Unlimited Enthusiasm at the Cunniff School

Harry and the Potters, Math the Band kick off 2008 summer tour with Watertown press conference

The Cunniff Kids News caught up with (from left) Harry and the Potters’ Paul and Joe DeGeorge and Math the Band’s Kevin Steinhauser and Zach Burba before their North American tour, Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo ’08.

[JUNE 2008 — Brothers Joe and Paul DeGeorge of the band Harry and the Potters, and Kevin Steinhauser and Zach Burba of Math the Band came to the Cunniff School on June 12, 2008, for a press conference with the staff of the Cunniff Kids News to answer a few questions about their upcoming North American tour, Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo ’08. Also touring will be Uncle Monsterface, which, unfortunately could not attend the press conference. Neither could the third member of Math the Band, Justine Mainville. The following is an edited transcript of that June 12, 2008, press conference. — CKN]

Joe: Hi everyone and thanks for coming today. My name is Joe DeGeorge and with my brother Paul, we play in a band called Harry and the Potters and we’re going to be going on tour this summer. We’re going to be playing shows in lots of cities all across the United States of America. We’ll be traveling together with Math the Band. We’ll be playing shows every evening for people. Our tour is part of basically a giant traveling summer camp. But it’s not like a normal summer camp where you go to one specific place. This summer camp is everywhere. Anybody can come, no matter who they are they are welcome. Basically the summer camp is a big concert with lots of fun activities. The camp is called Camp Jump and Yell.

Paul: I guess you guys are all young journalists, right? Cool. I saw your newspaper online and it’s really good. I think some of you interviewed a band called Smoosh. Was that any of you [here today]? Cool. We played with them about a year ago. They’re really nice. They’re a fun band.

Cunniff Kids News: My name is Patrick and my question is: Why did you become a band about Harry Potter?

Joe: We became a band about Harry Potter because we have a lot of enthusiasm for reading and Harry Potter is a very fun and popular book. We were drawn to it because it was a really awesome book. We’re musicians, so we wanted to write songs about things that we liked.

CKN: My name is Shannon. Where was your favorite place that you went on tour?

Paul: Wow. We’ve been in so many places. I think the cool thing about touring is that you get to meet so many people, so sometimes we get to visit our friends in all those cities. But I think one of my favorite places that we’ve ever gone is, just a few months ago, we got to go to Alaska, which is very far away. It’s kind of like going to another country. And while we were there, we ate whale blubber. Anybody here ever eaten whale blubber?

Joe: It’s really chewy.

Paul: It’s not good.

Kevin: Last summer we went to Guadalajara, Mexico. That was a lot of fun. We ate a lot of food there that I didn’t know what it was but I ate it and it tasted really good.

Zach: The best part about going to all of these different places is getting to see all of the people that you know around the country. We make lots of friends in every city and in every town, and every time we go on tour it’s like you’re going to see your friends again. One of my favorite places to visit all of my friends is in Seattle, Wash.

Paul: Just to sum up, the stuff that makes going on tour worthwhile is the food and the people.

I’ve always found it’s a lot more fun to tour with another band than it is with just your own band. It’s like having friends with you the whole time. It makes it more like an adventure.”

— KEVIN STEINHAUSER of Math the Band

CKN: How many places have you been to?

Paul: We’ve played in 49 of the United States. We’ve played in every one except Hawaii. We’ve also played a few cities in Canada, and we’ve been to England twice and we’ve been to the Netherlands also.

Kevin: I think we’ve played in something like 23 states. We haven’t played Canada but we have played Mexico.

CKN: My name is Brian. Have you ever been to Russia or Australia?

Paul: We’ve never been to Russia or Australia. We’d loved to go though. People in Australia speak English so they like the Harry Potter books too. … We got to go to the Netherlands for the Dutch language release of the sixth Harry Potter book and we learned one of our songs in Dutch, which is not an easy language to speak, and I think the locals, the Dutch people, were MILDY impressed.

CKN: When did you start your band?

Joe: We started our band, Harry and the Potters in 2002, but we didn’t start playing shows until 2003.

Kevin: We started Math the Band in 2003, but we didn’t start playing shows until 2004.

CKN: How long did it take you to get your band started?

Paul: The way our band started was, Joe and I, we’re brothers, and we just kind of sat down at our kitchen table one day and wrote a bunch of songs and then we played them for our friends in the backyard and we had a cookout. And then we just kind of gave each other high-fives like this [Paul and Joe high-five] and then almost a year later, we started to think about playing shows in front of people. So we booked our band some shows in some bookstores and then we started playing around the Boston area. [Watertown] is really close to where we’re from. So we started playing libraries and other places. People started to hear about our band and started emailing us and calling us up on the phone and asking us to play. That’s when we really started to perform more regularly.

