TO most of us, Stornoway is a tiny town on the tiny Isle of Lewis that appears on every shipping forecast.
But if you know your popular music, the name will mean much more.
Stornoway are the latest pop/folk act to be reigning the airwaves – a far cry from the Hebridean island off the Scottish mainland.
But the name was a wise choice, as bassist Oli Steadman explains.
“We wanted a name that sounded like somewhere that was really far away and nautical, we’ve always been into writing about the seaside.” And since forming in 2006, the band’s name has become a staple in the alt-folk world, with several single releases, high-profile appearances and a debut – Beachcomber’s Windowsill – that reached number 14 in the album charts.
Now the band are celebrating the release of second album Tales from Terra Firma.
Oli says: “The album’s really about the ‘bigger picture’ – especially songs like Knock Me On the Head, which wrote for some friends of ours who were going through a really time. The song sounds really upbeat and bouncy and happy but it is actually quite serious in its subject matter. It’s about how sometimes it’s a good idea to take a massive step back and look at the bigger picture.”
“It’s about trying to get on with the big stuff in life like just getting outside in the sun, dancing, spending time with friends and enjoying the world and exploring it.”
The problem of not taking a step back is – Oli believes – endemic to the band’s generation of 20-somethings. “We are battery humans instead – we are obsessed with technology.” This technological phenomenon has also inspired some of the bands, though albeit rather hypocritically. “We have become battery human beings ourselves. I’m on Twitter and Facebook all day doing band stuff. Today I helped a fan with his tickets after he got in touch with us.”
Indeed, the role of musician as solely being an entertainer is no longer. “Ten years ago a band wouldn’t have been able to get involved to the extent of helping a fan with their tickets.”
But administrative and social networking duties aside, the band is excited about its new album. “We’ve spent two years hunched over a computer perfecting it, so it’s a strange feeling now it’s out. This is the ‘difficult second album’ and I am quite nervous but the music scene and music industry changes so fast. In the last 10 years it’s changed so rapidly – chart positions were everything but now it’s different. We’d love to chart but we get a lot of radio play anyway and now there are so many ways of reaching out to fans.”
But Oli looks at the potential reception of the second album in simple terms. “If we can reach out to the people and touch them in different way to the last album then that’s good.” Stornoway’s songwriting ethos is equally straightforward. “We try to sing truthful stuff in a truthful way that’s honest and direct, in a quiet, English, mumbling sort of way,” he laughs.
Stornoway play at The Leadmill this Saturday.