Totally Knuts answered all our questions about what’s it’s like to get a Yes All Witches grant and just how, exactly, they’re so prolific.
Hello magical friends! Especially Dave, Moritz, Li, and Kaylee, some of my wonderful patrons who made this episode possible. We’re about to start the tenth episode of WZRD Radio with my special guest, TK of Totally Knuts.
First, of course, we have to have some music so hang on to your first-year hat or you might never see it again!
Today we’re starting with Alex Boyd’s “Wizard Rock Girl.”
“Autumn and the War” was a special request by WZRD patron Moritz, who says “Thank you to all the trans people who are responding to Rowling’s transphobic comments in an educational manner. It’s helped me learn a lot more about the trans experience, and hopefully become a bit of a better ally.”
I’m here today with TK of Totally Knuts. Thank you so much for joining me!
TK: Yeah, thank you for having me
If you could start off with telling us a little about your band, Totally Knuts. For instance, how did you come up with the name?
TK: Well, since my name is TK I wanted to make a wizard rock band—and I know, obviously, a lot of the bands out there have names that are inspired by characters from the books, like Tonks and the Aurors and the Moaning Myrtles, Draco and the Malfoys, Harry and the Potters—so I needed to think, do I need to portray a character from the books or do I want to do my own stuff because I feel like if I was portraying a character I would be almost limited on what I could write. And so I took my name, TK, and I wanted to make a, like, the opposite of an acronym for that basically. So I was thinking about something in the wizarding world that starts with a “k” and so I came up with the knut and I was like “Yeah, I like that, it’s pretty good.” And then I was like “Okay, something that goes with “knut”” and was like “Totally…Knuts… yeah, that works! So I’ll just go with that.” So that was pretty fun to come up with. And then it’s just pretty much been me. Occasionally I have my partner come on guitar for some of my songs because I cannot play the guitar even though I’m a music major. That was one of the classes we did not have, was guitar class. So yeah, it’s been a few years now. I started in around 2014 writing wizard rock and I’m still going today.
I like that you chose something that’s not a particular character’s perspective, because so much of what you do is, is meta.
TK: Mhm. That’s true.
So, 2014. I’m familiar with you from, I think, 20…17, 2018, with the Yes All Witches grant. What got you into it before that?
TK: Well, I’m a music teacher. That’s, you know, what I do during my job, during my ‘normal life’ job. In 2014 I was working as a music teacher in Asheville, North Carolina. And now I live in California and I have a job over here, but in North Carolina it was really hard for music teachers, specifically, to find a job. So I was working a job but it was actually covering a maternity leave so it wasn’t a permanent thing. And I kept applying to all these different jobs and they were like “Oh, we need somebody with more experience” of course. You know that whole circles goes around and around like “Give me more experience!” “But you need experience to get the job” like “Aah!”
TK: So basically I was in kind of a rough spot and I had this whole health insurance thing happening at the time with me and it was…one of those health insurance horror stories that you hear about. And so I needed something to kind of pick me up out of that funk and I had a ukulele and I was teaching ukulele to the fifth graders at that point. And I kind of thought to myself “I might as well just starting writing a song” because I’d never done it before. I love listening to wizard rock and hearing all of the things that people come up with—it’s very inspiring. And so I sat down and the first song I ever wrote was Expecto Patronum, because I needed something to get me out of that rough spot and it was really fun and I was surprised at how easy it was for me to come up with chords and a melody and the lyrics and then I eventually sang it to my fifth graders and they were like “Yeah! Do it again!” and it was cute and very fun. So yeah, it started with that and I’ve just kept going from there.
That’s awesome. And I’m very impressed with the school you were teaching at, because when I was in fifth grade we had the recorder, which is much less fun—I imagine—for families to listen to than a ten year old with a ukulele.
So, your Wrock Swap just wrapped up at the beginning of this month. Congratulations, by the way, it’s a huge success. I’m loving listening to all the music. And for listeners, I’ll include a link to that playlist in the episode transcript. What inspired you to organize that, to get that going?
