You hear it all the time when people meet musicians: “Oh, they’re so normal”, “He’s such a nice guy”, “She’s much more down to earth than you’d expect”. I’m no different, yet I’m not entirely sure why I’m always surprised when a performer steps off a stage and has a functioning personality. That being said, Stornoway’s Brian Briggs and Jon Quin really do take the nice-biscuit. I mean, wow. I’m smitten, if it’s possible to be so in an entirely platonic sense. What other band would step off stage, agree to an interview and then politely listen for five minutes whilst you told them about a guy at your uni who drunkenly ate some goose poo for £15? Stornoway not only did that very thing at 2000trees, but then deliberated amongst themselves and decided that the faecal matter most likely originated from a Canada goose, and therefore the lowest that they would go would be £20. If I achieve nothing else in my life (and that’s seeming increasingly likely), I hope to one day be able to take Stornoway up on that offer.
From an audience’s perspective, that set was magical
BB: Thank you, it was a really great atmosphere. The sun was setting directly in front of the stage. It’s been such a hot day, and it was finally cooling down. I just got the feeling that people enjoyed hearing something a bit more chilled out because there’s been a lot of rock and a lot of louder stuff at this festival.
JQ: We were pretty scared at first because we had this major technical issue so we went on over 15 minutes late.
BB: It was a massive gremlin, pulling out wires under the stage. I think people were starting to get a bit inpatient, so we were scared about getting bottled, but actually we just got lollipops thrown at us.
JQ: One solitary lollipop. They can actually be very dangerous. David Bowie got one in the eye not so long ago. Wedged in between his eyelid and his bone. [Laughs] I think it was when we played Zorbing that we really found our stride. For the first few songs we were still scared of the gremlin and the lollipops.
BB: I’ve always loved playing at festivals; I think our music seems to work outdoors quite well. A lot of it’s set in the outdoors and it’s also really nice to play to people who don’t necessarily know the music and generally it seems to go down really well.
I find it interesting that your songs are set in the outdoors – if you ask a lot of bands what their songs about, they’ll mutter something about a girl, whereas you guys write songs about hill walking in the Appalachian mountains…
BB: [Laughs] I didn’t really go out there with music in mind at all, but I just like being outdoors. My parents have lived in America for a while and I really wanted to go out and have an adventure while I was there. I heard about this two thousand mile long trail that goes through mountains and woods and all along the East coast of the whole of North America. So I decided to walk a bit of that. It’s amazing the amount of space and wilderness out there that you don’t really get in this country. You can stand on top of a mountain and not see anything other than trees and mountains. I just really wanted to write a song about that hike. Jon wrote the main riff and created the atmosphere, and it matched up perfectly with the lyrical ideas I had. I just put lyrics to the music basically!
There’s a motif of an attic and a skylight that seems to run through your music, what’s the significance of that?
BB: The setting to quite a few songs has been the attic. For some reason I always seem to end up in top floor rooms in rented houses, and they tend to have skylight’s and attics. [Laughs] There’s no profound metaphor there I’m afraid.
But nature seems to be a big theme in your music, am I right in thinking you studied ornithology at Oxford?
BB: Yeah! I did my PhD on ducks! . Nature is definitely a passion of mine, so it does find its way in to a lot of the songs. I was expecting to be working in wildlife conservation, but then the band took off. I’d always wanted to play in a band, so I wanted to give that a go, but I don’t think any of us expected for it to take off the extent that we could do it for a living.
JQ: I definitely didn’t. I had a photocopying job [Laughs]. It was great. I was quite happy when I didn’t have to photocopy anymore.
BB: Oli and Rob [Steadman, bassist and drummer respectively] were still at school. Rob was still only 15. He had to try and fit his A Levels in around the gigs, and make excuses to the teachers for why he had to leave lessons early.
I heard they lied about being at Magdalen College?
JQ: It was less of a lie, and more of a misunderstanding that Oli failed to clear up. I think he enjoyed the mountain of misunderstanding that sprung up.
BB: There’s a school that’s called Magdalen College School, and he was at school there. So when we said “Oh, are you at Magdalen College?” he said “Yeah!”.
Catch Stornoway playing at Latitude and Green Man Festival this summer, or on their UK tour in November/December.
23 November – O2 Academy, Bristol
24 November – The Institute, Birmingham
25 November – Rock City, Nottingham
27 November – The Ritz, Manchester
28 November – O2 Academy, Newcastle
29 November – O2 ABC, Glasgow
30 November – Leeds Met Student Union, Leeds
01 December – The Junction, Cambridge
03 December – Button Factory, Dublin
04 December – Black Box, Belfast
06 December – The Globe, Cardiff
07 December – Arts Centre, Salisbury
08 December – Barbican Centre, London