Coming out of Northern Ireland, County Down's The Answer have for many years been built up to be The UK's next big thing in Classic Rock. Through three increasingly impressive albums they have rightly garnered more and more critical and fan acclaim, with their mix of thumping anthems, Blues infused foot stompers and honest in your face Rock, now culminating in what can only be described as a superbly confident fourth release, New Horizon. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid asks the band's Cormac Neeson for all the answers...
"It's been one hell of a ride so far" the golden throated frontman says thoughtfully as he thinks back across the seven years since The Answer's debut release 'Rise' began the band's journey into the public domain. "But it still kind of feels like it's only just begun."
Something which the Northern Irish band's fourth album alludes to through its title, "'New Horizon' says we're looking forward to the future" Cormac confirms. "As with every album we release there is a feeling of newness and rebirth within the band. But with this record more than any other, we feel we've been able to tap into the bands unique collective personality and make an album that sounds as fresh as it is powerful. I think we knew what we wanted to say on this record before we even started to write and record it. So the bands identity was solid from the start."
An aspect of 'New Horizon' the lead-track illustrates perfectly. "The single 'Spectacular' is an aspirational piece about never losing sight of your goals and its showcases the resilience and optimism that is rife within the band." But what of the, shall we say....risqué video that fans of the band can view on YouTube... "It was a notion we came up with along with our director." Cormac says with a hint of mischief, "We wanted to make a high energy video that makes you feel good. So the director suggested throwing a big house party and letting the cameras roll. The video came out great."
And the singer is even happier at the suggestion that what he and his band mates Paul Mahon (guitar), Micky Waters (bass) and James Heatley have created with their fourth album has a swagger that allows each and every songs contained on 'New Horizon' to pack a real punch, while having the groove and sass to make it a long lasting statement. "I think that's what every band hopes for so I'm glad you feel that way. But I hear what you're saying. It's an aggressive hard rockin' album that gets your ass shaking for sure. I think we've got stronger at song writing with every album. We also know how to play a bit now too. Along with some help from Toby we were able to compile around twenty five good songs before we went into the studio. Then it was just a case of picking the ten that would make the clearest statement of where we're at as a band. Although there's a lot of great stuff on the limited edition digi version and vinyl edition of the album including three tracks that were recorded during the actual album session but just missed out on the final cut. There's also a few interesting arrangements of some of the album tracks."
Ah yes, Toby Jepson, the frontman of Little Angels, Dio Disciples and Fastway who is currently building up a rather impressive portfolio of production credits including Saxon, Chrome Molly, The Virginmarys, Fastway and now of course, The Answer. "Toby was great" the charismatic frontman states. "He maintained a strict live discipline in the studio and didn't let us dilute our sound with too many overdubs. He just kept the energy up and brought out the best in us all." Although Cormac goes on to reveal that Toby didn't create the stunning sound of 'New Horizon' all on his own. "Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Bad Company, Aerosmith, Buckcherry, Chickenfoot, Thunder, Van Halen....) is just a genius when it comes to making a good rock record sound great." Which means that it really is no surprise that between his mixing skills and Jepson's production mastery 'New Horizon' is as impactful as a giant sized fist to the head.
So with great songwriting, superb performances, a top notch production and the touch of a genuine Rock Music legend behind the mixing desk, that leaves only one thing left to hopefully push The Answer over the top and into the mainstream, as their efforts so richly deserve, and that's a record label with the clout be as punchy as The Answer's music. "For sure!" Cormac agrees immediately as he describes his band's recent tie-up with Napalm Records, who are fast becoming a go-to label for Rock and Metal acts looking to clamber to that elusive 'next-level'. "They're a committed, hardworking team who know their music. That's priceless in this modern age!" Something confirmed by having 'Spectacular' as the closing music on the BBC's recent coverage of the South Korean Formula1 Grand Prix on national UK TV.
However even in a day and age where 'physical format' music appears to be verging on 'endangered' status, an eye catching cover and visual campaign goes a long way to making sure an album receives the recognition it deserves. The Answer have that side of things covered as well and from decidedly eclectic viewpoints... "We feel honoured that a man of Storm Thorgerson's (Pink Floyd, Megadeth, Biffy Clyro, Styx, Peter Gabriel...) ability and reputation agreed to work on our record cover." Cormac says with a mix of pride and sadness..."Especially considering he was obviously quite ill at the time. It's inspiring to think that Storm who spent his life making vital contributions to popular culture continued to do what he does best right up to the very end."
Although whether the renowned and much missed artist would be quite so approving of the 'arduous task' of filming ten "viral videos" titled "New Horizon Drinking Sessions" The Answer undertook to help promote their new album, is not quite so guaranteed! "I'm afraid that was my idea." The sheepish and now sober singer admits. "I thought it was a good way of getting Napalm to pay for us to get pissed. They were a lot of fun to make."
With song writing and recording for 'New Horizon' now behind them and the album out in the public domain, the road beckons for Cormac, Paul, Micky and James. Their European Tour which kicks off on the 11th October in Belfast with fellow up and coming Classic Rockers Tracer as guests, being the biggest set of headline dates The Answer have ever undertaken. Is it time to be excited....nervous? "A bit of both" Cormac says honestly, "But mostly excited. It's going to be a lot of fun to take our new music all around the great continent of Europe." The tour takes in whistle stop dates on the stages of The UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy! Countries the band already knows well. "We've played in all those countries many times so have built up a dedicated following who we are looking forward to rocking out with again."
The majority of the tour dates are headliner shows, but with slots booked at Metal Hammer Germany and Hard Rock Hell in Wales, The Answer also know the power of the festival. Not that it will affect how they approach going about their impressive live business. "We treat every show like it's the most important night of our lives." A clearly determined and stage hardened Cormac confirms. "Everybody who comes to see us play deserves to be entertained and left feeling like they could take on the world with nothing but a guitar and a big heart. We played a couple of the new tracks [during performances at festivals in Northern Ireland and Switzerland] but have been waiting for the album to be released before we really start spreading our wings. The stuff we did play though went down great." Although if the newly planned shows feel far flung, then that's nothing on the band's debut at The Gipsy Club in Moscow! "You know... I'm not entirely sure how that came about." Cormac laughs. "But it was a lot of fun! We hope to return to Russia as soon as possible!"
Although whether it is Northern Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy or indeed Russia that you have the good fortune to catch up with this band, The Answer are a mighty live animal and one not to be missed. A clearly enthused Cormac leaving SoT headquarters with a cheery yet determined "See you on down the line!!", as The Answer set out to assault Europe with a collection of songs they can rightly be proud of in their armoury.
Still not convinced? Read our reviews of 'New Horizon' at...