Grant Nicholas talks ‘Tallulah’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Muse’ and 25 years of Feeder.
Feeder are a Welsh rock band formed in Newport, Wales in 1994. Some of their most popular hits include ‘Just a Day’ and ‘Buck Rogers’, which has had 1.5 million and 1.3 million views on Youtube, respective. To date, the band has had 10 albums under their repertoire.
Feeder’s latest album ‘Tallulah’ was released on 9 August 2019. The first single and music video from the album ‘Fear of Flying’ was released on 27 March 2019. In mid-May, their second single ‘Youth’ was released.
Recently in Singapore for a gig at The Pavilion at Far East Square, we at AsiaLive365 had an opportunity to have a chat with Frontman Grant Nicholas as he tells us the story behind their latest album, including the interesting cover art, as well as his take on Feeder and their music throughout these 25 years.
ASL365: Hi, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Welcome to Singapore! Is it your first time in Singapore, and performing here?
Grant: Yeah it is my first time here…
ASL365: I saw on Instagram that you guys arrived on Thursday. Did you guys managed to have some free time to enjoy Singapore – the food especially? Or check out any sights?
Grant: We went to a fish market, an actual fish market that goes all the way around. It’s the one that does more seafood stuff. There’s a few different ones. I must get the name of it – it’s good. And on Friday we went down to see where the Grand Prix would be, down by the Bay. And to the hotel with the…what’s it called?
ASL365:: Marina Bay Sands?
Grant: Yeah. And I took photos. We took a boat trip down there.
ASL365: Oh nice! Did you managed to go to the Infinity Pool?
Grant: I didn’t go in there, no. Cause you can pay to go up. If I had more time, I think I would definitely go there too.
ASL365: Hmm.. I think where you guys are staying has some sort of “mini infinity pool” too?
Grant: Well…it has sort of a glass panel, yeah. But it’s really shallow, so you can’t swim right up to it. You have to get out and look.
ASL365: Aww.. Hmm.. So the food, just the fish market then?
Grant: Yeah, here and there, and just sort of locally… Cause we’ve only been here for a short period of time. But the food has been really good, I really enjoyed it!
ASL365: Congrats on the new album ‘Tallulah’. What (or who) was the inspiration for this new album?
Grant: The name came from my friend’s daughter called ‘Tallulah’, and that’s where I got the name. And I wrote a song, and that what it touches on, because I have two children now. And it changed my outlook… As a songwriter and being a parent, you know it’s quite an experience. The first four to five Feeder albums, I didn’t even have kids. It just gives you different things to write about. Makes you maybe think about things that you didn’t necessarily worry about and you’re young and go out all crazy with the band and whatever. So the song really touches on, not to say the importance of kids, but the importance of…
Grant: Family…and that everyone needs someone in their life. Whether it’s just a special person – it could be a relationship, it could be a partner, it could be anything. But for me, I was touching on kids and as you said, like family. And yeah, I don’t always write about songs like that but it was very inspired and it was a very natural song to write. It’s also one of the more atmospheric songs on the album. It’s still anthemic but it’s a little bit more mellow. And it’s one of my favourite songs of the album. And decided that I should definitely use the title, yeah…
Grant: But the inspiration.. We’ve been really busy the last few years doing many festivals. Cause we had a “Best Of” – which had all our singles, 57 singles. We were playing a lot of well known songs, it was very summer vibe, festival vibe. And I think that sort of rubs off a little bit into the lives of the band. I was on kind of an “up” headspace, so some of the songs are real classic. Like ‘Youth’, ’Fear Of Flying’ and ‘Daily Habit’. A bit more of that indie… You know it’s still kind of rocky. Cause you know we have that indie band-sy stuff and we also have a heavier sound, and then we have more anthemic sounds…
ASL365: Yeah…some songs also has that punk kind of feel…
Grant: Yeah yeah. Exactly. We’re influenced by punk rock, 70s rock, pop, even acoustic stuff as well that I listened to when I was growing up. And lots of classic song writers like Neil Young, Tom Petty, all sorts of stuff that I listened to when I was a kid. It all kind of, it’s what makes me probably write these kind of songs. And that’s the kind of chemistry and our sound as a band.
ASL365: If you could pick a favourite song from the album, what would it be?
Grant: I quite like ‘Fear Of Flying’ – it’s sort of like classic Feeder! It has a really good feel to it. And I quite like a song called ‘Kyoto’.
ASL365: Oh Kyoto! It’s very rock!
