With fan's of their powerful live shows including Coldplay's Chris Martin, Feeder have toured the world performing at huge venues and festivals including the Millennium Stadium and Glastonbury.
M caught up with the band's Grant Nicholas.
How has your approach to Feeder’s songs changed over time?
I still approach it in the same way. We’re a song-based band and it really is all about that for me.
I start off on an acoustic or electric guitar to write all of Feeder’s songs, sometimes I do try and write on keyboards - I’m a pretty awful keyboard player but I manage to blag my way through, it is quite nice to give yourself a challenge and approach it a bit differently sometimes. For example on the Pushing The Senses album I wrote a few songs on keyboards.
However, 90% of Feeder stuff is written on acoustic guitar. I want the songs to be quite portable and if they work when they’re stripped right back I always think that’s a good thing.
How do you work together to develop the songs?
I write a lot. I’ve got cassettes full of stuff I haven’t used and I’m lucky that I come up with ideas quite often. I’ll go into a rehearsal studio with Taka and we’ll learn the songs or I’ll do demos and Taka will come along and put some bass on them.
I’m really driven as a writer – I don’t write every day though, although I will if I need to but I don’t force it. I’m lucky as I love writing music whether it’s for Feeder or other people. As you get older and your life changes I find there’s more to write about. I keep songs simple, I like a simple message. It’s easy to criticise a simple song but they’re always the hardest ones to write.
Are you a storyteller?
Definitely, I like to create characters like the single Borders from this album is about a girl who wants to get away from the small town she lives in, she feels trapped and it’s all quite small-minded.
I grew up in a small town in Wales and I guess there wasn’t a lot to do. There were a lot of frustrations and I needed to get away and that’s why I did music, so it’s a song based on some of my experiences and I built a character around it. I guess the songs have to have a fragment of truth or something from my experience or perhaps something I’ve read or people I know. I try to do that and I think I’ve got better at it with experience over the years, although it’s hard because you never know which songs will really connect with people.
You started off in pubs and clubs and developed into playing big arena gigs, has that changed the songs?
We’ve been quite lucky because a lot of what we write as a band has an anthemic quality to it. For example on the first album there’s a song called High which is such a simple song but it’s been really successful for us – especially in the US when we were out touring there. That song always worked in a really big venue but also when we played it to ten people.
I think that the songs can work in a big venue and a small club because the melodies are there. You find that some of the heavier stuff works better in the smaller venues, there’s a real energy and power that lends itself to a more contained space. I think you find that with a lot of heavier band’s stuff. However songs like High or Just the Way I’m Feeling, Forget About Tomorrow and Feeling A Moment, because they are quite grand and there’s more space in them they work really well on big stages too.
We always wanted to be a band that played big gigs and I remember even when Darrin Woodford who signed us to Echo came to our little rehearsal rooms in Kings Cross when we were skint – the days when an A&R would come and see you rehearse – apparently the first thing I said was ‘I want to play Wembley Stadium’. That’s how we were, we wanted loads of people to hear our music.
What inspired Feeder’s fusion of melody and hard rock?
I don’t know, it’s just what I like – I guess it’s down to the way we play and produce our records, my big guitar sound and Taka’s bass complimenting that. We’ve always had great drummers so that’s always given the band a bit of power.
I’ve always loved that term ‘heavy metal pop band’ because that’s what we are really. I grew up listening to a lot of heavy metal and a lot of classic 1970s rock and pop music along with the punk rock that my brother got me into – Sex Pistols, Sham 69. The heavy, more garage-y side of us comes from what I grew up listening to and the bands that I love. Our Sonics come from the chemistry between me, Taka and someone banging the hell out of the drums. Sometimes it’s really heavy, then it might drop into an the softest, most mellow acoustic thing. We always wanted to be a band that had that dynamic and it has probably helped us quite a bit with live gigs as back in the day when we were doing a lot of support tours we could do heavier bands like Foo Fighters to bands like Coldplay. We had to refine the set a bit for them but we had enough back catalogue that worked even though we’re completely different. If you have melody you can get away with it.
What song are you most proud of writing?
On a timeless quality, I think High is up there. Just The Way I’m Feeling – I think that’ll still sound good in ten years time. But I think if I had to pick a song as a writer because of what I put into it, on a personal level, I think I probably would say Forget About Tomorrow from Comfort In Sound. It did quite well for us but I’m so proud of how it came out and I think I’ll look back when I’m older and say ‘yeah, that’s a pretty good tune’. It connected with people and perhaps it’s one of the reasons why we’re still here.