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Central Standard

Lawrence's Rock Wizard: Paul DeGeorge Of Harry And The Potters

Paul Andrews

Paul DeGeorge and his brother Joe have been writing and performing songs about the trials and triumphs of wizards-in-training since 2002. They look disorientingly similar, and both wear v-neck sweaters and neck ties. Their band, Harry and the Potters, has inspired its own genre: "wizard rock."

It was the younger brother, Joe, who first read the Harry Potter books. In his early 20s when the first books in the series came out, Paul, the older of the DeGeorge brothers, picked them up out of curiosity; he immediately related to the Harry Potter character as a punk.

"He's got a mistrust of authority, a justified mistrust of authority, and he's not afraid to do what's right, even when it's kind of against the rules," he explains. "That's what I saw in a lot of my heroes, my punk rock heroes."

Seeing Potter as a punk made the leap to a musical homage feel natural. That homage started in the form of a few songs casually played for friends. Those songs led to an album. Then the brothers booked a few gigs at bookstores. At the band's height, a normal year consisted of about a hundred shows.

"I love playing music with my brother simply because I think we share a language in a sense, like, a comedic language. I think in a lot of ways we write to crack each other up," he says. "You kind of grow up with these stories and you share heroes together as well. It doesn't need to be from books, it can be movies. We both love the Back to the Future so much that we can quote them endlessly to each other, and I think that informs our approach and even the way we perform on stage together."

The band, spawned by a book series, has now spawned a non-profit called the Harry Potter Alliance, which, according to DeGeorge, turns fans into heroes.

"They're already culturally engaged," he explains. "They're just not civically engaged, and we're making that connection for them."

Embodying Harry Potter has changed DeGeorge in some fundamental ways. He's overcome his natural shyness, for example, in part by learning from the experience of being someone else.

"It brings out the Gryffindor in me," he says.

Portrait Sessions are intimate conversations with the compelling personalities who populate our area. Each conversational portrait is paired with a photographic portrait by Paul Andrews.

People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.