Grant: Yeah, it has more of an old-school rock feel and I like that! Our album before was called ‘All Bright Electric’ and that’s very much in similar sound to Kyoto. It’s important for us to still be able to still sort of rock out. Cause we’ve always been a band that’s kind of indie rock. But we still go quite heavy sometimes… But then we go super mellow. That’s the Feeder chemistry and that’s kind of what we do… And people either get it, or they don’t.
Grant: But yeah, some of the best bands. Some of the bands like Led Zeppelin, they had acoustic songs, folk songs. They had songs like ‘Kashmir’. Songs like ‘Rock and Roll’. So they were quite a diverse band. And I’ve always been inspired by those kind of bands. Even more recent ones like Smashing Pumpkins. They can be really heavy, but they can be super mellow as well. And I like that. That freedom… as a writer, and also as a band… Cause if not everything is just “dehn dehn dehn’ (imitates sound of guitar).
ASL365: Actually, it’s interesting that you’ve mentioned all this cause this brings me to my next question. You guys have been around for 25 years. How would you say your music has changed or not changed throughout the years, and would you reckon that (in the music industry) it can sometimes get difficult to do this? Muse for instance, who have been around as long as you guys, are constantly changing their sound throughout their albums. And fans and listeners sometimes react harshly, unfortunately. Their latest album has so much electronic vibes which is so different and which I love. But some don’t. How do you feel about this see-saw battle of trying to come up with something new and relevant to the ever-changing music industry and yet still remain “the same”?
Grant: It’s very difficult. I mean, we gave Muse their first ever tour when they were a little band. And they were really good. And we were like, “This band is really good”. And they certainly went massive. And we ended up supporting them in Europe… And it’s a shame we can’t attend their show at the Grand Prix.
ASL365: Yes, they’re performing next week!
Grant: Yeah…if you see them say hi. But yeah, I think they’re a band. They have tried to experiment. I think…it’s good to be influenced and to see what’s going around you musically, and you get ideas for production. I mean I do mess around with a lot of different sounds. Feeder is not just guitar-based and drums in the studio. We mess around with lots of keyboard parts, and strings and synthesizers. It’s all kind of mixed into our sound. But our main sort of chemistry is guitar music. But we still love to put things around that… So I think to answer your question. It’s great. But it’s always a bit of a gamble. Cause like you said, you can try too hard to do something that’s not really you, and fans go, you know…
ASL365: What’s that sound?
Grant: Yeah. Fans go, “I don’t really get it.” But then… you gotta keep it interesting.
ASL365: Yeah, to remain relevant to the ever-changing music industry.
Grant: Yeah, I think you’ll probably find a band like Muse go full-circle. They’ll probably going to make something more like their earlier stuff. Cause it’s gone so theatrical…and it’s gone so…
ASL365: I think right now they’ve gone towards a more electronic feel. And some fans don’t get this sound.
Grant: Well I think people like Muse, because they’re a great band…I mean Matt Bellamy is a great guitarist and pianist. But people also want to rock out. They’re working with sort of like R&B and hip-hop juices. I think you just sort of need to get it right. I mean I don’t mind the sort of experimental stuff. I think you got to do what feels right for you as a band. And I rather make a record that felt comfortable for us, then make a record that was successful but just didn’t feel like us.
Grant: So yeah, it’s difficult… I think the problem with anything in life, people go “Ah yes, the band’s good but same old thing”. And when you go too crazy, they go, “Ah no, I prefer the usual stuff”.
ASL365: Yes. (laughs)
Grant: And I’ve tried it on records. I mean we’ve had albums that haven’t connected as well, because maybe they’re not heavy enough or not enough guitars, or it can be too heavy for some of our mainstream fans. But yeah, I think each of those records, we kind of had that style kind of bubbling away, even from our early days. It’s just that each album is a bit different. I think that’s interesting. I think each album has to be different in some way. Like this album ‘Tallulah’ has a bit more of a classic feel. It’s a bit more of a return to… It has lots of songs that fit on almost all our records. And that probably wasn’t really planned. And I think it feels like a good time for us to make it now. Maybe the next one might be different, might be heavier. Who knows? I probably won’t go too electronic.
I mean I love electronic if it’s done right. I love Depeche Mode and all that kind of mixture like rock and pop-electronic. But sometimes it can sound really contrived. I mean if the songs are really good, then you can get away with it. And also…you got that… I mean Muse are trying to do the rock thing, but they also wanna be like Daft Punk. They want that kind of element. And I totally get that! The theatrical. And their shows are pretty impressive.
For us, as long as our songs connect with our fans, that’s all I really care about at the moment. But you know, I still like to experiment also.
