Back with their strongest album in eons, Feeder have a lot to be optimistic about. Coming hot on the heels of 2017’s ‘Best of’, the band; singer / guitarist Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose are riding the crest of a fresh bout of energy, that started with their comeback ‘All Bright Electric’ release in 2016. We sat down with Grant for a chat about ‘Tallulah’, and hear EXCLUSIVELY about plans to celebrate 20 years of ‘Comfort in Sound’. “I shouldn’t be telling you this!”, says Grant. Pushing the senses; Eamon O’Neill.
How are you today Grant?
Yeah, good thanks. We just came back from a Japan tour, and we were in Singapore before that. We went off to do a show there and that went really well, so that was really encouraging, so hopefully we’ll go back and do a bit more in Singapore. Obviously, the Japan tour was great. We got some free tickets to go and see The All Blacks against South Africa as well, so that was a result!
Leading up to new album ‘Tallulah’, and the ‘Best Of Feeder’ tour seems to have injected the band with a fresh burst of energy.
Well, ‘All Bright Electric’  as well. That was our first album back after our little break. I did a few solo things and Taka did a couple of side projects, and it wasn’t meant to be four years but I got really into the solo thing and I just wanted to do it properly. But we always planned on coming back and doing another record. There was never any doubt about that. So, yeah, I think that sort of gave me a bit of a space to think about the next path for Feeder and also, to maybe, with the mellow stuff, approach the album a bit differently. And I think it’s been a really good thing for the band, and good for me as well, because as you said, it kept it fresh.
How did you enjoy revisiting your catalogue for the ‘Best of Feeder’ album?
The best of has been really good for us. I think it reminded a lot of people of those songs. Obviously it included the singles we’d done. We put out a fair bit over the last twenty years or so, and I think it’s a good reminder to people really. It’s funny, I think a lot of people knew the music, but they don’t necessarily know it’s actually us! So doing best ofs and singles albums, it’s always a good thing, and I think it’s definitely brought a lot of new fans. We started to do a lot on Spotify, and we’ve got some really young people coming to our shows, like kids, literally! And then you’ve got the die hards; old school Feeder fans who are still there as well, so it’s a really good, really healthy thing, the age group at our shows. It’s unusual for a band that’s been going as long as we have.
That boost has obviously translated to record, as ‘Tallulah’ is one of the strongest Feeder releases in years.
I think it is. It’s gone down incredibly well with everybody, and the reviews in general have been really good. What I’ve been really touched about is just the response from the fan base online, just reading comments. It’s been amazing for this record, I think that it just happened at the right time. We’re on a good buzz after the ‘Best of’ tour, and then we did a year and a half of festivals, just playing all those hits. But I think it just reinforced our belief in the band and what we’re doing, and it just inspired me to write stuff.
When you went in to record this time, the intention initially, wasn’t to make a new album, was it?
I was just going to do a couple of new singles for Spotify, just to keep things moving while we’re on a buzz. Then I just got inspired and ended up with four, then it went to six, then I started to think about an album. I started then to get a bit more of a plan going, and yeah, the end result was ‘Tallulah’.
There’s a fantastic balance of optimism – on opening track ‘Youth’ for example – to the heavy melancholy of the likes of the title track.
Yeah, well that’s kind of what we do, and that’s kind of my DNA to write by. We’re one of those bands where there’s the kind of indie classics, but there’s also that more anthemic, or kind of darker side. There’s also the heavier side; songs like ‘Kyoto’. I didn’t want to bombard the album with too many heavy rock numbers; I wanted it to be a stand out track that really said something. I felt like the heaviness and the energy was there in the first few tracks like ‘Fear of Flying’ and ‘Youth’. I mean, they’re not ‘heavy’, but there’s a good energy to them, and I felt like I didn’t want to confuse the message on the record, but I wanted one real stand out, rock moment.
So ‘Kyoto’ was written purposely, as a definitive, heavy rock song?
