In Conversation: Feeder
Comfort in sound - there is confidence in knowing that some of the best things in music don’t change much, and Feeder’s twenty-five years of experience only seems to encourage further reinvention and influence. The popular guitar band show no signs of slowing down.
As the release date of their tenth studio album ‘Tallulah’ approaches, it is time to take a step back and reflect on what it has been like. With plenty of highs and some lows, the 1990s were particularly special for Feeder, “It was a whole sort of golden time for us, and it was an amazing time for music”, Nicholas says. “I loved it. It was a very different world, there was no social media. There was more mystique about it all.”
The joyous 1990s sentiment is partly what is documented on ‘Tallulah’. Continuing to write the song material on an acoustic guitar, it is a way to maintain quality control. Nicholas wrote like that in the early 1990s, and he sees no reason to change as it just really works for him.
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The new record is the end result of a long work process, but it is a satisfactory place to be, “I am really happy with it, of course it’s difficult, I am so close to it”, he admits. “We always have this kind of slight downer when a record is finished. I’ve worked hard on it, but I also had a lot of time, it wasn’t all done in one go”.
“I’ve lived with the songs, if I wasn’t happy with them I’d go back. But we tried to keep them organic, we didn’t want everything to be overtly produced. But at the same time, I had the luxury of doing a lot in my studio, so I’d chip away at it over a period of time rather than being really serious. I think that has really helped the record actually”.
The collection of songs on ‘Tallulah’ shows Feeder coming full circle, solidifying everything they already know whilst showing new sparks of ambition and drive. There is no time like the present, and this record shows the signs of a band who are trying out new ideas, experimenting and feeling good about doing something in a different way to what has gone before.
With an album title inspired by a friend’s eight-year-old daughter, Nicholas and his wife liked the name Tallulah and linked the theme. The opener road trip song ‘Youth’ tackles memories of going back to childhood. ‘Shapes and sounds’ is connected to ‘Youth’, and is almost part two of the song. It is not a new technique, Nicholas has used it on previous records, and it works well with Feeder’s big melodic rock.
“I do that quite a lot, I like to have a bit of a theme sometimes, so it continues into another song”, he says. “It doesn’t always work, but it feels like a nice kind of continuation. It gives the album a bit of context in some way and it ties certain tracks together.”
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Exploring how having two kids changed his life and how important it is has been is part of the theme. ‘Tallulah’ was quick song to write, it is different to the other songs on the album, as it has darker textures. On the contrary, ‘Rodeo’ has a classic kind of 1970s rock feel to it.
“I really wanted classic songwriting in the style of Neil Young, and ‘Rodeo has got that weird hook, it’s almost like a country feel in the way”, he explains. “I’m singing the chorus which I’ve never really done before but it was just the way it came out when I was writing it.
The traditional approach inspired other aspects of the album work, “Then it might just go into a different thing, a kind of rock feel on the second half”, he says. “It’s great to have a lot of action. But if you have too much you lose interest musically as a band and as a writer. I mean there are love songs and songs about the day-to-day things that inspire us”.
Melding the power and influence of American alt-rock with British guitar music, songcraft and tradition, ‘Tallulah’ pays respect to a range of their favourite bands. Recording the majority of the songs in Nicholas’ north London studio, the record was produced and made with long-term collaborator Tim Roe. Its sound is a vibrant stream of melody and it emulates the band’s recognisably raw live performances.
“It’s really nice that we work with a lot of the same people”, he says. “I have worked with Chris for many years, and he has probably mixed more of our work than anybody else. The way it normally works is that Tim and I work in my studio first and then we will go to bigger studios to do the drums and everything else. It’s too loud for my neighbours to accept”, he smiles.
The sense of continuation within the band stretches further than their collaborators. While the band have undergone a few line-up changes for drummers – it is now Geoff Holroyde - the spine of what they have is not likely to change with the life-long creative partnership with bassist Taka Hirose. As the bass player lives up north, they don’t see each other all the time, but they have been together long enough to know what works and what doesn’t for them.
“Taka is a very individual part of the band, and he has got a very strong look about him”, he states. “He is not really a songwriter, but he is great bass player. He is brilliant and that’s how people know Feeder. It was the same with Jon when he was around, I started the band with Jon then Taka came a little bit later but there was always a similar chemistry.”
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“I think we still have a lot of respect for each other and that is something, as long as that continues there will be band. You know some bands just don’t get on”, he concludes. “You smile together on stage, and off stage things are very different, but it’s a real vibe I have with Taka, you can’t just switch if off”.
That only makes sense. Being in the same band for 25 years means that Nicholas and Hirose know each other inside out. Nicholas is familiar with Japanese people and their culture. His wife is Japanese, which meant that he spent a lot of time in Japan before he met Taka.
“He is Japanese, although he has been in the UK for a long time and he is very westernised, he is quite old-school. We get on well, we do stuff together. I think a band that still drink together are a band that stay together. It’s an old term but it’s very true”, he insists.
His joke about being a “Welsh cockney” appears to carry some weight, London life has clearly influenced Nicholas who does not seem to have a trace of a Welsh accent despite being born in Newport and growing up in Chepstow. He finds it useful to have the London perspective, then go back and relive the memories of what early childhood was like, it has influenced the songswriting in positive ways.
“Chepstow is outside the border, it’s about 30 min away from Cardiff, so it’s just like a little town”, he proclaims. “I love going back though I couldn’t wait to get away when I was a kid. My parents still live down there and my brother does as well. I find it quite inspiring because it has a lot of little landmarks, references to growing up, they are part of my life and some of them inspired this new record.”
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He recognises Wales’ overall influence on rock and indie. There have been many great bands, it is a country where music traditions have been nurtured. When he was really young he was introduced to lots of new music there, it wasn’t what everyone in London was listening to but it meant a lot and it became his reason for pursuing music.
“It gave me something to do in a smaller town that did not have all the excitement of a big city”, he explains. “I was near Bristol and Cardiff where there was a bigger scene. There have always been good Welsh bands, and looking back there is so many including The Manics, Stereophonics and Super Furries, they are more interesting indie bands. Now it’s bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen. I think live they are good, and they are very melodic. It’s something we do in a different way and they’ve got that guitar sound.”
Although Nicholas feels nostalgic about the 1990s, he recognises the massive influence of streaming. It has helped Feeder expand their fan base and reach out to new countries. Their previous label was against it, so their music didn’t reach Spotify until a few years ago, “Now that we are involved, it’s a good way to reach new young audiences”, he enthuses. “It’s great for us to be on the radio, but if you have the combination of the two you can reach further.”
There was a period where he wasn’t enjoying playing live and touring as much as he used to, but he is really enjoying it now, “It just feels like a really good time for the band, we have a great line-up, a good crew and everyone gets on”.
Ultimately Nicholas just wants to make music. There is sense of relief that he hasn’t “dried up” because things change when kids come along. It is easy to slow down but that hasn’t happened. Feeder’s ever-expanding journey can continue.
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Feeder will release 'Talulah' on August 9th.
Words: Susan Hansen / @SusanHansen3
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