- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tristan Prettyman recently turned 26, but she didn’t feel like partying. “My band had just flown back from Japan, and then we played the Jay Leno show,” says the young songwriter. “So I told my boyfriend I just wanted to make hamburgers, drink beer, sit on the couch and watch the Lakers game.”

It’s hard to fault Miss Prettyman for craving a rare moment of rest, even on her birthday. The native Californian has spent months away from her West Coast home, traveling as far as Asia to promote the saucy sounds of her sophomore album, “Hello.” The albumis a collection of acoustic pop/rock in the style of Jack Johnson and G. Love, but Miss Prettyman‘s unique arrangements help set her apart.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has the perfect pedigree for a Southern California songwriter. An avid surfer and former model for Roxy Clothing, Miss Prettyman embodies California with her beach-side songs about love, heartbreak and the emotions in between.

Most of the 12 tracks on “Hello” were written after her breakup with Virginia native Jason Mraz, but Miss Prettyman wouldn’t call it a “breakup album.”

“These songs have different shades of color,” she explains. “At the end of the day, I’m just one person in a body, and this record shows all the colors in me while still being fluid and complete.”

The album’s colors range from the jazzy blues of “In Bloom,” which features piano and orchestral strings, to the sunny strains of “Echo” and “Handshake.” Miss Prettyman has warmed up to the collaborative songwriting process; “Madly,” her current single, was composed with help from Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin. Still, she prefers to write most of her material alone. Inspiration can strike at any time - at home, abroad, in hotel rooms - but Miss Prettyman tries to silence the muse while she’s touring.

“I haven’t written in a year,” admits the road-tested songstress, who plays most of her shows with a bassist and drummer. “After I finish a record, I want to take a break from everything. Then we’ll go on tour and have a bunch of press and promo to do, so it’s hard to write. It’s sort of like a cycle; you take in things, experience them, absorb them, and thenyou write.”

Miss Prettyman stops by the Iota Club Friday evening and returns to the area in August. “If we have a couple of days off on the East Coast, we’ll try to take them near the water,” she says, listing New Jersey and Wilmington, N.C., as some of the area’s best surf spots. The waves can’t compare to those back home, of course, but her growing audiences are a nice cure for homesickness.

Wizard rock

We’ve read the books. We’ve seen the movies. Now fans can get their Harry Potter fix another way: by heading to a music venue and listening to literate tunes about Harry, Hermione and the gang.

“When we started playing shows, our dream was to play at the Boston Public Library,” says Paul DeGeorge, eldest member of Harry and the Potters. “But we accomplished that three months later, so the goals have changed with time.”

Paul and his younger brother, Joe, are the main members of the band, which held its first performance in 2002. Inspired by the clever songwriting of They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Richman, the siblings attracted an audience with their energetic music, costumes and onstage banter.

“The Harry Potter fan community caught wind of us and responded really intensely,” Paul explains from his home in Massachusetts. “That’s when I realized there was a national audience for what we were doing.”

The brothers began hitting up libraries across the country, playing quirky songs like “Voldemort Can’t Stop The Rock!” with a mixture of keyboards, guitars and drum loops. Children loved it, parents appreciated it, and Harry and the Potters found themselves at the center of a new musical movement.

“When people asked us what kind of music we played, we would joke with them and say ‘wizard rock.’ The phrase started getting published, and when other bands started doing a similar thing - playing songs about Harry Potter books - it just became the term for that whole genre.”

Wizard rock has since become a worldwide phenomenon; two documentary films have examined it, and the international demand for such music is growing. “We’ve done a couple tours in England, and we also got to play in the Netherlands,” Mr. DeGeorge says. “Dutch is a hard language to learn, but we did manage to learn one of our songs in Dutch. I think they were moderately impressed by our effort.”

This summer, Harry and the Potters will skip their beloved libraries and play traditional rock venues. “We wanted to take things to another level while keeping the same exuberant energy from the library setting,” Mr. DeGeorge concludes, gearing up for another stateside tour with his brother. The shows still will be all-ages events, so expect to pump your fist alongside teenagers, children and parents.

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