His oversized black and brown check shirt attempts to hide the effects of his sedentary lifestyle. His spine assumes the familiar forward curve of those who sit at desks for too long. He reluctantly has an office job, but still longs to be a musician. Living in the bohemian streets of Brighton, plenty of people he knows do sing for their suppers. But their suppers usually consist of Tesco value beans on budget bread as they can’t afford anything else.
He dreams of touring the world with his best mates, living life on the road in a gigantic tour bus – making songs, making friends, girls at his feet. Then he’d come back to a penthouse flat in Soho and host massive parties with the best reefer man can buy, and more high quality cocaine than Scarface himself.
But the closest he got to this was in 2008 when he got a few festival gigs over the summer. He strummed his battered guitar in the pouring rain and lived in the back of a Ford transit van with no windows. He didn’t get paid for any of the gigs and was so poor by the end of the summer that he had to move back in with his parents.
The one-inch skull tattoo behind his right ear is his reminder to self to never lose the freedom of his youth. It’s a message to everyone who sees him that while he may look like a ‘normal’ and boring, but he’s completely badass underneath …Or that he was badass once. …Or that he definitely wanted to be. It’s a message to the world that he can (at least pretend to) be badass if required …Well, as long as it’s outside the hours of nine to five when he works at his day job at the council.
Although he feels comfortable on stage, he feels anything but when blended in to everyday society. He slouches forward onto pub table listening to his friends debate the best brands of teas, silently aware of his youth quickly disappearing like sand slipping through his fingers. Is his last chance of rebellion going to be ground to a halt by a pointless discussion about brands of tea?!
Joel lives in a constant state of perpetual boredom. Bored at the mundane everyday cards life has dealt him. Bored by the plan B, the make do, the second best. He yearns to bump into one of his old music bros, who’d be delighted to see him and finally offer him that world tour without him even needing to ask.
His eyes glaze over as he listens to his friend describe the atrocities of non-fair trade tea on African populations and globalisation and wonders how she can recite such drivel whilst still sober. Is she sober? He wishes he wasn’t. He rolls his feet back and forth on the spot and occasionally rubs the fabric of his shirt hem between his thumb and forefinger, unsure of what to do with his hands while the spotlight isn’t on him, and too frustrated to listen properly.
He feels constantly embarrassed by how mundane his life is. The fact that noone else seems bothered by this simply bothers him even more. They should be bothered! Don’t they realise who he was supposed to become?! This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Fate got confused, this wasn’t supposed to be how it turned out. Where was the big break everyone had talked about on those long boozy nights? Everyone seemed so sure. Fame was just around the corner.
He could have kept gigging on the pub circuit in the hope that at an A&R rep from Fender or Gibson just happened to be in the crowd that day, noticed him and signed him up. But time was getting on. His friends were settling down with long-term girlfriends, and the goal of touring for months and trying to shag their way around world seemed to become more and more elusive.
Instead, they were getting ‘proper jobs’ so they could afford their own place. They all promised to keep playing, but somehow it got reduced to one rehearsal a fortnight that usually ended up just going to the pub, and the occasional gig at the Stone Rose. Their wild nights boozing turned into couples dinner parties and being in bed by 10.30 as they had to get up for work the next day and try to forge some sort of career for themselves.
It seems that without global success as a creative artist, it’s easier all round to have a day job and focus on paying the rent. He’s even considering saving up for a deposit for a house and getting a mortgage, but in the back of his mind it feels like a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. He didn’t hit the big time soon enough. Maybe it could still happen, you never know. Sometimes these things are happen by luck – a chance meeting, a new project. But project after project only landed him back where he started each time. Only poorer and with less choices instead of more.
Still, there’s always the pub band to fall back on. The punters are usually so pissed that they would cheer at anything, but it gives him the small fleeting moments of fantasy he needs to stay sane.