The great skua (Stercorarius skua) is a large seabird, it is sometimes known by the name bonxie. The flight is direct and powerful. Due to its size, aggressive nature and fierce defence of its nest, the great skua has little to fear from other predators. Bonxies are at the top of the food chain. They are certainly a powerful, intimidating and ruthless predator.
The adjectives used to describe the bonxie are probably not those you would normally associate with Stornoway, who will be releasing their third long player, named after this Hebridean seabird on 10th April 2015 through Cooking Vinyl. However for this band, who debuted in 2010 with the 100,000 selling ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’, their new album is certainly one that has taken flight with a trajectory that is focused and commanding.
For the first time the band enlisted a producer to captain the ship and the man in charge was none other than Gil Norton. Noted for his work with Pixies, Foo Fighters, Twin Atlantic, etc. Gil certainly rocked Stornoway’s world and shook them out of their comfort zones; helping them cut to the chase, sizing up the new songs and shaping them with raptor precision.
The band’s passion (and background) for wildlife and birds comes through more, both literally and lyrically, on Bonxie than any other record Stornoway have made but they still retain their sense of fun with arrangements and choice of instruments.
The themes and songs, were precipitated by singer (and Dr. of Ornithology) Brian Briggs’ need to move away to a wilder corner of Britain. He says, “I wanted a shake up and I wanted to feel more connected to the outdoors – I wanted to feel small.”
Bringing the outdoors indoors, the album opens with the contact calls of Brent geese and they are just one of 20 different species of bird whose calls have been recorded into the album.
Whilst Stornoway’s second album ‘Tales From Terra Firma’ was concerned with very personal stories: life’s (and death’s) big questions, Bonxie is far more outward looking. It is infused with a humanistic ideal; a sense of humility and wonderment for the forces of nature, a desire and need for mutual regard and for a respect towards each other and the environment.
The Bonxie campaign has become airborne with first single, ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ out Monday 16th Feb. Winner of the BBC 6 Music Rebel Playlist it has already notched up high praise across the station. The follow-up to this is the high flying ‘Get Low’ which will be released on 10th April the same day as the album.
Other stand out tracks include: the huge, slow groove of epic ‘Man On Wire’ inspired by the 2008 documentary film of the same name in which Philippe Petit walked a high wire between the twin towers in New York; ‘Sing With Our Senses’, is perhaps the most emblematic song of the band’s ethos and the first track for the album recorded with Gil Norton; the epic ‘Heart of the Great Alone’ inspired by an Edinburgh exhibition of Herbert Ponting’s photos of Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole 100 years ago and the wonderful sea shanty that is ‘Josephine’.
Each song on Bonxie is a facet of the album which opens up like an origami bird. It is a construction of nature by humans but each song unfolds as a unique species, shape and call.
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BONXIE by Stornoway out 10th April 2015
1. Between The Saltmarsh and the Sea
2. Get Low
3. Man on Wire
4. The Road You Didn’t Take
5. Lost Youth
6. Sing With Our Senses
7. When We Were Giants
8. When You’re Feeling Gentle
9. Heart of the Great Alone
11. Love Song of the Beta Male