“When I talk about music I get so intense about it,” says Feeder’s singer/guitarist/songwriter Grant Nicholas. “I can’t help myself. I’m so passionate about it.”
This passion is what makes Feeder one of the UK’s best and most popular rock bands. It can be heard, and felt, in the songs that make up their new album ‘The Singles’, a career retrospective that reaches back to 1997 and brings the Feeder story right up to date with three brand new tracks: ‘Save Us’, ‘Burn The Bridges’ and the new single ‘Lost & Found’.
Formed in 1992 by Grant and drummer Jon Lee – two friends from South Wales – Feeder began their steady rise in 1995 after moving to London and recruiting Japanese bassist Taka Hirose. With a powerful and emotive modern rock sound that drew comparison to such critically acclaimed artists as The Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies and Talk Talk, Feeder built a strong fanbase with their debut mini-album ‘Swim’ (1996) and first album proper ‘Polythene’ (1997).
When their second album ‘Yesterday Too Soon’ entered the UK chart at number seven in 1999, it was clear that Feeder had arrived. And the next album, ‘Echo Park’, did even better, peaking at number five in 2001. The band were firmly in the ascendancy when the unthinkable happened. On January 7, 2002, Jon Lee took his own life. Six months later, Grant stated: “We’re carrying on because I think it’s what Jon would have wanted. It just seems tragic to give up now.”
The decision was vindicated with the album ‘Comfort In Sound’, a set of emotionally charged songs, praised by The Guardian as possessing “an unquenchable spirit.” With ex-Skunk Anansie drummer Mark Richardson on drums, Feeder had come through the darkest of times.
The passion for music that Grant talks about has kept them going. It’s always been there, from the band’s earliest days, through all the highs and lows. It was there in Feeder’s most recent album, the graceful and reflective ‘Pushing The Senses’, which reached number two in the UK in 2005. And it’s there in the new songs included on ‘The Singles’; songs that, in Grant’s words, “hint at where we’re going.”
Feeder have sold 3.5 million albums and have appeared as special guests of U2, REM, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Rolling Stones all over the world. The band have played countless headlining tours and triumphed at all the major festivals – several appearances will be announced soon for summer 2006. And there’s much more to come. ‘The Singles’ celebrates the past and points to the future of a band whose belief in their music is undeniable.
Grant Nicholas on Feeder - The Singles, track by track:
Come Back Around
“We began working on this song when Jon was alive. We’d jammed it. I had the music, the melody, but I didn’t have any lyrics. After what happened, that inspired me to finish the song. I wanted us to come back with a rock song, something that had an impact, but I also wanted it to have emotional depth. And it was important to me to keep that song because we’d started it with Jon.”
“It’s kind of ironic that this was such a big hit for us because I was going to give it away to an American band who needed a single. I just wasn’t into the song – it was too personal. It sounds pretty wacky and throwaway but it was written when I was going through a bad time, separating from somebody. So… why is it called Buck Rogers? I wanted this spacey kind of sound mixed in with heavy guitars. We had a conversation about Buck Rogers one night and… it just stuck!”
“We were trying to do something different with the Pushing The Senses album. Shatter was one of the rockier songs we left off it because we didn’t want to fuck with the overall feel of the album. We used Shatter for a b-side and it was in this Russian film Nightwatch – a cult horror movie. Our fans heard it, loved it, and wanted it to be the next single, so they petitioned for it through our website. Sometimes it’s difficult picking the right singles, and we value what the fans think.”
Just The Way I’m Feeling
“It’s one of the best songs I’ve done, but we nearly didn’t do it. I wrote it right at the end of making Comfort In Sound, and our producer Gil Norton said he wasn’t sure we really needed another mid tempo song. But when we played it, we all thought that it definitely did have something. Lyrically it’s quite dark but it’s still an uplifting song. This was the single that really made the album a success. It’s the kind of song I’d like us to be remembered for.”
Lost & Found
“I’d never want Feeder to become predictable, and it felt right to do something with a strong pop sensibility. When I was a little kid I loved pop music and growing up, I listened to a lot of 70s rock and punk, and new wave bands like The Cars, and all that stuff had strong melodies. This song is really catchy but quite heavy as well, it’s got a real energy to it: shouty, almost yobby. It’s an urban love song. It’s about when you’re trying to meet girls when you’re young and all you end up doing is going into town and getting drunk!”
Just A Day
“I always thought this song could be a hit, but we only released it as a single after it got picked for Sony’s Gran Turismo game and we had loads of interest in it. By then the song was a couple of years old and it had already been out as a b-side, but it became our biggest single ever! It paid for my greenhouse! Well, it would have done if I’d got one… And the video was the most popular we’ve ever done. It’s fans singing the song, like they’re on You’ve Been Framed. It could have been terrible but it’s something that people can really relate to.
“That was the turning point for the band, a big song for us. It’s a really youthful song. I had a John Lennon thing going on in my head when I wrote it. The first time I played it to my girlfriend, she started crying. I was like, It’s not that bad! There’s a kind of frailty in the song. I was never into that macho rock thing. For me, that was the other side of what we were and what I am as a writer. High was played at Jon’s funeral. His parents chose it because it was one of his favourite songs. It was a nice moment.”
