Interview: Stornoway – Unplucked

Stornoway have just released their new EP Unplucked after the successful release of their third full-length album, Bonxie. Thank Folk For That got the chance to speak to them about this record release and why nature is so important to the band…

You’re well known for your acoustic music, but Bonxie was a very electronic album – why did you want to release your acoustic EP Unplucked off the back of your album?

We had been touring using these acoustic versions. Earlier this year we did a series of tours in nature reserves, which we believe is the first time any band has actually done that. And we played unplugged and outdoors against a backdrop of birdsong, so we worked out these acoustic versions of the songs and we’ve done a few of these altered songs at our gigs as well. People have tended to enjoy these versions when we’ve done it live and so we thought, as we’ve worked out these versions, we would go back into the studio and record it.

We have got people that seem to have some anticipation for the EP and we were thrilled with how the album Bonxie was received and the current press we got for that, so we’ve got high hopes that our fans will enjoy it.

Wildlife is something that is very close to your heart – why do you feel that it is so important to you all as a band?

It’s a big inspiration for our song writing. My [Brian] background before the band took off was in nature conservation and ever since I was a little one I have been an outdoorsy person interested in birds and nature. It forms a big part of the song writing process and on this last album on Bonxie we actually went as far as to include field recordings of the outdoors and different species of birds and the natural soundscapes. Beyond that, in our lyrics the outdoors is always there as a backdrop to the human stories in the songs. It’s a part of me and who we are as a band.

Who is it that mainly writes the songs or do you collaborate and write them together?

It’s a mixture but mostly I write the songs. John does a lot of the arranging. It varies. There are a few songs that are written by John on this album, a couple that were collaborative. Basically when we have a demo together, or maybe a rough demo, we gather as a band and we start to work out the full arrangement together in the garage and build it gradually from there until it is ready to record.

I think you have that sound like The Beatles had in their later music – do The Beatles influence you in any way?

It does actually. Personally I’m not an avid fan of it but John our instrumentalist is a huge fan of The Beatles and I think it does have an influence on his arranging. He does a lot of the brass and strings and that side of the arrangements. I think it comes through a little bit there.

What other musicians would you say influence your music?

That’s a good question. Tom Waites has been an inspiration on some of our recent stuff, particularly his brass arrangements and his percussion. I can’t really think of anyone else. With Unplucked we were looking at maybe traditional folk music like, Jackson C Frank and Bert Jansch. They’re definite influences. I don’t know, there is obviously a kind of pop element to the music on this album and Teenage Fanclub have also been an inspiration in terms of guitar pop, as have Welsh bands. I moved up to Wales to write the album and Euros Childs was a big inspiration. He was the frontman of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci back in the day.

My final question for you is what are your plans for the rest of the year and going into 2016?

We are going to do a little tour in a few weeks. A little tour of the Unplucked album and play in churches and in venues where we can do stripped down versions of the songs we have worked out. And that will include some music from our older albums as well, because something we have done throughout our career is to do stripped down versions of our songs. I suppose thinking about creating again. Now it gets to that point in the cycle again where the promotion and touring sort of starts to die down. Back to the writing set!

Bonxie Unplucked is available now, and more information regarding the release and upcoming tour dates can be found at www.stornoway.eu

Questions by Rachel Allman