FEEDER are back with their brilliant 11th studio album, Torpedo.
Neil Collins of the Welsh Music Podcast chats to frontman Grant Nicholas about how Feeder continue to evolve three decades on from their inception in Newport and delves into a track-track-analysis of their latest record.
Torpedo sees you link up once again with Tim Roe (co-producer of UK Top 10 albums All Bright Electric and Tallulah), and it was mixed by long-time collaborator, Chris Sheldon. How does Torpedo compare and contrast with Feeder material old and new?
It’s difficult because I don’t sit down and plan “this one should be heavy, and this one should be the more indie side of Feeder”, but this new album has definitely got some classic Swim and Polythene moments especially with the heavy guitars and riffs. It was there on All Bright Electric too and on Tallulah there was a rock song called Kyoto, which was pretty old school Feeder. We’ve never moved away from our heavy rock sound, but some albums end up being more focused on it than others.
Torpedo is a really concise collection. Was it difficult to sequence the tracks and decide what was omitted?
I wanted Torpedo to be classic Side A / Side B record, kind of like what albums used to be like in the 70s and 80s when I was growing up. If you break the record in half, it makes two great little mini albums opening with The Healing and Decompress. I didn’t want to dilute the message by adding too many songs.
It was really hard to get it down to a 10-track album as we’ve got a lot of material, and Torpedo is part of a double-album thing. We did a whole bunch of stuff before lockdown, and another album will hopefully be out in a year’s time. It will be connected with the same sleeve artist, so it will be nice for the diehard fans to have both, but they will still work independently.
In the studio, I was talking with Tim Roe about influences on me like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd; classic songwriters like Peter Gabriel, Tom Petty, Kate Bush and acoustic stuff like Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel. There’s a lot of styles mixed in there, and hopefully it’s a combination of all I listened to growing up.
Your reaction to what we’ve all been through over the last couple of years seems to be a recurring theme on Torpedo.
I think that has introduced a rock element to the album due to the frustration of not being able to play live. The second leg of Tallulah ended up being cancelled twice, and we were really on fire for that tour especially with some of the heavier tracks, so that was in the back of my mind.
It’s obviously been a very mentally challenging time for everyone – myself included – and what I was feeling was shared by so many other friends and family, so that went into a few songs but the album is still very universal. Even if lockdown had never happened, the songs touch on all sorts of things like mental health and relationships. It captures everything from state of mind to life in general and what is going on in the world.
You kept us entertained throughout lockdown with acoustic renditions of classic Feeder songs via social media.
I just recorded them on an iPhone, and I thought it was a bit crap initially, but then thought “this is the world we’re in now.” Everything had gone really lo-fi, so I didn’t want to make it all fancy. I just wanted to hear the songs being played in the raw way that I write them on the acoustic guitar and hopefully they helped fill a gap.
Around that time, the remake of the Just a Day video became a touching tribute to the NHS.
I felt a bit helpless, and I wanted to do something. People had been asking for years to remake that video and to try to get the original people back, and I was always like “It was just one of those moments, and I don’t want to do it again.” But I wanted to say thank you for the amazing job the NHS were doing, and if there was ever a time to do it again, then that was it.
The Torpedo artwork is really cool. What was the inspiration behind it?
I was looking for a classic rock vibe and looked for inspiration in the sleeves of bands like Boston, ELO, Roxy Music and Pink Floyd. Our online guy, Mikey was helping me search for artists and he came across a Russian collage artist called Sergey. When we approached him, he turned out to be a super cool guy who was a fan of Feeder, and loved loads of 90s bands like Smashing Pumpkins. We really like the Torpedo girl – a really strong, striking feminine image and the artwork really suited the title of the album.
Torpedo is to be supported by a UK tour, which you’ve promised will be the heaviest Feeder set for quite a while.
I appreciate fans want to hear the hits, but we don’t want to play The Best Of tour every time. We play them a lot at festivals and we’re not dissing those songs at all, but we’ll be playing a fair chunk of the new record and will hopefully revisit some older tunes from Swim and Polythene we haven’t played for a while like Shade, World Asleep and My Perfect Day, which will work really well alongside songs from the new record. There will still be gems in there like High, but it won’t be your typical Feeder Best Of set.
Let’s go track-by-track for Torpedo starting with a six-minute epic…
I had this idea of a film soundtrack in a rock musical, a bit like Tommy by The Who. I wanted to take ourselves on a real journey with lots of different sections and for it to be more than just a three-minute single. It was a really natural process, but it was quite tricky to record as it goes through a few different tempo changes, so we had to do it in sections. It’s got that classic heavy Feeder middle section, which people have come to expect.
Lyrically, it touches on the current world climate and the issues we’re facing day to day. It’s like a call to arms and a wake-up call in that everyone can come to together and make change for the future. It seems even more relevant now than when I was writing it with everything that is happening in Ukraine. We’ve just come out of Covid, and now there’s a bloody war happening. It’s a pretty mad world. The lyrics and sentiments may be kind of obvious, but it feels like a good time for a song like this. I tried to write something that had really classic chords and was memorable – something that you almost know what it’s going to do, but you want it to do exactly that. I could imagine this song on Polythene.
The drums on it are monstrous. They start off really heavy and then go into this mad kind of ragga beat. It’s really tricky to play on drums, but Geoff (Holroyde) completely nailed it because I tell you what, I wouldn’t want to play it! It’s got that Sabbath-like verse and quite dark lyrics, but then a very gm rolex daytona mingzhu engine 116519 mens automatic blue tone uplifting, optimistic and anthemic chorus, which is very much my style as a writer and our DNA as a band. Our trademark is to start heavy, but there’s usually an uplifting chorus, and I think this one has got that ray of hope in it.
