Rock icons Feeder on 30 years in the business, new album Torpedo, and Adele

After almost 30 years in the music business, you could have forgiven Grant Nicholas if he had looked worn-out when he dialled into our Zoom call on a grey afternoon.

But, despite the stress of an 11th studio album due for release today (March 18), Feeder’s lead singer is enthusiastic and friendly throughout our chat, and even comes prepared with an acoustic guitar as he scuttles onto my laptop screen.

It’s tempting to start off by asking for a rendition of one of Grant’s catalogue of hits, but we instead begin with how the singer whittled away his time over a strange couple of years.

“For me being a songwriter, that’s kind of kept my sanity a little bit. Although it’s been my career for 30 years, it’s still something I like doing,” he acknowledges.

For a man who fronted a band formed in the boisterous era of the Gallaghers and co, Grant is strikingly ordinary. During lockdown, he tells me, he took up gardening and did a little running, but mainly made the most of an extended period at home with his family.

There was also the small matter of writing and recording Feeder’s latest work, Torpedo, an album that veers onto the rockier side of the band’s broad spectrum but still delivers the pop-gilded punch fans have come to expect from the Welsh group.

“I didn’t see Taka the whole time I was writing this record,” Grant explains. “Basically, this album has gone through various things. It was going to be, ‘let’s just put out three mini albums, you don’t know what the climate’s going to be, there may be another lockdown’.”

But with a positive response from record label reps and plenty of material written before the old world ended, Torpedo arrives as one (hopefully) final reminder of how we all grappled with those unprecedented times.

“It’s kind of a double album in two halves but they’re standalone albums in themselves… So the second album will hopefully be out in a year’s time, which is not very long, if all goes to plan, and that will be a bunch of songs from pre-lockdown plus some others that I’m writing now,” Grant clarifies.

In the past, Feeder have referred to themselves as a “heavy metal pop band”. It’s a tag that captures the sprawl of their work, and no doubt applies to the group’s latest release.

The sounds and lyrics that drive the LP are laced with apocalyptic lockdown-isms. Heavy guitars often find themselves at odds with upbeat urgings to move forward in spite of oppressive surroundings.

“That’s a bit of a trademark of my writing, that sort of negative/positive thing,” Grant admits. “Just The Way I’m Feeling is a really good example of that, it’s one of the best-known Feeder songs and it really connected with people.”

The songwriter picks out latest single The Healing as a similar example. It’s a 6 minute album-opener that soars and falls between triumph and despair, all while Nicholas’ steady vocals stress the importance of sticking together.

“There’s songs that touch on frustration, and that covers a lot of things about mental health as well,” he adds.

Just as fans derive comfort from the group’s music, in his grief after the tragic passing of the band’s drummer Jon Lee at the start of 2002, Grant penned one of the group’s most powerful – and commercially successful – records; the aptly-titled Comfort in Sound.

“Particularly since lockdown, people have listened to that album again, and then said it was a really important album for them,” Grant admits, acknowledging the album’s resurgent relevance over the last couple of years.

“I was quite touched by it, and for me, it’s great if you’ve written something that connects with people, and which does help in some ways.”

The band might be busy with Torpedo, but wouldn’t it be wrong, almost, to not recognise their seminal earlier album in some form?

“I think it’s quite a timeless record… I think Comfort in Sound for me really does feel like the Holy Grail, because it reached such a large audience,” Grant agrees.

“In 30 years we’ve never made a live album, and we’ve never gone out and done an album in its entirety… So we were thinking maybe we’ll go out maybe after the next album and do a few really special shows somewhere cool and do the whole of Comfort in Sound.”

Choosing a set-list is no small feat for the band, and Grant laughs that going back to a single album performance like this one would require some serious practice.

While this struggle can be placed down to an enormous back catalogue, it is also partly inflicted by the sanctity that Grant places on the idea of albums existing as one linear piece of work.

To this end, Feeder occupy a unique space in the modern album debate that roars on.

Enabled by the storming success of tunes like Buck Rogers and Just a Day, the group has grappled with maintaining their status as an ‘albums band’ rather than a pop singles machine.

So, where does Grant stand on Adele’s comments that Spotify listeners should stream her recent release 30 in its intended order rather than darting from single to single? “Oh my God,” he says. “If you think Adele feels anything about that, I am ten times worse.

“I completely agree, for a band like us, every album has had so much time and thought. I spend weeks going through different sequences, getting the whole journey right.”

“I see where Adele is coming from, I’d like to think that people will listen to it from start to finish if they’re fans. If they don’t like it, fine.”

Don’t expect, then, a TikTok frenzy of soundbites and chorus-driven nuggets when you take Torpedo out of its casing.

“It would have probably been more successful if I had,” he laughs. “But I’m not very good at that. My kids are like, ‘dad you’re crap at TikTok’."

That’s not to say that Grant is against the platform that continues to drive outsiders into the mainstream, (just look at this year’s BBC Sound of 2022 winner Pink Pantheress, whose breakout hit Just For Me drove her into the UK Top 40).

Still, we’re unlikely to see the Welshman mimicking the latest dance trend in the hope of a few more streams.

It’s that level of comfort that really lies behind the band’s continued longevity. Titans like Oasis and Pulp have come and gone – though of course living on through their work – meanwhile Grant and Taka continue to plug away, refusing to compromise on their identity.

“What I’m noticing now is there’s quite a lot of young bands with a real nineties influence, which is really cool. We’ve even become more relevant now,” Grant notes, acknowledging the cyclical nature of trends.

“The nineties was a great time for music, it was proper bands and songs… I was part of that nineties [wave], and it was a really rock and roll time.”

Much has changed since Grant first answered Taka’s local advert to form a rock band all those years ago, but one consistent has been his group’s desire to create.

“Music is the fountain of youth, I’m not saying it makes you look any younger, but it definitely makes you feel you are,” Grant laughs.

“I think when we feel like we’ve outstayed our welcome, we’ll quietly leave the party.

“But I still feel like I’ve got a bit more to write; I think we’re one of those bands that musically, we’ve managed to adapt and evolve, and I think we can play new songs for as long as we can physically do them."

He laughs, adding: “That’s why I’m doing all the running.”

Feeder’s latest album Torpedo is out today (March 18), and you can find dates for the band's upcoming tour here.

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