Stornoway produce a kind of windswept soul music which gathers up trace elements of rock, pop, folk, electronica, post-punk, African rhythms and the avant-garde. The band’s music springs from lives being lived and the ongoing adventures of its four creators.
Their 2010 debut – Beachcomber’s Windowsill – primarily reflected their experiences while still students; at the time of its release the band’s youngest member was gearing up to sit his A levels. Little wonder that, according to singer and principal songwriter Brian Briggs, “the first record was a bit more childlike in some of its perspectives.” Nonetheless hailed from the rooftops for its melodic magnificence and imaginative arrangements, the album reached the Top 15 in the UK and led to tours of Europe, Australia and America, numerous memorable festival appearances and a sold-out show at London’s Somerset House.
In the time between their debut and follow-up Tales from Terra Firma, Stornoway have, says Briggs, “grown up.” There have been major life changes: marriage, children, new relationships, sudden loss, career crossroads, relocation. If their debut captured the guileless rush of first love contemplated from a teenage bedroom, the follow-up frequently describes a deeper, more complex world and more readily acknowledges the shadow as well as the sun.
Briggs describes Tales From Terra Firma as “an album of stories about rites of passage.” Drawing from influences as varied as Tom Waits, John Adams and David Gilmour, with nods along the way to 19th-century poets John Clare and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it is a multi-textured, hyper-melodic, stirringly emotional piece of work. It is also a fantastic pop record.
They are a band intent on writing their own story to their own exacting specifications, oblivious to trends or outside influence. “We never aspire to be anything other than who we are,” says Briggs. “We’ve never felt we fitted in with a particular music scene, it’s always been about doing our own thing and being ourselves. It is honest music.”
And – honestly – it is wonderful. The title of their second album might place them firmly on solid ground, but in every other respect Stornoway are soaring.