The wizard rock community has been releasing music about Harry Potter since the summer Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix hit shelves in 2003. Almost 13 years later, the scene is still kicking; bands old and new bring wizard rock to clubs, convention halls, and basements across the country.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them makes its box office debut this weekend. It’s the first in a new five-part movie series, penned by J.K. Rowling in her first screenwriting effort that follows magizoologist Newt Scamander through his adventures in the mid-1900s wizarding world.
As always, wizard rock is the perfect soundtrack for your Harry Potter excitement. So, here’s a look at 11 songs about (or even from the perspective of) fantastic beasts and magical creatures.
One of wizard rock pioneers Harry and the Potters’ most recent releases, “The Great Motorcycle Explosion of ‘97” off Hedwig Lives pays tribute to the best owl the wizarding world ever saw. Hedwig, introduced early in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is Harry’s animal companion throughout the series before (spoiler alert) meeting an untimely death in the finale. This song goes hand in hand with the fan conspiracy theory that Hedwig did not, in fact, die. (Paul DeGeorge, one of the Potters, even made a Hedwig Lives zine compiling evidence and analysis to support that theory.) It’s one of the band’s best songs, matching their earliest work in fun and heart while showcasing their growth — musically, it’d fit in perfectly in their third and best full-length album, Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love.
“Made to be a Gryffindor” isn’t about a magical creature, but the band does take its name from one. The niffler—a small, furry creature with a long snout and a penchant for finding and keeping treasure—features heavily (and adorably) in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though The Nifflers are no longer active and their music can be tough to track down, their poppy sound always stood out in the scene. This song, from the band’s contribution to the EP of the Month Club, is about Harry’s origin story, following him from his time with the Dursleys to his arrival in the wizarding world to his being sorted into Gryffindor.
While most wizard rock bands stuck to one perspective for all their music, the Mudbloods were much more flexible with their songs’ points of view. Here, they sing from Rubeus Hagrid’s perspective as he mourns Aragog, the giant spider who first appears in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and dies in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The Mudbloods have a knack for making songs that turn some of the books’ most questionable characters into the subjects of moving, sympathetic anthems, whether it’s a giant man-eating spider or Severus Snape. The latter is the protagonist in “A Pensieve Full of Unrequited Love,” one of the band’s biggest hits among fans.
Lauren Fairweather’s take on this Harry and the Potters deep cut (recorded for A Tribute to Harry and the Potters) chronicles some of the horrors Harry has encountered in Hogwarts bathrooms. Among them are, “a faucet that leads to a monstrous snake that will turn you into stone if you look at it” and “a gruesome troll that’ll hit you with a club if you make it mad.” The song urges listeners to, “stay away, hold it in” before building to the concluding promise that Harry is “never going to the bathroom again.” This cover becomes even funnier upon considering that Lauren Fairweather was once one half of an old-school wizard rock band called The Moaning Myrtles, singing from the perspective of a ghost who lives in one of the Hogwarts bathrooms—the “creepy ghost” referenced in this song. Listen here.
The Whomping Willows’ weirdo anthem references nargles, mischievous magical creatures who often live in mistletoe. The trouble with nargles is that most people aren’t sure they actually exist. This isn’t the case with Luna Lovegood, an odd, lovable Ravenclaw who is often the first to believe in things other wizards write off as malarkey. Luna’s trademark wonder and kindness mean she’s a friend of all magical creatures, real or not, and she even goes on to marry Rolf Scamander—the grandson of Newt Scamander, magizoologist and off-beat protagonist of Fantastic Beasts. “I Believe in Nargles” encourages Luna and listeners to eschew convention and embrace the things that make them magical with courage and conviction: “You’ve got a voice and it’s imperative you use it / You’ve got the heart to know what’s right and choose it.”
