- Wed, 2008-06-11 16:01
Sixteen years after they first formed Feeder are celebrating the release of their sixth studio album Silent Cry. It was their third album Echo Park, released in 2001, that propelled them into the mainstream, with such hits as Buck Rogers and Seven Days In The Sun. Feeder have toured extensively and 2008 is no exception with summer festival slots lined up at the Isle of Wight Festival, T in The Park, Reading and Leeds. We caught up with lead singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas to chat about their new album, it’s single We Are The People, Feeder’s process of making music, pets and his ultimate playlist choices.
"I Like Music because… it’s very good for the soul.” Grant Nicholas, Feeder
ILM: Your brand new single, We Are The People, is out now. It’s fabulous and about change and uniting. If you had special powers and could change one thing about the world today, what would you change?
Grant: Oh God....What would I change? Um...that's a really difficult one. It is hard to pick one thing. Religion in some ways. I think religion has caused a lot of wars. I think there is a lot of confusion in the way that we deal with religion. Although, I'm not sure where we would start. I'm not saying that I'm an atheist, it is just the fact remains that a lot of people get certain beliefs confused. I think that would be something people could change. I don't know really, it is a hard question. People should think more about it. It doesn't matter what God or whatever you believe in, if you believe in something then you should accept other people’s ability to believe too and the fact that it may differ to your own opinions.
ILM: Please can you describe the track’s vibe?
Grant: Obviously it has a big anthemic trademark. I just sat down and wrote that song. The lyrics came at the same time as the melody, which is unusual for me. I just really liked the line 'We are the people’. I’m not sure if it is about a specific change like we talked about, it’s more about inspiring change in any way. There have been so many horrible things happening, particularly in the last three years. That was the time that I was writing the album. That track was clearly inspired by that time and the feelings it generated. I have started to think about the future a bit more now because I have two little kids. I know it sounds weird, but when you have kids you do think more about the future.
That song is not meant to be a protest song, it is just meant to make people open their eyes and maybe just get on a bit more. It is a song about change. I suppose it is a call to arms in some ways, but not in a violent way. It is a song that I wanted to be big and anthemic. It was an unusual choice for a single but we felt that it represented the direction we want to take musically. Hopefully after hearing that track people will want to hear the album. It is a good indication of what is on the rest of the album, there are a lot of big guitar songs on there! We do like to mix it up. We think that is what makes us Feeder, and what makes us stand out from other UK bands.
ILM: Of all the tracks on your forthcoming album which one was the most enjoyable to lay down in the studio?
Grant: Miss You was fun. We gave it away as a free download. It was our first single really. We decided to give it away to the fans as we had been away for a long time. It's an in-your-face track with a lot of energy. For me the song that I think we all had quite a good vibe on at the time was a song called Heads Held High. That was a really fun track to do. It is quite an atmospheric track and it is quite different to the rest of the album. It started off as a vocal and we brought some strings round it. It grew in a really nice way. A very experimental way. It came out exactly as we wanted. It was a track that all of us really liked, we all agreed on that one!
A few of the tracks were written a while ago as demos and I came back to them. So we finished a few old tracks. Two or three of them actually made the album. It is hard to remember one specific song. I do write very detailed demos. It is quite a long process. It was over such a long period of time it is hard to pick one particular moment.
ILM: You self-produced the album and there’s a return to a rockier sound, to your roots, although it’s also pushing you forward as well. What did you learn about making music and each other while making this album?
Grant: Obviously I don't want to dwell on the past. I started off this band with Jon and I have always been the writer. Jon was a very strong personality and it took a long time to gel and for me to write songs with Mark’s sound in my head. When you have been in a band with someone for ten years you write songs knowing exactly what they are going to play on it. This is probably the first album, in some way, that I felt totally that Mark’s style was in my head. It has re-sorted the band. It has taken a long time. Now there is a real vibe in the studio. We wanted to make a record we all liked and hope that everyone else liked it to. You can't please everybody, there are always different views. But we are proud of it. We have been making music for a long time and we really appreciate the fact that we are still doing it. It is pointless just trying to do something to get a three minute hit rather than doing something that feels right for the band.
As a writer I need to be true to myself a bit. We haven't made this really wacky, avant-garde album, it is still commercial and there are Feeder songs on there, but it is what we are as a band. We just didn’t want to feel we were doing it for the wrong reasons. We wanted to keep it very organic this time, we did it in a very small studio and it was almost like going back to our early days. Our plan was originally to go to America and go to a big producer. But, we started recording and it went so well we just decided to carry on and see what happened. Everyone on the label was happy and so were we.
ILM: The new single is anthemic and uplifting. Something you guys are rather good at doing. Please describe the Feeder process of making. Is it lyrics first then melody or vice versa or just random?
Grant: I write on an acoustic. It is usually the melody of a basic song and then some La de da lyrics, or a guide lyric. With We Are The People, that line came as I was writing the chorus, I literally had that line, I didn't have all the lyrics. The lyrics for that came naturally. With some songs it can be a lot harder. It is often with the more poppy songs that it is difficult, because the lyrics have to rhyme etc and you are always trapped. You try and make it cool and you are trying to tell a story. Sometimes I don't want it to be too abstract, although everybody gets something different from the lyrics. That's one of the things I like about music, that it can be open to interpretation.
