Kevin Cook

Q&A with the breathtaking Burr Island

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Burr Island, a UK duo consisting of Oskar Porter and Tom England, dropped their latest single, ‘Our Home,’ on March 1, 2024, via Left Foot Records. The pair, former actors whose careers were halted by Covid-19 lockdowns, have garnered acclaim from industry icons like Robert Plant and Noel Gallagher, along with support from BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 2, and Radio X. Their first four singles have amassed over 250,000 streams across all platforms. With a debut album and a 2024 tour alongside The Blow Monkeys in the pipeline, Burr Island‘s future looks bright. Influenced by Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Nick Drake, The Beach Boys, and Cat Stevens, the duo draws comparisons to contemporary indie folk acts like Fleet Foxes, Flyte, and Kings of Convenience.

Read our chat with them and stream ‘Our Home’ below.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? 

Tom: We’re both very influenced by the kind of music that our parents were listening to. When Oskar was growing up his dad played a lot of music in the house, 60’s songwriters like Neil Young, Cat Stephens, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zandt etc. I was introduced to The Beatles at quite a young age and I remember playing their 1 album on repeat in the back of the car on my Sony Walkman. There was a scratch on the CD so for years I thought it was ‘The Long and Winding Ro-Road’.

What’s the story behind the name ‘Burr Island’?

Oscar: We are named after ‘Burgh Island’, an island of the coast of south Devon, on which sits a beautiful art-deco hotel where Agatha Christie would often come to write. When the tide is in is completely surrounded by water and only a sea tractor can transport you across from the mainland. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time here as a child as my grandparents ran the hotel from the late 80s to the early 2000s. 

‘Our Home’ is a beautiful idyllic ode to the healing power of nature –  what exactly inspired it and how was it created?

Tom: I was playing ‘Never Going Back Again’, Fleetwood Mac, on guitar and then started playing other simple chords with one of the travis picking techniques they use, adding a bit more swing. The idea was to write a song that simply spreads love and positivity through depicting the abundance of life, whether that be the beauty of the natural world or the power of connection with others. There’s an obvious reference to ‘Our House’ by CSNY and it was definitely a song that was on my mind at the time; it’s got a beautiful simplicity to its lyrics that I think inspired me. It’s saying, what we have is so simply beautiful, I don’t need to say more.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take or rituals you follow when putting music together?

Tom: I am always writing and there’s never a time when we don’t have a new song to work on. The process is the most important part of the ‘job’ for us. We don’t like to set any rules in terms of who writes the lyrics; sometimes we write separately, sometimes together. The general rule for us is to have no rules when it comes to songwriting. It doesn’t help us to force a structure into creativity. Sometimes the lyrics influence the music and vice versa.

What’s life like on the road when you’re touring?

Oscar: Many a long car journey and many an existential questioning. We’ve been best friends for almost 12 years, so luckily the band is built on a foundation of friendship and it just feels like going on a road trip with your best mate, playing the odd gig in a random town. Having been all over the UK,  we’ve got used to the chaotic on-the-move lifestyle and are finally starting to say no to the late night pull of an 11:30pm McDonalds. Also, we think we’ve probably been to every service station in the land. Maybe one day we’ll make a documentary about them.

Which UK city are you most excited to visit on your upcoming tour with The Blow Monkeys?

Oscar: Definitely Stroud. We played there last summer and happened to stumble upon a Jazz festival that happened to be taking place on the day. We sat and drank herbal tea whilst soaking in the sweet sounds of saxophones. We also got a chance to explore the stunning neighbouring countryside. 

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

Tom: This is quite an easy one for us. Robert Plant came to our headline gig just before Christmas and spoke to us afterwards. He said wonderful things. It was so surreal. Still pinching ourselves.

Are there any key non-musical influences on your sound and creative process?

Oscar: I started practising Buddhism in lockdown and that’s definitely woven its way into our songwriting.

Famous last words?

Ciao Ciao!

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