An Interview with Harry and the Potters, Part 1

A little over a month ago, I sat down with Paul and Joe DeGeorge on the first day of LeakyCon, to conduct an interview we had all agreed to doing about three years prior. We sat down in the noisy vendor hall as people bustled about setting things up, and after stealing a chair from Whompy’s booth, Paul and I began the interview while waiting for Joe to come back from locking up the tour van.

Wrock Snob: So, we’re going to just start things off with a hard hitting question: where did Wandicorn come from?

Paul DeGeorge: [laughs] I like that this is where we start. Wandicorn is a creature that evolved from touring together and wanting to create a sort of mascot, I suppose – each house has their own mascot, and we thought that our band should have one, and it should probably be a more magical creature than a snake or a badger, and so Wandicorn is, what, half-unicorn, half-squid, half-phoenix, half-dragon, and it has a flux capacitor and a lobster claw, so he can travel through time. Oh, and he’s got a wand for a horn, so I guess he’s not a true unicorn – he’s Wandicorn.

WS: On some of the t-shirts, the lobster claw looks more metallic – is that supposed to be robotic or is that just an error, or…?

Paul: Good question. I think it might have had to do with simply having a limited color palette for printing, and printing is spot-color on t-shirts, and I think maybe we just didn’t want to pay for, um, red. And we thought “Yeah, you know, a robotic lobster claw would be pretty cool”. I think he’s flexible, heh.

WS: So, how much does pretending to be Harry Potter rub off on you?

Paul: Well, I think that, in some ways… a lot. You know, Harry starts his own Dumbledore’s Army, and I helped start the Harry Potter Alliance, so I think that in that way, we adopted a lot of Harry Potter’s stick-it-to-the-man tendencies, and are trying to actualize those or help other Harry Potter fans actualize those.  So, quite a bit, I guess, is the answer. [laughs awkwardly]

WS: Favorite show you’ve played?

Paul: Ever?

WS: Yeah.

Paul: Gosh, there’s a lot of good ones. I guess I would probably say the show we played in a chasm. So when the sixth Harry Potter movie came out we wanted to play in a cave – oh, the cowboy’s here!

[At this point, Joe DeGeorge walks up wearing a cowboy hat.]

Paul: We’re talking about our favorite show we’ve ever done, and I was saying Purgatory Chasm.

Joe DeGeorge: That’s definitely in my tops.

Paul: Yeah, we wanted to play in a cave, but the cave was not available, so we found a chasm in a state park and had people show up at the park –

Joe: It’s pretty cavey. For a chasm. There are little caves you can crawl into around the chasm.

Paul: Yeah, we didn’t play in a cave though, we played in kind of like a open chasm – the rocks were like 40, 50 feet high. So we invited people to the state park at like 8′ o clock and we hiked down into the chasm as it was getting dark, and then as we played it just got totally pitch black. We were just playing acoustic – playing an acoustic guitar and a glockenspiel, and it was kind of one of our first acoustic shows we ever did, right?

Joe: Oh yeah, it was the first.

Paul: So it was pretty magical, with people just sitting in the dark, some people brought flashlights and were shining them on us, or lanterns, and we were just sitting in the dark out in nature, singing along. It was really kind of magical, and it worked out a lot better than we ever anticipated, and then we hiked out and went to the movie screening.

Joe: Yeah, it was good. No one got hurt in the dark, walking out of the chasm.

WS: So, would you also put that in your favorite location, then?

Paul: Yeah. I would recommend that chasm to anyone.

WS: For fans of chasms?

Paul: For musicians looking for good places to perform – great acoustics in that chasm.

WS: What was the hardest show you ever played?

Joe: Maybe it was the one at Harvard, Mass?

Paul: Oh my God, yeah.

Joe: This was really early –

Paul: This was maybe the worst show?

Joe: Worst, and hardest.

Paul: [laughs]

Joe: The CD player that we were playing along to just kept skipping…

WS: You were playing along to a CD player back then?

Paul: That’s how we used to tour – backing tracks on CD.

Joe: Just the two of us, playing with –

Paul: – no drummer.

Joe: An invisible drummer. And I forgot our uniforms for that show.

Paul: So we were playing outside a library on a town common, so the sound was terrible because it was outdoors, and we had a dinky sound system. Our drummer kept skipping, because he was a CD player. We didn’t have our uniforms, and the librarian called up her husband, or her friend’s husband, and just borrowed, like, sweatervests and ties for us. It was just a total shitshow.

Joe: And the main attraction was the ice cream party.

Paul: Oh, was that an ice cream one too?

Joe: They had ice cream there too. Well, it ended up being the main attraction.

[Both laugh.]

WS: So, switching gears a bit – when you wrote “The Weapon”, did you know? Did you have any idea that this was going to be a really big song?