It was one of the earliest tracks I wrote during lockdown. We were all going through a weird time and hoping for good news, so that’s where the lyrics came from. I can see that one having a 90s vibe live on tour where the riff kicks in and the audience goes off on a big bounce. Again, it’s a bit like Stereo World or something off Polythene.
WHEN IT ALL BREAKS DOWN
This isprobably my favourite track on the album. It’s got a prog element to it, and I’m not ashamed to show a bit of prog as I grew up with a lot of it. It’s got a super melodic chorus and the title sums up the lyric. When things go wrong, sometimes you need the people around you – it might be a partner or a mate that just helps you get through the bad times. I think all of us have needed that more than ever in recent years. It’s sort of a relationship song, but also shows that everyone needs somebody at points in their lives.
I basically wrote all of the album on an acoustic guitar, but it’s not an obvious one to write on the acoustic especially with that riff. I had this really heavy riff my mind, but I didn’t want it to become an obvious screamy rock vocal kind of song. I wanted it to be cooler, darker and even a bit crooner-like. The lyrics were inspired by daily walks and runs around Finsbury Park in lockdown. That’s when I tended to come up with lyrics and song titles and stuff. I had the demos by that stage of the recording to listen to, but it’s on those runs where I thought of certain lines.
The Magpie title came from my grandfather, who was extremely superstitious, and when I was young he told me that if you see a magpie on its own, you have to say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” to it. I know it’s crazy, but it’s one of those things I’ve always remembered. Magpies tend to hang around in couples, so if you see one alone, it apparently indicates bad luck. That struck a chord from many years ago and that superstition went into the lyrics. I kept seeing them every day and if I see one before a gig, it totally freaks me out!
It also touches on the frustration of the situation we were all in when we were fed up with the news. There was a lot of really negative stuff on social media, and while it can be a useful platform, it can also be really damaging as well. I mention in the chorus that it only takes one comment or one word to shatter illusions and have a massive effect on people.
HIDE & SEEK
That’s quite a sweet song, but by this point of the album I really wanted to bring it down for the end of Side One. When I go back to Wales to see my parents, I drive past my old house, and during lockdown it made me think more about my childhood, so this song touches on those memories and places, and the sentiments surrounding them.
Again it’s a classic, big old Feeder 90s riff and certainly one of the heavier tracks. The lyrics of the chorus were inspired by the unknown of what lay ahead of us in lockdown. It’s a similar format and topic to Torpedo; maybe not quite as uplifting in the chorus but it’s still anthemic. It’s unusual in that the bridge is almost like the chorus so it feels like a double chorus – it’s kind of catchy, indie stuff in the bridge, but then it moves into this chorus with an unusual key change you’re not really expecting.
It’s a fun track and when I listen to it now, it does take me back to the early days performing lots of songs with heavy riffs with Jon Lee in a three-piece band in little clubs.
WALL OF SILENCE
Social media is a huge part of our lives now, but it can also completely do your head in. If you read something at the wrong time, it can really mess people up, especially kids. I feel very much that if you haven’t got anything positive or constructive to say, then don’t say it at all – which was especially the case at time it was written.
When we first recorded it, it sounded great but I had an 80s vibe in my head with electronic drums and percussion in the verses. There are synths on it as well – quite subtle with a slight 80s electronic feel to it, but in a big rock track. It’s definitely one of the more melodic songs on the album, and it’s one that is undeniably Feeder again. It’s one of the poppiest songs, which is why it probably became a single.
I really like this track, it’s got real character to it and it’s nice to bring things down on the album and provide a bit of a break. It revolves around relationships as you get older, kind of imagining fading tattoos on skin. It’s about the point in people’s lives when they’ve been in relationships for a long time and the kids have left home, and they go on these adventures and road trips. It’s not a depressing song even if it may sound dark in the way we’ve recorded it. It’s not the most obvious song as people get drawn to the heavier stuff, but it’s one that has been picked out by quite a few journalists already.
BORN TO LOVE YOU
It’s one of the more poppy songs, but still classic Feeder. I had an 80s, almost Joy Division thing in my head. The vocal delivery has got that style of say White Lies, who were inspired by them, but it’s delivered here in a more rock way. I could imagine The Killers doing this song, but in their style. You can hear the 80s melody more once the song is broken down. The title says it all really, it’s a love song – there’s got to be one on each record!
It’s pretty heavy again and it’s one of my favourites. Although it’s quite anthemic, you can hear the acoustic guitar and it’s the main leading instrument and that’s very much how it was written. I had this epic, Pink Floyd vibe with the chorus, but it touches upon loss and afterlife so it’s quite a spiritual song.
The final chorus changes lyrics to complete the story and that makes sense of it really. I don’t really want to talk too much about the song, as I want people to get their own meaning, but it’s about someone going through a really bad time, and who is maybe thinking of doing something; before being guided out of that dark place.
DESPERATE HOUR (CD BONUS TRACK)
We tried to fit it on the record, but I didn’t want 11 tracks. The more songs you add to vinyl, the more if affects the sound quality and 10 was the perfect length. For any vinyl purists out there, it will just sound better and I didn’t want to compromise that, so it’s a nice little acoustic bonus track on the CD.