“I try not to think about what I’m going to be making before I do it.”
Joshua Bowman, or "just Josh" as he points out, takes life as it goes. He doesn’t plan, he just does. This is especially true for his music - a songwriter who doesn’t rush, but allows time for his words to fall into place. He longs to depict what is true in the present, and not what is to come or what might have passed. The same could be said about his shoot with photographer Mollie Dendle. In a delicate series, Mollie supplies Joshua at Anti Agency with the space to just “be" in front of her lens, eternally freezing authentic bits of revelation.
Josh is photographed at home surrounded by the legends that inspire him the most, providing key clues to what it entails to be Josh. There is a retro feel to the way he carries himself - emulating the essence of the musicians that have come before him. Wild combed locks form a young Elvis. Vintage blues reveal his porcelain hue. White socks in black leather shoes. An unconventional Essex boy with charm chained to his gaze. All kept together by a pair of suspenders.
Growing old is out of the question for Josh. A true Peter Pan of such - fear stricken that he might lose himself in the process of aging. There might be an observed positive correlation between tedious and old, but it certainly doesn’t prove cause and effect. Acceptance of old age in his case could only possibly come with a side of humour. In fact, Josh’s personal cure for old age is to purchase a large hat and a golf cart to ride about in. It's certain that this boy will never let go of his youthful spirit.
If you were to do a “Hello, my name is…”, how would you choose to present yourself?
I’d say my name is Josh, but you can call me whatever you like. I prefer nicknames, I think. They’re more interesting. I don’t have a nickname actually, but I’ve always wanted one. My name is just Josh… Loverboy Bowman actually though, that’s my Instagram. That was from a song - basically everything that comes out of my mouth is probably from a song somewhere.
First thing that struck me when looking at your agency profile was that it mentioned “musician”. What is your role as a musician?
I’ve been doing a lot of busking recently, but what I normally do is that I write songs. My friends and I are making a film this summer. And obviously, we’re all really broke, so we have no budget. We won’t be able to get licensing for anything, so at the moment I’m making a soundtrack. It gives me the opportunity to work with so many different styles, although it’s not for me personally, but I can branch out so I get to let my creativity go. Do you know Ian Dury? It’s going to be a very energetic and stylistic. Like the soundtracks on Quentin Tarantino’s films. That kind of thing, just a bit more British.
If you make music for yourself, what do you prefer to do?
A lot of the time, it’s just playing music. I listen to so much music, but when I make it I try not to think about what I’m going to be making before I do it. Otherwise, it’s going to be something that is pretty planned, and not real. I try to let the music grow into its own; have its own life form and develop it as it goes along. Stylistically, I’m into so many kinds of music. First band that spoke to me was The Specials. Their clothes and such, they wore like two-tone suits all of them - like black and white suits. They just looked amazing. I’m also influenced by Jamaican rude gangsters. They are called Rude Boys. They are like Jamaican gangsters, and they came over to England in the 70s - creating a mixture of punk and reggae.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
I think I probably want to help and inspire people. I believe that a lot of people get lost, and find it difficult to understand their reason. I just want to tell them "you know, it’s okay". I think it’s a whole lot more that people could be doing with their lives than working in an office. They could get it together - their living, this is their life - but they’re not really alive. That feeling of wanting to do something, because your heart is beating so fast and you’re really experiencing freedom and all these different emotions at once - that is what I want to give.
Do you find that your music aids you personally?
Definitely helps me. When I first started writing music, it was something I could turn to for when I was feeling a little low. What I’ve been doing lately, after getting past the stage of just being able to write music - I’m trying to do something that is out of this world and that completely takes you to another place. Like a dream.
What else are you passionate about?
I like dancing. I did some swing dancing - 1940s style. I’ve had like classes and everything. When I was in Brighton there was this live band playing, so my girlfriend and I went. There was this massive tipi tent - amazing.
How was it working with Mollie?
I love Mollie, she is so sweet. The best things we did was when I wasn’t trying. It was just happening naturally. That’s how I think with most things. If you try not to force it and just let it happen naturally, it will always work itself out.
In the photoshoot, there were a couple photos of your reflection in the mirror, and I got the sense that you were measuring yourself up and down. How do you feel about your own self-image?
I feel pretty good about myself. When I grew up in Essex, it becomes engraved into you, there was this thing about always being the best, good-looking. Most people do it in a very similar way. There’s this tv-program called ‘Towy'. It’s all muscly men looking like michelin men, and they wear really tight polo shirts, tight blue jeans and trainers. The girls wear too much makeup. Just terrible things. It’s all about being a big man with all this money and a nice car, but my friends and I totally did our own thing. I don’t really care about other people. I’m just going to wear what I’m going to wear. Look how I look.
