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Thirty Years in the Sun: Grant Nicholas Reflects on Feeder's Past and Present

Wednesday, 24 April 2024 Written by Jack Butler-Terry

Photo: Steve Gullick

“If you’d asked me if we’d still be doing this at 56, I would have said we’d be retired by 40,” Grant Nicholas says with a laugh. His back wishes he’d stuck to that. The band’s frontman is speaking from a hotel room in Birmingham, midway through a month-long tour of the UK promoting their new double album, ‘Black/Red’. “I’m going to be walking about a lot if that’s okay,” he adds. “Every time I sit down, it seizes up again and, well, I have to play tonight.”

Nicholas has certainly earned that bad back during a career defined by reliability and resilience. Since forming in 1994, Feeder have morphed from post-grunge hopefuls to a multi-platinum arena draw founded upon a melodic appeal that transcends the follies of the day. “You have to make music that you like as a band and as a writer, and if people like it, that’s a bonus,” Nicholas reflects. “If you don’t love what you create, it just becomes a chore.”

“You have to think a lot about TikTok now, new releases cannot be so reliant on radio,” he continues. “And, by and large, it seems like an album comes out and it’s gone in a week. It no longer hangs around for months, unless you’re Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran. Even Foo Fighters’ new songs come and go quicker than they used to.” 

You can’t really argue with that. But it does cast Feeder’s catalogue — 11 studio albums — in a different light. On this tour the duo, completed by bassist Taka Hirose, have been driven by a desire to look backwards as much as they’re focused on the new songs burning a hole in their gig bags. “Obviously it’s great being an established band with lots of music but you can’t just stick to those big songs,” Nicholas says. “It's been so nice to revisit really old stuff — we've not played Polythene Girl since probably 1998, when we were still a three piece. I never thought we’d play Tangerine again, but it's been really special to go back to it.” 

Having almost gone down the double album route with 2022’s ‘Torpedo’, ‘Black/Red’ supplies another 18 cuts of prime guitar-led melody that branches in multiple directions but remains undeniably Feeder. “I wanted to do something we hadn't done before,” Nicholas says. “[‘Torpedo’]was nearly a double album but we changed our mind late in the process. ‘Black/Red’ completes a sort of trilogy with that record, I suppose, so we have used a lot of the same artists and partners in the artwork. We've got some material on here that wasn't ready for ‘Torpedo’, too.

“I don't know if we’ll do it again, though” he admits, brow furrowed. “I'm glad we've ticked it off the list, and we've had the Best Of and B-Sides which was on triple LP, but this feels like a real statement.” 

While double albums were big business in the 1960s and ‘70s — with everybody from The Beatles and Pink Floyd to David Bowie and Black Sabbath releasing albums over four sides of vinyl — the practice has only been kept alive by a handful of artists, including some of Feeder’s peers and contemporaries. Foo Fighters’ ‘In Your Honor’ gave the world songs like Best Of You, while Biffy Clyro’s ‘Opposites’ signalled a band at the top of their game. As for Feeder, ‘Black/Red’ ended its first week in the UK Album Charts at number, making it their 11th Top 10 release when compilations are factored in.

Nicholas isn’t surprised that a double album has landed so well with their fans, though. “We get a really good mix of age groups,” he observes. “There’s lots of skaters and those ‘90s grunge fans, and we get a lot of older rockers from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The way I write is old school, we’re influenced by lots of bands from across the decades and I think that’s really helped get us a broad audience.” 

It’s that breadth of fanbase that has allowed Feeder to be such a long-standing bastion of British rock music. With die-hard fans flocking to every show they play and a new generation of people discovering them through playlists and parental figures, it’s kept their demand high. “We’re just having a great time, connecting with the audience,” Nicholas says. “There’s no fire or anything crazy like that, but we really care about just putting on a good show. The hardest setlist for me is one that isn’t just a ‘best of’ because we know fans want to hear the songs they love, but with a new album tour and a lot of strong material people haven’t heard yet, we’ve had an amazing reaction.” 

Feeder are old hands at this band business now — typically releasing new albums every 18-24 months while finding the time to get out on the road (their festival season, including Kendal Calling and the Isle Of Wight, gets underway on May 24 at In It Together) — but juggling both sides of the job has only recently started to make sense to Nicholas. “It used to be that when I’m in my studio head I don’t want to do gigs, but more recently I’ve found that it can be good to break it up and give you some ideas about what a song would be like live or how we would do it,” he says. 

You can hear every bit of that thinking across ‘Black/Red’, from the festival-ready choruses of Playing With Fire and Hey You. “Hey You was written after one glass too many,” Nicholas admits. “I just grabbed a Strat and a chorus pedal and wrote the whole song that night. My engineer came round the next day, I played it to him and we were just like, ‘Let’s do it’. [2002’s] Just The Way I’m Feeling and [1997’s] High happened like that too.”

As for what comes next for Feeder, they’re already planning for their next album. “We've got enough material,” Nicholas says. “That’s more of the bouncier side of Feeder, so maybe that’ll see the light of day one day.” While they’ll be flexing their ‘Black/Red’ material across the UK and Europe throughout the rest of the year, don’t be surprised to hear a new, unreleased song thrown in the mix, then.

Feeder's 'Black/Red' is out now.


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