IT has been a riot speaking with…
Firewoodisland about their past work and the stunning new single, Dearest Brother. Their current single is among their finest work so I was eager to learn about their progression and how they have come on as a band. They talk about the musicians that have helped shape their own talent; I hear more about their future plans. Dearest Brother was recently played by D.J. Mark Radcliffe – I ask the band what that felt like.
Firewoodisland have been making music for a bit but are preparing their debut album - so I ask what we can expect from the record. They tell me about what Bristol is like as a base; whether they will get any time to chill before the year is through - each member picks a treasured song to spin at the end…
BAND PHOTOS: Matt Gutteridge
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello. We are good!
Feeling alive..if you can imagine what it's like to run a marathon at the same time as eating the best cake in the world - that's a bit how we all feel. We're all super-pumped, but super busy, and sleep is a sweet, sweet thing - but so is being awake…because it's crazy!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are Firewoodisland. We play Mountain-Pop. If you're into Indie-Pop music with an epic, mountain-grandeur feel; that is what we aim to accomplish! To compare to other bands, we are often likened to Imagine Dragons; Of Monsters and Men; Fleet Foxes etc.
We are a four-piece, comprised of wacky Norway-boy Stian Vedøy; crazy Snowdonian Abi Eleri; naked pike-bait Dylan Jones and Steve (A.K.A. ‘Steeva the Diva’).
Before I go on; what is the background to the band-name, ‘Firewoodisland’?
Firewoodisland is actually Stian's surname: ‘Vedøy’ translated to English.
We liked the sound of It; it's got a nice ring and we thought: "Hey, that would make a cool band name!" It was a natural choice because Stian actually started out playing and writing music by himself - and he acquired the rest of us on his journey.
He's always gone under ‘Firewoodisland’ - so none of the rest of us really got a say. HA!
Dearest Brother is the new single. Tell me about its origins and how it came together…
This is actually a funny story!
The song was inspired by a certain band member...we won't be mean and say who... but they went through a period of many, many mishaps - and it inspired Stian to write about watching a friend getting hurt by life choices; wanting to reach out and help - but needing that person to help themselves back.
The whole situation is totally fine, now, though! Nobody is hurt, anymore - and we are all happy as Larry!
It was played by Mark Radcliffe on his BBC Radio 6 Music show. How did that make you feel hearing that?!
It was quite surreal...
Twitter made some noise, so we naturally looked to see what was going on - and next thing; we're tuning in to hear ourselves on the radio at prime-time, Monday. If our friend wasn't around, we would have burnt the bacon! I think we're all still very excited about it and looking forward to what's next for us.
Dearest Brother has already collected a lot of love and buzz. Does that give you encouragement and reward?
Of course, it does. We are all very encouraged.
Band practice has been really good fun the last couple of weeks; full of buzz and banter...as well as working hard for our shows in London, Bristol and Bath later this month, of course! It's great to see hard work paying off.
We have had this song in the pipeline for a long time and been itching to release it. Keeping secrets is hard!
IN THIS PHOTO: Dearest Brother/Soldier Hahnemuhle Archival art prints by Firewoodisland'sAbi Eleri
There are embers of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver in your music. Who are the artists that have inspired you? What kind of music were you all raised on?
Collectively, when we started out we were really inspired by Mumford & Sons - and we have always been inspired by Justin Vernon as a songwriter and producer. OMAM have been an inspiration and, in particular, their journey as a band. We also have big love for Jónsi.
More recently, we are digging Aurora, Oh Wonder; Ásgeir and Amber Run.
Stian was brought up on the hip beats of Michael Jackson and the soaring sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra. Unfortunately, he stopped listening to Michael Jackson because he heard a rumour Michael loved all the women on the planet - and he thought he'd fall in love with his mum! But, his biggest inspiration through his whole life has been Norwegian singer-songwriter Thomas Dybdahl - who he's seen in concert many times.