ASL365: If you could describe Feeder as a band (or the Feeder sound) in one sentence to entice a new listener, what would it be?
Grant: Melodic… Gosh that a really difficult question. I get asked that a lot but I can never answer it. I mean basically I describe Feeder as an indie rock band, but we have a lot of different colours in there. We’re an indie rock band, but our career has been built on songwriting and songs that can be timeless in some way. I’d say “An Indie Rock Band with… Don’t know, it’s very hard to answer. Sorry, I’m trying. But yeah, it’s indie rock but we’re very song-based, the music is dynamic and it has lots of different colours.
ASL365: Out of curiosity, and since you also mentioned Doctor Who earlier (*Grant had immediately noticed my TARDIS Doctor Who iPhone cover at the start of the interview), did you know that one of your songs played on an episode of Doctor Who?
Grant: (gets excited even before I could finish my question) Oh was it?
ASL365: In a Doctor Who Confidential episode.
Grant: Was it recently?
Grant: What song was it?
Grant: Was it?? Really… I see… the more melodic…(hums the piano part)
ASL365: Yeah. It was used for the end of season 2, when Rose disappeared.
Grant: So who was the Doctor then?
ASL365: David Tennant.
Grant: Ahh ok. Do you know…what’s his name…not Lewis Capaldi…
ASL365: Peter Capaldi?
Grant: Yeah. He was my neighbour.
ASL365: (the Doctor Who fan ‘Whovian’ in this writer getting excited) Ooooh…! Really?
Grant: Yeah. He used to drink coffee every day at the same place. He’s now moved away. I still see him. But I think he got so big on Doctor Who. And when he was going to the park, and then the kids knew where he lived, and all that.
ASL365: Yeah. Doctor Who is massive. And you get huge as soon as they announce you as the Doctor.
Grant: Yeah. I think Doctor Who is one of those roles, there’s only so long you can do it for. It’s quite a demanding role actually.
ASL365: Yeah it is. Anyway…to get back to my question. Any chance that ‘Tender’ will be on the setlist today?
Grant: Do you know what? We always play that song. But we haven’t got it on the set today. I mean I couldn’t put it in. We’ve worked out…we only had like three rehearsals. Cause this tour was only gonna be for…cause this day was added. It was only going to be Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Cause we’ve played that song quite a lot already in Japan. We’ll be doing quite a lot of new album on this tour. But tonight I might put a few old ones in. Because I’m worried. Our first time here. If people can’t really… It’s hard to get our albums out here as well. I’ll try. But we haven’t played it for quite sometime.
ASL365: Yeah, I was looking on Setlist FM and the last time that song was heard near to Asia, was in Dubai?
Grant: Yeah. Actually that was a good gig… That was good. Cause that was our first time there as well. But yeah, we were doing more of the ‘Best Of’ stuff, so it was all singles. Tonight is a bit of a mixture, so… But I think it’s nice to play some new songs. At least you guys are going to hear them for the first time. So…yeah… I’ll try… Any other favourites? (laughs)
ASL365: Not really. I mean I really, really love the new album ‘Tallulah’ a lot. But ‘Tender’ was the song that actually made me discover you guys. (smiles)
Grant: Ah ok. It’s quite a stadium, rocky, piano feel…
ASL365: What was the last stonking gig that you guys went to as an audience or played in as a band?
Grant: Well, the gig that I really enjoyed and I probably sound really old saying it. Because I’m a massive fan and I got to see him before he died. I got a AAA (Access All Areas) pass to see Tom Petty. And I’m a huge Tom Petty fan. I have been since I was a kid.
ASL365: Was this gig in London?
Grant: Yeah. That’s when I literally got to watch him like a feet away. I could even get to his dressing room with this pass. But I didn’t get the chance… I wish I had gone up to him and say, “Hi Tom, I’m a big fan”. Because I’ve always sort of love his songwriting. I know some kids would go, “who?” But he’s a great songwriter, and his band. So that was a really great gig. I mean I’ve been to see lots of young bands who are great, but for me, that one was amazing.
Grant: As far as our performances go, we did some really good festivals. It’s hard to pick one.
Grant: Yeah… We did some good ones in the UK. But obviously…well Fuji Rock Japan is always good to play. Their last one – that’s a really good festival. But for me to actually go and watch a gig, that would be Tom Petty.
ASL365: When was that?
Grant: It must have been about two years ago, almost. Doesn’t seem like it… Cause I mean…we’re always either doing festivals or recording. I do go to see gigs, but I don’t go to as many as I like to.
