The road to rock ‘n’ roll glory is littered with the smouldering remnants of bands that blazed brightly for a few brief moments and then fizzled out in a cloud of thwarted ambitions. But every now and then a band emerges that walk, talk and rock like true saviours of our beloved music’s spirit and soul. Founded in Northern Ireland in 2000, The Answer have spent the last decade proving their rock ‘n’ roll credentials and making the kind of life-affirming, eardrum-threatening music that separates the truly great from the merely adequate. After a few self-financed, low-key releases, the band emerged into the mainstream spotlight in 2005 when their debut single Keep Believin’ became the subject of great critical acclaim and led The Answer to the ‘Best New Band’ award at that year’s Classic Rock Awards. The following year, this young band consolidated that early promise with Rise, a debut album that received universally great reviews and backed up their burgeoning reputation with fistfuls of gloriously anthemic songs like Under The Sky, Into The Gutter and Come Follow Me that delighted everyone from cantankerous classic rock fans to bright-eyed teenagers with a penchant for balls-out rock ‘n’ roll. Rise went on to sell over 125,000 copies worldwide, a startling achievement that ensured that when the band released their second album, the mighty Everyday Demons, three years later, the world was more than ready to embrace The Answer on an even greater scale. The end result of their fearsome reputation, both as an astonishing live band and as rock’s brightest hopes, was a two-year stint as chief support to AC/DC, which took them around the world and into some of the biggest venues on the planet.
“We were thrown to the wolves a lot of nights on the road with AC/DC and all we had to fall back on was the four of us playing together,” recalls mercurial guitar hero Paul Mahon. “We had to make it work and dig in really hard. After all that time on the road, our song writing’s so much tighter, all the fat has been stripped away and we’re much more direct. Songs that we had in that vein seemed to go down with their audiences, and we took all of that on board.”
Undeniably, The Answer – completed by perennially charismatic frontman Cormac Neeson and the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Micky Waters and drummer James Heatley – have achieved a great deal in their career so far, but 2011 looks certain to be their most gloriously triumphant year to date. The band has recently completed work on their third album, Revival, which was recorded with producer Chris ‘Frenchie’ Smith in both El Paso and Austin, Texas. A thrillingly energised and powerful rock ‘n’ roll album that incorporates the best elements of The Answer’s artistic story so far combined with a gleaming armoury of new ideas and fresh adventures in sound, it sounds very much like the album that could take the band back to those arenas and stadiums, but this time as headliners in their own right.
“It’s our best album to date and we think it might turn a few heads!” states Neeson. “It was a lot of fun recording it. The studio in El Paso was on a ranch in the middle of a pecan orchard on 3,000 acres of land and right near the border of Mexico. It was a great place for creating music, and it had that whole Wild West vibe which rock bands can definitely tune into and feed off. It was an unbelievably positive experience and the music really reflects that. It was definitely the right call, going to Texas to record a rock ‘n’ roll album.”
“The other albums maybe sounded a little restrained in some respects and Chris came along and told us to dream bigger and rock a lot harder than we had before,” adds Mahon. “He’s a very rock ‘n’ roll guy too, so he wouldn’t let us disappear up our own arses!”
With a broad musical palate that takes them from the straightforward, thunderous rock ‘n’ roll vibes of Caught On The River Bed and Veda through to more experimental fare like Destroy Me and Tornado, both of which promise to silence the cynics who regard The Answer as little more than a straight-ahead blues rock outfit, the new album is simply this remarkable band’s definitive statement to date. Loud, confident and oozing white hot soul from every pore, this is The Answer’s first true masterpiece and confirmation that the sky is now the limit for these irrepressible guardians of the rock flame.
“People have been saying that rock is dead, but we don’t think it is at all and we’re gonna be proving that when this album comes out!” says Mahon. “One of the benefits of being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is that in some aspects you never grow up. We still have that wide-eyed ambition. We’re still as ambitious as ever and we’ve built a platform where we can go forward, get into those arenas and show people that rock ‘n’ roll is still alive and kicking in a big way. With the record, we’d like to get a bit of respect for our creative achievements, which I think we’ve definitely come on leaps and bounds on this one. We’re very proud of this album.”
While the last couple of years kept The Answer on the road as AC/DC’s guests, denying them the opportunity to headline their own extensive tours across the globe, the future now stretches out before the band like their cherished rock ‘n’ roll road itself. With plans to hit the ground running this autumn, armed with their incendiary new material and a renewed sense of purpose and self-belief, The Answer are mutating into the unstoppable force they always threatened to be.
“We’ve got a lot of plans for the next couple of years and we can’t fuckin’ wait to get back on the road,” states Neeson. “We’ve got 17 brand new songs ready to go and we’re fuckin’ loving it. Rehearsals are so exciting, piecing together different set lists with the old and new material. When it properly kicks off, that’ll be us on the road for the next two years and we’ll be ready for it. May that time fuckin’ roll on, because we’re ready to go!”