TK: I forget where the original idea came from and I think it was because in the wizard rock Facebook group, like the Revival group, I feel like I remember someone posted something about potentially doing a wizard rock cover swap and I was like “That would be awesome.” And I’ve since looked for that post and I can’t find it, so I don’t—maybe I dreamed it or something. But it’s something that stuck in my head and I knew that I really wanted it to happen because it sounded super fun. And so I posted again in the group months and months later and I was like “Did anyone remember this? Am I making stuff up?” and they were like “Uh, we don’t really remember that, but it sounds like a great idea!” and I was like “Okay, let’s do it!” So I got, you know, motivated myself to make the… swap, I guess. And I’m a Ravenclaw, so it didn’t take me very long to set up a, you know, Google Sheet and a Google Form and have everybody, you know, set some deadlines and stuff like that. Yeah, it was really fun for me to set it up and I will DEFINITELY do it again in the future, if there’s enough interest because I thought it was a ton of fun to do, like, as a wizard rocker but also as part of the community and hearing all of the covers come out, I was completely blown away. Like, I knew it would be good. But I—it was so much more than I ever could have hoped for. I was absolutely blown away by the amazingly talented people that submitted their covers. And I was just so thankful that I could be part of organizing that and be a part of it and it was so much fun.
Yeah, and some of the songs are still coming out so it’s like an extra burst of joy. I think Ashley—Ashley Trix and the Wizards—just posted hers a couple days ago and someone else just did recently too.
So it’s the wrock swap gift that keeps on giving.
TK: It really is. I think that we’re waiting on one more person to submit theirs and then it will be officially complete. And after that I will ask if there’s any interest in making it into an actual album comp that we can record and put up on BandCamp and then pick some charity to donate all the proceeds to and stuff like that. So that’s the next step.
That would be incredible, I hope that you make that happen.
TK: Me too.
I need some of those songs just to listen to on repeat in my daily life.
Um..oh! And I appreciate you sharing the Ravenclaw joy in wizard rock, cuz there is not enough Ravenclaw representation in the wizard rock community, so it makes me very happy when there’s another song I can cling to, as a Ravenclaw.
TK: Yes. Yeah, I agree. It’s funny, because I’m, like, 51 percent Ravenclaw and 49 percent Slytherin, but a lot of my favorite songs are Hufflepuff songs, which is really weird. Like, there’s the one by Lauren Fairweather and there’s one by Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls and there’s one that I don’t remember off the top of my head who the band is but they have, like, a rap or something that’s about Hufflepuff. And so every time there’s a Hufflepuff song I’m like “This is such a jam.” But where’s my Ravenclaw jams?
Well they say, ah, if you wanna see something in the world, create it. That’s how this show came into being and I guess that’s how we’re getting your Ravenclaw music too.
TK: Yeah, and that’s exactly what my thought process was for the cover swap, cuz I was like “Nobody else is gonna do it, I might as well.”
So you’re thinking you’ll do it again, maybe annually?
TK: I don’t know. I personally want to do it more than once a year, but I’m also a very fast worker and I know that not everybody is so maybe it’ll be like the Draco and the Malfoys house show series where it’s like once every season. I’ll post in the Facebook group and ask–I’ll maybe do a poll and see what people’s thoughts are.
Speaking of your writing speed, some of my WZRD Patrons are curious—out of your impressive backlist, what’s your favorite song you’ve written so far?
TK: All right, so I have three answers to this one.
TK: My favorite song that I’ve written is a song called “Right, Yulia?” but it’s not a wizard rock song. It’s actually a song based on Dark Souls One. And in Dark Souls One it’s a super, super obscure thing. It’s like something that this merchant says, like, maybe once in the whole playthrough if you’re lucky. The name stuck out to me. Yulia, it’s a beautiful name. And I kept being like “What is this character?” And I did some research into it and you never find out, like, who Yulia is. So people have theorized that it’s his bucket or it’s his sword that he trying to hold to. It’s like, it’s so funny. It’s so weird and so I wrote this song “Right, Yulia?” and for some reason just the way that the music came out it’s so much fun to play. But it’s unfortunate because no one ever requests anything off of my video game album. So moving on, my favorite wizard rock song I’ve ever written is probably Seamus and Dean, which is a waltz about them waltzing at the Yule Ball and I came up with that one when I was working at a summer camp in Michigan that I work at every year. And I remember exactly what I was doing at the time that the thought came into my head because I was just humming a random tune to myself that happened to be a waltz. And on my way back from the lunch hall to my division in camp I was like “Oh man, this is really catchy. I should really write something along the lines of this.” And so the words started popping up in my head and I was like “Okay, I really need to write this down.” So Seamus and Dean is my favorite wizard rock song that I’ve written and my favorite title of a wizard rock song that I’ve written has to be “They Won’t Let My Wand Through Airport Security.”
Ah, that one’s fun. Your music is amazing and you’re so prolific.
TK: Thank you!
How do you—how do you do that? How are you so…on top of it? You wrote, what, two songs in a week each, I think is the story?