Shorter and grittier than “Eulogy for an Acromantula,” this song sees the Mudbloods taking on Harry’s point of view to sing about the Triwizard Tournament he becomes involved in during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The tasks in that tournament involve all sorts of magical creatures: the first task challenges students to take on dragons, the second task plunges them into the Hogwarts lake to deal with mermaids and other aquatic creatures, and the third task sticks them in a maze full of dangerous beasts. This track matches the danger and anxiety that characterizes Goblet of Fire and does a good job of summarizing the plot in the process. This version comes from Live (then dead), the live album documenting the Mudbloods’ “final” show in 2009. Though they did stay figuratively dead longer than most other major bands that have called it quits (like Draco and the Malfoys), the Mudbloods played a reunion show at LeakyCon 2011 this fall and announced a new EP in the middle of their set.
Among the weirder projects to come out of wizard rock, the Giant Squidstravaganza released its Death to Humans EP as part of the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club in 2008, with 59 tracks all from the perspective of the giant squid who lives in Hogwarts’ lake. “Underwater,” a surprisingly listenable song, presents everything you need to know about the character: he sings in a gurgling voice, has a complicated moral code with plenty of caveats (“You could drown but I’d save you / If I felt like it and I wasn’t busy”), and he really likes toast. On the whole, it reads like propaganda for the giant squid lifestyle—the disenfranchised cephalopod’s answer to “Under the Sea”—which falls in line with the character’s anti-human activism. The Giant Squidstravaganza is now the host of his own podcast, the Cephalopodcast, where he talks about how to make toast, his grievances against humans, his romantic failings, and more. Listen here.
Seen and Unforeseen, an acoustic wizard rock project from musician and illustrator Evie Stormzand, imagines Hogwarts students’ pets like owls, Crookshanks the half-kneazle, and Trevor the toad, throwing an after-hours dance party while the school sleeps. The song, from the perspective of an owl, asks, “why should the wizards have all the fun?” as Stormzand’s dreamy vocals and bright lyrics expand the wizarding world in wonderful, whimsical directions. Listen here.
Like “Ridin’ in the Night” off Harry and the Potters’ Hedwig Lives, this song captures the moment that Harry and his crew rush to the Ministry of Magic to save Sirius Black, many of them riding thestrals—the winged, skeletal creatures who can only be seen by those who have witnessed death (Harry and Luna among them). As with the rest of the Penelope EP, “on thestral, we ride” is more twinkly and twee than wizard rock’s standard offerings, bringing light and awe into a canonically dark moment. Though the Hermione Crookshanks Experience is long gone (Kristine Thune focuses on illustration now), the music holds up years later. Listen here.
In wizard rock’s very best breakup song, Tonks and the Aurors call out Charlie Weasley, who, “only loves his dragons.” Charlie—one of the two oldest Weasley siblings who had already graduated from Hogwarts by the time Harry arrived there—first appears in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when students stage an intervention for Hagrid, who has decided a pet dragon isn’t a disastrous idea. We meet Tonks, a spitfire Auror (part of the wizarding world’s law enforcement), later in the books. Though any romantic involvement between the two is more conjecture than canon, Tonks and the Aurors’ song has become a fan favorite and might as well be straight from the story. It’s a showstopper live—the kind of song that the whole crowd sings along to. Of wizard rock’s active bands, Tonks and the Aurors tour the hardest. Their Yes All Witches tour hits libraries and fan conferences across America every year.
“Save Ginny Weasley” might be wizard rock’s most recognizable song —the one always referenced by those who stopped listening years ago, or who have only ever known the music movement in passing. In it, Harry rallies listeners to “save Ginny Weasley from the basilisk,” to “save the school from that unseen horror” that terrorizes Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The song first appeared on Harry and the Potters’ self-titled album back in 2003, but it’s truly at its best when played live. You can hear it in this version from LeakyCon 2011 in Orlando, played just days after the “final” Harry Potter movie hit theaters. The Potters preface the song with a rousing speech about the power of music and, from the moment the first verse kicks in, the crowd sings so loud that it overpowers even the band. The resounding truth of Harry Potter and its music movement shows through here: even in the face of monsters and other horrors, a scrappy wizard and a room full of people singing along will triumph every single time.