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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

New Horizon dawns for The Answer

THE Answer have long been local stalwarts, favourites at home and getting more and more recognition across the world with big name support slots - now they are ready for the next stage of their career.

With a new label - Napalm Records - and latest release New Horizon set for release at the end of September we caught up with front man Cormac Neeson in the congenial surroundings of a Belfast hostelry before he headed off on a UK and US promotional tour.

Despite the changes the band are upbeat about the next step in The Answer's success story.

"The vibe is very positive right now, we're starting to get good reviews of the album," said Cormac. "We think it's our best one so far, but I'm sure every band says that about every record but I genuinely mean that.

"I think it's our most focussed hard-hitting record so far and hopefully our audience will get it and get what we have to say."

But to get here has not been an easy journey so far The Answer. There have been a difficult few years and with a change of label and severing some ties the band has had to look closely at the next phase of their career.

"At the end of the Revival cycle - our  last record - we had to make some tough decisions with our backroom staff and it was probably the first time in our careers that it didn't flow naturally," said Cormac.

"We had to alter the band's course and we parted ways with a few people we were close to, and for a brief moment you almost felt like a businessman making business decisions rather than a musician writing good songs and playing gigs. And that's not a nice feeling and we have to make sure this band thing works out because it [business 'stuff'] doesn't suit me!"

The result is the new album and he explained where they are now.

"We got over it and we channeled all of it into our new record and we think it is a better album for that. I suppose it's what any decent artist should do is use that as the fuel for their work."

One aspect of the character of the band that always shines through is The Answer's roots and their acknowledgement of their forebears in Northern Ireland.

"We're proud to be part of that tradition, with punk, metal, rock, blues, rhythm and blues and all that deserve a tip of the hat," said Cormac. "But we take that all on board and while we don't shy away from our roots we try to twist it into something new.

"And we make no bones about where we come from and what we've been listening to over the last 20 years."

And given that the band are born, bred and buttered in Northern Ireland, Cormac feels that he can reflect that.

"I feel that my Northern Ireland identity can make a band unique in the global market," he said. And as regards lyrics...

"For me by all means go ahead and singing about whatever aspect of Northern Ireland culture, society or whatever you want to sing about, it's part of what I throw into the pot. I'm not maybe as in your face as Stiff Little Fingers or bands like that but I don't try to sit on the fence."

When it came down to sitting down and writing the album the band took one bold step they have never done before.

"On this record, alongside the shake up of personnel we tried to shake up the writing process and the way we did things in the studio just to see where it led and if it hadn't worked out we could have gone back to what we have done for the past decade," he said.

"So for example this time we've co-written a few tracks with our producer Toby Jepson and co-written another track with a friend of ours called Cosmo Jarvis."

"The decision to co-write was a massive one for us because we're four strong minded people who are used to writing together and get into a rythm together and not pandering to anyone but the band.

"So to have a guy come in and say why don't you try this you're initially 'I wouldn't write a song like that in a million years' but then you give it a go and it's not far off the mark at all and once we put our stamp on it and as a result of that it's a much fresher album. There's a few songs on it that really hit the mark that would have taken us longer to achieve."

With the Limelight1 October 11th date on the cards as part of a wider tour thoughts are turning to the set.

"The main challenge is what to slot in from the new record and what older songs to put in for a balanced set.

"We've been rehearsing for the tour and every day we try a different set. We've that many songs we want to play every song but obviously we can't do that. It's like a jigsaw getting all the pieces together."

In promoting the tour and first single 'Spectacular' the band have become immersed in controversy with a video that was banned from Youtube because of its sexually explicit nature and scenes of smoking and drinking.

"Jesus, don't let my mother see it!" was Cormac's first comment, but he is pretty relaxed about the whole shebang.

"I see it as a true reflection of life. Just  because the political correctness says you can't show smoking and drinking on television doesn't mean it doesn't go on. The video is about going to a party and having a good time and listening to some rock 'n' roll music. I mean its not any wilder than most parties I used to find myself in - maybe I don't go to enough of those any more. It's just a reflection about young people having a good time and nothing more and nothing less."

Nothing less than hard driving hard rockin' music is what The Answer deliver, and with this new focus and the channeling of energies the album - review coming soon - and tour promises to take the band to the next level.

New Horizons is released on September 30th on Napalm Records, with the tour kicking off in Limelight1 on October 11th - tickets available from all usual outlets.

The full audio of the interview will be broadcast soon on www.rockradioni.co.uk

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