On the surface, Amber Opsincs and Shawn Reed appear to be ordinary 16-year-old girls. Their hair still has that high school sheen, they giggle at each other's jokes in that special BFF way, and hitching rides from the 'rents is their modus operandi until they score licenses next year. But all of that common camouflage is just an illusion: These girls are different. They have something that their fellow tenth-grade friends don't. They're wizards in training... with synthesizers as weapons. They're wiz rockers.
Confused? Probably. But for diehard fans of the Harry Potter series, the term wizard rock is old hat. For them, it's already been abbreviated to wiz rock, or simply wrock (pronounced: rawk!), and they've been listening to it since MySpace blew up back in 2004.
For everybody else, here's a little rundown: In 2001, a California power-pop band called the Switchblade Kittens released a love song titled "Ode to Harry," which was a cute, bubblegum serenade from a Gryffindor girl to her unrequited love, Harry Potter. And while it took a few years for the crystal ball to get rolling, wiz rock bands started materializing everywhere — first in Boston with an indie-pop group called Harry and the Potters. Eventually, with internet access, it spread to most of the world — including Jupiter, Florida, where our girls Amber and Shawn turn out tunes under the name the Gryffindor Common Room Rejects. (Yes, it's their first band. And double yes, they are adorable.)
Between 400 and 500 wiz bands are rockin' out nowadays, covering every style of music imaginable, from funk to crunk and even death metal. So what is it that all of these musical bookworms find appealing? "It's creating a soundtrack to the books you love," Amber says. "You have so much creative license — it's really awesome." Even their band name, abbreviated as GCR2 (the "2," of course, standing for squared R's), arose from a critical reading of the series. "In the books, there are always two missing girls in Hermione's wing of Gryffindor," tutors Amber with a wand in hand. "You never know their names. We talk about what happens to us and why you never hear about us."
And just where have these two fictional characters been hiding out this whole time? "The library," the young wizards answer in unison, exchanging triumphant little smiles.
While all of this may sound odd to casual readers of the Harry Potter series, Amber and Shawn take their musical quest seriously. It's not just because forming a band is cool. They've read and reread certain chapters of these books like religious texts and have found a healthy way to bring their favorite plot lines to life through music.
Listen to the six songs that the band posted on its website, www.myspace.com/gcr2, and the tunes all reinforce their story. They hop impatiently from genre to genre — two girls who just discovered songwriting and want to conquer every available style of music while the feeling is still fresh. There's a once-in-a-lifetime innocence flowing through their music right now that, at the moment, makes GCR2 one of the hottest wiz rock acts.
At times, they can dabble in doo-wop, as with their song "Kiss Me Again." It documents the imaginary crush that GCR2 has on classmate Seamus and "his dreamy accent." But then they switch styles completely and dish out crunkified electronic beats on the synth-heavy party anthem "Red and Gold," in which their characters trash-talk all the subpar dating offers they've received from non-Gryffindor guys.
They explain the problem in more detail on their MySpace page: "We all know that inter-house relationships never work out. I mean, look at what happened to Harry and Cho. Basically, we only date wizards in red and gold. Sorry, Ravenclaws."
To them, wiz rock is more than just a space-filler in their iPods. It's given each of them direction in considering what they want to do in life. Amber, the chattier, more theatrical half of the pair, now wants passionately to become a writer. She's been conjuring up most of their lyrics as well as drafting elaborate fan fictions — previously untold tales from the Potter world that only she knows. Shawn, who carries an uncanny resemblance to a young Scarlett Johansson, is more introverted. Wiz rock has been her gateway to music writing, and she's officially under its spell. She creates all of the beats for the band on a synthesizer and writes the melodic backbone that accompanies Amber's lyrics. Not surprisingly, she'd like to be a musician, and she says she'd like to study in England — after she gets this whole high school thing wrapped up, of course.
This Friday, everything is changing for the self-proclaimed "rejects." They're playing to a larger crowd than ever before: the Wizard's Ball at Florida Supercon, an event that's not only buzzing with other wiz bands and screening the new flick Wizard Rockumentary: A Film About Rocking and Rowling, but is also flying in Potter film series celebrities. Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), Devon Murray (Seamus Finnegan), and Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum) are all going to be there.
If all goes well, the event's coordinators will do a little transformation magic of their own, turning the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure of Weston into a full-on Hogwarts. Not only will Amber and Shawn be immersed in their element but they'll also be starting the party.
"It's a dream come true," exclaims Amber, accenting her words with little flips of her wooden wand.
Some truths remain uniform in music, wizard or otherwise, like the importance of a loyal fanbase. Without driver's licenses, the girls say, the don't have many friends in southwest Broward, but they will have a dedicated Palm Beach posse of school chums caravaning down to cheer them on during their big night. Natch.
Exclaims giddy Amber: "You can't be a band unless you have groupies!"