02 February 2006

totes an interview: paul of harry and the potters

Harry and the Potters are the best theme band that ever happened to me. In 2004, I got them to come to Wesleyan for a small show at the house of a wee ol' literary society known as Alpha Delta Phi. They literary-ly rocked the roof off of the house!...and made fun of my Hufflepuff t-shirt.

The band is made up of two brothers, Paul and Joe, who sing as two Harry Potters--- one from year seven, one from year four. Every song is related to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Their fans revel in their stick-it-to-the-man lyrics, charismatic performances, and clever puns. Some girls think they're really cute too.

In December, Justin (my fellow totesumbrella-er) and I invaded Massachusetts to see the Yule Ball, featuring the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, The Whomping Willow, Uncle Monsterface/Cousin Wizardface, Stubby Boardman, Tristan da Cunha, Jason Anderson, and a breakdancing Dumbledore. Not only did we encounter 20,000 tweens, but we also had a rockin' good time. Wizard-rockin' that is! They have tons of upcoming shows, so you should definitely check them out. They even have a show with relapse and You Ain't No Picasso favorite, Pants Yell!

Luckily, my connection to Harry and the Potters has not faded entirely. While there's little chance of them coming back to Wesleyan this semester, Paul was gracious enough to talk to us about several topics, including (but not limited to) hot-dog jamborees, The Great Lakes, the new bookmobile, Book 7, toenails, and even Bruce Springsteen. He even takes time to talk smack about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Blogged. Before you read, feel free to take a listen...

(BUY the music, CHECK the MySpace)
JOE JOHN: So can you tell us about your awesome beginnings within the shed?

PAUL: Just for you Joe John, I'll give you the pre-shed version of our beginnings, starting with the until-now unrevealed journal entry that started it all. I usually don't keep journals but apparently, I wrote in this one sporadically during The Year 2000. I just found it when I moved a few months ago. This entry was dated August 8th, 2000 (which is nearly 2 full years before Joe and I even wrote any songs).

The entry starts with a few lyrics:
Phoenix ____ bands in town
What's over on Lansdowne? (reader note: Lansdowne is a crappy strip of clubs in Boston)
Axis and Avalon are filled with techno jerks (note: Axis and Avalon are clubs on the aforementioned strip)
But Harry and the Potters are playing at Hogwarts (and there was a note to myself to rhyme jerks with Hogwarts...very clever, eh?)

And then, I had the band line-up listed as:
Harry Potter - vocals
Ron Weasley - guitar
Hermione Granger - bass
Hagrid - drums

So I guess I originally envisioned Harry as a straight-up frontman. I tried convincing some friends to start this band with me, but they were all very serious indie rockers who apparently look down upon jokey bands. Whatever. I had always wanted to start a band with my brother, Joe (he is 8 years younger), and we thought this would be a good one since he looked like Harry. But I didn't want to have to be Ron or someone lame, so we both decided to be Harry. I mean, if you're going to start a ridiculous band like this, how much more ridiculous is it to tell your audience that you are the same person, but from different points in time?

Do you ever have serious trouble with referring to yourself as Harry and Harry vs. Paul and Joe?

PAUL: Not really. I'm pretty proud of the fact that we've never really broken character on stage.

JJ: So I read that you played a hot dog jamboree at some point?

PAUL: Yes. I mean, do you really think we would have turned that down? It definitely wasn't one of our finer shows. No one really seemed to care too much that we were playing. But we did get free hot dogs. But they weren't that great either. See review.

JJ: What was your favorite show you ever played?

PAUL: The Yule Ball. You were there. You know how much it ruled. Runners up include: outside the Boston Public Library last June, dragging all our gear 1/4 mile and playing a totally illegal show on a pedestrian bridge in Austin, TX, and a doughnut shop in Portland, OR.

JJ: How was playing a small show at Wesleyan in 2004?

PAUL: We had an awesome time at Wesleyan. We really wanted to bring the wizard/muggle dance party that night and everyone was up to the challenge! We all danced so hard! This also still stands, I believe, as the only time we've ever performed the Bertie Botts song live (with 2 extra verses). Joe and I practiced it in the car the whole way there. I think we lost the lyrics though.

JJ: On that note, what are your favorite flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans?

PAUL: Joe likes soap. I think they're all pretty gross, but I'll answer this question in character and say BACON!

JJ: Are you still hating on Hufflepuff!?! (I'm still proud, even if I'm useless)

It's not your fault man. It's Rowling's. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are both weak. We just don't get enough in the books to know what they're really all about. And come on, "Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest" (Book 5 Sorting Hat song) is pretty damn hilarious. Sorry dude.

JJ: A mtv.com interview, a rave review from pitchfork...Does any of this ever go to your head!?! Did you expect to be such a big deal?

PAUL: Yeah, it definitely goes to my head. Now every time I come up with a silly idea, I figure that it's probably some genius idea that everyone on the whole planet is going to love. I'm planning to bottle water from each of the 5 Great Lakes and sell it in a six pack (the sixth bottle will be from the Great Salt Lake). And then people will buy the six-pack and have tasting parties. You know, blindfolded and stuff. Guess the lake! I drank some Michigan last summer. It was pretty good. Don't steal this idea anyone. It's mine!

JJ: I just got friended on MySpace by The Remus Lupins. What's with all these spin-off bands? How did Draco and the Malfoys come about?

PAUL: I think it's awesome. I mean, when Joe and I were starting our and people would ask us what kind of music we played, we would jokingly say "Wizard Rock." And now it's teetering on the verge of being a legitimate genre. Or maybe I just have an insiders perspective on the whole thing. I'm waiting for the day when it becomes an genre option for Myspace bands. You know, we're Indie/Punk/Wizard Rock!

