Feeder to end the week. A band with an extraordinary 40 singles 10 albums, 12 compilations and four eps since their inception in 1996. They were considered by many to be on one of the UK’s most successful chart acts of the past 50 years.
Feeder were a Welsh rock band formed in 1994, although an earlier incarnation under the name of “Reel” was formed in 1992 by vocalist and guitarist Grant Nicholas, drummer Jon Lee and bassist Simon Blight, three of the four members of Raindancer, after the departure of that band’s other member, guitarist John Canham. However, Blight left Reel later in 1992, and the band played with many session bassists before hiring Taka Hirose in 1994 and re-establishing themselves as Feeder, the same year, the band signed with The Echo Label.
Feeder garnered media attention in 2001 for their third album, Echo Park, and its lead single, “Buck Rogers”, which later become a UK top five single. In January 2002, Jon Lee committed suicide in his Miami home, after which the remaining members began to record and play with former Skunk Anansie drummer Mark Richardson. They released their fourth album, Comfort in Sound later that year, which touched on themes such as loss and coming to terms with death, while also exploring themes of positivity. Richardson was ultimately made an official member, remaining so until May 2009 when he returned to a reformed Skunk Anansie. Feeder employed Australian Damon Wilson and former Mexicolas drummer Tim Trotter for sessions and touring commitments for Renegades (2010), and they have since employed drummer Karl Brazil. Between 2010–2017, the band charted four more top 20 albums, with the latest of these being 2017’s The Best of Feeder their second consecutive top 10 album.
Feeder spent most of 2000 writing and recording for their next album. They previewed new material at festivals around the country, including V2000 and Glastonbury. They would end the year promoting “Buck Rogers”, their first single since November 1999 and then playing a mini-tour at the end of the year to mainly showcase the new material. The release of the single on 8 January 2001 was coupled with a signing session at London’s now defunct Tower Records store and then a TV appearance on Top of The Pops before the single charted. The single charted at number five, becoming the band’s first top 10 entry in the singles chart before appearing on Top of the Pops again. “Buck Rogers” then spent a second week in the top 10.
Grant wrote “Buck Rogers” with The Pixies as an influence, but “on a comic book level”. He had originally written the track for another band Echo Park producer Gil Norton was working with, but decided not to give it away, as he felt Feeder could have a hit with it themselves. “Buck Rogers” still receives regular airplay on alternative radio stations in the United Kingdom. Kerrang!’s writers have also approved of the track as one of their “666 Songs You Must Own”, when it appeared at #5 in their rock songs list in November 2004.
After a sell-out tour of two legs ending at the London Astoria, the album Echo Park entered at number five in the UK album charts, shortly after “Seven Days in the Sun”, the album’s second single charted at #14. Shortly before the single’s release, the band’s rise up to the mainstream was recognised by the now defunct Scottish Television live music show Boxed Set, where a half-hour-long live-set with a studio audience was played. A third single, “Turn” reached #27 in July before festival season. “Just a Day”, a b-side from “Seven Days in the Sun”, later reached #12 in December. The response the album received on a critical level was mixed, with Dan Genroe of Q magazine claiming that the listener will still be “feeling hungry half an hour later”, alongside suggesting that the album is “hard to love”. Ben Myers of Kerrang! gave the album 4/5 which indicates “blinding”, while citing that the band “hit their stride” on the album, alongside suggesting that the album is “fat free and stripped to the bone”.
The album saw the band adopt a more ‘commercial’ sound, also incorporating synthesizers. Lyrically, Echo Park contains both a comedic approach, as with “Seven Days in the Sun”, and dark emotions, such as those shown on “Turn”, “Oxygen”, and “Satellite News”. It was during the campaign for Echo Park that the band played another slot on the main stage at the Reading and Leeds festival, including T in the Park. As of August 2003, the album has shipped 300,000 units in the UK going platinum, with counter sales standing at 293,000 as of February 2005. Grant said in a Melody Maker interview that if the album did not sell well enough the band would probably split up; he said at the time that “It’s the same with any band. That’s just the way the music business is. There is only a certain amount of money a label will put into a band. I’m just being realistic. We’ve been around for seven or eight years and I am not planning on giving up, but we’re putting everything into this record and I’m just hoping that people like it”. The album campaign helped the band in August 2001 win the “Best British Live Act” accolade at the Kerrang! awards, before ending the year supporting the Stereophonics, and then releasing the “Just a Day” single in December. In February 2015, “Buck Rogers” gained a silver certification for 200,000 physical sales, digital downloads and streaming points combined. Two years later, “Just a Day” also passed 200,000 sales.
