Making Libraries Magically Musical
Wizard rock stars Harry and the Potters are no strangers to the magical awesomeness of public libraries. Since the band formed in 2002, they have played gigs in more than 250 libraries. Library Land reached the band as they are nearing the end a national tour that will conclude at the Boston Public Library on Saturday, August 24th.
Library Land: What is your local library and what makes it special to you?
Harry and the Potters: My local library is the Providence Public Library. I love being able to look in the special collections and seeing what’s there. Angela Diveglia, one of the librarians there, pulled out these magazines from the 60’s called Modern Utopian that detail communal life in the mid 20th century that I absolutely adore. I also frequently use the piano practice room there. I recorded some things for our latest record on it. It’s under construction now so I’m not sure what is to become of that piano.
LL: When did you start?
HP: We started Harry and the Potters in 2002. We had booked a show in our parents’ backyard and some bands cancelled. We decided to start Harry and the Potters that morning and we wrote our first songs and played our first show within hours.
LL: Why wizard rock?
HP: All of our songs are written from the perspective of Harry Potter, who is a wizard. We are a rock band that plays music about being a wizard. That’s why we call it wizard rock.
LL: What was the first library you played in?
HP: It was the Morrill Memorial Library in our hometown, Norwood, MA.
LL: How did you convince them to let you play?
HP: We brought them a CDr with our songs on it and asked if we could play.
LL: How many libraries have you played in?
HP: We don’t actually know precisely but it’s around 250.
LL: What about this tour, how many libraries, what are some of the highlights?
HP: We’re playing 62 shows this summer, 44 of those are in libraries. We played beneath a beautiful fireplace in the Santa Barbara Public Library that felt like the Gryffindor common room. We also played a show at the library in Provo, Utah, that proved to have some of the wildest children we’ve encountered. Some of them were throwing items at us like they were at a Black Flag show in 1983.
LL: What makes for a great library?
Easy to use catalog.
A room with dry acoustics for a rock and roll show.
A modular synthesizer.
Guitar pedal gear share.
Good events calendar.
Amnesty on fees.
LL: How has your audience changed since you started?
HP: It’s grown! And we mean that in all the ways that word can be used. They got older. Some of them now have children. We’ve been seeing lots of new faces on this tour.
LL: I’ve seen you guys many times over the years, how has your music evolved since you started?
HP: We’ve gotten better at playing our instruments and our songwriting has gotten more refined. I think we also realized we had a certain responsibility in interpreting the character of Harry Potter so we are increasingly more conscious of that when we write and perform.
LL: When you work on songs, how closely do you stick to canon? Do you think there are more stories to be told about Harry and the gang?
HP: We try to stay very close to the book canon. We have veered slightly in some places and taking liberties by imagining that there’s a thriving rock and roll scene and that Harry Potter has time to be in a band, but for the most part we make an effort to stay true to the source. We certainly haven’t touched on everything that happens in the books so there’s always room for more. The great thing about the Harry Potter fandom is that there’s a strong community of fans who reinterpret the original works and make it relevant in their own ways.
LL: How does the library crowd compare to other audiences you’ve played for?
HP: Every show is different. On this tour we are doing now we are seeing a good deal of young kids at the library. Libraries tend to be a place that’s a little more accessible for children than a rock club. Our shows in rock venues tend to skew a little older in age range.
LL: What advice do you have for aspiring library rockers?
HP: Get a PA system and learn how to run it. Call up a library and ask to play a show. A lot of people wonder how we get all these library shows booked and the very simple reality is that we just call up the library and talk to the people who book events. The library is a resource that is available to all to use!
LL: In the song “Gone Campin,” from your new album Lumos, when you accio a grouper (for example) does the fish arrive alive or cooked?
HP: Canonically, there are magical laws that prevent one from creating ready to eat food out of nowhere. I assume that when you summon a fish it comes out of the river alive and one would have to figure out what to do with it.
LL: Thanks very much and we’ll see you at the BPL!