Fan music about ‘Harry Potter’, ‘LOST’, ‘Twilight’, and more breaks new ground in social media
By Whitney Milam
HollywoodNews.com: Harry Potter isn’t just a book series for Internet-based musicians Jason Munday and Alex Carpenter: it’s a source of inspiration and even a way of life. As participants in the phenomenon of ‘wizard rock’ since prior to 2007, they’ve contributed several full-length albums and hundreds of performances to an entire musical genre devoted to the boy wizard and his world. As Alex explains, “It’s really interesting to have a framework of fiction to draw from, a sort of common language with your audience that you can inject your own experiences into, which is what I’ve done.”
For Alex, who formed wizard rock band The Remus Lupins over five years ago after writing a scathing song about hating the character Snape (“because he’s a toolshed”) as a joke with friends, the appeal of wizard rock grew into something more powerful than simply being able to “be goofy and write silly music,” as he created dozens more Harry Potter-inspired songs with definite messages of friendship, hope, loyalty, and positivity. “I think those books are really great and people discover them in their own personal ways–and can share that discovery and their connection in different ways,” he explains.
Though both are arguably two of the biggest names in wizard rock, each readily admits the genre is evolving fast in the months leading up to the final film’s release. “This is a big enough phenomenon that I think long after the last film is out there will still be a big Harry Potter fandom,” says Jason, who has written, produced, and performed for his popular wizard rock band, Ministry of Magic, over the course of three albums. “But it feels like it’s going to be a lot harder for people to continue writing, and also for me personally I would rather go out on a high note while it’s still something we all love and enjoy and while we can still really feel that the fans are still enjoying it.”
“I don’t think that wizard rock is fading away, but it’s definitely changing and there’s a whole slew of new bands that will continue holding the torch,” adds Alex. “For a lot of us, it’s not that we’ve run out of things to write about, but that we’ve written about a lot of things and we’re at a place where a lot of us are really happy with what we’ve put out. For Ministry of Magic and The Remus Lupins, we’ve done a pretty good job of isolating what we want to write about and expanding on it. We could definitely continue to pull from the same story indefinitely, but there’s so much more than that to write about, so I’d rather just expand and write about new things.”
‘New things,’ for Alex, has meant further themed music on everything from LOST to the Twilight series–he recently released a parody music video collaboration with Jason to the tune of 3OH!3’s “My First Kiss” titled “My Eclipse“, with the very straightforward message of ‘Don’t be a dumb girl.’ “Just don’t,” he reiterates adamantly. “Don’t be the kind of girl that Bella Swan is a role model for. The fact that so many young girls are modeling themselves on or want to be like Bella scares the hell out of me.” Another, newer teen lit phenomenon, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, seems to provide a much worthier heroine in Alex’s eyes, as today “Freedom in Panem“–his full-length Hunger Games EP from the points of view of main characters Katniss and Peeta–went on sale. The message there is even simpler, says Alex: “Its more like, ‘try to stay alive.'”
“There are a lot of overlapping fanbases, especially with nerdy stuff like LOST and Harry Potter and Star Wars and Doctor Who and Hunger Games and whatever else,” muses Jason, whose own internet-based solo musical project, Skyway Flyer, had something of a viral hit recently with “California Dorks“, a parody of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” “The Skyway Flyer project is kind of trying to veer off from the whole themed music thing. I tried to focus more on things I enjoy about life, or semi-fictional, semi-factual situations. With that, obviously, I’m a pretty big nerd, so I still sing about some pretty nerd-rocky things.”
In collaborating on LOST band The Oceanic Six, Jason and Alex were, in the latter’s words, “on the forefront of a new nerd rock genre,” and in producing successful fan-created music, they prove the growing power and popularity of YouTube and other social media in the entertainment industry. In taking advantage of both the accessibility of technology and a closer connection with fans, they and others like them continue to revolutionize the online medium. “We’ve been given technological tools that we didn’t have before as recently as a couple years ago,” says Alex. “Ten, fifteen years ago, it would be impossible to make the music that we make at home.”
Jason adds, “It’s a mutually beneficial thing. The artists benefit from being able to spread their work and the fans benefit from being able to find all kinds of new artists.”
Alex and Jason are currently preparing for a series of fall performances collectively entitled–what else?–the Triple Rainbow Awesome Tour, kicking off October 7 and additionally featuring fellow nerd rockers ALL CAPS and Mike Lombardo. Ministry of Magic will release their fourth and final album (a “tribute” to the entire Harry Potter fandom experience) in early November, just in time for Part One of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and performances at Wrockstock and the NYC Wizard Rock Festival–but as both MoM and The Remus Lupins will be performing at Harry Potter conference Leaky Con 2011 next summer, the spell they’ve cast on the wizard rock community won’t be fading anytime soon.
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