TK: Oh, yeah. My latest full-length album I wrote in six days. And by ‘writing the album’ I mean ‘from having no songs at all to completely recording and publishing the album.’ Six days worth of time. And so the story behind that one was that my partner went up to visit his family and I stayed at home. And I was like “Okay, I don’t have anything to do, it’s summer vacation” and then all of JK Rowling’s transphobic statements started coming out and I got really angry and I got really upset. And so I channeled that into my songwriting, which you can probably tell by some of the songs and the lyrics in my most recent album. You know, every time I get inspired or I feel something very strongly I like to put it into this art form of just making it into a song because it helps me feel better about the situation, I guess? And even when it feels like there’s not really anything we can do about it.
That makes sense. It’s better to light a candle, right?
It’s time for a quick music break, after which I’ll be right back with more questions for TK of Totally Knuts.
Starting with “At the Yule Ball” by Neville’s Diary
That was “At the Yule Ball” by Neville’s Diary, Tragedy Strucken” by 2 Cauldrons and a Broomstick, and Catchlove’s “Legacy of the Fallen Wizard.”
And we’re back with Totally Knuts!
Some of my patrons were curious—your main instrument is obviously, the ukulele and you said earlier that you don’t play the guitar. Do you play any other instruments?
TK: Yes. It was actually funny to me that you said my main instrument is the ukulele because I majored in trumpet in college so I was like “That’s not my main instrument! The trumpet is my main instrument.” So, fun facts on the swap comp that we just came out with: there were not one but two and if I’m remembering correctly maybe three? I forget. But like three people had trumpet in their songs and I was like “I feel like a horrible trumpet player” because I hadn’t put any trumpet into my songs. So yeah, I play the trumpet. That’s my main instrument. Since I’m a music teacher I can technically play quote unquote “every instrument.” I like to say the only instruments I cannot play is the harp and the guitar because those are the ones that I didn’t learn how to play in college. Now, can I play every instrument well? No. But do I know how to play them? Yes.
Your main instrument is the trumpet, but you use the ukulele in most, if not all, of your wizard rock songs.
I guess that makes sense. Trumpet would be hard to play while singing.
TK: Yes. I’ve tried and it is very difficult.
You could be the Lizzo of wizard rock though.
TK: That’s true. It’d be pretty cool.
Do you have any interest in introducing more the other instruments you can play into your music?
TK: Um, yes. And I actually have played glockenspiel—and for those of you that don’t know what that is it’s like a metal xylophone. I played that, but I think I only played it for one of the songs in my video games album, which is not wizard rock so that makes sense that people don’t know that I play the glockenspiel. So I did that in that one for a creepy kind of effect so maybe I’ll bring that back out…Otherwise, I don’t know. I have debated having a trumpet kind of overlay but we’ll see what happens.
Yeah, I look forward to it. I anticipate that coming out any day now, with your speed.
You were the first person to win a Yes All Witches grant from Steph Anderson and Tonks and the Aurors. Can you share a little about that experience?
TK: Yeah. So, the start of the grant when it first came out was “Oh, we want, you know, women and trans and non-binary people to apply for this specifically. And I was like “Wow that sounds really cool.” And I’d already been writing wizard rock but I don’t have anything to record my wizard rock with, like I don’t have a microphone or anything, or at least not a decent one. And so I applied for the grant and Steph Anderson who runs it, she got in touch with me and we met up at one of the Granger Leadership Academies and that’s where we announced it and filmed the announcement thing. She was talking to me about “here’s what the grant does” and “I’m available to help you with whatever you need.” It was great because I had an instrument, I had my lyrics and chords and everything but I really just needed a microphone is the main thing I needed. But I had no clue where to start. I don’t know what brand I needed to look for, I don’t know what the statistics are that I need to look for, and so she was like “Yeah, I’ve listened to your music and I think this type of microphone would be best.” So she used the grant money to order the microphone for me and I have literally been using this microphone ever since then and I love it and I don’t ever want to use anything else. It’s so much nicer to have that kind of quality for my recordings, um, than just trying to do it on, like, a computer audio microphone, or anything like that. It’s been really nice. And then the other thing was that she also said “Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.” And so I did like a demo recording on the software that also came on the microphone and that was a whole other thing. Like, “Steph, I don’t know how to use the software.” So she talked me through that. Then she replied back and she gave me tips on how to record, you know like “You should do different tracks on top of each other,” and all this overlay and here’s how you fade out and here’s how you add this and cut this and copy-paste and all this kind of stuff. It was super helpful and she really made it feel like I wasn’t asking any stupid questions and she was very available. I didn’t feel like I was bugging her or anything like that. So it was really nice to have that kind of support.
I’m glad. Yeah, it seems like the mentorship is a really important part of the grant process.