Draco and the Malfoys are two guys from Woonsocket, RI. Their friend Matt (the Whomping Willows) invited us to play a house party. So we played and then made friends with Brad and Brian (the Malfoy brothers), and then Matt invited us for another house party and Brad and Brian wrote a bunch of songs from Draco's perspective that pretty much trashed Harry and his friends. It was pretty hilarious. And dirty too. I'm pretty sure the first line of their "Potions" song was not "You messed up in potions yesterday," but "You somethingelse-ed up in potions yesterday." I got them to clean up the language a bit for the kiddies and now we play together fairly frequently.

JJ: Any new bands that you think we should keep our eyes on?

PAUL: You talking wizard bands or bands in general? We love the Malfoys and the Whomping Willows. I'm also a fan of the Quidditch Pitch Incident, the Giant Squid, Ron and the Weasleys. They've all got style, you know?

Can wizard rock ever be stopped?

PAUL: Not at this point! It's out of control! Voldemort doesn't have nearly enough death eaters to lay the smack down. He cries himself to sleep at night knowing he is helpless against the power of wizard rock.

JJ: Someone on a message board was looking for some of your unreleased material ("Rocking At Hogwarts", the Bertie Botts song, etc.)...Where can fans get recordings of these songs?

PAUL: It's pretty funny. All those songs are really short and we just recorded them one afternoon and compressed them so we could fit them on a 1.44 MB floppy disc. We then put a stamp on the disc and would mail them out to people who wrote us letters or sent us stuff in the mail. I think I only sent out about 20 of them, but somehow they ended up on the file-sharing networks. So I guess check those file-sharing networks or something.

JJ: Have you ever received any strange or creepy fan-mail?

PAUL: We get all sorts of cool stuff. Not too much on the creepy end. Once I got some toenails (washed). And sometimes letters are so heavily perfumed that I can't really stand to be around them for too long. On the plus side though, we've gotten some pretty good cookies and other various treats. Our mom still freaks out, in the "There are razor blades in your Halloween candy" sort of way when we eat that stuff.

Speaking of fandom, I noticed that you are a huge Springsteen fan?

PAUL: Hell yeah. As a kid, he was one of the few things my dad listened to and I remember just being mesmerized by the picture on the back of "the Wild, the Innocent, the E Street Shuffle" album. Everyone was so dirty! I'm not sure the music totally hit me until I got older.

I guess since my bio page is so Springsteen crazy, one of the writers from Backstreets (a Springsteen fanzine that's been going for 25 years) actually did an interview with me for the latest issue. It was that coolest interview I ever did. The questions were like "Which house would Springsteen be in at Hogwarts?" and "Match E Street Band members to Hogwarts professors." It ruled!

JJ: Can you tell us anything about the new songs? When is the new album coming out?

PAUL: Oh man, the new songs rule! I am so psyched about them. They are HUGE! WE just finished tracking 5 songs this weekend. We did three songs for our "Scarred for Life" 7." This stuff is insane. It's not funny at all (except on a conceptual level). It's really heavy. Programmed drums, real drums, tons of grinding synths and screaming. These were just some songs we had to get out of our system. One is about Snape (from Harry's perspective obviously) and the other two are called "Sectum Sempra" and "Horcruxes" so that gives you a bit of an idea of the thematic weight we're dealing with. The other two songs we tracked are for a split 7" with the Zambonis (an all hockey band). We're both fans of theme-rock so it made total sense for us to collaborate and each write songs about Harry Potter and hockey. So our half of the record will have "The Forbidden Forest Hockey League" and "The Hogwarts Tonsil Hockey Team." It's good stuff. Hopefully we'll get the 7"s out in March or April, followed by the full-length in May.

But yeah, the full-length should be some classic Potters stuff. You know, make fun of Ron for the whole Lavender Brown thing, make fun of Ron for the whole love potion thing, make fun of Hermione for being rather pathetic about the whole Ron thing. And then we've got a whole bunch of anthemic songs that you pump your fist to and say, "NO WAY will Voldemort win! We will be victorious!"

JJ: So what's the deal with the new Pottermobile?

PAUL: It is big! Luxurious in that Econoline sense of the word. It's beige, but we hope to christen it with a scar when we hit Chicago in March. It is the Book-Rock Mobile! Watch for it at libraries across the country this summer!

JJ: If you met J.K. Rowling, how would you expect the conversation to go?

She would come up to us after the show. She would be all sweaty because she danced so hard. We'd give each other hugs. She'd tell us we rocked and we'd tell her that she's awesome.

JJ: What were your feelings on Book 6?

PAUL: Loved it. Best book yet. Tons of Dumbledore action. Steamy teen romance. Actually, I probably could have done without that stuff, but it makes for good songs.

JJ: Any predictions for Book 7?

PAUL: Harry steals a timeturner and travels back in time to Year 4 and starts a band with himself! It could happen!
For those of you who read this far...you deserve some bonus tracks!!!

THE REMUS LUPINS- The Ballad of Neville and Luna

The 4th Triwizard Champion,
Joe John


Katey said...

Most adorable thing ever. The more exclamation marks you use, the better, in my opinion.

Justin said...

I'm soooooo excited that they're coming to Atlanta! Of course I can't be there, but I'll make sure my brother goes.

Johnny Strangler said...

One thing...is wizard rock the same as viking metal? Just curious.

Laura said...

HATPs are so hardcore. I can not wait to see them live.

Hillary said...

Awesome interview! I'm glad Paul digs the wizard rock spin offs, though Harry and the Potters will always be my favorites. I was at the Yule Ball, and I'm going to see them for the 4th time on the 25th! I'm psyched for the show and the new album and 7"! :D

Elizabeth said...

Awesome interview. Now I know stuff that I totally didn't know before. Cool.

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