Did you know that with a Yes All Witches grant you don’t just get the money, you also get the mentorship of Steph Anderson herself?
Read (or listen) on to find out more!
Hello magical friends, especially Kevin, Sept, Jennifer, Christie R., and Ariel whose magical patronage made this episode possible. Thanks to them and the rest of the WZRD Radio Patreon team, WZRD will now have TWO whole episodes a month. TWO!
This month I’m chatting with Steph Anderson of Tonks and the Aurors. We’ve got a lot to talk about, but first things first.
Let’s play some music!
Charlie Weasley was a special request by WZRD patron Sept, who sends a shout out to everyone whose favorite characters are always background characters.
And speaking of Tonks and the Aurors, today I’ve got Steph Anderson in, well, not in the studio, but online!
Thank you so much for being here!
Steph: Hey, I’m happy that this could work out, thanks for inviting me.
Ah, me too. Thank you so much for being my first interview!
For listeners who might not be familiar, can tell us a little bit about your band?
Steph: Yeah, Tonks and the Aurors is a wizard rock band. We play rock music about the Harry Potter books in particular from Tonks’ perspective. So it is cool if anybody slips up and calls me Tonks because I introduce myself as Tonks all the time. We’ve been making wizard rock for thirteen years—and by ‘we’ I mean mostly me in the various apartments and houses that I’ve lived in across the years. But it’s pretty fun! I like playing rock ‘n’ roll from Tonks’ perspective.
Thirteen years. That is amazing. So you’ve, ah—
Steph: It’s pretty–
You’re one of the long-standing.
Steph: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting because it wasn’t until recently that I realized, because when I started Tonks and the Aurors we were considered a newer band, obviously, and a post-seven wizard rock band which kind of created a little bit of judgement in certain areas but now it’s thirteen years later and there’s a lot of those pre-book seven bands that aren’t hanging around anymore and I’m still here making music.
Aw man, that “thirteen years later” just gave me epilogue flashbacks.
Steph: Yep. Yep.
So WZRD patrons wanted to know “What is your writing/inspiration process for your songs?”
Steph: It’s been kind of all over the map. There are certain times where I’ve actually, like, read a book and taken notes and so I have some soft cover books that actually have flags in them and things highlighted, etcetera. There are also times where just an idea will strike me. So the idea for both “We are Magic” and even “Charlie Weasley” were ideas that came to me first and then kind of developed over the course of days and weeks etcetera. And then you sit down and actually write it and you’re kind of like “wow, that was a lot of thinking on something to just create something that seems kind of simple once it’s written.” And lately, really, I’ve focused a lot on how modern times and how the muggle world kind of parlay into the stories and the things that we learn from Harry Potter. So particularly having the point of view of aurors within the Harry Potter which are, you know, you could say secret agents or cops or whatever. You have to think long and hard about how that translates into today’s world. So I think I spend a lot more time thinking about the character of Tonks and the world that happens around Tonks more than some people may even realize. A lot of things are very planned out with the way I write and connect songs and even thoughts together.
That’s really cool. And I think your relating, you know, wizarding world concepts and issues to current political and social events is really helping keep the music alive for a lot of people.
Steph: Yeah, I mean that’s kind of the hope there. There are people that think music shouldn’t be—or musicians shouldn’t be—political and that’s like the exact opposite of what Harry Potter taught all of us. Everything is a political choice, even not making a choice. So yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback. Not as much negative feedback as I was expecting, especially with some of the thoughts and statements on Huffleriot, almost directly related to Voldemort and Donald Trump being kind of the same people.
Yeah, I guess that speaks volumes about the fandom that you’re writing and performing for.
Steph: Yes. Yeah. Thankfully.
The patrons also want to know “What was your inspiration for choosing Tonks in particular as the POV for your band?”
Steph: Part of it just started with the fact that I really liked Tonks a lot. I think, as a side character, I relate a lot to her. And then the other part of it was that when I started to make a wizard rock band, really starting to flesh it out I knew I wanted it to be a rock band, and not a folk project or singer-songwriter project, even though I’m a huge folk/folk-punk/singer-songwriter fan. I really wanted it to be a rock band and Tonks honestly stood out to me as the most rock ‘n’ roll character as an aesthetic and kind of the way she talks and the way she has a point of view in the world. It just kind of jumped out to me. So that was also part of it. And then finally, it was also a time when a lot of people were picking very specific point of views to write from. And I benefit from having parameters on my writing that way and so we were just running out of characters to choose from that were an original wrock band premise at this point. So yeah, that was part of it. All of those three things kind of came together: me liking Tonks, Tonks being a bad-ass punk rocker, and then also just needing to try to choose something semi-original.
