Quick note before I start this: This is going to be a very long post, with lots and lots of photos but it’s a nice happy one with lots of great memories for me which was really fun to write 🙂
For those of you who follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, please do! I will love you forever!) you might have seen that I’ve been posting A LOT about one of my favourite bands, Stornoway, recently.
I first discovered Stornoway back around 2009 or 10 when I was around 15. I found a couple of their videos on Youtube of live performances and their video for Zorbing and instantly fell in love. Brian has such a distinctive voice and their sound is both catchy and super-easy to listen to.
Living in Sheffield at the time I had no chance of being able to see them perform so I listened to these 3 or 4 songs of theirs, that I had access to online, over and over!
When their first album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, came out in May 2010 I was counting down the days and left sixth form early to travel over 50 minutes via train to Sheffield to the only shop where I knew I’d definitely be able to get a copy. Watching Birds became an instant favourite and that whole album became the soundtrack that got me through my A Levels.
For either my 18th or 19th birthday my parents got me my first Stornoway t-shirt and it’s still one of my favourites today. This weekend I was wearing it ahead of their final ever tour, but I’ll talk more about that in a moment… for now, here’s my outfit:
Tales From Terra Firma
As I started my second year of uni at Warwick, Stornoway released their second album, Tales from Terra Firma.
This was a pretty rough time for me because I’d just changed course from Biomed to Business, and I was living in an awful house with an awful landlord in a completely different area from all my friends.
I was really lonely, some of the modules were completely out of my comfort zone (to this day I still cannot do economics) and it was seriously tough. I was so unhappy but Tales from Terra Firma was one of the albums that really helped me through it. It was the soundtrack to all-nighters and the long walks to and from campus.
You Don’t Know Anything
In my third year of uni things started to get a lot better. Then, in November 2013 me and my best friend James got tickets for me to finally see Stornoway live in Birmingham. Finally! Even now, it’s still one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had!
I was right at the front, I got to take photos, they played loads of songs from Tales from Terra Firma and their new mini-album You Don’t Know Anything which I hadn’t actually heard yet at the time.
I remember just being in awe of them because up until that point I don’t think I’d quite realised just how creative some of their music was. They literally used things like a sawing a plank of wood on stage or hitting an axe against a block of wood as part of the music.
Afterwards James waited around with me while I bought the new album and then I got to meet the band and pretty much forgot how to speak. They signed my CD, let me take a photo with them (no judging at how young and little I look please, I was only 20!) and then I literally bounced and squealed all the way back to the hotel while James just laughed at me.
Part way through my third year of uni I was feeling a bit lost; I had another year of my business degree left at Warwick but pretty much all but 2 or 3 of my friends were graduating that year. I had no idea where I was going to live, who I could live with or anything. So, on a whim I applied for a job I saw on the WBS site, it was a marketing role for an online book retailer based just outside Oxford.
Within 2 weeks I’d done online tests, been for an interview and been offered the job and some how I was planning a move to Oxford in a couple of months!
So around July 2014 I moved to Oxford which just happened to be exactly where Stornoway formed and suddenly all the places I’d heard in their music became real; I lived 2 minutes from Cowly, I went to gigs and pubs in Jericho, I went to the ‘Covered Market where the shoppers shiver‘.
In January 2015 I found out Brian was playing in The Cellar, one of my favorite venues in Oxford, so obviously I wanted to go and I dragged my friend Matt along with me who’d moved to Oxford around the same time as me to start his PhD. Matt hadn’t listened to much Stornoway before that night but he was soon converted and became as big a fan as me!
I didn’t take many photos that night, just a couple of blurry little things on my compact:
A month or so later I saw Brian play a little set again at my local community center one Sunday afternoon, not 2 minutes from my house. It was lovely and that was also the day I discovered The Dreaming Spires who are also awesome!
It was around this time they announced their third album, Bonxie, and it was due to come out just 2 days after my birthday! I was so excited, especially after hearing Brian play a couple of the new songs!
Of course, I pre-ordered the album and was lucky enough to receive it a couple of days early so it actually arrived on my 22nd birthday which was a pretty awesome present and the guys were lovely enough to send me a little birthday tweet which was a lovely little surprise to wake up to 🙂
As soon as the dates were announced, I immediately got tickets with James to see them on the Bonxie tour back at uni at Warwick Arts Centre but then I also got tickets from one of the guys I worked with to see them in Reading as well. I ended up seeing them on the second and last night of the tour which was pretty incredible.
The Reading gig was so much fun and probably had the best lighting of all the times I saw them which made the photos pretty awesome! 🙂
This was also when I got my Bonxie t-shirt and the band singed my setlist from the gig 🙂
At Warwick Arts Centre, the guys were clearly more tired than at the Reading gig and who could blame them?! But they still put on an incredible show and I loved every minute of it.
Around the end of September 2015 I moved back to Leamington Spa to finish my final year at Warwick Uni.
Around the time they brought out Bonxie Unplucked, I headed back down to Oxford for the night to see them play at St John the Evangelist Church, just down the road from my old house! 🙂 It was a brilliant night and here are a couple of videos and photos:
Then Stornoway sadly announced that they’d be splitting up and going their separate ways but would be ending with one final tour. I quickly grabbed tickets to see them in Oxford on the final night, which was this Sunday.
So that’s why I’ve been thinking back over all my Stornoway memories and the incredible influence their music has had on my life.
Sunday night was absolutely incredible; they opened with Coldharbour Road, played an incredible acoustic version of November Song and Get Low, played a perfect cover of Don’t Your Forget About Me and then went into Watching Birds, and the whole evening was just perfect.
Afterwards, we met the guys again and Rob, Jon and Oli were lovely enough to take a photo with me 🙂
My photos from the night weren’t the best but I love them for the memories I’ll always have thanks to them.
I know a lot of people always criticise people who take photos of everything but I’ve worked as a photographer, I’ve been photographing gigs both for fun (like these!) and professionally (don’t worry the photos were much better than these!) since 2009. For me, I just find everything more fun when I have a camera with me. I love taking photos and I love being able to capture memories exactly the way I want and the way I remember them.
Just to finish up, I know this has been a super-long and pretty self-indulgent post, but I just want to end by encouraging you all to go out and give Stornoway’s music a listen, they really are fantastic, talented guys.
Their music has been such a big part of my life for the last 8 years and I’m so grateful for that! I really do wish all these guys the best of luck for the future and in everything they do 🙂