Sunday 16 May 2010

K&A with Stornoway

Every now-and-again a band comes along that quickly become an unhealthy obsession of mine. In recent years a lot of bands have come close but really only Broken Records have ticked all the necessary boxes. Well, they have some company now!

It's no secret that I have a bit of a soft spot for Oxford's Stornoway. In fact, going by my umpteen posts and sessions involving them, it's safe to say I can't get enough. It would appear I'm not the only one though if the amount of downloads these have had are anything to go by.

So, with this in mind, and with memories of their amazing King Tuts gig fresh in my mind, I decided to chance my arm and contact the guys to see if they fancied answering some questions about themselves, the Outer Hebrides, and their upcoming debut album "Beachcomber's Windowsill". I'm still pinching myself that they agreed! Take it away guys....

Kowalskiy: Hi guys! First of all, who are Stornoway?
Stornoway: Brian, Jon, Oli and Rob. One ornithologist, one linguist, one pseudo-vegetarian chemist, and one gap year student.

Kowalskiy: How did you all get together, and what's the story behind the name?
Stornoway: Brian and Jon met at Oxford Uni and started playing music together, Brian had already written and recorded a few tracks, all that was needed for a live outfit was bass and drums. The two advertised for these on a local website and within a few days got a response from Oli who had only recently started teaching himself the bass. Armed with a screw driver, fearing he might be walking into the clutches of serial killers, Oli went off to the first practice. After a few weeks of pleading from his younger brother Rob, Oli introduced Brian and Jon to him and the four musicians were united.
The search for a name began shortly afterwards and the first port of call was nautical charts and maps which were in tune with Brian’s obsession with the outdoors. One night whilst listening to the shipping forecast of the British Isles the name came up and just seemed to fit. A few months later, Brian attempted a treacherous journey by sail boat to the Hebridean town but had to turn back due to gails.

Kowalskiy: How would you describe yourselves and your music? Are those "posh twats" jibes Brian mentioned at King Tuts justified?
Stornoway: We’re all quite quiet people and I reckon the music reflects that somewhat, it’s not in your face and spitting but more subdued with more meaning than a lot of thrash out there these days. The twat jibes are understandable but not justified, I can see how people could see us as posh but we’re really not, we promise.

Kowalskiy: You recently finished your Scottish and Irish tour with a cracking gig at King Tuts. How did you find it? And what was it like playing Stornoway for the first time?
Stornoway: It was incredible. We were given a different bottle of the local whisky every night and so had a great time! The venue was awesome as well, really nice rowdy crowd. The gig in Stornoway was a very special one for us, we really wanted to experience the town and impress the people too, which was quite easy when you consider that we gave each member of the crowd a dram before going on for an encore and all said “slĂ inte” together which is “cheers” in Gaelic.

Kowalskiy: You're releasing debut album "Beachcomber's Windowsill" in May. What's the story behind the album?
Stornoway: The album is a body of work that’s been in the making for around 10 years. The writing, arranging and recording of all the songs has always been a constant thing, when we’re not gigging, we’re doing that stuff. We’ve tried to lay it out in such a way so as to allow the listener to follow a few strings of connected stories and to create their own ideas and images with those strings.

Kowalskiy: Everyone seems to know what zorbing is these days. What was the inspiration for writing a song about it? Guessing you've all had a shot of it too. Any interesting zorbing-related stories?
Stornoway: The song isn’t exactly about zorbing as such. It was meant to be a metaphor for going about your daily routine but with your head and heart in a different place altogether. We actually went zorbing in Dorset (at Zorbing South) last summer and had a…ball. There are three types you can try: the harness zorb (the ultra-speedy one which gets faster with every turn); the hydro zorb (like being trapped in a malevolent washing machine); the hydra zorb (filled with nine-headed serpents – that’s the best one).

Kowalskiy: What would Stornoway's ideal gig be?
Stornoway: It would be a one-day festival on the Isle of Lewis, featuring Euros Childs, Horace Andy, Sam Cooke, Wild Beasts, Of Montreal, The Human League, U. Srinivas, Beach House, Spacemen 3, Nico Muhly, Blink 182, Jackson C. Frank, Ry Cooder, Guillemots, John Tavener and Yoko Ono.

Kowalskiy: You were one of my tips for this year. Who would you like to see do well?
Stornoway: Thanks! Well, we’d heartily recommend Foxes! (from Brighton) and Race Horses (from Wales).

Kowalskiy: Lastly, what can we expect from Stornoway in the future? Looking forward to coming back to Scotland for Belladrum?
Stornoway: Our album "Beachcomber's Windowsill" will be released on 24th May via 4AD, which we're very very very excited about! We’re on tour and will be heading to London ULU on the 20th May. And yes, we had a whale of time during our recent Scottish tour, so we’re already looking forward to Belladrum!

Kowalskiy: Anything you'd like to add?
Stornoway: Rob used to be a professional tap-dancer as a child.

As the guys said, their debut album "Beachcomber's Windowsill" is out a week tomorrow. Can't wait! It promises to be one of the best this year.

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