There’s no getting around a simple fact. FEEDER has been recording well-received albums and ceaselessly touring the globe for over a decade. Countless hard-won experiences have led to the London-based group’s current success overseas. But one single event truly shaped FEEDER’s fourth album, Comfort In Sound.
On January 7, 2002, founding drummer Jon Lee committed suicide at his home in Miami, Florida. Understandably, the band’s future and much else was thrown into question. Vocalist-guitarist Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose were left searching for meaning in the face of a senseless act. Some of the answers arrived in the form of music.
“After Jon died, we weren’t sure if we wanted to carry on as FEEDER,” Nicholas told Q magazine. “Taka went to see his parents in Japan, and I started to write songs again. For Comfort In Sound, my head was in a place where I needed to make this album for me–not to keep the record company happy, not even to
keep other people in the band happy–just for my own peace of mind.”
The resulting collection of songs lives up to its name, but doesn’t always make for easy listening. On album opener “Just The Way I’m Feeling,” Nicholas gives a reading of the band’s emotional barometer: “I feel we’re going down, ten feet below the ground.” Bleak on paper, yes. But Nicholas’ moving delivery over resolute acoustic guitar and downcast strings makes the song a mood-raising, neck-hair-erecting experience.
Similar traces of melancholy permeate Comfort In Sound, but the band never wallows in pain. On “Come Back Around,” for instance, the wide screen vocal melody and guitar firestorm suggest anger, rather than resignation. And on “Godzilla” (note: not a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s sci-fi metal classic), Nicholas sings lines such as “lost love in suicide” while he and Hirose batter their gear beyond submission.
Like other bands who have persevered through tragedy (New Order and Manic Street Preachers are the obvious analogues here), FEEDER has found a way to transform negatives into positives. Shadows flicker across the songs, but the album sounds like it was written and recorded at daybreak rather than at midnight.
“There’s an array of emotions on this album,” Nicholas told Kerrang! “There’s love… there’s tragedy… Every song really means a lot in terms of content and mood. That’s what we’ve always tried to do.”
FEEDER formed in the early ’90s, but it’s slow-burn career fully caught fire in 2001. The band’s third album, Echo Park, entered the top of U.K. charts, fueled by the infectious single, “Buck Rogers.” The trio promoted the disc with sold-out tours of the U.K. and Europe, including appearances at the major festivals.
The band’s year-closing video for “Just A Day” served as a love letter to its rabid fans, many of whom were featured lip-syncing in the clip. But despite the band’s promising future and an outpouring of affection from fans, Jon Lee sunk into depression, seemingly distraught over a failing marriage.
“Writing was my way of dealing with Jon’s death,” Nicholas told bbc.co.uk. “So I felt that Comfort In Sound was an appropriate lyric, and a very appropriate album title as well. It’s a very typical FEEDER track in some ways. It’s quite heavy, but the lyrics are uplifting–which is important.”
True, the album could have been haunted by loss. Instead, Comfort In Sound strides purposefully into the future, with former Skunk Anansie drumming ace Mark Richardson rounding out the line-up in-studio and onstage. Now, Nicholas and Hirose only look forward to what comes next.
“The band will never be the same. It’ll just be different,” Nicholas told Q. “I think people just expect us to be jump-up-and-down punky pop, but that’s not true anymore. I want to broaden the band and keep everything fresh.
“We’ve come too far. There are too many people who have really stuck by us over the years,” he told Kerrang! “It would just seem tragic to give up now. We’re a good band, but we’ve got a lot more left in us before we call it a day.”