Stornoway iTunes Tracks Stornoway Official Website


Cowley in Oxford seemed an unlikely base to name the band Stornoway (as they’d never ventured to the outer Hebrides in Scotland!), but one sensed isolation, yearning and weather forecasts were a factor when Fresher week folkies Brian Briggs (vocals/guitar) and Jonathan Quin (keyboards/strings) met at uni in 2005. Championed by BBC Oxford presenter Tim Bearder, STORNOWAY’s demo of `I Saw You Blink’ was given plenty airtime, while the duo quickly grew into a quartet with the addition of South African-born brothers, Oli (bass) and Rob Steadman (drums); other auxiliary members (including Brian’s brother Adam on trumpet) subsequently appeared from time to time.
While many would compare them to a modern-day INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, or BELLE AND SEBASTIAN sharing a studio with JAMES, singer-songwriter Briggs’ saccharine-sweet songs of summer first came to the attention of 4 a.d. Records, who were presumably impressed by the quartet’s two DIY/indie releases, `Zorbing’ and `Unfaithful’. Deserving a better promotion by the label, the amiable and airy `I Saw You Blink’ should’ve gave them a massive pop hit. However, consolation came through Top 20 parent album, BEACHCOMBER’S WINDOWSILL (2010) {*7}, a debut that could compete with the likes of FLEET FOXES and MUMFORD & SONS. Picture-postcard and gleefully geeky, Briggs’ imagery musings of life in the slow-lane were best emphasized on `The Coldharbour Road’ (very IAN BROWN), `Watching Birds’ and the old-timey `We Are The Battery Human’.
Almost three years in the making, their melding of indie-styled swirls and folk-pop, came through stormy weather report number two, TALES FROM TERRA FIRMA (2013) {*6}. A tad disappointing by comparison, it nonetheless cracked the Top 30; songs such as `Knock Me On The Head’ (penned solely by Quin), `The Great Procrastinator’ and the delightful, lived-in feel of `Farewell Appalachia’, revelling in retro-fied nostalgia.
Probably better suited to the folks at Cooking Vinyl Records, STORNOWAY dished up their third Top 30 serving a la BONXIE (2015) {*7} – the nickname for a hardy bird, the Great Skua, from the Shetland Isles. Funded by PledgeMusic in a record-breaking 4-day stint which collated more than double their request, their fanbase had to be congratulated for their loyalty; the extra spondoolics probably went in securing producer Gil Norton (best-known to PIXIES fans). There was no questioning Brian Briggs’ wistful and heartfelt passion in harmony-laden songs `The Road You Didn’t Take’, `Between The Saltmarsh And The Sea’ and `Heart Of The Great Alone’, while `Get Low’ should’ve graced the singles charts.
Sadly, in October 2016, STORNOWAY announced they would disband after a few farewell gigs; it’d all gone Pete Tong, as they say in parts of Oxford… and er… beyond.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2013-Apr2017

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