July’s Band of the Month honors went to none other than the godfathers of wrock themselves, Harry and the Potters. Despite how busy they are, these awesome guys agreed to sit down and answer some of our burning questions.
For anyone who doesn’t know, what kind of musical projects were you and/or your brother involved with before starting Harry and the Potters?
Paul: Joe started a band called Ed in the Refridgerators when we was 12 years-old. They wrote silly songs about Sea Monkeys and girls and body parts. I thought they were pretty brilliant and they played irregularly around the Boston area until Joe graduated high school. Andrew, the other half of ED was on tour drumming with us earlier this summer, so Ed did a few opening sets at various points in the tour. I played in a band called the Secrets. We played a danceable sort of indie pop a few years before the Postal Service came along. I wasn’t really a song writer in that band though. I pretty much just cued up drum machines and sequencers and played keyboard.
Are you involved with any other musical projects at the moment?
Paul: Nothing too serious. Whenever he can, Joe plays saxophone with Jason Anderson and the Best. He’s on the next two Jason Anderson records that are coming out (one this August and another early 2008). We have a band together called FUFL which plays songs about how much Florida sucks. We’ve played a few shows. The best part is going to the thrift store before each show and buying Florida t-shirts and then modding them out with sharpies so they say things like “Florida: A great place to LEAVE” and “LORIDA: Get the F out of Florida.” At college, Joe found someone who burps really well, so he started a band with her called “The Power Inside You.” They play open mics. I think they have 3 songs.
I just moved to Brooklyn and, via Facebook, met a guy in NYC whose name is Paul DeGeorges. No joke. He plays in ghetto-tech punk band, so we’re talking about starting a band together. Current name candidates are “Paul DeGeorge(s)” and “DeGeorgeDeGeorges.” He suggested we do a note-for-note remake of Rio on Casio keyboards and Mister Mic’s. I think maybe we’ll get my grandfather to do a guest spot. His name is Paul DeGeorge too. BTW, anyone else named Paul DeGeorge should email me if they want to join this band.
When you first told your (mom/dad/both) that you wanted to go on tour with a Harry Potter band, how did they react?
Paul: They were pretty supportive, but it also freaked them out a bit. Our first tour was summer 2004 and Joe had just turned 17 and got his license only 2 months before we left. They were really nervous, and with good reason, because we left Boston with only about half our dates booked and we had no idea where we were sleeping each night, but we made friends quick and it all worked out nicely. I think about half our dad’s gray hairs sprung up that summer.
Is there something you do whenever you go on tour? Go to a certain place, eat something specific, any traditions?
Paul: Oh yeah. Most of these traditions revolve around food. We always eat hot dogs at Pink’s when we’re in LA (get the chili dog!). We always have brunch with our librarian friend Melanie in Boulder where her husband makes us delicious crepes. We always try and eat Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle, Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC, JB’s Sausage Cart in Athens, GA. In Fayetteville, Arkansas the only place to eat is the Common Grounds Café, so we usually eat there 2 or 3 times while in Fayetteville. We try and spit on Hummers, eat at House of Pies in Houston, and play Born in the USA every time we cross the Canadian border. We always go to Powell’s bookstore in Portland (it takes up an entire city block!) and always try and avoid contributing to the Connecticut economy (not a part of TRUE New England).
Your stage presence is amazing. Do you practice? How do you come up with the stories you share with the audience?
Paul: Thanks! We don’t really practice regularly. Before each tour we’ll have a few rehearsals. We practiced with Bradley for about 3 hours before leaving for the second leg of our summer tour. He’s been playing with us pretty regularly for the past year though, so that was mostly just to bring him up to speed on some new arrangements and we also worked up a few new things. Most of the stories develop organically out of improvised stuff from the shows. We take the bits we like and then refine it from show to show. And that grows and grows until you have a 13-minute version of “Save Ginny Weasley from Dean Thomas.”
If you could play in any city, state, or country, where would you play?