Joe: Well, we wanted to sort of capture that major theme from the books, and I feel like we hoped that people would latch onto that theme as they had in the book, and just sort of reflect that.

Paul: Yeah, we just wanted to cap the album on a positive note. Like, we wrote that going into Half-Blood Prince, so we wrote it in between Books 5 and 6, wanting to capture that positive momentum, you know? Trying to write true to Harry’s perspective, and, you know, have it be a song that would kind of rally people, and kind of end on like a higher note than “The Godfather, Part 2”, which is like, about losing Sirius Black. They kind of go together in the same way that at the end of Power of Love, “Dumbledore” and “Phoenix Song” kind of go together.

WS: Or “These Days are Dark”.

Paul: And that’s the same thing, going back to the first record and wanting to end on a high note.

Joe: Yeah, that kind of captures both those assignments there.

WS: So, your three seminal songs are arguably “The Weapon”, “Save Ginny Weasley”, and “This Book Is So Awesome” – what are your favorite songs that didn’t become big hits with fans, that you feel you don’t get to play enough?

Paul: Hmmm.

Joe: I like “Gringott’s Goblin Coaster”…

Paul: “Gringott’s Goblin Coaster” is great! Maybe that will have its day when they open the Goblin Coaster…

Joe: Yeah, we can be the house band.

Paul: [laughs] Gosh, I’m trying to think… hmmm….

Joe: On this tour we’ve been doing “Dark Lord Lament”.

Paul: [laughs] Not, not one of our bests. [sighs]

Joe: It’s been cool to revive it.

Paul: Yeah, cool to revive it.

WS: I kind of like that you’ve been shortening it…

Joe: Yeah…

Paul: Well, I think “Phoenix Song” is one of the best we’ve written, but it’s just impractical to perform live – it’s such a complex arrangement. Certainly the most ambitious recording we ever did. We probably spent like 25% of our time on that one song when we recorded that record.

WS: Wow.

Paul: Lotta tracks on that, like 90 tracks on that or something.

Joe: Yeah, I spent most of my time editing that song.

Paul: That’s a song that’s one of the few songs that I like listening to, like the recorded version of, that I’m really proud of. Songs we don’t play as much? Well, I really like “Song for the Death Eaters”.

WS: I’m also a big fan.

Paul: Yeah, it’s been a difficult one for us to play live, for some reason – it’s never really and truly clicked live. Something about it is difficult – dynamically or something – for us to pull off. So we don’t play that as much as I wish we could, probably. [They ended up playing “Song for the Death Eaters” during their set the following day and I nearly shat my pants.]

WS: Joe, you mentioned helping to write “Phoenix Song” – can you guys tell me a bit about the collaborative process? You two always share the writing credit, but does one tend to write more songs, or more of a specific variety, or is it more just split 50/50?

Joe: Yeah, there are some songs that are mostly one of our voices, like definitely on the first album things were more split, but it became more collaborative, because we got more time to work on stuff together.

Paul: Yeah, on the first record there’s some songs that some of us don’t even play on, you know.

WS: Like “Summer Vacation”.

Paul: Yeah! We were just recording really quickly.

Joe: Basically, it was like Paul took Book 2, I took Book 3 –

Paul: I took Book 4…

WS: [laughs]

Paul: Yeah, we split it up, I guess.

Joe: I mean, we did have some crossover…

Paul: A little bit, but it was like “Alright, dish out the assignments!”, trying to get songs written.

Joe: It was like an academic exercise.

Paul: I think it got more collaborative when we had more time and started to workshop ideas. Like a song like “Song for the Death Eaters” was one where I came up with a little bit, like maybe the music and started to write the lyrics, and then we workshopped that for a long time, and had a HUGE list of lyrics, like three times as many as are in the actual song, and kind of honed it down from there. Yeah, our demo for that is like 6 minutes long.

WS: Do you still have that kicking around?

Joe: Somewhere…

Paul: Yeah – you can’t really tell what we’re saying, though, cuz it’s just like recorded on a boombox or something.

Thus ends part one of this interview, because it’s about 45 minutes long, transcribing is a pain in the dick, and it was at this part in the recording where I started dicking around with my recording device to make sure it was successfully capturing these true gems of wizard rock history and knowledge. Next week: we discuss snitchwiches, vinyl, Dumbledore, and fondue.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam Harris
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 19:00:42

    Fuck! I don’t want to wait a week for part 2! (Why not just send people the audio file… :P)
    And damn, 90 tracks on Phoenix Song? Well I’m not surprised that there are more on that song than any other, but I still want them to perform it at some point!

    Reply

  2. Brad Ausrotas (@BradAusrotas)
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 19:33:18

    THIS IS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: An Interview with Harry and the Potters, Part 5 | The Wrock Snob

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