Kevin: It took us about five years to form the band. For about four years it was just one person. It was a very long time. We’re very slow workers.

CKN: My name is Rachel. How do you write your songs?

Paul: The way we did those first few songs, we were at our kitchen table and we took out the first Harry Potter book. We had just read it, so it was fresh in our mind. So we kind of skimmed the content of the book and took out funny events in the book that we thought would make fun songs to sing about. For example, in the second Harry Potter book we have a song called, “Save Ginny Weasley,’’ which is about our friend Ron’s little sister who gets kidnapped by a giant snake and Harry Potter has to go save her from the snake so we thought it would make a fun song.

Kevin: We like to write songs about things that we used to have trouble remembering when we were in school, like certain math equations. We have songs about the water cycle, the order of the planets from the sun, why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, stuff like that. We also like to write songs about why you should never give up anything that you want to do.

CKN: Are you planning to write songs about the seventh book [“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’’]?

Paul: Yeah, we are planning to write some songs about the seventh book. In fact, we just did some recording a couple of weeks ago in our basement and wrote a couple of songs. Joe wrote one song about in the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak into the ministry of magic. The way they do it is they use pollyjuice potion, which makes you look like somebody else and they wanted to look like one of the ministry officials. This guy was on his way to work and they gave him one of Fred and George’s puking pastilles, which made him throw up, a lot – it’s a joke candy – and so, as this guy was throwing up … he teleported himself home for a sick day. We thought that was pretty funny, so we wrote a song about that.

CKN: Hi. My name is Robert. Do you have any CDs out?

Joe: We recorded three full-length albums. You can them at our website [www.eskimolabs.com/hp/news.htm] or at Newbury Comics.

Kevin: We actually just finished our first CD a couple of months ago.

We’ve made sure anybody can come see us. There’s no age restriction.”

— PAUL DeGEORGE of Harry and the Potters

CKN: How many songs have you written?

Paul: That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly, but as Harry and the Potters, probably about 70 songs.

Kevin: I think altogether it’s like 450. [laughs]

CKN: Do you have a favorite song that you play?

Paul: My favorite song to play is called “The Weapon” and the chorus of it goes, “The weapon you have is love,” which is one of the central themes of the Harry Potter books.

Kevin: Our favorite song is kind of a silly song about sharks that are coming out of the ocean [called “Shark attack”].

CKN: My name is Kaitlyn. Is it fun to tour with other bands?

Joe: The answer is yes. We, as Harry and the Potters, we’ve toured with a few other bands. The past two summers we have toured with Draco and the Malfoys.

Kevin: I’ve always found it’s a lot more fun to tour with another band than it is with just your own band. It’s like having friends with you the whole time. It makes it more like an adventure.

Joe: This summer, we’re touring with more bands than we’ve ever toured with before. We’re touring with Math the Band and also Uncle Monsterface, which is a sock puppet rock band with a giant monster. Also our friend Jason Anderson is going to play some shows with us on the West Coast.

CKN: Have your written a song about Book 8?

Joe: That answer is no. I’ve never seen an eighth Harry Potter book and I’m not sure I ever will.

Kevin: We’ve never written a song about Harry Potter.

CKN: Where was the last place you’ve been on tour?

Joe: The last place we played a show was in Philadelphia. That wasn’t part of a big tour. Usually when bands talk about touring, they play lots of shows in different cities during a specific time frame. We did kind of a one-off show in Philadelphia. But the last place we were on tour was in Alaska, which was very exciting.

CKN: Are kids allowed to go to your shows?

Paul: Kids are definitely allowed to come to our shows. that’s why we play in so many libraries. One thing our band has done for the past four years, we’ve been going all over the United States and playing most of our shows in libraries. Anybody can go down to the library. So it’s really fun to have concerts there. This summer we’re touring in a lot of bigger rock clubs and that’s partially because we’re touring with all these other great bands. We wanted to have a big place for all of our bands to play. At these rock clubs, we’ve made sure that anybody can come see us. There’s no age restriction. So you guys are all welcome to come see us play.

CKN: Do you know J.K. Rowling?

Joe: We do not know J.K. Rowling. We did just hear her give a speech at Harvard. She’s a very good public speaker.

CKN: On your tour, will you be going on a bus or plane?

Joe: My ideal tour would situation would be to tour in a giant helicopter, but that is not the case. We tour in just a regular van.

