They aren't sure, when it comes down to it, whose idea it actually was to start a house band. Oregon thinks it was probably Vod's idea, because last night Vod was her usual cocktail of incredibly high and also incredibly drunk, and that usually leads to her having fucking insane ideas. But Vod is determined not to take responsibility, and as Vod usually has no problem taking responsibility that makes it less likely. But if it wasn't Vod's idea then it must have been Oregon's. And Oregon is determined that it wasn't her.
“Look, I know I, I bullshit a lot of the time but I am really, really shit at music. I mean, god, I...I can't even hold a tune for fuck's sake.” She protests, and Vod picks up her coffee mug with suspicion.
“Do you mean you can't hold a tune like you don't own a car and like you come from abject common poverty like the rest of us? Well, the rest of us apart from JP but he's just a fucking knob.”
“Hey.” JP's head suddenly appears from what Oregon had assumed was just a heap of blankets on the sofa. His hair is sticking up in all directions and is sprinkled with either a terrible case of dandruff or Vod's weekly supply of coke. “Bloody good party last night right?” He says, yawning hugely, “Did you see that unbelievably fit bird I was chatting to at the bar? God I was so in there.”
Vod fishes a lighter from somewhere inside her leather jacket, laughing.
“Heh. Right. That's why you had all the sex with her last night and didn't fall asleep on the sofa.” JP shifts in an awkwardly indignant fashion as Oregon leans forward to light her cigarette.
“Yeah, well, how do you know she isn't in here with me right now, munching on a bit of cock? How do you know?” Oregon glances down, then immediately wishes she hadn't.
“Oh for god's sake JP put the blankets back!” Vod follows Oregon's gaze and makes a horrified noise.
"Ugh. No. That's just wrong and offensive to my vision, and I have been smoking weed for the past forty-three hours.” She looks over at the wall clock Josie had insisted they install in order to 'make sure we never miss a lecture again!' “Actually no, make that forty-four hours and seventeen minutes. Eighteen minutes.” She laughs, her special brand of stuttering, stoned laughter and takes a shaky drag. JP awkwardly rolls over, flashing not a little arse cheek at the pair of them but thankfully taking his cock out of their vision, and then – thank god – there are blankets. Nothing but beautiful, brown, suspiciously-stained blankets with only JP's pale hairy legs and bare feet sticking out at the bottom.
“Anyway” JP says, continuing like nothing happened, “I take total offense at being called a total knobhead because you know that's completely not true, apart from my actual knob which is all knob and plenty of head, if you know what I mean.” He winks, waits a fraction too long for a laugh which is clearly never going to come and then hastily picks up his sentence. “But yeah, I'm so blatantly not a knobhead. Why were you calling me a knobhead anyway? I thought you liked me since I was totally emotionally traumatised by Ralph being a twat.”
Vod stubs out her spliff on the arm of the chair, muttering a curse as it leaves a mark. “Don't tell Josie I burnt the arm of the sofa, she'll go all Wales on me and my head can't handle it today. And for fuck's sake JP. I said you were a knob, not a knobhead, and anyway you are a posh knob.”
“Oh a posh knob. Well, that's totally okay, I am completely fine with being the posh knob in this house. Apart from you obviously Oregon. Because you hav- I mean, had a horse. I don't even have a horse.”
For a moment Oregon thinks about getting into this discussion again, then she remembers exactly how it goes every time and decides not to bother.
“Back to the actual thing we were talking about, a house band. I mean, that would be cool right? You think it's cool right Vod?” Vod sniffs.
“I dunno, how would it work though? If you can't even sing or nothing, then what are you gonna do in it?”
“You know, anything. Whatever! Fuck it, I can learn guitar or something.” Vod tilts her head to the side, just a fraction.
“You? Learn guitar? Isn't it like, really hard?”
“Nah. Fuck it. It's easy. They just like, say it's hard to put people off. I can totally learn guitar. What about you JP? What do you think?” JP wrinkles his nose, but Vod leans forward and cuts him off before he can say anything, brandishing her lighter like a weapon.
“No, no way, I am not being in a band with JP.”
“Again, hey!” JP says plaintively. “What's wrong with me?”
