Interview // Feeder
Originally published in the Irish Sun on August 3.
“We’ve been going almost 20 years now. Somebody told me that recently and I was quite shocked,” says Feeder frontman Grant Nicholas ahead of the Welsh rockers’ twin dates in Dublin and Cork this weekend.
“People talk about the whole grunge scene, but we were doing that even what that whole scene started, but we were just on the wrong side of the water. That exploded into such a big thing. That kind of sound – which for me is a mixture of punk rock, 70s rock and pop music – is what I hear when I hear that ‘90s music and our own band as well.
“That’s the kind of music that I like and that influenced the band and myself when we were growing up. I think we have moved on, tried different things and tried to make each record different in its own way. I think where we’re at now feels comfortable, and I don’t mean that in a lazy way. It just feels like the sort of music we should be making after the history we’ve had.”
Feeder’s two decades have been eventful ones, ranging from the highs of platinum records and a string of top 20 singles to the low point when founding drummer Jon Lee took his own life at the height of their success.
“A lot has changed in my life since I wrote the first album – I’m obviously older, I’ve got two young kids now – and that affects you as a writer. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs through the years and on the positive side that’s inspired me to write in areas I didn’t feel qualified to or didn’t know enough to about to write about before.”
Rather than take time out following Lee’s death, Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirosi regrouped with former Skunk Anansie drummer Mark Richardson to record their most personal and commercially successful album to date, 2002’s Comfort in Sound.
Richardson left the band in 2009 for the Skunk Anansie reunion, and his place in the band has been filled by two alternating session drummers – Karl Brazil and Damon Wilson – and Nicholas likens their fluid line-up to US rock behemoths Queens of the Stone Age.
“We’re not looking for a full-time drummer at the moment. There are quite a few bands like that. I think there are only two full-time members in Queens of the Stone Age. It’s a similar sort of thing to what we’re doing – I think that’s a healthy thing. It helps keep us on our toes.”
Nicholas acknowledges that this is a challenging time for traditional rock music – particularly the kind of radio-friendly pop rock that Feeder excel in – but they have found an unlikely source of publicity.
A memorable viral and TV ad for Lucozade depicts English band the James Cleaver Quintet covering Feeder’s 1999 hit ‘Buck Rogers’ while rolling down a hill and, despite not featuring in the ad themselves, the band saw the track surge back up the download charts in the months that followed.
“They wanted to use our version originally but we weren’t sure if that was the right thing to do, and we were a bit nervous about it. So our manager asked could they get a band to do a cover, and we were like cool. It worked out really well for us – it put our version back in the rock chart because everybody started buying the original version again which was kind of bizarre.”
With radio losing ground to online streaming and labels downsizing across the board, it’s as difficult as ever for a rock band to make headway on the radio, but Feeder have managed to hold their own in spite of all the challenges.
“It’s all about radio play for a band like ourselves – people just really need to know that it’s out there, and I think a lot of mainstream people don’t necessarily read magazines so the only way they’ll find out is either online or hearing the single on the radio.
“It’s very hard for rock at the moment. It’s not a great time for bands like ourselves, but there is some rock being played here and there. It is hard, but with half the major labels going bust at the moment you’re hardly better off on a major.
“Obviously if you’ve got the right label behind you with the right album you’ll get a little bit of an extra push and there’s a bit more money in the pot. A lot of bands like ourselves have their own labels now and it’s the best way forward for us at this moment in time.
“For a band that have been going for almost 20 years to have such a healthy fan base, it doesn’t happen very often. That’s down to the power of the internet as well – most of the kids I talk to don’t even listen to the radio, so they’re obviously hearing it somewhere.”
Nicholas is tickled by the idea that a decade-old single can make such a splash at a time when bands like his are being squeezed out of the traditional airwaves.
“It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? The amount of singles we’ve released but it took people that long to find out about us. We’ve always been a bit of a cult band, and we’ve never really bowed to the pressure to do things a certain way. We didn’t really play the whole ‘music’ game.
“As long as people find out about the band. We’d had some radio success before Buck Rogers came along. I think people forget that. It’s just a bizarre track that seemed to cross over. I think people just remember it. It’s the simple ones that seem to connect with people.”
Ahead of shows in Dublin’s Academy tonight and Cork’s Indiependence on Saturday evening, Nicholas jokes that he’s had his worst post-gig hangovers in Ireland and – curiously – in notoriously reserved Japan.
“When I do shows, my worst hangover is either Japan – it’s the whole time difference it just gets crazy out there – or Ireland. The shows in Japan are crazy early – they start about seven or eight and you’re basically finished by about half eight –so you’ve got the entire evening to get drunk!”
Feeder play Dublin’s Academy on Friday, August 3 and Indiependence Festival in Mitchelstown on Saturday, August 4.