Kevin: We have a Ford minivan, but ideally we’d have our own hovercraft.

CKN: What do you like to wear?

Joe: When we play, we like to wear our Harry Potter uniform so that we look like Harry Potter. But, otherwise, I like to wear jeans and a t-shirt.

Paul: Sometimes when I’m working at home, I just sit around in my underwear. Have you guys ever done that? It’s pretty fun.

Kevin: I think I like to wear snowpants most of the time.

Zach: I like to wear normal clothes, nice pants, good shirt of some sort, collared or noncollared. Maybe a hat. I change it up some time.

CKN: What’s the most exciting part about being in a live concert?

Joe: The most exciting part for me is just being able to share your work with people, see them get really excited about what you’re doing, and have them sort of take a part in it, so that the songs we play become more than just the songs, they become an experience for everybody.

Kevin: There’s no part of a live concert that isn’t exciting for me.

Zach: The best is just getting to dance and go crazy and do whatever kind of silly dance moves you want in front of all those people.

CKN: Have you ever been on tour by yourselves?

Paul: Yeah, back when we first started our band. it used to just be me and Joe, and we used to have our parents old minivan that we used to put all of our equipment in and it was just the two of us. On the first tour we went on, Joe had just gotten his driver’s license. He was almost 17 years old. We just drove across country for like three weeks. It was really fun but also kind of scary, too, because it was the first time we’ve ever driven that far away. but it was cool to be with your brother and be on that kind of adventure together.

CKN: Why do you like having your own band so much?

Joe: It’s fun to have a band so you can share what you’re thinking about with other people in a way that makes them excited also. It’s kind of like a social event that’s artistic.

Kevin: I really like being in a band because I’ve always liked creating things just taking nothing and turning them into something. As a band … you make all sorts of friends and go to all sorts of places.

CKN: Is this your first time at the Cunniff School?

Joe: This is the first time we’ve ever done a press conference, let alone at an elementary school. But we have played some shows at elementary schools before.

Kevin: This is definitely our first press conference at an elementary school.

CKN: My name is Charlotte. How did you decide where to go on the tour?

Paul: That’s a good question. When we first started going on tour we just kind of looked at a map book of the country and said, “What are the places we want to visit?” When you grow up you hear things about all these other cities in the country, like, um, Texas. There’s places in Texas where they have really good barbecue food. I think that’s part of what drives us is, where can we find cool stuff to eat? North Carolina has good barbecue. The Pacific Northwest, in like Seattle and Oregon, has a lot of really good doughnuts, so we go there. Another thing we think about is, Where do we have friends that we want to visit? We try to tour through places where we know people so that we have a place to stay and people that we can hang out with and have fun with while we’re touring around the country.

Kevin: Usually we pick where we’re going to be touring by pretty much picking places where we’ve never been before or places we’ve been before and we’ve had a lot of fun.

CKN: Will you put your songs on “Guitar Hero”?

Joe: We totally would. Our songs are very easy to play. We don’t have many solos, but if you want to write some solos for our songs and mail them off to “Guitar Hero,” go for it!

CKN: My name is David. How many places have you been to?

Joe: We’ve been to a lot. We’ve to 49 states and three other countries.

CKN: If you messed up on a show, what would you do?

Joe: We do mess up our shows, frequently. That happens a lot when you play so many shows and you don’t practice very often. But when you mess up during a show, you just kind of go with it, pretend like it didn’t happen. The thing about a show, you just have the energy of the crowd.

Kevin: I don’t know. I’ve never messed up before. [laughs] No, we mess up a lot, too, but you just keep going with it, like it didn’t happen.

Paul: Part of being a performer is you have to be able to ignore stuff like that when it happens. I get really frustrated when things mess up. Sometimes my guitar doesn’t work or something like that, and I’ll get frustrated, and that’s when it’s really good to have cool people in the band with you. Like my brother here, he really covers me when I’m having a bad show. He steps it up a notch. I try to do the same when he’s having a rough show. So it kind of evens out.

Kevin: My question for Harry and the Potters is, Can I have a slice of his apples? [Answer: Yes]

CKN: Did you want to be in a band when you were younger?

Paul: Yeah. definitely. When I was like 10 years old I started my first band. We were called Zero Gravity, and I thought that was a cool name. Then I found a t-shirt in a store for a company called Zero Gravity that made, like, volleyball equipment. I thought, wow that was really awesome and I bought a shirt because it was like my own band t-shirt. But we never really wrote any songs.

