If you’re not familiar with the proposition called The Answer, then now is a great time to catch up on the buzz. They hail from Northern Ireland and like a testosterone-driven rock n’roll machine they swept the UK rock scene away with an excellent debut album in the shape of Rise back in 2005. They’re a four-piece which consist of Paul Mahon on guitar, Michael Waters on bass and the sticks man James Heatley, completed last but not least by lead vocalist Cormac Neeson.
The Answer is full of confident and excited emotions right now as they want to discuss their fourth studio album New Horizon. If you’re curious about what to expect from this latest studio output, look up the video for their single Spectacular. There are two versions of the video currently doing the rounds, so choose which one suits your boundaries the best!
“You start every album with a blank page, and the best way of starting to fill that blank page is with hours and hours of jamming in our opinion you know. And we just jam you know for a good four or five hours a day and record the whole lot, and then we just sift through them all and pick out any good riffs or song ideas or anything at all, that might be worth pursuing and building a song around.” Neeson clearly states how the process begins when they normally approach the creative challenge in making a new album. At this point after a deep breath, Neeson then goes on to explain why this album is called New Horizon. “What I will say on this record, there was some of that went on but we shook up the writing process a little bit this time around. Someday Mickey would come in with a half written song and Paul would come in with an idea he’d been working on you know, almost fully formed at times. And we’d kind of, decide whether or not it was an Answer track or not, then if it was we’d put our own shine on things.” He then adds as if to justify their approach to making an album, “I think the whole jamming aspect of any rock band needs to be there, because you just never know whenever the next good song’s gonna hit you straight in the face.”
Retaining the theme of a new horizon, Neeson goes on to explain their outlook and attitude towards this latest studio album. “For the first three records we would’ve, we’d have started writing songs and whenever we hit a quota of about 40 tracks we’d take a step back, and pick the best 16 or 17 to take into the studio you know. And then after that you’d pick the best 11 or 12 that make it on to the record. There was no real kind of notion of any particular cohesion or constant thread running through the record, it was just you know lets pick the best tracks and male a record out of that.” Acknowledging how this worked for Rise, Everyday Demons and Revival, Neeson then shares more. “For the first time ever the band sat down and had a conversation about the kind of record we wanted to make.” He was smiling and said this with a slight chuckle as though the thought was still tickling him even now.
The Answer in 2013 is a band that’s riding a horse of revelation all the way to a new destination. When you hear New Horizon you are presented with ten strong hard rock tracks which are all short and to the point, that don’t incorporate the gospel elements that have reared their heads on previous songs like One More Revival or Preachin’. The music itself is the epitome of what this band is all about, with subtle hints of funk in Leave with Nothin’ or the melancholy beginning of the marvellous Call Yourself a Friend which ends with a super-charged workout. Other highlights include the title track which fades into earshot before bombarding the listener with a well structured and well delivered punchy hard rock number and the single Spectacular which drives forward with no idea where the brakes are!
When quizzed on why The Answer has adopted this new course of action to the creative approach, Neeson responds “Always looking for ways to keep the band on its toes and make sure we’re not getting too comfortable.” He adds “The decision to make a ten track you know, record full of short punchy intense songs was just how we’re feeling right now you know. We wanted every song to get in there and say what needs to be said and get straight back out again and leave hopefully the listener craving more. I think every record should be a true reflection of where the band’s at creatively you know, mentally, musically, the whole she-bang and I think New Horizon definitely stands up as that.”
The previous studio album Revival released in 2011 contained 12 tracks and was deemed by many fans as a return to form after the slightly weaker Everyday Demons in 2009. With the band stretching out to receive better recognition they made some significant alterations. It’s no secret that The Answer made some difficult decisions by changing some of the elements that worked behind the scenes, like their management and moving to a new record label. Was it reasonable to presume that the new environment had any influence on this latest album? “Yeah, I think it’s all fed into the record to be absolutely honest. It wasn’t the easiest of times for the band and we had to make some decisions that were tough and kind of, for the first time in our careers had to move left from centre from the course that we had been on. And you know there’s a lot of anxiety thrown up at all, a lot of tension and frustration and you know I’d say aggression as well. But at the same time over the process of writing New Horizon we were on our way out of that period of our lives, so there’s also a resilience and a hope and an optimism that has all kinda fed into this record.” Neeson continues, “I think we did do what any decent artist should, and channel those emotions into the music.”
Retaining this newfound outlook, The Answer brought in the producing talents of Toby Jepson who some will recognise as the vocalist for UK rockers Little Angels. Jepson likes to try different things and throws himself into these new projects with gusto. His contribution to New Horizon was another element that has shaped the final result fans and newcomers can hear. “That kinda straight talking style of his suits us down to the ground ‘cos we all, it’s a four-way street in The Answer. We all have equal share of everything including opinions on what’s good in a song and what’s not. Toby to come in, that kinda outside perspective where he wasn’t worrying about treading on anybody’s toes, he wasn’t worrying about pissing anybody off. I think that, I think it’s a better record as a result of that attitude.”
Knowing that the band have achieved some positive reviews and critical acclaim for their live appearances in conjunction with their music results from the studio around Europe and the UK, it was interesting to hear Neeson share his thoughts about the U.S. “For me it’s a love affair man.” The big smile makes a welcome return as he chuckles thinking about his experiences and encounters with the mighty nation. “Having spent a year and a half on the road with AC/DC, a large part of that meant going around America and Canada, and they’re some of the best memories of my life, stem from our time in America supporting the biggest rock n’roll band in the world. You know, in my eyes we can’t get over there soon enough to try and pick up where we left off. Hopefully this record will strike a chord with the American rock audience which will obviously facilitate our being there a lot more often than we have been over the last couple of years, because it’s been too long.”
Those of you who keep your ear to the ground, listening for the pounding hooves of a herd of hard rockin’ beasts like Scorpion Child, Graveyard, Gypsyhawk, Blues Pills, Orchid and many others, may be wondering whether The Answer are threatened by this latest wave? “The more stripped back, honest rock n’roll out there in the public domain the better you know and I mean that. I don’t think the genre of rock is in a position to get too precious you know, let’s face up to that. And if there’s bands out there making quality music, delivering it with passion then I’m right behind it.”
The next time you hear a somewhat dubious comment along the lines of ‘rock is dead’; please refer them to bands like The Answer who continue to push themselves into unknown waters and new horizons to retain their vibrant and energetic attitude towards their craft. Their craft is honest and sincere rock n’roll delivered with heart and soul.
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