In July 2001, Feeder’s EP Swim was re-released with extra tracks, being a selection of b-sides from their earlier singles, alongside the videos for the Polythene singles “Crash” and “Cement”. Overall unit sales for Swim stand at 40,000 as of February 2005.
In January 2002, Jon Lee died at home in Miami. The band kept out of the public eye for most of the year. It was during this time that lead-singer Grant Nicholas wrote a series of songs relating to their emotions and reactions to Jon’s death, which formed their fourth album Comfort in Sound. The band brought in former Skunk Anansie and Little Angels drummer Mark Richardson, who Grant first met in 1994, when Feeder went on tour with Richardson’s then-band, B.l.o.w.
The album focused mainly on themes such as loss, depression, grief and positivity, while dedicating “Quickfade” to Jon. The album was released in October of the same year to widespread critical acclaim in the British music press, with Kerrang! alongside the heavy rock magazine Metal Hammer giving the album their respective Album of the Week accolades. The band were invited to the Reading and Leeds festivals that year, headlining the second stage at Reading on the first day which took place on 23 August, before heading off to Leeds the next. Grant also mentioned that at the time their fourth album already had a series of backing tracks recorded, with a total of 15 when recording is completed with then 10 chosen for the final album, when the final track listing was revealed, this was increased to 12. The album is currently Feeder’s best-seller with an estimated 503,706 units sold as of April 2012. The album charted at #98 in Japan and #28 in Ireland, beating the peak position of #57 that Echo Park managed during the previous year. In Japan, it would be the first time Feeder ever charted there. The album charted at number six in the UK.
Musically, Comfort in Sound is mellower than Feeder’s previous albums, with the use of a string orchestra on “Forget About Tomorrow”, while other tracks on the album also used an accordion, trumpet, and a piano played by their manager Matt Page, with “Godzilla” being one of two tracks on the album to use loud guitars. The album was their first release to be certified platinum, (with Echo Park going platinum later on). It also spawned their second top 10 single, with “Just the Way I’m Feeling” in January 2003.In December of the same year they took on their only arena tour, after the album’s first nationwide tour was a sell out with 50,000 tickets sold, and visited 21 different towns and cities in the United Kingdom over 23 different dates. In reaction to this, the band were invited to the Glastonbury Festival being placed third on the last day, playing the “Pyramid Stage”. Shortly after the release of the single, the band were invited to support Coldplay on their UK and European tour, due to their frontman Chris Martin often saying how much he liked the Comfort in Sound album and their live shows. Their show at the Birmingham National Indoor Arena was reviewed by Kerrang!, which seen Steve Beebee give the band 4/5 for their performance.
The album’s final single, being the title track, was only available to buy as a limited edition of 3,000 CDs on their 2003 arena tour. Four singles were released commercially, with those being “Come Back Around” (#14), “Just the Way I’m Feeling” (#10), “Forget About Tomorrow” (#12), and “Find the Colour” (#24), which was released following their V2003 appearance and Kerrang! award win for “Best British Band”, beating competition from Muse and the Stereophonics, which Grant dedicated to Jon saying it was the award he had always wanted the band to win. The band later went on to win an Internet Music Award for their “Just The Way I’m Feeling” video, while the album became their first to appear on the end of year top 75 album charts, appearing at #66. The album’s commercial reception helped Echo experience their most successful financial year. Feeder then received their only nomination to date at The BRIT Awards, in which they appeared in the “Best British Rock” category at the 2004 event, before making their only appearance in the charts that year as part of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 20 charity ensemble. The single was the Christmas number one, and became the year’s biggest-selling UK single. Alongside only making one chart appearance in 2004, Feeder also only made one live appearance during the year as part of the Carling Live 24 event, playing their show at the Hammersmith Apollo on 1 May.
As a reminder, here they are at the 2002 Reading Festival, thanks to BBC Radio 1.