You seem to be quite comfortable in your own skin, but are there any moments where your confidence is slipping?
If I look in the mirror for too long - it freaks me out. I really hate having to shave my face. I wish I didn’t have facial hair, never grow old. You see these old people, and they’re all crippled and moping around. I suppose I could be a really good old person, as in I could wear a really big hat and ride a golf cart around. Maybe it’s not growing old, but growing up, they’re meant to go hand in hand, but I might just break the rules on that one and get a big hat. I don’t really take much seriously. Perhaps music sometimes.
I understand that music is where your talent lies. Is there anything else you consider yourself good at?
Yes… I’m good at sleeping. Like a really good sleeper. I slept 18 hours once. I was speaking to pirates the day before. There were these guys that I was in a band with in Brighton - they wore waistcoats, no shirts and were all tatted up. The band was called the Junxy Bones Redemption, and they had an inhumane amount of energy. They spoke with immense spirit and wildness, recorded for hours on end into the night with mad sounds of tribal drums, spiraling guitars and intoxicating vocals. That is what kept me awake, Junxy bones and spangly boots.
Did you live in Brighton previously?
I went to university in Brighton. Studied songwriting, but I quit. I didn’t see the point of studying songwriting, as I don’t think it’s something that can be taught. The music scene where I lived did seem really good, so I’m going back to Brighton again. If they don’t accept me again, as I did get withdrawn from the course, I will move to Brighton anyways with my friends. The music scene there is best in the country, or I think so at least.
We’re finding ourselves in a turbulent political climate - where people are questioning the open world that we are now accustomed to, how do you react to that and do you feel the impact of that uncertainty?
I just think it is the wrong people who are in power, really. They are just making the wrong decisions, and it’s selfish and ugly. It’s not benefitting anyone apart from the old and the ridiculously rich. Before last year or so when all these things started happening, I was always really ignorant and naive about politics in the sense that 'they can do whatever they're gonna do, I’m not gonna make a change, I’m just gonna block it out'. Donald Trump, or the election in France, and what has happened in England as well, it has caused a reaction. More young people have been taking notice - getting involved. It’s not hard to see that the world should be and could be a much nicer place if these people weren’t making such stupid decisions.
Do you do anything to involve yourself?
I’m planning on going to one of the marches. I’ve been speaking to people, and everyone’s been kinda like me, speaking about it. I’m going to start including it in my music as well. Jeremy Corbyn is doing a lot of interviews with musicians in the industry lately, which is one of the best things I’ve seen. In one of the interviews he says that political change really ever comes from people in power, and I think that is true. But, I think that over the past few years there’s been this right wing takeover, and it’s just starting to cause a reaction now. People being like 'what are you doing?’. I think we have to change the world now, not for ourselves, but for the future and for the children. 'Give peace a chance'.
Loverboy Bowman, have you ever been in love? And if so, how would you visualize the sensation of "falling in love”?
Yes, I have been in love. Visualize the sensation of falling in love... It’s like you’re standing by a beautiful lake and you’re sitting there and you’re quite contempt. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there’s this drip of water coming from above. You start hearing all these sounds, which keeps getting louder. Suddenly there is this waterfall covering you and you’re standing there laughing ecstatically... Love confuses me. There was this book I was reading, and this guy said; 'people who’ve never fallen in love have never heard of falling in love'. That confused me. And also, falling in love means you’re totally encapsulated and involved by this one person. However, that could change at any point, completely. I just can’t get my head around the concept, because you can’t really put it into words. It’s not as simple as that.
What does falling in love feel like to you?
This is how I described it to my girlfriend. It could be that she is just doing some silly thing like making something out of clay or eating a salad. I will just look over at her, and it’s like my heart is jumping up and down - doing a little dance on the inside. And then you get this smile that spreads across your face. It’s just.. You can’t control it. Love feels like electricity - coursing through your veins.
What makes you utterly contempt?
*Reaches for his guitar and hugs it*
It’s a Sunday afternoon in London, what would you be up to?
I’m not really sure. I don’t really have things that I usually do, and it really annoys people. I kind of just do whatever I want. Although.. Charity shopping. That could be a Sunday thing. I get paid on Fridays, so on Sunday I will either be hungover or I might be out shopping... So I guess I'll see you on Sunday.
Words and interview by Hedvig Werner.