I do like quite melancholy lyrics. I'm not a manic-depressive trying to say that everything is awful! I write about the people around me, relationships, everything and it is not always happy times. I always try and put something optimistic in the songs, even if it is a melody. In general I like to write about real life. Although, a lot of people don't listen to the lyrics. It takes a while for people to start analysing the words. That is something that real music people will always do. Your average punter will like the song if they like the melody, lyrics fall a bit behind.
ILM: You’ve got some cool festival dates lined up for 2008. However, you have played numerous festivals, tours and support slots over the years. What are the highlights from those experiences?
Grant: We have had some great festivals. I remember the first time we played at Reading and Leeds. We've played every small stage right up to the main ones! From some silly stage with about ten people at the beginning, each year we just came back and built ourselves up. I remember that was a huge turning point for us. The Foo Fighters were playing and we just had a great audience. When we suddenly started to get a fan base that was great because that had taken a long time. We had never been on the main stage before. When we first played at Reading it was an amazing achievement. That would stand out. Also the Millenium stadium in Cardiff. We have played there a few times. We played with the Manics, we have supported U2 which was amazing and quite surreal - it doesn't get any bigger than that really!
Echo Park was seen as our big achievement. It has some very funny, comical songs that were big hits on there, like Buck Rogers. But that album, listened to in its entirety, actually has some dark songs on there. People only remember it for its hits though, you know what I mean? That album, to be fair, those songs, introduced Feeder to a lot of people that didn't know us before. From a songwriters point of view I know I have written better stuff, but if it hadn't of happened I don’t know if we would have made the next album.
ILM: You can definitely see the progression from that album to what you are working on now...
Grant: The albums are very different. I think it's great to try new stuff out. Otherwise you just end up getting the same thing. You have got to keep your identity as a band, but I just think that if you don't try and make each record a little bit different it just becomes jaded.
ILM: You do have a talent for that. You can tell it is Feeder but it continues to hold your attention...
Grant: Yeah. Some people like our heavier side and that is fine, I totally understand that. But, we have always had another side. The strings and a more melodic, acoustic side. It has always been there. Some people say “Oh they're a heavy band” and then when we do an album with some lighter songs they say, “Oh, they've gone all light now” but it was always there, we just put those songs on that record, that's just the way it is.
ILM: You recently gave unsigned acts the chance to support you live. A great idea! How did it go?
Grant: Really good actually. There were a couple of really, really great bands. Some areas were stronger than others. There were a couple of slightly weaker ones but it was really good. We had over four hundred bands who entered, so there was a lot of stuff. There were three or four out of the eight shows that were really strong. It was a nice thing to do. I remember how hard it was for us trying to get support gigs when we started out. It was just a nightmare. I just thought at least we knew all the gigs would be sold out and they would be playing to a big audience, or bigger than they were used to. I think it went really well for them. A couple of them have gone further since.
ILM: You’re living your dream, career wise, what’s your advice to young people on pursuing their dream career?
Grant: I think just go for it. If you go for it and it fails then at least you had a go. It's better than getting old and thinking I wish I tried that... There are still certain things I wish I had tried when I was younger that I didn't get round to doing, but I am still so lucky that I did music. I had a lot of people saying I should go to college and get a normal job, but I just couldn't see myself doing that. I had to do something creative and for me music was always something I dreamed about. It was hard work. I'm not saying that if you just go for it then it will happen, but I think if you really persist and you have got some good stuff or some good ideas, then just go for it. If it doesn't work then at least you tried. Better to fail than not try. I know some really talented people who gave it all up. I'm lucky I took the gamble and followed my dream!
ILM: Any tips to young people about staying on straight and narrow and dealing with peer pressure?
Grant: It is a difficult one really. All I can say is that I have had friends who have got badly mixed up in things and their lives have been an absolute nightmare. Although they have sorted things out now, they were just taking too much of various things. I think the most important thing is to have good friends around you. The sort of friends that will be there for you. Friends are really important, if you have a good friendship then that is something that will be there for life. At the end of the day, I think if you feel unhappy then get away and sort things out and try and maintain a good support network. Also, maybe just go and buy yourself an instrument, that can be a therapeutic thing. Go and bang some drums somewhere and make a racket! It works for my daughter anyway...haha!
ILM: What do you listen to when you want to chill out or relax?
Grant: If it's an album then probably, oh God...um…..I find Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours quite a good one to chill out to, it reminds me of when I was a kid. I also love Air. Anything by Air. I particularly like Talkie Walkie and the song Cherry Blossom Girl. I've always loved their stuff, I think they're great.
ILM: What would feature on your ultimate rock playlist?
Grant: Something by The Pixies, probably Where Is My Mind...um..Something by Led Zepplin, um...Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I love that track. Oh and Nirvana, there is a song Milk It which is on In Utero which is an awesome track. Everlong by the Foo Fighters. War Pigs by Black Sabbath. Sabotage by The Beastie Boys - it's not really rock but...er...there you go!
ILM: Feeder were named after your goldfish. Do you have any pets these days?
Grant: I've got a Burmese cat, called cookie. She is like a dog. She just follows me round the house. Burmese cats are really clever. They are like oriental cats. She is a fluffy, slightly prettier version of a Siamese Cat. She is quite striking. I love animals. I would like a dog but I am just away too much of the time. Mark has a dog called Banjo...what is it..um..it's red and brown and white with really floppy ears! Ha! I like Border Terriors, I think they're cool!