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Harry rocks out

Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge have read every Harry Potter book so far. What’s more, each bears a passable resemblance to a certain unwitting wizard. Twenty-four-year-old Paul is actually a scientist — during daylight hours he works in a Cambridge lab making vaccines. He’s also a musician (late of the band Secrets) and a co-founder of the Cambridge record label Eskimo Laboratories. And Eskimo’s stable of talent includes a shambling band of juvenile jokesters called Ed in the Refridgerators who are fronted by 16-year-old Joe. So it was really just an exercise in problem-solving skills when last summer, after a Refridgerators concert set for the DeGeorge family’s back-yard shed fell through, the brothers penned seven Potter-themed songs in one hour and then bashed ’em out dressed in V-necks, ties, and specs.

Thus were born Harry and the Potters, a duo of benevolent electric wizards who play their music for free at bookstores and libraries (they’ll be at the Charlestown branch of the BPL this Monday), and whose jangly jingles about Quidditch and three-headed dogs look to foster a love for smartly silly indie rock in the schoolkid set.

This past April, the brothers kept six of their seven backyard songs and penned a dozen more for Harry and the Potters’ homonymous CD, which has Paul on guitar, Joe on keyboard, and Ernie Kim from Boston math-rockers Tristan da Cunha helping out on drums. Last month, when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, the duo (no Ernie) played five shows at Borders bookstores around town as well as one at a library in Norwood, near where Joe attends high school.

Even better than the autographs they get to sign — Paul goes by "Harry, Year 7," Joe is "Harry, Year 4," though Paul allows that "we’re both pushing it a little" — is the way that kids are connecting to the music. "It’s hard getting little kids to realize how to rock and roll, because they haven’t been exposed to it as much," Joe admits. "Ten-to-12 is probably our best audience." But Paul says that he and Joe have "started getting e-mails from kids saying, ‘I love your CD. It’s awesome. I play it for all my friends.’ Mothers are calling me up saying, ‘Oh, their cousins heard the CD and we want another one because they can’t stop listening to it.’ "

That’s probably because as hastily as some of them were written, and as charmingly off-kilter and off-key as they sometimes are, the songs are really quite good. The rough gems include "Fluffy," a revved-up 15-second spiel about the slobbering three-headed dog set to Joe’s creature-feature organ; "Gryffindor Rocks," a power-pop fight song for the "best Quidditch team that the school has seen"; and "The Firebolt," a Byrdsy garage rocker about a zoomin’ broom to beat all others.

The songs are more or less chronological, from "I Am a Wizard," which finds a bemused Harry starting to intuit his powers, to the anthemic coda "These Days Are Dark," a paean to solidarity in the face of Lord Voldemort’s wicked gloaming at the end of book four. Paul says this last number is "the best song I ever wrote." He’s also glad for the opportunity to play to audiences younger than typical Middle East habitués. "I don’t know what 12-year-old kids listen to, but it’s probably something that’s on KISS-108. I think back to the groups that were most influential to me at an early age, and it’s like the weird stuff — Weird Al, They Might Be Giants. That’s what can hit kids. It’s silly and intelligent. If I can be somebody’s They Might Be Giants, that would be the highest compliment someone could give me."

Harry and the Potters perform this Monday, July 28, at 7 p.m. at the Boston Public Library’s Charlestown branch, 179 Main Street. Call (617) 536-5400 or visit www.bpl.org. For more information about the Potters, visit www.eskimolabs.com/hp.

Issue Date: July 25 - August 1, 2003
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