“You're a posh knob.” She says. “And I am not going to be in a band with a posh knob. Posh knobs sing in choir and that shit, sing fucking pretentious ballads with guitars and they're all sitting in the rain and whining about their girlfriend's jacking themselves off instead of having sex with them and shit. Misogynistic rich twats.”
There's a brief, awkward silence.
“Can you play anything though?” Vod asks. JP perks up.
"God yeah. Music lessons were compulsory, such a fucking joke, like I haven't got better things to do with my hands than press buttons.”
“Well, what was it?”
“Oh, right yeah. I'm grade eight sex-on-the-phone.” Vod and Oregon give him utterly blank looks and he sighs dramatically. “Saxophone? You know? The old sex machine?” He rolls his eyes. “God I'm so wasted here.”
“Saxophone. Well that's a fucking joke, what kind of indie student band has a saxophonist?” Tilting back her head, Vod lets out a long stream of smoke. She coughs once, briefly, then shrugs. “Still, better than nothing. I'll sing, obviously, because I have the sexy husky voice, he he he.” She laughs at herself, and Oregon has to admit that it's all-too easy to imagine Vod clutching a mic and whispering the lyrics of some grunge-y ballad across a screaming crowd. “So I'm singing, Oregon is going to 'learn'” she makes air quotes on the word and Oregon wants to be hurt but the truth is she's had her guitar hiding under her bed since she arrived and they both know it, “guitar and JP's on...sax. Right. Well that's a shit band.”
Oh, I dunno,” Oregon shoots a brief smile across at JP, who looks like he's about to fall asleep again, “I think we'll do okay. We can always ask the others, what about, I dunno, Josie?”
Vod nods eagerly.
“Yeah, yeah, she's Welsh, they're all fucking good singers over there aren't they? Sing to sheep and that.”
It's at this moment that Josie wanders in. As usual, she looks ridiculously perky, especially when considering the volume of alcohol she consumed the night before. She also looks remarkably well-dressed, considering the number of lithe young men's stomachs she drank alcohol from. (Oregon really hopes that Josie gets over her I-am-single-and-it-is-glorious stage soon. She's happy for Josie that she's finally stopped being in the worst relationship ever, and that she's finally discovered how much fun being truly sexually liberated can be, but apart from anything it's massively depressing to watch Josie lick tequila from the rock-hard abs of a twenty-one year old when the only person Oregon gets to have sex with these days is getting grey pubes. Her mother always told her that jealousy is an ugly emotion but fuck it, she's pretty enough and Josie always gets nice things. Apart from Dave. And Kingsley. Ugh, Kingsley.)
“Morning all!” Josie sings. They all mutter vague greetings and she tuts. “Come on guys, rise and shine! It's a beautiful day! Who wants tea? Anyone? Nobody at all?”
“Yeah, okay, I'll have some tea thanks.” Oregon says finally, and Josie beams. It's fucking weird how into tea Josie is, she's not even English.
Vod perks up suddenly, as though she's just realised that Josie is in the room.
“Oi, Jose. Can you sing?” Josie frowns.
“Um, bit of a weird question there? I dunno, I guess? Why do you want to know? Oh fuck, have I been singing in the shower? Was it awful? I'm sorry, but sometimes I forget that I'm not at home.” Vod waves a hand, trying to shut it up, and flakes of ash flutter to the ground like the remnants of a particularly drug-induced aeroplane accident.
“Nah, nah, we're making a house band. And I'm singing, and Oregon here” she claps a hand on Oregon's knee, and Oregon feels ridiculously happy about it, “Is gonna 'learn' guitar, and JP is going to make sex calls or something, and we need a back up singer.” Josie turns on the kettle then turns around to face them, leaning back on the counter.
“Sing in a band? Oh, I dunno, I don't think I'm good enough to be in a band.” Vod shrugs.
“Oh, well, we can ask Kingsley instead.” Josie suddenly slams a hand down on the counter.
“Fuck no, Kingsley is not being in my fucking band. Yeah, I'll sing! And you know what, I'll even play the keyboard too!”
Her eyes widening in surprise, Oregon cuts in: “What, you can play piano?” Josie shrugs.
“Yeah, been learning since I was little. Mam always wanted me to do music at uni but I figured dentistry was probably going to earn me more money. That and my music teacher was a massive perve, he used to try and grab my tits when I was practising scales.” They all blink for a moment at this revelation, then Vod continues like it didn't happen.