ASL365: It’s a bit difficult huh…
Grant: Yeah it’s difficult. I often get invited to a lot and some of them I can go to, some of them I can’t. But yeah, they were really good. And I got to see some of the younger bands as well. And my daughter’s into all sort of stuff, and I take her to festivals sometimes. But yeah, that was the best one that I’ve been to for awhile.
Grant: (continues excitedly) You know Dave Grohl (from Foo Fighters and Nirvana) almost joined Tom Petty, you know that right? He actually joined Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for awhile. And then he decided that he wanted to carry on doing Foo Fighters. He almost gave up Foo Fighters to be the drummer in Tom Petty.
ASL365: (amazed) Wow…
Grant: Yeah it’s true.
Grant: I think he did the right thing in doing Foo Fighters. (laughs) Cause he was like the Frontman, one of the biggest.
ASL365: Coming back to your new album ‘Tallulah’. I see that the concept art on the album is pretty cool! I love it! Where did the idea of it come from and do the symbols on the face mean anything?
Grant: A good friend of mine did the art. He goes by the name of Rugman (Anthony McEwan) – https://www.rugmanart.com. I have quite a few of his works in my house. I mean yeah, we’re really good friends. He’s always wanted to do some stuff, you know, we’ve always wanted to work together. But it was never quite the right record for his style. Cause he’s always like kind of – his style is almost quite rock and roll, almost tattoo-art style, but unusual. So he does lots of famous icons and rock stars, stuff like that. And he has a very unusual style. I call them almost like “icons”. So yeah what we did. We gave him kind of a rough idea, some sort of a feminine figure with a bit of pink hair. And then he went away and did his thing. And then we went through the songs and talked through the lyrics and said, “Could you get some of the images to tie in with the lyrics?” And a lot of them do.
ASL365: Oh yeah, the symbols…
Grant: Yeah. Cause his style is very much like that. This one I think it came out really well. It’s a really strong image. I mean there were posters all over London…and it’s like…
ASL365: Yeah, it really stands out!
Grant: (agrees) It really stands out!
ASL365: Because of the pink hair, and the symbols.
Grant: When we played at Hyde Park recently, for Robbie Williams. We were on the bill. We had this massive screen, and we had that art. And honestly, it just looks amazing. It’s like “Woah…! You know.”
Grant: But yeah you know, all the little illustrations either have some meaning to the band, or me, or to the songs. So there’s a cat on there, cause I have a cat. And there’s a Samurai sword for the Kyoto song. There’s even a guillotine. If you look at it carefully, you’ll see there’s quite a few that tie in with the songs. There’s a kite. But there’s also a few that’s very much his identity as an artist. Like the eye. That’s the one he always has. But yeah… I think it looks really good. It was actually really enjoyable. It took a few weeks to get it right, but I think he did a great job.
ASL365: He did. I really like it! If you could say something to your fans (or music lovers) right now and why they should buy your album or come to a Feeder gig, what would it be?
Grant: The thing with Feeder. People know our music more than they know the name of the band. It’s quite strange. Even in the UK. Like some people who don’t necessarily read music magazines or who just like music, they know our music. But they don’t know it’s Feeder. They’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I know that song…” Obviously like Doctor Who, I mean we’ve been in quite a few films and tv stuff as well. But it’s bizarre after being in a band for 25 years, people still don’t know. But in some way, I kind of like it. Because it keeps it quite fresh. We’ve not one of those bands that have gone massive, and died down. We’ve always been kind of up and down, and sort of chipping away. It’s so of frustrating but it’s given us almost a more enjoyable career. I would say anyone, if they like songs with dynamics, then they should get Feeder. We have songs that sound great in some indie rock clubs, and we have songs that could fill stadiums. We’ve toured with U2, Rolling Stones, we’ve also played with Foo Fighters. We’ve played with some massive bands, and our music does work, even when we play with bands who aren’t as heavy as us, like Coldplay for example. It worked really well. Cause we picked the right songs like Tender (smiles). I mean we still rocked out. We has such a wide choice of songs, and we’re quite lucky to become adapt to playing with different types of bands. Some heavy and some a bit stadium rock. But yeah, check us out! Feeder, it’s all about the songs. It’s all about the tunes. But that’s kind of what we always try to be as a band. And hopefully songs… You know you can’t always get a song that’s always going to be that one. But songs that connect with people, that are timeless. But you know, trends come and go. But good songs…
ASL365: Are timeless… Exactly.
Grant. Yeah, and we’ve had a few that have been. So… If we can get a few more, before we can call it a day. (laughs)
Thank you to Grant Nicholas for the very insightful and very enjoyable interview! Special thanks also to LAMC Productions.
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