I Was Born for This
‘Yeah, I think so,’ I say.
Someone’s given me the wrong guitar, but I can’t try to find the right one because one of our stage crew is fixing my angel wings onto the back of my jacket while we stand backstage during an ad break. Someone is combing Lister’s hair for him. Rowan’s changing into something black so we’re all matching.
The Ark likes theatricality.
‘Hey, where’s my guitar? This is Rowan’s spare,’ I ask the air around me. Someone swaps the one I’m holding for my actual guitar and I hang it round my neck. It’s not even really ‘my guitar’, anyway. My guitar, a lower-end Les Paul that my grandad snagged for £50 from a boot fair for my birthday when I was eleven, is safely locked away in my apartment. The guitar I’m holding right now is probably worth over five grand.
Rowan, changed now into a black bomber jacket with embroidered doves on the front, comes up to me, and grabs me by the arms.
‘How you doing, Jimjam?’
‘What?’ I ask, not understanding the question.
He squeezes my arms, then rubs them soothingly. ‘Are you calm?’
‘Am I calm?’
No. I am never calm.
‘I’m calm,’ I say.
Rowan pats me on the head, just to be sure. I brush my fingers over my cross necklace again.
Lister joins us. He’s swapped his burgundy jacket and white T-shirt for a black button-up. He looks the most excited out of the three of us, which is no surprise.
‘Remind me, what are we doing?’ he asks, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. ‘“Joan of Arc” or “Lie Day”?’
Rowan laughs and I groan.
‘Do you ever pay attention to anything?’ I say. ‘Were you high during sound check?’
Lister shoots me an offended look. ‘God, sorry, Dad!’ This kind of makes me chuckle, and then Lister smiles, a real old rare Lister smile, and continues, ‘Okay, for real … which is it?’
We are used to this now. Maybe a little too used to it. We won Best Newcomer earlier. Of course we did – everyone on the internet said we were going to. When we step up to perform, everyone cheers, even though we’re newcomers, even though we’re only just starting to get known in America. None of that phases me, though. Overexposure, I guess.
But when we step out onto the stage, shrouded in darkness, I get a rush of adrenalin and I can’t stop smiling because finally we get to play our music.
Like I said, The Ark likes theatricality. We don’t just stand there and play – which is fine, but it’s not us. Lister is centre on drums and Rowan and I stand behind him on a raised platform, playing various instruments depending on the song – keys, guitar, Launchpad (me), cello (Rowan). We always wear black.
I am always wearing angel wings. It’s a tradition.
When we started out, we’d play with shoddy instruments in the back of pubs and post videos of our garage recordings to YouTube. But tonight, we stand on a stage wider than three houses, and when Rowan gives us a nod and starts to strum the screechy opening bars of ‘Joan of Arc’, the LED screens behind us light up a bright, blinding orange, and we’re lost in the dry ice mist.
Then begins our intro – a low, distorted robot voice that we play at the beginning of every tour show. It was my idea at the start of our last tour.
I am not afraid, said Noah
I was born for this
I mouth along. It always makes me smile, reminding me of all the Bible stories Grandad used to read to me when I was little. It’s a slight variation of a Joan of Arc quote too. I love tying all the parts of ourselves together.
I find myself shouting ‘West Coast!’ just because I’m so excited, and the audience cheer right back at me. Weird how it never seems to hit me until the music starts. Until the music starts, I’m just floating through it all. Waiting to get to the next song so I can breathe again.
Born to survive the storm
Born to survive the flood
Our platform starts to rise into the air. The light changes and I glance around to look at the LED screen. It’s a giant Renaissance painting of an armoured woman wielding a sword. Joan.
Then lights are on me, just as the voice speaks its final words.
Believe in me
Said Noah to the animals
And two-by-two, they ascended
Onto the ark
‘the voice had promised me that, as soon as i came to the king, he would receive me.’
– Joan of Arc
I am jump-scared awake at 11.14 a.m. by Juliet making a sound resembling that of a goose passing into the afterlife.
I sit up. Juliet and I slept in one of her nan’s spare rooms. Mac slept in another. Weirdly, Juliet seems to have brought most of her possessions with her – the wardrobe is overflowing with potential outfits for Thursday and the floor is littered with assorted Ark merchandise.
‘Did I just dream that,’ I say, ‘or did you just shriek very loudly?’
‘I think I am dreaming,’ says Juliet.
Juliet is staring at her phone like it’s a solid bar of gold.
‘What’s happened?’ I ask.
‘Jowan,’ she says, and then turns her head and stares at me. ‘Jowan.’
I take a moment to process.