That is, until Harry Potter enthusiasts discovered them, at which point the quasi-celebrity status of their jangle-rock duo exploded. Suddenly, the DeGeorges were the Pink Floyd of Potterdom, selling out venues such as the Middle East and amassing nearly 100,000 friends on their MySpace page. No surprise, four of their songs, including “Dumbledore” and “The Weapon We Have Is Love,” are streaming on the HP Alliance’s MySpace page. (Read their 2006 tourblog for thephoenix.com here.)
Noted Web music ’zine Pitchfork Media even hailed Harry and the Potters as having one of the best five live shows in 2005. “The Decemberists wish they could lit-rock like this,” that review said. Says Paul: “It’s totally changed our perspective on life, in a way.”
Another set of brothers, this one from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, soon followed suit. Brian Ross, 32, and Bradley Mehlenbacher, 27, also started their Potter-esque band in jest. Bent on punking Harry and the Potters at a shared-bill gig, Ross and Mehlenbacher decided to outfit themselves as and perform songs from the perspective of Harry Potter’s nemesis: a toe-headed, nasty Slytherin named Draco Malfoy. (Both bands are playing a free show on July 20, in Harvard Yard in “Hogwarts Square” at 7 pm.)
Today, what began as a couple of accidental jokes and pranks has erupted into a full-blown scene. There are now more than 200 bands channeling various Potter themes and characters into their music. The genre? Wizard rock.
And neither the Harrys nor the Dracos think of the burgeoning community as a joke, or even as some bastard-dork cousin of indie-rock. Both groups take their efforts quite seriously, especially at this juncture. Amidst the fervor leading up to the release of Deathly Hallows, wizard rockers seem to be drawing bigger and better crowds, at every show. Most of their audiences of late, says Paul, are “in a total panic and frenzy.”
For Draco and the Malfoys, the band is an escape from the humdrum pressures of hipster irony — like the Potters, they’re prone to rocking out in libraries. In this venture, says Ross, he and his band are just a pipeline for Pottermania. “With this, we’re all fans of something much larger,” he says. “Everyone shows up to have a good time, never to be a snob about the music, ever, ever, ever.”
“There will always be room in the world for kids with guitars who want to play silly songs inspired by books they read,” says Dave Maher, a writer for Pitchfork Media. “Harry and the Potters fit in with how I imagine the origins of a band like They Might Be Giants, i.e., a couple of dudes writing songs based on nerdy things like the books they like and wizards and monsters and general good vs. evil situations. But, in a way, Harry and the Potters have an edge on the rest of the indie-music world, because they actually have a concept instead of being just another group of boys with guitars and nice haircuts and no direction.”
In spite of fully booked calendars, no wizard rocker is ignorant of the fact that his genre is about to reach its climax. Each of their musical identities is, after all, contingent on the lasting success and popularity of a book series. How long will that last once there are no new stories to riff on?