Paul: We have two dream shows left. One is the Library of Congress in DC. There might be a lot of red tape at that show, you know, the Man. So we’ll probably do that one guerrilla style. Set up on the steps until the FBI shows up. The other is JK Rowling’s backyard. That will be our final show. Oh yeah, and outer space. We want to play in outer space!!!!
How long do you think it will be before you start writing songs about Book 7?
Paul: Book 7 was really overwhelming. It will probably take a while for it to sink in. Usually song ideas strike me right away, but this one will be harder. It’s so fast-paced and there’s so much action. There’s hardly any room for any of the errata that we usually use as our source material. The only think I have in mind right now is a song wondering what ever happened to Florean Fortescue. Is a world without ice cream really a world worth living in?
How long will you wait before sharing any music about the book?
Paul: Probably quite a while. We’re not really playing any shows this fall (aside from a couple in September), so it might be Yule Ball season before we get a chance to premiere anything new.
Who came up with the “Guitar Face Collision” song?
Paul: All the songs from that tour were collaborative efforts between Harry and the Potters and Uncle Monsterface. We would just sit around the laptop late at night and piece together songs using garage band loops or really simply recorded guitars and stuff.
Joe: That “Guitar Face Collision” song illustrates a show we had in Maryland where Paul’s guitar hit my face and knocked one of my teeth out of position during the first song of our set. We played the rest of the show with ice in my mouth and Paul sang some songs for me. My tooth is ok now though. It got pushed back into place by a cool dentist.
Is there anything you would go back and do differently if given the chance?
Paul: I try not to be one to dwell on the past, but if I had to change anything, I’d maybe put a bit more work into our first CD. We recorded it in our parent’s living room, didn’t have much of an idea of what we were doing, and we were pretty much writing songs and then recording them on the spot. We were in a rush to get that stuff done before the 5th book release and I think it shows that we didn’t use much more than one take on most of the songs. We had no idea that eventually hundreds of thousands of people would hear these songs. In one way, it’s kind of cool because it serves as a document and really captures the moment, but on the other hand there’s a bunch of songs on there I really like and it’s almost torture for me to listen to because I know that we could perform them so much better. It’s weird to think that at this point, we’ve probably played “Save Ginny Weasley” about 400 times live, but the recorded version is actually the VERY FIRST performance of the song! We taught it to Ernie (the drummer) that morning and then hit record.
Have you had any moments while on tour or performing where you were taken aback or awe-inspired? Have you been moved and, if so, how?
Joe: Every night of tour is a special night, and each has its own magic. Each night is inspiring to us. I am so encouraged by the people who show up to our shows. Every night I am moved. The crowds at our shows are the best audience any band could ever dream of. We just played in Harvard Square for the release of the Deathly Hallows. This was a really special show. In the middle of our Manfiest Destiny Summer Tour we returned home just for this show. We wanted to close out the Harry Potter series back home. And we did. Harvard Yard was packed with people. There were definitely somewhere between 10 and 15,000 people there that night. While I was on stage I began to walk down the steps towards the crowd. It felt like I was walking into the ocean. Before me the roar and thunder of the rocking bodies swelled. Everyone was rocking together. Everyone was connected. I have never seen such a strong and massive cohesive bond among people. The show was a dream. Never again will we have the opportunity to play a show like that again. It was the biggest show we have ever played and ever will play. That is something special, knowing you have done something that can never be repeated. That moment is immortalized in my heart. That night was the biggest night of my life. I hugged my family immediately after we finished our set. My old hometown friends came to highfive us after the show. And so many people that we have worked with and met in our travels were there for us. It was the most beautiful moment of my life.
How much do you love hot dogs?
Paul: I have a blog about hot dogs that chronicles the past 4 years of my life as an avid hot dog eater. Let’s get this straight though, I don’t just like any old hot dog. I’m looking for quality. At the moment, I’m hoping to use this extensive hot dog knowledge as a freelance consultant. Eventually, I’d like to open my own hot dog shop.