Yeah, I think she lends herself really well to the idea of a rock band, I think she’d be stoked. I actually cosplay her and—she’s one of my favorites—and I think she lends herself really well to the Riot Grrrl, like, eighties/nineties—
Steph: Yes, yeah, absolutely. You definitely see some of the ages in which J.K.Rowling—for better or for worse—grew up in in her writing and I think Tonks’ aesthetic in the books in particular is very, very riot grrrl and British punk. In the movies it was kind of a swing and a miss that way but she’s still got a pretty good aesthetic in the movies.
Do you have any new music in the works?
Steph: With being quarantined there is stuff happening. There is a bunch of songs that I kind of forgot to include on Huffleriot—completely, honestly. They’re not b-sides or stuff that was cut they’re just like—when I was creating the last album as soon as I got the physical copies back I was like “oh my gosh, there’s like four songs that I wrote and never recorded!” So there’s that. I’m also, slowly, on each new album kind of rerecording stuff off the original albums. I don’t really want to release a full, rerecorded greatest hits album. I like kind of sprinkling two or three on each album right now. So that I’m kind of working on and I have a bunch of non-Tonks stuff that’s kind of just kind of keeping me on my toes musically. I’m recording some kind of pop-punk/punk covers of Dolly Parton songs, just slowly, slowly doing that project right now.
Well that sounds like a really cool project. I look forward to hear it!
Steph: Yup, yeah it’s been on the down-low for a long time so I’m just, uh…it’ll be out there at some point.
All right, let’s take a little music break, starting with “Wizard Robes” by Newt Skabander.
Owl Post was a special request by WZRD patron Bygonya.
And we’re back with Steph Anderson of Tonks and the Aurors!
So, we’re currently in the middle of the Yes All Witches grant application period. Just in case anyone doesn’t know what that is, can you give us an overview?
Steph: Yeah, so, Yes All Witches grants were an idea that I kind of came up with a few years ago of trying to give new or up-and-coming, or just somebody who just kind of needs a leg up in wizard rock, um, musicians and wizard rock artists microgrants. I love the concept of microgrants because they’re generally not what you would consider a lot of money but very impactful, especially in early days. The goal really is to—with marginalized genders within the general music industry—which is women, non-binary people, trans artists, etcetera, anywhere that you fit on that spectrum, we want to encourage you to use your voice within the wizard rock community and make some music. So we’ve made the program so you can submit any type of media, audio, writing, a video, etcetera and we just want to hear from you to try to give you so me money!
Yes All Witches is a really cool thing, I’m really excited. And that actually ties into the next questions, which is from the patrons, which is “How many grants have you given out, and do you have any cool success stories?”
Steph: As of right now we have given out one Yes All Witches grant, mainly due to funding. So our one Yes All Witches grant has gone to TK of Totally Knuts. And what I love to kind of look back, since that first grant was given out, is that TK had all these songs and had all these ideas for music but didn’t really have all the actual, physical things to be able to get that done. So we used the Yes All Witches grant to source a microphone and recording software for TK’s PC and then kind of connected for how to get started, about how recording works, etcetera. So you don’t just get the money or the equipment that you’ve decided to buy with the money, you also get advice and leadership throughout if you need it. And since then, like as soon as TK received the microphone there was an EP out. There was just no time. I was like “Did you sleep at all in the last week?” So it really is a great example, that first grant took something from idea to actual music in no time. Now, you know, TK had to bring the songs, so luckily TK was totally prepared to jump in with both feet. And now just the amount of songs…I was looking through the Totally Knuts BandCamp the other day and the sheer volume of songs that’s on there now kind of blows me away. So yeah, don’t think twice about what just a hundred dollar microgrant can do for you as an artist.
Yeah, I love that it’s not just funding, they also get the support structure that they need to get started.