What’s the microphone?
TK: Oh, I don’t evenknow. Let me grab it. The logo on it says “Blue” but for some reason I keep thinking it’s a “Yeti?” I’m not sure why. Maybe it is a Yeti. A Blue Yeti?
I’m using a Blue Yeti right now so that makes sense.
TK: Yeah. Yep.
It’s a very good microphone and the grant will cover it.
For other people who want to get into wizard rock and maybe apply to Yes All Witches, what would you say to them?
TK: I would say that if you want to get into wizard rock, just go for it. Because even as a music teacher…you know I went through four years of college, I got my music degree, I’m certified in like four different states at this point, to be a music teacher, but I sincerely thought, like I had never written wizard rock up until 2014 because I just didn’t think I could, and when I sat down and actually did it I was like “oh my gosh, I should have done this years ago, because this is so easy.” And, obviously, everybody’s going to have their different way of composing a piece of music and everything, but even if you don’t have an instrument at all, just sing. Like, sing by yourself. Make up some words, lyrics, a poem. Rap your poem. Sing your lyrics on your own. And just have fun with it, cuz that’s the whole point of the wizard rock community, is to create and have fun. If you want to create for yourself, do that. If you want to create for someone else, do that. Do whatever makes you happy. It’s a lot easier than you think it is.
I like that. “It’s a lot easier than you think it is.” Just do it.
Shia LeBouf style.
TK: Do it!
Ah, and finally, do you have anything exciting coming up? Are you working on new music or another compilation?
TK: Yes. Like I said earlier, the next thing we’re doing for the wizard rock cover swap is that after we get the last person’s video in and added to that playlist on YouTube, then I’ll reach out and ask about the potential of doing an album recording of all of our songs. And then after that it’ll go on to how often we want to do this and all that kind of stuff. For me, personally, I am working on a new EP, so it’ll have five songs and it’s called “Witches Loving Witches.” I was inspired by the “WLW” acronym. I’m very acronym friendly, I guess, now that I’m saying that out loud. So I wanted to write an EP that was just about different witches from the books loving other witches. So I found a surprisingly inspiring amount of my own headcanons of a lot of Hogwarts professors being lesbians. And I just found out the other day that the actress that played Pomona Sprout is actually a lesbian in real life and I was like “I did not know that, that’s so cool!” So I wrote one for her as well
So my ship of her and Hooch could happen.
TK: Yes it could. Oh, I didn’t write one about Hooch.
TK: Maybe I’ll have to write that as a, like a bonus song.
I think it was the podcast “Oh Witch Please” that introduced me to the possibility of the two of them having a cottage just outside Hogsmeade with a bunch of big dogs.
TK: Oh, so cute.
Alright, so a new EP and a possible compilation and possibly more wrock swaps. That sounds like a lot.
TK: Well I’m up for the challenge.
You don’t slow down, do you.
TK: I really don’t.
That is fantastic. I love it so much.
It’s time for our final music break, starting with Kirstyn Hippe’s “Broken Wand.”
Thank you so much, TK, for being on the show today!
TK: Thanks for having me!
Where can WZRD Radio listeners find you—and your massive playlist—online?
TK: I’m on Facebook as Totally Knuts, I’m on Twitter as Totally Knuts, my BandCamp is Totally Knuts, and I recently launched a Patreon account that is also under Totally Knuts, but I think it’s like “TK parenthesis Totally Knuts.”
I will put a link. I will link to all of this so people will be able to find you. It’s friendship bracelets, handwritten letters, and personal songs, right?
TK: Yes. And also very poorly painted renditions of people’s cats.
Those are the best! I love those minimalist cat drawings.
TK: They’re really fun.
And that’s it for this episode! I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Totally Knuts.
Congratulations to Jami of the Trans Wrock Compilation! You were the first person to get this months musical theme of “Slytherin.” I’m so happy you broke the no-answers streak!
If you liked the music you heard today, including Totally Knuts, visit the transcript at WZRDRadioPod.WordPress.com and find the link to buy it and support the artists! Without our wizard rockers, we wouldn’t be here.
If you want to support WZRD Radio and the Yes All Witches grant, please visit the Patreon at Patreon.com/WZRDRadioPod. For just two muggle dollars a month, you get to request music and support new wizard rockers.
If you want to say hi, let me know about an event I should share with my listeners, or just keep tabs on my every virtual movement, you can find me on Twitter at WZRDRadioPod. If you’re not on social media you can email me at WZRDRadioPod@gmail.com.
And now, here’s Totally Knuts!
They play Seamus and Dean