|Grant Nicholas, singer, guitarist and song-writer with Feeder, contemplates 'Buck Rogers' (2001) the thundering punk-pop anthem Feeder are still best known for."I didn't even write that song for Feeder," says Grant, chuckling into his drink, "I wrote it for an American band and it was supposed to be quite humorous. Now it's like Blur's 'Song 2', a simple song lyrically and a great big hit! And I was trying to sound like The Pixies at the time..." |
This is now?January 2005 and Feeder release their fifth studio album, 'Pushing The Senses', the most sonically huge, and lyrically complete, album of their career. It is also their most beautiful and most surprising. There's no trace here of adolescent rawk. Instead, there are ten songs (40 minutes, no messin') of colossal, pulsing, irresistible atmospherics, all of which could be singles. Every one. Witness the gigantic, soaring soundscape of opener 'Feeling A Moment', a guaranteed Festival Moment anthem of the future. 'Bitter Glass' echoes the enigmatic delirium of Talk Talk. The intoxicating, piano-led 'Tender' completes the circle between John Lennon and Coldplay. 'Pushing The Senses' is blistering, classic Feeder, with extra vim. Then there's the twinkling and strong vocal performance on 'Frequency' and the hauntingly atmospheric 'Dove Grey Sands'. Since the "breakthrough" success of the inspirational fourth album 'Comfort In Sound' (2002), featuring the momentous hit singles, 'Just The Way I'm Feeling' and 'Come Back Around', the Feeder sound, now, is consolidated; almighty, melancholic euphoria.
'Pushing The Senses' was recorded over nine months from February 2004, mostly at 'The Crypt' in London's Crouch End, (Dave Stewart's old studio, now owned by David Gray) RAK and Air Studios. Mainly produced by long-time collaborator Gil Norton (The Pixies, Foo Fighters) although the job was considered by Brian Eno, when Gil initially thought he'd be busy. Gil, though, became available and Feeder are now the only band he's made three albums with, apart from The Pixies.The result, 'Pushing The Senses', is a masterclass in song-writing confidence. In addition Ken Nelson (Coldplay) produced Frequency with additional production on Bitter Glass and Pain on Pain. "I believe in this record 100%," states Grant, "I just wanted to make the best record I could. When I went in I just felt really positive. It could be from the success of the last record, that pressure which makes you think 'we have to make this one even better'. It wasn't painless but it was the most enjoyable album to make since our first. And I think that's because this time I knew what I was doing. Experience."
'Pushing The Senses' was written on both acoustic guitar and piano and features the most affecting vocal performances of Grant's life. "I never really set out to be a singer," demures Grant, "but I've accepted my voice now. And it's getting better. I used to play guitar, write music and do backing vocals at ten years old, always wanted to play and perform but never as the singer in a band. I'm quite shy. It's a very personal thing, I used to bury my voice in loads of guitars, but with 'Comfort In Sound' - I just thought 'fuck it, this is what I sound like'. At that time I didn't even plan on making a Feeder record, I just went into the studio because I didn't know what to do with myself."
In January 2002, Feeder experienced the very worst of tragedies; the death of life-long friend and original band-mate, drummer Jon Lee, to suicide. "People have said 'Comfort In Sound' was our recovery album, but I think this is more the recovery album?this one's about the future, about life now."
Formed in 1992, Feeder are an old-school rock phenomenon, a slow-motion musical landslide who've galvanised their devoted fan-base through relentless graft, persistent self-belief and enticing, gradual progress. "These days," withers Grant, "if nothing happens immediately, you're just dropped." Not so with Feeder who remain with life-long independent, 'Echo'. Moving to London in '89 Grant worked in a studio and as a courier. Grant and Jon then met bassist Taka Hirose (originally from Japan), the group's global rock influences setting them naturally apart from the flourishing Britpop nostalgists. "To begin with," chortles Grant, "we were the British Smashing Pumpkins." By 2001, both 'Buck Rogers' and third album 'Echo Park' were Top 5 successes until, on January 7th 2002, they lost Jon. The songs, ever since, have been shot through with the melodic search-light of what it means to be alive. "Such tragedies do happen," says Grant, plainly, "and in a way it keeps me driving along. For what we went through then, as did everybody else close to Jon, there's always gonna be that in the songs.
Since August 2002, Feeder's drummer has been ex-Skunk Anansie dynamo Mark Richardson, who remains in the band indefinitely. ?An amazing rock drummer," enthuses Grant, "I'd put him right up there with the Dave Grohl?s of this world.
The lyrical themes of 'Pushing The Senses' are universal; love, loss and hope. First single, the lilting 'Tumble and Fall' "has a certain simplicity, a little bit more intimate" featuring the lyric, "life's not the same since you went away... come back to me". It could be about Jon, but it could be about many things. Grant hates being lyrically specific. "I do hate that black and white thing," he nods, "it ruins things for me. I really want people to see their own imagery and interpretations. I think that's the whole point of music. But a lot of these songs are about how your mind works after you go through something. That could be losing somebody, breaking up with a partner, losing a baby, or some other hardship; that's where I was coming from. And there's a real honesty to that."
2005 will be Feeder's biggest year yet. They will tour the UK and Europe, comprehensively. "We've got a great back catalogue now," says Grant, "a really good set and that's why we've been able to play with bands like Coldplay and REM. We've had some great tours with them.?
Grant Nicholas has been a melody devotee forever. He grew up with "the classic 70s bands, always loved melodies and heavy guitars", with a love of tune-based whizzery from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to the Pistols, The Police to 10cc. Today, he listens to the fragrant harmonies of Air more than anyone else. And today he'd like to write a song for someone who desperately needs one. "I'd love to write a song for Robbie Williams, " announces Grant, "because that 'Radio' song was so crap. Catchy, but bloody awful!? Williams would be so lucky.
In Grant Nicholas and Feeder, we've that rarest British beast; a singer-song-writer of advanced poetic dexterity, the provincial punk-kids who grew up to reflect Everyman's soul. "We're still a rock band but we aren't as heavy as before, and that's because we?ve done that now. I couldn't write songs like the first album again, it would be totally fake. It's only recently people have said 'they're a songs band, a song-writer thing' but that's what we do. There's a history there, it's been a building and a confidence thing and I know we're getting better." In recent years, too, we've seen the novelty-pop titans fade, making space at last for the quill of the classic song-smith; from Coldplay to melodic newcomers Keane and Snow Patrol. The timing of this record feels good. Because it's time for songs. With 'Pushing The Senses', the hardworking men of rock are now the dons of rock redemption; deep-soul believers in the power of positive thought, in both beautiful music and the unstoppable lunacy of life. "It's all about pushing yourself, about moving forward. It's about pushing your senses, finding where you wanna be, finding happiness."