Oxford band write for Clash

Ramble, rant or reminisce, this is an artist’s opportunity to pen their own Clash article. This month: Stornoway look back on the year that changed their lives...

“Last Christmas we pulled a giant cracker with one of our favourite DJs, Rob da Bank - who dressed in a pink bunny outfit - at Maida Vale studios in London. While listening to the unhinged sound of an orchestra of kazoo players and a helium choir, we wondered whether this phantasma would somehow set the tone for the year that was to come...

Since that point, there have indeed been many happily strange moments in the world of Stornoway in 2010. After all, this was the year that we finally released our first album, ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. We’ve actually lived with some of the songs on the record for nigh-on five years: we’ve pored over details, obsessed over the tracklisting and got into brief paroxysms of doubt over the tiniest vocal inflection or guitar slide. And that was even before we got to thinking about the artwork. When we finally put it out it in May, it was a strange feeling to allow it to fend for itself at last, but it seems to be faring alright.

A month before, we finally travelled up to our namesake in the Hebrides. Like almost everything that the band has done this year, it was something we’d long spoken of, but it had always seemed a bit of a madcap scheme that would never actually happen. There’s no denying that one of the main reasons we chose the name Stornoway was that, as the capital of the Isle of Lewis, it seemed to conjure up a sense of maritime remoteness. So, as our ferry reached our long-awaited destination, the thought did cross our minds that we might now have to select a new location with a sea-themed moniker - Grimsby perhaps? But after meeting the Stornoway natives and, thanks to a broken-down ferry, experiencing the island in all its untamed beauty, this idea was banished from our minds forever: whilst admittedly we did bribe the crowd at our inaugural gig at the Woodlands Centre by plying them with whisky, the response they gave us couldn’t have been bettered. Then, to cap it all, after the gig, we signed our record deal with 4AD outside amongst the trees.

As for the rest of the year, it would be pretty disingenuous and ungrateful to suggest there have been any lowlights. In between developing a creeping obsession with Armando Ianucci, Travelodges and houmous, it’s been a rush to be playing music in some far-flung places and at a whole raft of UK and European festivals this year. We’ve certainly done more travelling than we ever expected to, and with some great companions: our first UK tour with Beth Jeans Houghton and Hooves Of Destiny in February remains etched on our minds. I could also mention the sunny Positivus Festival in Salacgriva, Latvia, where we found ourselves bathing in the shallow murk of the Baltic Sea, or Electric Picnic in Ireland, where the weather became so wild that the backstage tent was ripped open and we ran for cover, barricading ourselves in Massive Attack’s dressing room and eating all their pies.

As I write, we’re on the brink of a three-week American tour which will take us to Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, LA and beyond. Having had an unforgettable primer in New York during the July heat-wave, we are looking forward to playing in tiny venues again, and to meeting brand new audiences - I guess it might feel a bit like rewinding back to that first tour a mere ten months ago...”

Stornoway are Ollie Steadman (bass), Rob Steadman (drums), Brian Briggs (vox), Jon Ouin (keys and strings)


Follow Clash: