Famous last words: Brian Briggs

The lead singer of Oxford-based folk-pop band Stornoway tells CW all about tandems, touring and trips along the Thames

I’ll often go cycling if I’m taking a break from songwriting and I haven’t been out all day. There is a nice path along the River Thames in Oxford; you can follow the towpath and get out of town to nearby villages and then come back the other side.

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Part of songwriting is going and playing around with lyrics in my head, more so than melodies. It only really works for certain types of song; you need something that works with the rhythm of cycling. Also, it needs to be a flat bike ride, because if it’s too demanding then I can’t really think about the song.

Cycling features in quite a few of our songs actually. There are references to it in a song called ‘Hook, Line, Sinker’ but just being outdoors and out and about is part of the songs so I suppose 
in a roundabout 
way cycling has a part to play.

We do know someone who did a tour by bike, called Joe Parker. He had a band called Joe Parker and the Mega Hairy Men and he had a trailer with a guitar and a small amp on it. In reality it’s pretty much impossible for us; we like instruments too much.

There is definitely scope for using a bike in our music. We’ve got a couple of songs that involve strange percussion, and when we tour outside of the UK we can’t really excuse taking a big hunk of metal with us so we tend to try and find something different for each show that we can hit with 
a drumstick.

The way cycling works in Oxford is that you have a bike until it gets stolen, and then you get a new one. The last one I had was called Woody, a really good Dawes bike and he got stolen. My whole gate got taken out, which was a bit disappointing.

I do tend to name bikes and I’ve also got a 1984 Renault Trafic campervan called Bernie where I do most of my songwriting. Bernie is quite tall and not very sleek looking, but I can fit bikes in him.

I’ve got a tandem, which I cycle with my wife. I remember our inaugural tandem ride being along by the windy sea wall on the Isle of Purbeck, which wasn’t the best choice because we were extremely wobbly.

My bandmate John [Ouin] has also been on the tandem. He didn’t have a bike for a while because it got stolen, so I had to give him a lift into town.

We’ve talked about using the tandem in a music video to give the cameraman the chance to be in one of the seats. I can see that working, especially with the Oxford-centric theme.

This article was first published in the July 4 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!