The indie-folk band, who have earned a cult following in their ten years together, announced that they were splitting up after their current run of tour dates. At their Brighton gig, Bassist Oli Steadman told EDWIN GILSON why it was the right time to call it quits. 

Has the finality of your decision become more and more apparent as the tour has gone on, or has it been so hectic and all-consuming that you’ve just been caught up in the ride?

Some of the strangest moments have been realising “hey, this is the last rehearsal”, “this is the last Travelodge”, “this is the last time we forget to turn off at junction 24 for Glasgow” and similar. The less obvious, mundane moments like these are contributing to the overall sense of finality. They also hit you when you’re least expecting them.

Do you find yourself wondering how you’ll feel in Oxford on Sunday, after your last gig? Or would that be a bad idea?

Sure, it’s something we’ve been anticipating for well over six months now. We’ve been focused on ratcheting up the quality of each performance night after night, with the goal that Oxford must be a perfect, unforgettable experience for the fans. But all we can do is plan for the performance itself, and there’s no telling what will happen after, as we leave the stage for good. We’re not sure what to expect.

Why did you decide to split now of all times? I read that you all have taken differing paths (sometimes literally) in your personal lives; did it feel unsustainable to keep the band going in these circumstances?

That’s mostly it - we just needed to face up to the practicalities. One of the toughest things about band life is the toll it takes on family and friends, and, after years of giving ourselves to the road and to the studio, I think we are all happy to have found stability closer to home and are each looking forward to a bit of routine.

Most bands survive for less time than we have (including The Beatles!) and, for those that do, it’s a matter of meticulous long-term planning. We never embraced such things and preferred to focus on the fun and chaos and keep other things going in the background, which is now what’s taking over from the band life.

You’ve obviously touched the hearts of many during your career – has there been a big outpouring of emotion from your fans?

Each night there are a handful of folks for whom the band’s music has provided a life-changing moment, which they relay to us through genuine tears. I’m so happy we’ve given these guys the opportunity to say goodbye in person; the songs have meant more to these people than we’d ever expected when recording them, all those years ago, when it was just for our own pleasure.

Looking back, do you feel like your sound filled a niche in British music? There were a few folk-orientated acts around when you started out, but songs like Zorbing and I Saw You Blink really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. Is it too broad a question to ask why you had this impact?

You’re right, we were certainly seen as part of a community of bands releasing music around 2008-10 under the banner of “Nu Folk”, but really it’s soul, and soulful ballad music in general, that’s inspired us over the years. By the time of [most recent album] Bonxie we’d drawn in so many diverse sounds and rhythms that it’d become hard to draw a single genre over the 3 albums. But yes, I think we feel that it’s filled a niche that’s not covered by any other artist or group of artists.

How was your gig in the town that gave you your name? Were people already familiar with your band up there, or did they attend just because of the novelty?

It was way back in 2010, during a blisteringly cold Hebridean spring. We signed our record deal in the forested shadows of the castle where they filmed the original Wicker Man, surrounded by friends, single malt in hand. I can’t imagine a better way to pay homage to the place that gave us our name. The crowds had turned out for the show, and they welcomed us in for a ceilidh in the town hall, which lasted until sunrise. They all seemed to know our lyrics but maybe that’s the whiskey memory talking.

Will you all continue to write and perform music in different guises from this point on?

Sure, we each have our projects and it’s not hard to find them online. My group Count Drachma will play a few festivals this year and announce its first releases. We won’t be disappearing! See you on the flip-side.