The soul of England

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NOT many bands use weather forecasts as PR.

But for Stornoway - contemporary interpreters of English folk music - its name is on every single weather forecast, every day of the week.

“When we were choosing our name we liked that about ‘Stornoway.” says bassist Oli Steadman.

“And 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 is celebrating the release of its sophomore - Tales from Terra Firma. “The album’s really about the ‘bigger picture’ - especially songs like Knock Me On the Head, which we wrote for some friends of ours who were going through a really bad 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 - Steadman believes - endemic to the band’s generation of twentysomethings. “We are battery humans instead - we are obsessed with technology.”

This technological phenomenon has also inspired some of the band’s work, 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 is no longer +solely being an entertainer. “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 ten 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 Steadman 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.

“We see ourselves as ‘English Soul’, if you like. We play a lot of traditionally-constructed melodies,” he says.

However, while Stornoway’s sound is rooted in organic-sounding folk, the band has recently surrendered some of its material for remixing.

“We were never ‘cool’ enough to have stuff remixed but we are having some remixed now - it will be great to hear a folky melody with a hip beat over it.”

For now though, it’s all about touring material from the second album and being aware of the bigger picture. And nowhere is this philosophy more powerful than the band’s cover, which shows a boy’s head in the sea looking at the moon.

“There’s a limited edition CD where you get a free pull-out poster and that shows much more sea. That’s more fitting,” he says. “It really shows how big the bigger picture is.”

Stornoway play The Leadmill Saturday.