targets pureblood narratives in the series by asking: “Is pureblood politics nothing more than arrogance?”
The Harry Potter series is filled with moments in which characters deal with a form of racism. In one instance, Hogwarts bully Draco Malfoy calls Hermione Granger a “mudblood” because her parents are Muggles (non-magical people). And, the whole political campaign of Voldemort is to essentially make the Wizarding World great again by getting rid of the Muggles and establish pureblood dominance.
Once again, the song isn’t meant to address current political figures directly. The songs are written from Harry Potter. But it’s easy to see parallels.
Harry and the Potters will play at the Eugene Public Library, 100 W. 10th Avenue, 6 pm Sunday, July 21. FREE.
Into the Potter-verse
Harry Potter-themed rock band plays Eugene Public Library
By Will Kennedy
Brothers Joe and Paul DeGeorge take Harry Potter very seriously. So much so that the conceit of their band, Harry and the Potters, is centered on two Harry Potters laying down their magic wands in favor of musical instruments, choosing a life of rock ‘n’ roll over wizarding, and in doing so, spawning an entire micro-genre called wizard rock, a movement of bands writing songs inspired by and based on the Harry Potter universe.
On their brand-new album, Lumos, the brothers continue to mine the Harry Potter canon for songwriting inspiration. The songs take Harry Potter’s point of view, with an occasional, snarky outsider perspective and meta-textual elements, Paul DeGeorge tells me over the phone.
Meta-textual? See, I told you these guys take Harry Potter seriously.
It follows, then, that Harry and the Potters aren’t exactly a joke, tribute or parody group. Songs like “The Sword, the Cup and the Dragon” are pretty silly, but elsewhere, the light pop-punk and naïve indie rock is less Weird Al and more like the Scott McCaughey-led supergroup The Baseball Project — a band known for writing very serious songs about another popular children’s pastime: the game of baseball.
“Almost everyone has a sentimental attachment to the things that they love when they’re a teenager. The thing you love when you’re 14, you’ll always love,” DeGeorge says, admitting Joe was the first brother to get into the books.
“I was a little older. I was curious: Why are these books inspiring a whole ton of young kids to be in love with reading?”
For a certain generation, the Harry Potter story is a core experience that helped inform an entire worldview. Harry’s an anti-authoritarian, and that’s just what DeGeorge likes about the character.
“He’s constantly pushing back against the system,” he says. He also appreciates J.K. Rowling’s world-building, “particularly when you get into the socio-economic political things. There’s repercussion because of the systems that are set up. There’s accountability in the stories.”
This reading of Harry Potter is reflected in Lumos songs such as the Dead Milkmen-esque “On the Importance of Media Literacy Under Authoritarian Rule” and “No Pureblood Supremacy.”
Lumos isn’t all Poli-Sci 101, however. Indie-folk singer Kimya Dawson plays the role of Hermione Granger on the melancholy but lighthearted “Where’s Ron?” In the song, Hermione and Harry grapple with the fact they just don’t “like like” each other, and are better off in the friend-zone.
The DeGeorge brothers aren’t the only people for whom Harry Potter is very serious business.
“Harry Potter spawned this secondary market of fan culture,” DeGeorge says. “There’s always a really fun, active fan-fiction scene.”
The Harry Potter sub-culture is welcoming, though, and to reach these fans, Harry and the Potters tour public libraries, playing for children, young adults, families and grown-up Harry Potter fans all on their own.
“It’s great,” DeGeorge says, describing the rock concert experience in a library. “That’s part of why we’re still at it.”
He says he particularly likes having children at the shows.
“There’s no rules for them, they don’t know how a concert is supposed to be,” DeGeorge says. This kind of community building is what he loves most about public libraries. “Libraries have really changed. The library is built for everyone.”
Harry and the Potters play 6 pm Sunday, July 21, at the Eugene Public Library; all-ages, FREE.