How do you usually read each Harry Potter installment? Slowly, all at once, do you read the last page first?
Paul: Get real! Who actually read the last page first? I was super cautious this time about avoiding spoilers (I was successful, by the way!). With Book 6 we made the mistake of taking our time reading it and a couple days after the release, some dickhead on MySpace sent me a message that spoiled the Snape killing Dumbledore stuff for me. So this time, I was really careful navigating the internet for the few days before the book release. I read our comments page with my hand in front of the screen and would delete the spoiler comments. Carlos from Dobby and the House Elves sent me some fake spoiler text messages. All I saw was the first few words, so I had no idea if they were fake or not, but it filled me with murderous rage. I’m not sure if I will ever forgive him. After getting the book in my hands though, I entered total media isolation. No contact with the outside world until that book was done.
Where do you see yourselves in ten years?
Joe: I will be in 2017. I will definitely be getting hover conversion on my car. I’d be two years behind at that point.
Paul: Owning that hot dog shop or at least doing something equally ridiculous.
How did you get involved with the HP Alliance?
Paul: A couple years ago Andrew Slack showed up to a show we were playing in an elementary school and he was all sweaty and bug-eyed and talking real fast. I loved his enthusiasm. He basically had this idea to use the HP Books as a conduit for introducing kids to activism and social justice issues. It was the same thing we were doing with rock and roll, so it made total sense and I was immediately on board. Since then, I’ve served sort of as a high-level advisor and I’ve been working with Andrew to help the HPA build momentum and define its goals as an organization. It’s been a great experience for me although I wish I had more time to dedicate to it other than sending out bulletins and talking to Andrew for a couple hours each week.
When you’re not on tour or making music, what do you do with your time?
Joe: I do physics homework, and write fanfiction about Hagrid’s adventures in space.
Paul: I sit in a rocking chair, listen to records, drink tea and plan world domination.
How many times have you been to the UK? What is the response to your shows there?
Joe: We went to England twice. Our shows are smaller there, but the excitement is still out of this world. The last time I was there, the audience picked me up and carried me over their head while I sang the end of “The Weapon.”
Paul: Those brats stole two of my sweaters! Almost 400 shows in the US and never a single thing stolen. Eight shows in England and I’m down two sweaters, one of which was a Christmas present from my mom.
Can you confirm the rumors surrounding your band mascot, Wandicorn?
Paul: They are probably all true. I mean, you’ve met Wandicorn, right? It’s no stretch to believe that he did any of that stuff.
Joe, how does it feel to have coffee named after you?
Joe: Honestly, I have never given this much thought, but now it frankly creeps me out. People are drinking ME. I mean just ask Jesus how he feels about people drinking him every week.
How was that show on the show on the aircraft carrier?
Paul: It’s always a little weird playing for the military. We played on this army base in Kentucky once. Fort Campbell. It’s the second largest base in the US. The show was absolutely terrible. Our biggest fan there heckled us the whole time. He was all dressed up in wizard gear and kept saying things like “I hate Harry Potter.” I think he had problems. Our set was met with almost complete indifference, but we did end up getting to play “The Weapon We Have is Love” on a base full of actual weapons that kill people. I’m sure the irony was lost on nearly everyone there. I only wish they had paid us so I could have reclaimed some of the enormous percentage of my tax dollars that fund the US military.
What’s your favorite New Kids on the Block song and why?
Paul: Oh man, how did you know that we’ve been on a huge New Kids kick recently? Yeah, we got Step by Step a few weeks ago. That album is weak. And then last week in Iowa we struck gold and got a Hangin’ Tough cassette (complete with a ticket stub from a Jan 1990 show). We’ve been digging pretty deep into that and I know it’s maybe a cop out, but I think my fav track is “Cover Girl.” It has such and awesome synth part. My friend Meredith just sent me “Popsicle” from their debut though and that song is 4 and a half minutes of bubble-gummy, Jackson 5 pop pleasure.
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