“Right, well, awesome. You can be back-up and play keys. Sorted.” She stubs out her spliff and leans back, half-smiling through cracked lips. “Let's go to the pub.”
“Wait, what? But we just made a band! The least we should do is, is come up with a name, or think of our first song or something!” Josie's hands somehow continue to gesticulate at a million miles an hour as she pours boiling water into four mugs – somehow she always decides that everyone wanted tea, but Oregon doesn't mind because when she's been smoking she can always drink about a million mugs no problem – and her Welsh vowels become even more prominent. “I know, let's call a band meeting. Right, who wants to chair? Nobody? Okay well I'll chair it then, right, so I officially call this meeting to order.” She perches herself on the arm of a chair, beaming at them all. “First motion – to choose a name for the band. Anybody have any suggestions?”
The silence is exquisite. It is broken only by a sudden grunting snore from JP, who has somehow managed to fall back to sleep.
“Okay, well, how about this – 'The Manchester Marvels'' Her adoring expression is beaten into submission by Vod's blank look. Oregon decides to come to her rescue.
“Look, Josie, not that this isn't...really, really great and everything, having a meeting. But, well, I mean, JP's asleep. We can't have a band meeting when a quarter of the members are unconscious. Wouldn't be fair, right?” Josie visibly droops.
“I suppose not...” she sighs, and takes a mournful sip of tea. “Well, if we're not going to have a band meeting I'd better go and do some coursework. Let me know when JP wakes up and we'll reconvene!” She scoots from the arm of the sofa, pausing at the door to beam beatifically at them all. “Gosh, a house band! This is so exciting! See you all later.”
The door bangs gently shut behind her, and immediately Vod's eyes close in relief.
“Thank Christ for that. Ta, Oregon. You're a bloody lifesaver.” Oregon shrugs awkwardly, trying to suppress a grin.
“Oh, you know, it was nothing.”
“Well if that little incident proves one thing, it proves that having a house band is a fucking bad idea. This was all JP's fault, never let him come up with ideas again Oregon, you hear me?” Oregon's mouth twists. She nods.
“Right. Never again. JP's ideas equal bad ideas.”
“Bang on.” Says Vod, shooting Oregon with a finger. “Right, now that's out of the way let's go to the pub. I need a drink.”
Two weeks later when they all get horrifically drunk on cheap vodka in the living room, JP asks when his 'epic sexing, I mean saxing skills will be needed?'. Kingsley demands an explanation and is hilariously pissed off when Josie tells him they formed a house band without him. He is less pissed off when she tells him it's called 'The Manchester Marvels because we're fucking marvellous, got that have you Kingsley? Kiiingsley?' and then throws up all over JP's shoes.
Vod and Oregon stay out if it all, sitting in the corner passing a hip flask of brandy back and forth. Oregon is more than a little bit sure that Vod lifted it from Professor Shales's jacket in their seminar that morning. But then he had just told Vod she was insufferable, so it was fair enough really.
“You know Oregon,” Vod says, handing over the flask, “I'm bloody glad we didn't do that band thing.” Oregon takes a swig wordlessly, waiting to hear what's coming. “Because then you'd have had to prove you could play guitar and I'd have been able to be pissed at you again for ages for the lies.” She pauses, as though mulling over her next sentence. “I fucking hate the lies. But I fucking hate being pissed at you more.”
Oregon can't bring herself to say anything. She passes the flask back to Vod, and their fingers touch for a moment on the smooth edge.
“Ha, yeah, cheers.”
The next morning Oregon gets her guitar out from under the bed. She tunes it as quietly as she can, and then starts playing Für Elise. Vod is too busy crying with laughter that literally all Oregon can play is 'that sort of pretentious shit' to mention the lie. Then Vod remembers – now that she isn't stoned – that she took a few guitar lessons once. So she starts to play Van Morrison, which is humiliating but it's the only thing she can remember after her hair-of-the-dog breakfast. Suddenly Josie bursts into song over the sound of her shower, and JP pulls out his sax and Kingsley is drumming on bedboard and Oregon is laughing and they kind of sort of made a house band after all.