The Who once famously exclaimed, "I hope I die before I get old." The Rolling Stones similarly rebelled against culture by declaring, "I can't get no satisfaction," and more recently, Green Day cautioned their fans to "Live without warning." Now an unusual literary-based band is offering music fans a decidedly different adage.
"You should turn up the volume when you read," laughed Joe DeGeorge, summing up the attitude of his book-savvy punk band Harry and the Potters. Muggles beware: The Potters may be coming to a library, nightclub or doughnut shop near you.
"There are many purposes of the band," older brother Paul, the other Potter, said. "One is to encourage reading, definitely. We play a lot of libraries and bookstores and things like that. The other is to kind of open kids up to some new musical ideas through somebody they're already familiar with, [like] Harry. We took these qualities we saw in Harry — he's got a problem with authority, he has a do-it-yourself mentality ... we took all these qualities that we think define a good punk rocker that Harry shares, and we exploit them and play off them in our shows and in our music. If Harry did have a band, this is what they would sound like — or at least, we think so."
With song titles like "The Foil (Malfoy)" and "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock," 18-year-old Joe and 26-year-old Paul have watched in stunned amazement as their "goofy" idea has turned into a full-fledged, touring band. Strumming their guitars and belting out lyrics like "Draco Malfoy, what's your problem?/ All your friends think you're rad/ 'Cause you treat me so bad," the DeGeorge brothers have combined broomsticks with Blink-182. And the outfits help too.
"It's our own special blend," Paul beamed. "It's like Harry Potter from the waist up — we've got the sweaters and the ties. But from the waist down, it's your normal punk-rock attire: jeans and a studded belt, sneakers. The glasses we wear are our prescription glasses, but we skip the scar. Usually we'd just sweat it off anyway."
"There are a lot of [familiar] people that come to our shows," Joe said of the band's rabid fanbase.
"Yeah, it's kinda like following the Dead, except it's following wizards," his brother added.
The wannabe wand-wielders have their very own groupies, but they're still a long way from teenage Hermione clones tossing their panties up onstage. "In California some girls followed us around. We played seven shows, they came to every one," Joe said.
"They had a few different [theme] outfits," Paul added. "Some, we thought, were wizards in Muggles clothes. Because when wizards dress up as Muggles, they're usually really weird-looking."
"They looked like grandmas," Joe concluded, cracking up both the brothers.
The DeGeorges spend most of their dates jamming in front of literary crowds at Borders and local libraries. Similar to any other up-and-coming musical act, however, Paul admitted that they sometimes have to take gigs wherever they're available. "We played at this place [in Portland, Oregon] called Voodoo Donut; it's a doughnut shop that opens at 10 at night and closes at 10 in the morning ... we went down there and said, 'Hey, we're in a band. Can we play, like, on top of your bathroom?' There was a kinda stage there with an organ and a PA system ... we had a show earlier in the evening at a bicycle store, and we just invited everyone over to the doughnut shop."
When the brothers were out on the road this past summer, they found the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" to be both a blessing and a curse. "We were reading it out loud to each other while we were in the car on tour," Joe remembered. "We were like, 'That's cool. We can make that into a song.' "
"We had our markers in hand [highlighting the pages]," Paul enthused. "It was in Chicago, and it was the jumping-off point for our tour, which was like five weeks long. After Chicago, though, we had to take a few days off, because we figured, 'Who's going to come see us? Everybody's going to be home reading.' "
The boys call themselves punk rockers but are careful that their attitude is less Sid Vicious and more Sid and Marty Krofft. "We do have one song called 'Cornelius Fudge Is an Ass,' " Paul said. "He's the minister of magic. In the fifth book, he was fighting with Dumbledore the whole time and being a general jerk."
"That's our punk-rock politics song," Joe declared with pride.
With plans to further their education in schools other than Hogwarts — Joe is heading to Clark University; Paul is seeking his PhD in chemical engineering — the Boston brothers are keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. But they vow to continue touring and possibly recording, and Paul holds out hope that there may someday be a third member of the band. "I hear ('Potter' movie actor) Daniel Radcliffe is pretty into punk rock. We hold out that hope that someday there can be three Harry Potters, all rocking out onstage at the same time. That would be pretty rad."
The DeGeorge brothers also claim they would love to meet series author J.K. Rowling, even though they aren't sure how she'd react to their music.
"Maybe she'll show up to a show," Paul chuckled.
When asked whether the brothers had to secure the permission of Rowling before starting the band, Joe similarly laughs it off: "I don't think so."
Reinforcing their read-and-rock aesthetic, however, Paul summed up the situation by offering one last potential Harry and the Potters motto: "C'mon," he said. "What kind of punk rocker would ask for permission?"