It’s been a long and silent wait since the excitement surrounding Stornoway’s 2010 album Beachcomber’s Windowsill calmed, and touring slowed to an almost-standstill. Number 14 in the UK album chart upon release, and following a 2011 performance on Glastonbury’s hallowed Pyramid Stage, Stornoway’s debut album went from strength to strength, and then, mysteriously, was followed by silence. “We were worried that we may have left it too long and annoyed everyone”, admits Rob Steadman, percussionist of the band and more recently, creator of artwork for the new album. With the March 2013 release of Tales From Terra Firma only weeks away, I quiz Rob about the sound of their second album, what the deal is with their recurring nautical themes, and what on earth they’ve been doing all this time.
Tales From Terra Firma is “almost a journal”, Rob tells me. “The songs are really stories and tales from all of our lives since the first album. It’s our way of updating people”. It seems that the band’s lives have been busier then ever, with writing, recording, and simply growing up from a group of students in a band, into serious adult musicians and artists. Rob reflects on the past few years, from his own return to higher education after his tumultuous A-level years during the height of the band’s debut success, to his brother and fellow band member Oli Steadman’s move from home, to “new relationships, and marriage, and children…we’ve each had some pretty major changes.” He concludes that “the new album really reflects that development of all our lives into adulthood.”
Personal lives and distractions aside, it would appear that this album was being meticulously worked on for a long time. “The way we work is pretty slow moving because we really want the final sound to be exactly as we wanted it…we’re quite perfectionist in that way.” Alongside some more experimental features giving a freshness to the new sound, “from crisp packets, to newspapers, to playing the qanun [a Turkish string instrument]”, Tales From Terra Firma returns again to themes familiar from the first album; the sea and “tales from distant lands”. These ideas have developed and ripened and from their own sense of maturity in their personal lives, comes a more refined sound. “I feel it’s a more mature album….more restrained and thoughtful.” The tracks are longer, encompassing “the huge number of things that we have to say.”
Rob also spoke ardently about his own personal developments and his collaboration with partner Kirini to create the album artwork. What Rob describes as “an amazing process that was a new development for me”, also sounded painstaking, as they “for months had the album on repeat, getting ideas and almost researching”, eventually creating images that acted as “basically a snapshot from each song”. The conversation between music and art returns to ideas of journeys and of the sea: “[the artwork] does have a very nautical theme…all dark blues and blacks”. Rob’s avid interest in visual arts is also apparent in his hopes to use stop-motion animation to create a song video for the band, and has already has posted a few short videos on the band website.
The themes of the album aren’t restricted to Stonoway’s own stories as much as the idea of storytelling itself. Themes of the sea, of dry and distant lands, adventures, salty air and weighty albatrosses, appear to be their medium of telling their stories which, with a UK tour coming early this year to both larger and lesser-known towns, will be shared with a widening audience. “There was great response to the first single “Knock Me On The Head” on Youtube and other sites”, which shows promise, and with confirmation (but details being kept top secret) of some summer music festival appearances, we can look forward to hearing a lot more of Stornoway in the year to come.
Want more Stornoway? Of course you do! Listen to the audio of Rosie’s interview on the Xmedia Music Show here and make sure you pick up a copy of Exeposé next week to read Callum McLean’s interview with Stornoway’s bassist, Oli Steadman.bookmark me