I felt, after almost finishing the album that it needed something like that, so I basically wrote ‘Kyoto’ and ‘Lonely Hollow Days’, the most mellow acoustic song at the end of the album. Those are the two elements that I felt for me, personally, I wanted to get onto the record.
Sonically, ‘Tallulah’ is reminiscent of 2002’s ‘Comfort in Sound’.
I can totally see where you’re coming from on that, because although the albums are a bit different, there are similarities. It wasn’t planned, it was just the way it came out, because I suppose ‘Kyoto’ is like the ‘Godzilla’ of this record. That was a real statement track ‘Godzilla’; it’s so out there, for a reasonably commercial record, but that was the whole point. Feeder, people either get it or they don’t. It’s on a similar structure to that. Obviously, we went in the studio and did some amazing string stuff on ‘Comfort in Sound’ which I couldn’t do in my little studio, but there is quite a lot of strings on a few of these songs on this record. Like, ‘Guillotine’s got a string arrangement there, and there’s strings on the middle section of ‘Rodeo’ as well, so yeah, it definitely touches on ‘Comfort in Sound’. A lot of people mention ‘Comfort in Sound’, as you’ve mentioned, and also, a lot of people have said it’s got a lot of snippets of our second album as well.
And what do you think, personally?
I’ve lived with it now, and I’ve analysed it, and I really was really careful to get it right and not overproduce it and get a nice organic vibe on it, but I think this album’s got almost like little bits of all our records on one.
The acoustic side harks right back to your debut mini-album ‘Swim’.
That’s always been there, that acoustic said. That’s a classic part of what we do, and it’s a big part of our writing. I would say 95% of our songs start out on acoustic. If they’re heavier then I get the old fuzz box out and go in the studio and we’ll crank it up afterwards on a [Fender] Jazzmaster on songs that are more riff-based, but it’s basically on acoustic. I think that’s the best way of testing the song; if it works in a simplistic way, it’s probably a good song.
We previously touched on the death of Jon Lee, and you mentioned you think of him daily, but that you have to keep moving forward as you now have families yourselves. Family has informed the subject matter on the new album, hasn’t it?
Oh, definitely. For me as a writer, it’s definitely brought it to light. Not only thinking about because Jon had kids, but it’s a whole different world, and I didn’t really understand how he must have felt, going away [on tour] all the time. It was just me and my girlfriend, and I had a cat, and that was it! I’ve only been a father after the first four or five Feeder albums, and it has changed my outlook. Of course it’s given me a lot more to write about, and it has been a really valuable asset. Obviously, the kids are part of these songs. My daughter’s 14 now, and my son’s 12, and they’re always around in my writing. That change in my life has been hugely beneficial; it’s given me more to write about and made the songs a bit more universal in some way, maybe.
As a band, you’ve been together with Taka for quite some time now, over two decades.
Yeah, we started a few years before we met Taka with our original bass player who wasn’t a full time member, and then when we decided to keep the three-piece going we found Taka in London. By that point I’d demo taped about four of songs that I gave Taka, and that’s how it all started. But yeah, it must around 20 years; probably 22 years or something.
‘Tallulah’ is your 10th album; how does it feel to have that huge a body of work?
Well, yeah, we’ve done ten albums, and we’ve also done the b side album that had 33 tracks on it, we did [mini-album] ‘Swim’, which was rereleased as an eleven-tracker after, and then the singles album as well as the best of, so yeah, if you add them all up, it is quite a lot. Obviously we’ve got ‘Arrow’ as well, which, I know it’s not seen as a separate album, but it is a body of work. Yeah, it is a lot! I don’t think we realised until we were putting the best of together. You don’t think about it when you’re in a band. We’ve always been quite busy, so time has literally flown by. Talking about having Taka in the band 22 years or whatever, it doesn’t seem like that, it really doesn’t. It’s just gone incredibly quickly.