Abi grew up convinced that Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel's song, Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), was all about her. Queen and Bowie filled the car on long journeys as a family. Bat for Lashes was a favourite when she found her own feet.
Steve was brought up listening to the haunting sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. From a musical family; many nights were spent jamming out the tunes of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Dylan grew up with the Eagles and listened to Jack Johnson. His first album was Kasabian by Kasabian!
Bristol is your home. Is it a great city to make music in? What is the local scene like?
Bristol is awesome. There is always something going on; friends and fans want to come out and hear live music; there are loads of musicians and artists in the city as well as some great places to play. For Dylan, it's always been home: for the rest of us, it quickly became home.
We really enjoy being here…
Stian Vedøy. You moved to Cardiff and started Firewoodisland as a solo venture. How did you meet the other guys and get the band fused?
I moved to Cardiff for university back in 2010 - and I actually met Abi because, on my first night in Cardiff, I broke her guitar; playing it too enthusiastically in the Common Room at Halls! We met Steve a few months later, but we were never really a band…we occasionally played together. After a year in Cardiff, my mum was nagging me to put one of my songs up on this Norwegian website daily; so I did it to shut her up...
Life went on as normal and I forgot about the website, until four months later, I get an email saying: “Congrats, you are a regional finalist". That is how we ended up playing at Bandwagon Norge and coming runner-up for a record deal with Warner Music Norway.
Firewoodisland became a band after that - and Dylan joined that journey when we moved to Bristol a couple of years ago.
That was back in late-2013. How has the music changed and what have been the biggest changes since then would you say?
We would say the sound has definitely developed...
We started off down a more Acoustic-Folk-y road and moved to the multi-instrumental-synth-infused-Mountain-Pop. Everything has gotten bigger: the sound is more atmospheric. We moved our lives to Bristol, where we met Dylan - which was also a big game-changer.
Stian grew a beard, finally!
IN THIS PHOTO: Cold Weather Company
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Stian's most influential album would be Thomas Dybdahl's Stray Dogs
It was a huge inspiration during his teens when there was a lot of terrible Pop around in Norway. It was the first album he saved up and bought with his own money - and was the album that made him plunge into writing his own songs.
For Abi; it would be The Corrs’ In Blue
Although it is not her favourite Corrs album; it was the first Corrs album she heard and lead her to her first-ever concert: The Corrs in Liverpool (in 2003). These guys were one of her favourites growing up - and have seen her through adolescence.
For Steve, it would be Eagles - When Hell Freezes Over
Because he discovered them in Africa. It was his sound backdrop to a life-shaping, epic-adventure year.
Dylan's album-biggie would be I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose by Bombay Bicycle Club
It's got some bangers - and it helped him survive flying the nest.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Keep fighting the fight…and pushing.
Don't compare yourselves to other bands because everyone's journey is unique. Get yourselves a great manager who knows their stuff. Take advantage of all the online platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Get on BBC Introducing because they are a bunch of massive dudes: there are so many opportunities out there...
You've never been able to do more for yourself, before. Connect with other musicians and bands - and play shows together. Work with people; not against them. Always be polite and friendly to everyone.
Make sure you love what you are doing.
Do you have gigs coming up? Where can we come catch you play?
Yes, we do, as a matter of fact! We are in London's Servant Jazz Quarters on Monday, 16th October; in Bristol's Exchange on Saturday, 21st October - and in Bath's The Nest on Saturday, 28th October.
These are our ‘Dearest Brother release shows’ - so we are very excited about these.
Christmas is approaching. Do you all have plans already or will you be busy working?
Probably a bit of both: definitely some relaxing and lots of eating. We have a band Christmas do each year... a bit of a tradition with a Secret Santa. This is in the pipeline and is always a blast. Our manager Nick, always receives either something Star Wars-related (or Lego)…
If the present is both - double brownie points!
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Stian: Rain Down on Me - Thomas Dybdahl
Abi: Breathless by The Corrs
Steve: Your Body Is a Wonderland by John Mayer
Dylan: Turn & Leave by Samantha Lindo