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Renegades make good their escape

In Randy Newman’s The Story Of A Rock & Roll Band, the Los Angeles singer parodies ELO and suggests they were originally close to being called The Renegades.

In contrast, Welsh band Feeder’s decision to invoke the same name has little to with parody, and far more to do with re-discovering their roots.

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“We’d done a track called Renegades and I liked it,” says Grant Nicholas, the band’s singer and guitarist. “We didn’t plan to do anything different from the way we normally write, although as a writer I’ve always wanted every Feeder album to be different. Then we were in the studio and I was writing a lot of these tracks, and we basically went back to our roots – of playing rock songs as a three-piece.”

From that starting point, the band, with new drummer Karl Brazil, then hit the road, calling themselves The Renegades and playing all-new material in tiny locations across the country last year.

“The whole Renegades thing was just a way for us to get out, do some small shows, and not worry about playing all the usual Feeder hits,” says Nicholas. “If we’d gone out as Feeder, people would have expected the usual singles. It was literally meant to be a few gigs, where we just turned up and played. Now we’re doing extra dates because the word has spread and more people want to hear the new songs.

“A lot of people have said we’re mad. Why would you want to go back to travelling around in just a van, because we didn’t want to have fancy hotels or a tour bus? It had to be like it was back in the day. But it was good fun, and a great way to road-test the new songs. We’ve actually recorded enough stuff for two albums, so we’ll see how much we bring out. It should be out in July.”

The secret shows are no longer so secret, with The Renegades set to play Cabaret Voltaire tomorrow night. But getting away from feeling like they had to play hits like Buck Rogers and Just The Way I’m Feeling has clearly had a liberating effect on the group, while Nicholas believes that even the new name fits the outfit perfectly.

“We’ve always felt we didn’t fit in with anything that’s current in the music scene, we’ve always been a wee bit of a black sheep, and it just felt like a good name. Our records had become different from the heavy early ones by having strings and piano, but The Renegades got us back rocking out. It seems to have brought us back full circle, and we’re back to what we love doing.”

Nicholas has a point. Feeder’s emergence, playing loud, grunge and punk numbers, was in striking contrast to the Britpop acts that then dominated the charts. And after they did achieve commercial success with 2001’s Echo Park album, the tragic suicide of drummer Jon Lee stunned both Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose, leaving them pondering their future. They did continue, enjoying further success with a more mellow, expanded sound, but when Lee’s replacement on drums, Mark Richardson, left last year, it prompted the chain of events that led to The Renegades. There is a problem, however. The band have enjoyed The Renegades so much they were forced to consider whether to start entirely afresh and release a full album under The Renegades banner, rather than reverting to Feeder.

“It’s been a difficult thing. There’s always a temptation to say let’s just do this permanently because it’s new and fresh and exciting. But I feel there’s a lot of material in the Feeder back catalogue that would really compliment this stuff. There will definitely be more Feeder stuff.”

Among that “Feeder stuff” is a headline slot at the Belladrum Festival, where they will return to wheeling out the hits. But it could easily have been another Scottish festival the band was playing. “We were offered T in the Park, but wanted to wait until the album’s out, or else we’d be doing the same stuff we’ve always been doing.”

The Renegades play Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, tomorrow.

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