Rock legends Feeder are releasing their first album in four years this October, accompanied by a UK tour which hits Bristol’s 02 Academy on the 10th. Emma Payne chats to lead singer Grant Nicholas
You’ve got All Bright Electric coming out at the start of October – how would you describe the album?
I’ve been doing some solo stuff for the last three years or so and that was very acoustic-based, so this is a return to the more electric, Feeder rock sound, which is why I like the title All Bright Electric. The album definitely has some classic Feeder moments. I was trying to capture what I like about rock bands from the ‘70s, but in a more up-to-date way, so it’s kind of retro but current. I wanted to keep all those Feeder dynamics and trademarks there, but do something slightly different sound-wise to previous albums.
It’s a very different sound to what has gone before, with some tracks taking on a more experimental, psychedelic quality.
Yeah, it’s quite an unusual mix. I think just having some time out and space to do my solo record taught me how to use my voice in a different way. I’m not really a massive fan of screaming rock vocals. I touched on it with early Feeder stuff but it’s never really been my kind of style, and I as I’m getting older I’m finding I want to sing with a bit more soul. I let the band do the heavy bit and the vocals tell the story. I think that doing the solo record was really good for me to get used to hearing my voice exposed and naked; it’s given me more confidence on this Feeder record to maybe sort of make it part of the music and not buried in the background like I used to do.
Some of the tracks are almost in ‘rock ballade’ territory – there’s some piano in there and it’s a bit softer.
Yeah, we’ve always had that in Feeder stuff. On this album it’s all played, it’s all very organic and I’ve done most of the keyboard. I’m not the best keyboard played in the world but I just find ways of working things out. We’ve used Wurlitzer, Rhodes and other old school pianos, so it’s very lo-fi but quite cool. Radiohead used them a lot and they have a really distinctive sound. I didn’t want a generic, typical piano sound; I wanted it to sound like it could’ve been recorded in the ‘70s.
“We’ve come back with, I think, one of the best Feeder albums. It’s certainly one of my favourites…”
Do you have a set process when producing an album, or is it more about experimentation and seeing what works?
I think by messing with different instruments, even if you’re not a great player on them, you can really find quite interesting sounds and that’s what’s been such good fun about this. I’ve got a studio in my back garden called The Treehouse where we did virtually all the guitars, all the vocals and most of the keyboards. The great thing is I can potter around in there and just try things out. We didn’t want to make a record that sounded too polished or too clinical, and we were trying to avoid that typical modern rock sound that you hear a lot nowadays. I wanted to do something that was a bit more organic and a bit more real sounding.
Well you’ve got a huge amount of experience to build on – we can’t believe it’s 20 years since the mid-‘90s!
I know it’s flown by! I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since our last record either. We planned to take a year off to take a break and work on a few projects and it ended up being 3 or 4 years. But I think it’s been good for the band. We’ve always done that album-tour-album-tour thing for over 20 years now, and I just think it’s good to break that cycle. If you go away and you come back people have missed you and you’ve missed doing it. We’ve not come back and done a ‘Best Of’, we’ve come back with, I think, one of the best Feeder albums. It’s certainly one of my favourites.
You’ve mentioned the retro influences in All Bright Electric; do you have a favourite musical era?
When I started teaching myself the guitar at about 10 years old, I was really into stuff like very early Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Then I started getting into punk rock and the Sex Pistols, and I was a really big fan of The Police in the late ‘70s. I always loved a lot of pop music growing up before I discovered rock; when I was 8 or 9 I probably listened to stuff like Abba and Beach Boys – my Dad used to play Beach Boys in his old Rover, driving around with one of those really old cassette machines. The contemporary bands I like are the more quirky American groups like Eels, Grandaddy, Pixies – the list goes on!
From teaching yourself the guitar as a kid to forming the band and achieving huge success – was there ever a point when you thought ‘we’ve made it’?
I lived just outside Chepstow, and at the time, especially in a small town, it’s very difficult to get noticed. The idea of the band started there with me and Jon Lee, who’s sadly no longer with us, and then I moved to London and it sort of grew from there. I really felt like we were starting to become a proper band when we did the main stage in Birmingham for the first time in ‘96, and we had our first slot on the main stage. We pulled in a really good audience and it was a blinding gig. It just sort of put Feeder on the map.
And then you went all over the world! What do you think of the Bristol vibe?
We’ve had some blinding gigs in Bristol, I mean that was a real stronghold for Feeder, we used to play there on a regular basis and we built a fantastic following in Bristol, and we always loved playing there. I had a really great gig at the Fleece on my solo thing as well, it was actually one of the biggest gigs on the tour, so Bristol always been a really good area for Feeder.
What can audiences expect from your set list this autumn? Iconic smash hits or will the focus be more on your new album?
We thought first of all we’d test the water so we did the Isle of Wight festival, which went really well. We didn’t do any new music, just the singles, and it felt like the best way to remind ourselves of what we’ve done and remind the public of what we’ve done. Because the album’s not coming out until about halfway through the tour now, it would be silly to just go out there and do the whole record until people have had time to digest it. I think we’ll do a mixture, I think we’ll do a handful of new songs, the two singles, three or four others and then some old school Feeder. I think that would be a nice way of just easing the audiences and us back in.
What’s next for Feeder?
Sometimes you can live off the past as a band, but it’s not the kind of band we are and it’s not the kind of artist I am. I just want to keep pushing forward as long as there’s a spark there and as long as we feel inspired as a band and as long as we’ve got some songs left to write. We’ve all got families now but it hasn’t really slowed us down. It’s given me a bit more passion, but in a different way. My kids still give me the cool vote! They’re only 11 and 8 though, so I’m sure that will change…
Feeder will appear at the 02 Academy on 10th October at 7pm, tickets can be purchased from ticketweb.co.uk
All Bright Electric will be released on 7th October and is available to preorder on Feeder’s website