Joe: I’ve always wanted to be in a band since I got my first CDs. Paul actually gave me my first CDs and it was inspiring to see people write their own music. I had taken piano lessons and you were playing songs by a bunch of dead people for the most part, like Beethoven. … Going to see a band for the first time was really inspiring. It was a driving force.

Kevin: I started playing cello when I was like 5 years old and I played that for a long time. In my town – I grew up in Westford – the parish there had a really great music program. Once a month there’d be bands of all teenagers from the area playing, and I first went when I was like 12. and the next day I told my mom, “Mom you’ve got to bring this cello back in and I need an electric guitar right away.’’

Zach: Anyone can start their own band. I played my first concert when I was in fifth grade in a band called The B’s, because all four of our last names started with the letter B.

CKN: I have a band. do you have any tips for me?

Joe: What’s your band called?

CKN: The U.S. 60 Dragon Rockers.

Joe: That’s a great name. What do you like to sing songs about?

CKN: We’re just trying to find a topic. We’re trying to find ideas for songs.

Joe: Think to yourself what’s the most fun thing in the world, and sing songs about that.

Kevin: Do you have any instruments?

CKN: Yeah, we have a big bucket of instruments and we make up the songs. We play different instruments and we end up with a great song, and we practice songs on a DVD that shows the words.

Joe: That’s a great method. Just being able to put the instruments in front of you and just start playing that way and just jam out. That’s a good idea.

Paul: I think it’s important not to be discouraged ever. Because you don’t need to be the most technically proficient, [but those songs] you’ll be the most proud of.

CKN: Where’s the next place you’d like to go on tour?

Joe: This summer we’re going to be touring all over the United States. Our first show of the tour is going to be [in Cambridge at the Middle East June 25]. From there we’ll go south all the way down to Florida, west all the way out to California, and then back home.

Paul: After that, the next place we’d like to play is Hawaii, because that’s the only state we haven’t played.

CKN: Do you have any music videos?

Joe: Harry and the Potters do not have any music videos, but we encourage people to make them, if they want to.

Kevin: Math the Band has one music video. It’s a song about sharks that I mentioned. It was really fun because I got to be hoisted up by a wire and flown around.

This is the first time we’ve ever done a press conference, let alone at an elementary school.”

— JOE DeGEORGE of Harry and the Potters

CKN: Have you ever been to Sri Lanka?

Joe: No, but if you can get us a show there, I would like to go.

CKN: Where do you stay when there’s no friends to stay with?

Paul: Mostly we try to stay with our friends in these cities, and sometimes when we don’t know anybody, we try to make friends — which doesn’t always work out. One time we had to stay in a place where I think there was like five dogs that lived there, and I think they put us in the room that the dogs slept in and it was just covered in dog hair. You could make pillows out of it if you wanted to sleep on top of it. That was on our first tour and we kind of learned our lesson, so now when we don’t have a good place to stay we’ll stay in a hotel or something for the night.

Joe: We used to bring a tent with us on tour, in case we wanted to go camping.

Zach: Usually we have friends in the town, but there was one time when we took the sleeping bags and slept on the roof of a bar. It wasn’t very fun.

CKN: Have you ever been to Texas?

Joe: Yes we have. … There’s a saying that everything’s bigger in Texas. We went into this one doughnut shop that had doughnuts the size of this pie. [Holds up prop pie for fifth-grade play]. Bigger than this. So, if you like doughnuts, go to Texas.

Kevin: No, we’ve never been to Texas before. The first time is going to be with the Potters this summer on this tour.

CKN: [the same member of the US 60 Dragon Rockers]: When do you think our band should start touring?

Paul: Wow. good question. Well, you know you don’t really have to go on tour, but, if you can, it’s a really fun experience. I would say, to start, maybe just try to play some shows around here. Maybe you can try to get a show here in school or in the library or somewhere here in town. From there try to branch out, and then, maybe when you’re old enough to drive is a good time to go on tour, cause then your parents don’t have to take you around for a couple of weeks driving all over the country. But, for now, I’d say try to focus locally and get some shows in this area. And let us know if you get some shows. We want to come see the Dragon Rockers.

(Among those attending the press conference were Cunniff Kids Staff reporters Brian A., Catherine C., Timmy C., Daniel D., David K., Robert K., Katherine L., Jie Sen L., Ryan L., Rose M., Luke M., Shannon M., Katelynn O., Ryan O., Tia P., Elizabeth P., Frederick P., Rachel Q., Kaitlyn R., Renee S., Charlotte V., and Isabella V., and CKN correspondents Andrea B., Jack L., Tatum L., Maeve W., Mairead W., and Patrick W.)

–June, 12, 2008–