Going back to ‘Comfort in Sound’, and 2022 will be the 20th anniversary for that landmark release; have you plans to mark that occasion?
Yeah, and I keep thinking we’ll have to do something. We’re going to do a couple of nights somewhere in London, maybe one somewhere up north, and making it a really special thing; just going out and just doing something really special around ‘Comfort in Sound’. It would be really nice to just do the whole album live. We’ve never actually played the entire album ever, even on the tour. I think that would be a really cool thing to do because we’ve never done a live album, and we’ve never done the ‘big’ album live like every band has. Most bands that have been going as long as we have have probably gone out and done ‘that’ record. Everyone’s done it; Ash have done it, the Manics; we’ve never done it, and we’ve kind of saved the two things back, which is quite nice.
‘Comfort and Sound’ live in its entirety, and a live recording of that sounds like something the fans would love.
We’ve been going a long time, but we haven’t done quite a lot of obvious things. We’ve never done a live record, but I think for an album like ‘Comfort in Sound’, which is a massive record for us, it could be quite interesting. We’d rerelease it, or we’d do something where you can come and see the gig and if you want, you can get the live album when it’s made. I think it needs to be something special, if we do it. I shouldn’t be telling you this! The thing is, you’ve got die hard Feeder fan that really want us to go out and do ‘Polythene’ [1997 full-length debut] and stuff like that, and I’m sure we would do that one day before we call it a day, but for me, ‘Comfort in Sound’ still feels like our kind of holy grail, really. Obviously the album was made after Jon died, but it was the album that I think pushed us, and pushed me as a writer to a different level. I think it’s an album that we needed to make.
Finally, and bringing things back to less serious matters, and you can now add ‘star of daytime TV’ to your C.V.
Bargain Hunt! I loved it. I’m a real fan. I love markets and quirky retro furniture an art. In my house, I’ve got some really wacky things; it’s a mixture of old and new. Some people might think it’s arty, and some people might think it’s odd, but I just like weird things. Anything from original artefacts, to retro sixties’ furniture, and cool artwork and figures, to advertising stuff; I’ve always loved all that, and Bargain Hunt is just one of those shows that is just really entertaining.
Were you annoyed that The Darkness beat you?!
I was a little bit, but I have to admit, I did think that we bought better stuff. I just think we had a very tough auction room. It was the wrong age group; there were a lot of older people there, and I don’t think they would have got the things like the lamp we bought and stuff like that. I was a bit disappointed that the army chair didn’t make more. I thought that was a lovely chair! But you know what? I think it was great fun. It’s much harder when you’re doing it than you think, because you’ve got hardly any time; there’s a lot of filming and a lot of editing, so it’s very hard to get a flow going.
How did you come to be invited to appear on Bargain Hunt in the first place?
I mentioned somewhere that I really like Bargain Hunt, and I think somehow that got back to the people there, and they mentioned; “Oh, would he be interested in doing it?”, and my manger said; “Oh yeah, he’ll definitely do it!” It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I think as soon as my name went forward, I think they were totally up for us doing it. And it’s part of BBC Music Day, you know, it’s for a good cause. It was great, and I would do it again, I really would.
Feeder's 'Tallulah' is out now. The band hit the road from November. For a full list of dates, and ticket / merch bundles, click here.
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Feeder November 2019 U.K. Dates:
1st - Portsmouth, Pyramids
2nd - Exeter, Great Hall
4th - Oxford, O2 Academy
5th - Norwich, UEA
7th - Leeds, Beckett University
8th - Cardiff, Great Hall
10th - Newcastle, O2 Academy
11th - Birmingham, O2 Institute
13th - Inverness, Ironworks
14th - Glasgow, Barrowland
16th - Manchester, Albert Hall
17th– Manchester Albert Hall
19th - Lincoln, Engine Room
20th - Nottingham, Rock City
22nd - London, Roundhouse
23rd– London Roundhouse