Comfort In Sound
“It’s a song that summed up how I was dealing with Jon’s death. But I also felt it was how a lot of people feel about music, how it helps them get over whatever shit is in their lives at a certain time. You do find something in music, emotionally. I listen to sad songs when I’m in a sad mood. Everyone does. That’s why I love music. What I do, what we do, what any band does, it does affect people. I get letters from people saying that a Feeder song really helped them, and I feel the same about songs I hear by other people. The first time I listened back to Comfort In Sound, I was crying my eyes out. I think I had a kind of weird nervous breakdown making that record without even realising it, but I was so driven to do something. I feel pretty lucky to have music to fall back on.”
Feeling A Moment
“For me, this is Just The Way I’m Feeling part two. That’s why I kept the word ‘feeling’ in the title. I try to do this a lot. I always liked the way some of the Beatles’ songs seemed like a continuation of previous songs. I felt I needed another song to finish what I was saying with Just The Way I’m Feeling. It has the same emotion, the same dynamics. I always worry that when I talk about lyrics that people will go, Oh, it’s about Jon again. I get a bit paranoid about it. Feeling A Moment is about Jon, but it’s like the next chapter – how you try to recover. The lyrics say, “I’m just like you” – a way of saying that everybody’s dealing with shit, I’m not alone. It was making the song more universal, more open.”
Burn The Bridges
“It’s a new song that’s classically Feeder, in the same area as Come Back Around. Right now I’m feeling very inspired, I have a lot of ideas, and I was thinking about the new songs from a live point of view. That’s very important in terms of rock songs. We’ve played this live and it really works, it’s such a simple, direct song. Songs like this are a very important part of what we are as a band. It’s about someone who puts up with you even though you fuck things up sometimes. We’ve all been there.”
Tumble & Fall
“We recorded this on acoustic guitars with a live vocal and that’s what’s on there – we bunged everything else on afterwards. Again, sonically, there’s a link to the past – this, in my head, is High part two. A few people were shocked because it was the first single from Pushing The Senses and it wasn’t a heavy song, but I felt it was important that people didn’t feel they were buying a heavy record. It was something new and different.”
Forget About Tomorrow
“If I had to say, hand on heart, what’s the best song I’ve ever written, this is it. I always wanted to do the big string arrangement, and this song had that atmosphere for it. I put my head on the block with this – I said I wanted a 23-piece orchestra, that it had to be this massive fucking thing. Hearing it the first time with the strings on it was unbelievable. It blew me away – one of the best moments of my life. The song is about moving forward, about being positive. It was written at a point when I realised I didn’t have to feel guilty about moving forward without Jon. We had some great times together, and he’s there with me in those memories. I feel him around. I don’t want him to go away.”
“I’m really shit on piano but I did write this song on a little Rhodes piano in my living room. I wanted to test myself. It does piss me off that if you play piano people say ‘Coldplay’. I think Coldplay are a fantastic band, but what about all the other bands who did it before, like Queen or The Beatles? The melody is almost like a little nursery rhyme but it really works with the lyrics, which are about how we all need someone to be with. Sometimes it’s hard to let people know you feel. That’s not very rock ‘n’ roll is it? Actually, it is! Most rock ‘n’ roll songs are love songs anyway.”
Pushing The Senses
“This has a bit of an REM feel about it. I’m not saying I was trying to rip them off… well, maybe I was! The riff has a real bounce but it’s not over-heavy. I love to really push the pedal right down sometimes, but I don’t want to do really heavy music unless I really mean it. It’s funny – we did a version of Everybody Hurts for the War Child charity, and when we toured with REM I really wanted to give a copy of it to Michael Stipe, but I worried that he might think it was shit! We’ve done loads of stuff with War Child, and I feel even more strongly about it now I am a dad.”
“It’s a bit of an anthem, this one. I haven’t gone mad or born again Christian or anything, but I like the feeling of unity in the chorus. I want people to feel like part of the song. It’s a very hopeful song, and it’s got more guitar solos on than any other Feeder song. It has almost a gospel feel to the chorus.”
Seven Days In The Sun
“This is a silly, fun song. It’s meant to be humorous – the video is like a Carry On film! I love The Police and they had some really silly videos. I just felt we needed a little humour in our music. You can possibly take yourselves too seriously and this song broke the ice. The whole thing is very tongue in cheek: 18-30s goes rock. Maybe subconsciously I was thinking, I need a holiday!”
“Another humorous song, inspired by our first tour of America. We were drinking all sorts of stuff on the bus, even medicines to help get some sleep! The lyrics are all flashbacks. It’s a song that brings back a lot of great memories, and we still end up playing it now.”
“There’s a real 80s new wave thing about this. The Pumpkins did that on 1979, kind of like New Order. And we captured that. Maybe it was a little too early for a song like that – now, it would fit right in with all the new wave influenced stuff.”
Yesterday Went Too Soon
“It’s weird, but I sound a bit cockney on this. I was a bit knackered when I recorded the vocal – too many gigs. I was really belting it out. I thought the song needed that real emotion. It’s out of tune, half of it, but we went for that hand-held mike thing, and it really brought out that performance in me. I just felt the whole delivery needed to be right upfront. It’s got a bit of attitude to it. That got us on to Top Of The Pops for the first time. I was so nervous I could hardly think straight.”
“It’s a nice way to finish the album, because this is the song that got us a record deal. We were always a heavy band but we had that acoustic element from day one. We did a gig in London in a club, and I played this song with an acoustic guitar borrowed from the support band. I just walked on solo after our set and played it – and that clinched it for us getting a deal. I felt it was important to have this on the album because even though it’s an old song, it kind of points the way towards what we’ve done in the last few years.”