Stornoway add some polish to their indie folk charm

Stornoway - Jonathan Quin, Rob Steadman, Brian Briggs, Oli Steadman

Stornoway - Jonathan Quin, Rob Steadman, Brian Briggs, Oli Steadman - Credit: Archant

What do you get if you cross indie pop folk with one of the most renowned British rock producers? A different sound, naturally, and one which fans of Stornoway will hear at the band’s first headline gig at the Roundhouse.

For singer and guitarist Brian Briggs, keyboard player Jonathan Ouin, bassist Oli Steadman and his younger brother Rob on drums, it’s a long way from their early days gigging in Oxford.

They’ve joined forces with Gil Norton whose past collaborations has been with bands such as the Foo Fighters, Pixies and Feeder.

“We knew we were interested in working with someone for our new album to introduce something different,” says Briggs. “Gil turned out to be keen to do something a bit less rock and he’s been a really good influence for us. Not only has he set it all up, he’s also kept it simple and fresh and cut off all the flab from the demos. It’s been quite refreshing to work with him and have that extra opinion in the room.”

The band is two-thirds of the way through their as yet un-named third album, due out early next year, which follows the critical success of their first, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, and their second, Tales from Terra Firma, and also a mini-album, You Don’t Know Anything.

“The sound is still very much acoustic and electric. It’s the same kind of arrangements and lyrical backdrops to songs, but it’s a bit kind of – I don’t want to say professional – a bit of a step up, polished.”

Briggs and Ouin met in 2005 while at Oxford University and from that moment the band has grown organically. They advertised for a bass player and only Oli Steadman replied.

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“The drummer process was more drawn out and painful,” remembers Briggs. “At that stage Rob was only 15. We went through six different drummers, after which time Rob was old enough. He was definitely the coolest guy in school back then.”

Unsurprisingly, they have eclectic tastes in music. “We started experimenting with vaguely reggae things, we did some jazzy things and gradually worked out what we were best at. We still like to try a wide spectrum and a huge range of different instruments. Jon is one of those people who can pretty much play anything and that’s quite a useful thing to have in the band.”

It’s their fans, however, who are always foremost in their mind. Stornoway has joined forces with PledgeMusic, offering followers the chance to not only pre-order the album but also pledge money for more unique items such as drum skins, handwritten lyrics or experiences such as zorbing with the band (rolling down a hill in a giant transparent ball, for those who don’t know) or birdwatching with Briggs – a keen ecologist before musical success took over.

“It allows us to involve our fans in the whole process of making the album, to reconnect with them, spread the word that it’s on its way. That way we can feel in more control of everything: the plan for our music and how it turns out – to do things our own way, following our own vision. It’s gone really well; we’ve quickly smashed our initial target of pre-order sales. It’s allowed us to do things the way we wish to do them. Fans can pledge for tickets to the Roundhouse.”

They are “plotting”, Briggs says, “working out some surprises” for the Roundhouse gig on Wednesday

“It’s the first time we’ve headlined a gig there,” he continues. “We’ve been there twice before as a supporting act but never headlined, so we’re definitely trying to work out some ways to make it as special as possible, with new songs, extra musicians and I also like to fill the gaps between songs with strange facts or trivia, so I’ll have to do some research about Camden and the Roundhouse!”

Stornoway play the Roundhouse on Wednesday. For more information, visit