Stornoway have come a long way

The members of Stornoway, who aren't actually from the Western Isles
The members of Stornoway, who aren't actually from the Western Isles

They may be called Stornoway, but this four-piece hail from Oxford and have just launched their new EP and are about to tour the UK.

Frontman Brian Briggs calls Llangenydd on the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales home.

He and his wife moved there in April, realising a lifelong dream of living in the countryside.

But born in Bristol, Briggs moved to Oxford when he was 18 to start university, where he met future bandmate Jonathan Ouin during Fresher’s Week. They later put out an advert for a bass player and drummer to join them, answered by brothers Oli and Rob Steadman.

Stornoway was born, named after the small Scottish town on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides that features in all BBC weather reports.

Briggs stayed in Oxford for the rest of his 20s while he worked towards his PhD. Ouin, meanwhile, has a Masters in Russian literature and worked as a translator after graduating, and Brian’s brother Adam, who joins the band when they play live, is a doctor. Oli has a science degree and Rob, the youngest member of the band by a few years, turned down a place at Birmingham University as they signed their record deal with 4AD, shortly after he finished his A-levels. After gaining his PhD - specialising in duck ecology - Briggs, now 33, worked monitoring reptiles. Thankfully, he had an understanding boss.

“He played in a covers band and always dreamed of being in a big band, so when he saw that we were on our way up, he was fine with time off when I needed it.”

He credits his and Ouin’s first careers with grounding them - so when they were given an advance by their label, they didn’t go on a wild spending spree - and instilling a strict work ethic on the band.

Their debut album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, was released in 2010 and charted at number 14. It’s since been certified silver, meaning sales of at least 60,000. Their follow-up album, Tales From Terra Firma, followed in March this year and was equally well-received, even if Briggs believes they waited too long to release it.

Stornoway have just released a new EP, You Don’t Know Anything.

“We’re playing at the Barbican in London on the last night of the tour.

“We popped in to have a look around recently, and a band called The Watersons were rehearsing, with Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and Martin Carthy.

“It’s not always going to be that starry, I don’t think, but it was really nice to see, and a reminder of everything we’ve achieved,” says Briggs.