Steph: Yeah, absolutely. Whenever anybody reaches out to me and they wanna know, you know, how I get CDs produced or how I get music on iTunes or Spotify, etcetera, I have a lot of advice to give. But sometimes people are maybe shy or don’t want to bother me so I feel like sometimes getting people into just the Yes All Witches grant program, even as an applicant, opens that door to us to be able to talk a little bit more about how I can help even if they didn’t receive the grant also.
That’s really cool. I’m glad that, ah, our up-and-coming wizard rockers have you there at their backs.
So, for people who are…who really want to start playing wizard rock and getting involved but are maybe too nervous or maybe aren’t sure where to get started, what kind of thoughts or advice would you have for them?
Steph: I would say your best bet is to…partly to just do it, because I was a wizard rock fan for years before I started my band and if I had just started it instead of just talking about starting it or saying how good it would be if I started it I would have been two or three years ahead of where I was. But also to not be shy to ask for help. We have so many wizard rock bands on social media, in the Wizard Rock Revival Facebook group, Twitter, TikTok, etcetera, and I’m sure that if you’re in wizard rock that people will want to help you. Now, it depends on what your idea of that help is. Like I have people reach out and be like “Hey, can I open for you?” And sometimes contracts and everything exists that that’s not an option, but I can give you advice, we could to a livestream together, whatever it might be. But people are really a lot more, I think, open and willing to share than some newer artists are even aware of. So put yourself out there, write some songs. If you’re like “Oh, I’ve only been playing guitar or ukulele for so long, it sounds terrible,” like, it probably doesn’t sound terrible to anyone else. Everyone’s just really excited to have new content and watch you grow. You know, my first album sounds completely different than Huffleriot does because I grew. I got better at recording, I got better at guitar, I got a better microphone. You know, it’s all there as you grow.
Yeah, and right now’s a particularly good time to get started because you have a captive audience all desperately wanting to see some more online concerts.
Steph: Yes, absolutely. There’s so many people that are still at home. And even as states open back up I was thinking the other night, more people are going to be going back to work potentially but that also means that they might need that stress relief. So not writing off that, hey, everybody’s forgotten about it because they’re going back to work now. Like, I think that people will still need it.
Definitely. So everyone should apply for the grant and then come perform for us!
Steph: Yes, absolutely! Apply for the grant, write some dang songs, and we’ll get ‘em recorded and posted up online for you.
All right, it’s time for another music break, starting with “The Peverell Story” by The Butterbeer Experience.
The Peverell Story was requested by WZRD Radio’s patron Kevin, who included the shout out “I love you Squeaker-Beaker!”
Thank you so much, Steph, for being on the show! Where can WZRD Radio listeners find you online?
Steph: I am on so many places, but our website is Tonksandtheaurors.com. Aurors is spelled A-U-R-O-R-S. We are TonksNtheAurors on Twitter due to some bad choices on my part in 2008. But then you can find us TonksAndTheAurors all spelled out everywhere else, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Particularly if you could follow me on TikTok. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with this app for children but I am and I would love for you to engage with the ridiculous videos that I post around my house right now.
Are you doing all the dances?
Steph: I don’t do any of the dances, because while I did attend the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater, and Dance, I did not do any dancing. I just stage-managed dances. So yeah.
And then Yes All Witches grants, which how could I forget, you can apply at YesAllWitches.org. It’s a very easy form. If you just want to write you can write. If you want to submit an audio thing or a video there is that option as well. Or- I haven’t received any visual aids yet, so if you would like to submit me a PowerPoint on why you should have a Yes All Witches grant I would die, so please do that.
That would be amazing. Someone send in a Powerpoint, I need that in my life.
And that’s it for this episode, friends. Thank you so much for tuning in!
This month Jennifer was the first person to guess the music theme. Way to wrock! Nice work.
Don’t forget to check out the musicians you heard today, including Tonks and the Aurors, through the links in the transcript at WZRDRadioPod.WordPress.com. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.
If you want to pick music, requests songs, and support Yes All Witches, you can find WZRD Radio’s Patreon at Patreon.com/WZRDRadioPod.
If you want to say hi or tell me about an upcoming Harry Potter event I should share you can find me on Twitter and Tumblr at WZRDRadioPod. If you’re not on social media, you can email me at WZRDRadioPod@gmail.com
Until next time friends.
Take it away, Steph!
Steph Anderson plays “Yes All Witches.”