It’s 2001 and me and my friend Hannah have just concluded an intense 3-hour Sims session. We’re laid on our backs on her bed with our legs in the air, scruffy Converses rested on her lilac-hued bedroom wall. There’s a poster of Calvin from S Club Juniors (most likely torn out of Mizz Magazine) stuck to the wall with a bit of blue tac she found at the bottom of her dad’s briefcase. Naturally, we’re both staring at his brown-eyed baby face and completely ignoring her mum’s distant call to come and eat our fish finger sandwiches at the table. Fantasising about him walking through Hannah’s bedroom door in Leeds suburbia was our favourite pastime. It even got to the embarrassing extent of roleplaying our first interaction with him, because of course we were going to meet him one day and he was going to fall in love with us.
My next culprit turned out to be Dougie from McFly. I was a little less infatuated because now, at 13, I’d realised the error of my ways with Calvin. You’ve got to act a little cooler, Jess – boys don’t like hysterical girls. Thanks to my obsession with Avril Lavigne’s Let Go album, I basically had a crush on any male with a surfer fringe and a skateboard in tow. I listened to that album on my cd player religiously during a school trip to Normandy – Avril was basically my Queen Bey. I wanted to wear baggy jeans and smudge my eyeliner and be a complete b*tch to my parents just so I could be like her. Hanging around the local skatepark became a tactical operation and I’d only leave after making eye contact with at least four skater bois.
The skater phase unapologetically and rather unfortunately led me to discovering the most tragic of Noughties music: emo. Not only that but I managed to fall for a guy who looked exactly like the frontman of My Chemical Romance. I can still remember the sheer mortification on my poor dad’s face the first time he came round to our house to ‘listen to music in my bedroom’. Thankfully, the emo phase didn’t creep into my aesthetic too much – just the odd studded belt and swept fringe here and there was enough to quench my emo thirst. One day after maths, said emo boy handed me a plastic case with a shiny CD inside. He’d scrawled ‘Jack’s Mannequin xxx’ on the front with a black Sharpie. I ran home and played it on volume 345 in my bedroom for the entire night.
MSN came along and I cultivated a cyber-only relationship with a boy named James Brown (no lie) who went to a neighbouring high school. We messaged every single night for what I’m guessing was a terribly long time – possibly years. I only remember having actual human interaction with him twice. Once when he gave me a pink leather ball clasp purse whilst we picked our sisters up from school one Autumn afternoon and the second during a Battle of the Bands night when he rather tragically dedicated a song to my friend during his set – I was incredibly jealous of course. I remember counting the number of times he pulled his guitar out of his amp during his set: fourteen. He may not have lived up to his name performance wise but his musical command impressed me. I sat in my dad’s study for hours on our desktop after school soaking up every piece of music he’d share with me. My pixelated eyes widening on my webcam screen as I listened to The Cure, The Libertines, The Strokes for the first time. I suddenly became obsessed with curating my Limewire playlist – I’m pretty sure I named it ‘Jess ❤ James’. No shame.
With my love for guitar music now well and truly established, a little band from Sheffield called the Arctic Monkeys came along and changed my world forever. During a 100 million hour coach journey from Leeds to the French Alps for a school ski trip, their first record was played repeatedly on one of those Sony Ericsson walkman phones at the back of the coach. I knew every single lyric after that trip and instantly fell in love with Alex Turner and his powder blue Lacoste polo with the collar popped up. I’d also become rather besotted with a guy in my year – he played guitar and rugby – the ultimate key to my heart apparently. Thankfully we had friends in common, so after a lot of staring and blushing in French, we began talking to each other at house parties. At first I could only manage a few sentences of conversation with him before feeling like I needed to hurl. He was most definitely the only reason I decided to take GCSE Music. If I had known beforehand that I’d have to perform Greensleeves on my flute in front of him and the whole class I may have re-evaluated my choices however I got to stare at him for five periods a week so, all in all, it was worth it. We once went to see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Town Hall together. ‘Research’ for our next composition assignment. Our mutual friend/third wheel let us sit together and, much to my appreciation, he loitered a few rows behind us. I had officially made it. I was now one of those sophisticated young woman types who went on kind-of dates to watch orchestral performances with hot boys. I am now 26 years old, an actual real young woman, and I can report that this has never happened to me again. It was a one-time fluke.
A few months of ferociously writing about him in my diary every night went by and he offered me tickets to see his band at The Cockpit. He met me and my friends at Leeds train station with his bandmates and I could hardly feel my feet. I don’t remember much about the night as I had far too many cans of Hooch but I do remember one thing. During their set he took his shirt off and sang ‘You know I love you’ by The Pigeon Detectives. This moment is still in the top ten best moments of my life to date. Sidenote: my first time was with this guy – thank God. It’s 2008 now, the era of the indie boy band. The Cribs, Razorlight, The Rakes, The Kooks, Bombay Bicycle Club – you name them, I was probably skipping Economics (who could blame me), hiding behind the common room and listening to them on my iPod.
During Freshers Week in York two years later, I stumbled into a nightclub in my bodycon skirt and biker boots. Fibbers smelt of dry ice, stale beer and sweat. I loved it. Little did I know then that some of the greatest bands had played there – Oasis, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys. I managed to get a bar job there a few weeks later. During one of my first shifts a guy came up to me and introduced himself with a smile that produced the cutest dimple at the left side of his mouth. He was wearing Jonny Borrell skinny jeans and a vintage baggy shirt. His hair would’ve easily given The Beetles lads a run for their money. I became quite instantly hooked. Then I found out that he was in a band and that he sang and played guitar. Then I made sure he became my boyfriend. Going to his gigs and knowing I was the only girl in the room currently sleeping with the lead singer (admittedly now debatable) was the coolest thing ever. During one gig he sang a new song – I knew instantly that he’d written it about me. The main lyric in the verse was ‘I won’t tell her that I love her’. Great. Excellent. I soon learned that you should never get involved with boys in bands types as they will quite frankly eff your head up. I felt, however, like I was somewhat destined for it to happen. How could I not end up with someone like him after spending my entire teenage life obsessing over his kind? Of course, as Alex Turner has proved over the years, it’s impossible to stay with boys in bands because the majority of the time they turn out to be, well, not great. I hope that 10 year-old me with my scruffy Converse and pigtailed hair is proud about how much I’ve learned about boys in bands. The cardinal rule: don’t give them your number as they will ruin your life. The bit where they play their guitar at the bottom of your bed in their boxers is cute but, in hind sight, it’s definitely more fun to watch them perform from a distance.