Feeder: CULT STATUS
Feeder talk new tracks, Spotify and why they are looking forward to headlining at Wheels & Fins festival 2018
Stick on Feeder’s The Best of and I guarantee, even those who the band have never registered with will recognise a song within three tracks.
For young , alternative music fans in the late 90s/early 200s, Feeder were one of the household names flying the British flag for indie rock.
On the tail end of Oasis and Blur’s Britpop era, Feeder powered into a new era as guitar bands such as Muse and Ash cemented places in the UK mainstream. Pop punk was at full tilt with the likes of Blink 182 leading a hoard of bands to these shores. Appearances at huge alternative festivals such as Reading and Leeds - alongside global mega acts like The Strokes, Foo Fighters and The Prodigy – stood Feeder in good stead and they have since stood the test of time.
Lead singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose continue to rock the festival scene with a back catalogue that will have you uttering “blimey, this was Feeder as well?”
Adverts for car brands have put Feeder’s hits into homes without people necessarily knowing who they are, while widely played console games like Gran Turismo have used a number of their hits onto backing tracks.
Celebrated hit Buck Rogers was joined by Just a Day, Seven Days in The Sun, Just The Way I’m Feeling and Tumble and Fall, to name but a few, have racked up 10 studio albums and more than 40 singles. And they are nowhere near done.
Last year, Feeder released their greatest hits, with a bonus collection of nine new songs under the album title Arrow – a little nod to all those who bought the deluxe version.
Ahead of Wheels & Fins Festival 2018, at which, Feeder will headline alongside The Libertines and a Faithless DJ set, we managed to grab Grant Nicholas in his studio where more new tracks were being laid down.
“I didn’t really anticipate writing again so quickly (after the release of Arrow), but it’s good to keep going while the ideas are there,” says Nicholas.
“I wanted to do something different with The Best Of, rather than it just being about the singles; I wanted something new for the fans as well.
“It was a pretty intense period, because I didn’t have too long to do it. There was originally going to be a couple of new tracks added in but it ended up being nine. I put a bit more pressure on myself than I needed to, but I actually quite enjoyed it.”
A prolific songwriter across an era that has seen the sale of CDs and records decline in favour of digital streaming and musical memberships, Nicholas is more upbeat than many about how the music industry is changing.
“There are no rules any more, he explains. “There is still a bit of that album cycle, with the big build-up and spending that time getting the artwork in and the songs ready before the album comes out; but some albums will now chart and some go under the radar, and that is true of some really quite big bands.
“With things like Spotify, there are no rules. You can pretty much do anything. In the old days you did an album and if you got three singles off of an album, then that was a good sign that it was going to do well as a record, because often radio would not support more than one.
“It is just a different model now. We still make albums because we are from that genre of band and a lot of our fans like to have something physical, but it maybe we start to do it in a different way. I’m not sure how yet.
“We aren’t short of songs, it just a case of finding the best way of putting them out. There is no one way of doing it now, it keeps it all quiet exciting.”
WHEELS & FINS FESTIVAL
Down on the Broadstairs beach front at Joss Bay, Wheels & Fins festival will once again combine extreme sports with a seriously special music line-up across three days in September. For six years the festival has perched atop the cliff next to the famous lighthouse, with fields in the rear and nothing but sandy beaches and sea up front.
And this year, revellers might be treated to some previously unheard music.
“If we’ve got one of the new tracks ready and we are happy with it then maybe it might be nice to throw one into a set,” says Nicholas.
“We did that with Figure You Out, the last single on The Best Of, and we threw that into the festival set and it went down really well. It's nice to get that response to a new track and it’s often a good sign of a song, especially with a festival audience because they are not always your fans.”
Feeder, of course, have A-list of songs they pretty much have to play, lest there be riots in Joss Bay.
“In general, you have think about the whole audience at a festival. I think if you’ve got hits in the bag, it’s kind of crazy not to put them into the set,” he says. “We try and do some old classics, most of the records and some that we like rocking out to and enjoy playing.”
So after more than two decades years of rocking across the globe – Feeder have a huge cult following in Japan – does Nicholas still get the buzz of playing festivals?
“Yeah, totally. If we don’t have to rush back for another gig, then we like to stay and to hang out. And if we are headlining then we’ve normally seen all of the bands before we go on,” says Nicholas.
“It is always a great way to reach new people. We’ve been around for 25 years but every time you do a festival you will meet people who haven’t heard your stuff. We have had mainstream success, but we have always been a bit of an indie, cult with our following. so we are still picking up new fans all the time, and for a band who has been around as long as we have I always think that is quite encouraging.”
While Nicholas cites Fuji Rock in Japan and it mountainous scenery as something to behold on the festival circuit, Joss Bay’s stunning setting and the 12,000 fans will surely give them something remember.
“We really enjoy doing the slightly smaller festivals, and I think it’s nice to support them rather than the obvious big ones all the time,” says Nicholas. “It seems to be really about the music and there is a nice atmosphere.”
Feeder have played Kent on a couple of occasions such as in Folkestone at Leas Cliff Hall, while Nicholas has made a habit of visiting Canterbury and Whitstable, taking a particular shine to the oysters at Wheeler’s restaurant in the high street.
Wheels & Fins will once again be giving a festival platform to up and coming Kent artists, some for the first time in that kind of arena. And Nicholas has some advice.
“It’s always nerve wracking doing a festival, but I think if you can connect with the audience, be it through the performance you put on or the songs, that’s the key,” he says.
“You have to work a bit harder at festivals because fans aren’t just there to see you. I’ve done millions of festivals but everyone is still a learning experience.
“And that’s what keeps festivals fresh, they can be so unpredictable.”