Ahead of their Dubai Opera show, lead singer Grant Nicholas tells us that the band have plenty to offer 25 years on
Feeder at Dubai Opera: Grant Nicholas says the band is here to stay
Being a Feeder fan is a bittersweet experience.
There is disappointment that the Welsh rockers, renowned for fist-raising anthems Buck Rogers and Come Back Around, didn’t get the international acclaim that they deserve, while other groups of the same ilk are currently conquering arenas – yes, I am looking at you Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro. Then again, that sense of lost opportunity is tempered with a gratefulness that the boys are still here.
If wavering attention from a fickle audience wasn’t enough for them to unplug those amps, Feeder were also reduced to a duo, lead singer Grant Nicholas and guitarist Taka Hirose, after drummer Jon Lee tragically took his own life in 2002.
Speaking to The National before their debut Middle East performance at Dubai Opera tonight, Nicholas agrees that longevity has now become the measure of success for the band. “I’m still very inspired by what I do,” says the 51-year-old musician. “It’s very easy to get stale and jaded in this business because it is tough to be in. To survive, certainly for 25 years, you need to still enjoy it and ensure there’s a good vibe in the camp.”
Judging by the band’s consistent output through their career, the creative tank has never been dry for Feeder.
Ever since the group’s 1997 debut Polythene, their penchant for melding ebullient melodies with aggressive guitar riffs had them labelled by the English press as the country’s answer to American rock giants The Smashing Pumpkins.
Feeder bolstered their reputation further with a strong follow up, 1999’s Yesterday Went Too Soon, before making an immense impact with their third album, 2001’s Echo Park.
Powered by a pair of hits, the joyful Buck Rodgers and the plaintive rocker Turn, the album catapulted them to international stardom and key slots in festivals such as Reading and Glastonbury.
The group’s magnum opus, however, was inspired by tragedy. The death of drummer Jon Lee resulted in Nicholas digging deep for his songwriting. The resulting album, 2002’s Comfort in Sound, is true to its name. Cathartic and ever so hopeful, it remains Feeder’s grandest artistic statement.
Nicholas understands the perception that Comfort in Sound’s big sales was partly down to the public’s morbid fascination with tragedy. However, he argues that the album’s overarching lyrical message of strength in the face of tragedy was something all could understand.
“As a songwriter, I pushed myself to do different things on that record and I think that was part of the success of it. I don’t think people bought it just because we lost Jon. It was a really tough time. I think people bought it because they liked the songs and people related to it,” he says.
“To be honest with you, that album only came about because we thought that this could be the end of Feeder after losing Jon. We didn’t know what to do, so I basically just locked myself away in a small studio very near to where I live now and I just wrote these songs and they were obviously a collection of what was on my mind and what I was going through at the time. Not only do I think it helped me personally, I think it has helped the band evolve a little bit.”
Part of that diversity led to some of Feeder’s strongest material, particularly on 2012’s near-career-best album Generation Freakshow. However, by that time, the public’s attention had shifted towards the next generation of guitar bands with Feeder consigned to fans-only status. Not that Nicholas minds. The band’s supporters are a dedicated lot – Feeder have no problem racking up international tours each year.
Their Dubai Opera date is part of a run of shows supporting their expansive 50-track The Best Of Feeder compilation, which includes nine new songs. Nicholas explains that when it comes to the British public, the compilation has caused a welcome reappraisal of the band.
“We’re a bit of a mystery because I think some people get us and some people don’t; some people have warmed to us and some people don’t know that we did those songs,” he says. “The ‘best of’ is not only a reminder to ourselves, but to a lot of people who didn’t realise that some of these hits were done by us.”
As for the new songs, it is a message to the faithful that their favourite band has no plans of sailing into the sunset.
“I’ve already pretty much finished the new album already,” he says. “I have another four songs that I should have done by the time I get to Dubai. It is strong material and definitely has some classic Feeder moments.”
Feeder perform on November 27 at Dubai Opera at 8pm. Tickets begin from Dh150 at www.dubaiopera.com