“We’re trying to inject some new life back into rock n’ roll, trying to make it relevant to the modern day”.
For such a brazen statement of intent, Cormac Neeson seems very laid-back. But with upwards of 300,000 record sales under his belt, he has every right to be.
The above quote has been thrown around in some form or another for as long as rock music has existed. A genre whose appeal originally centred on its tendency to push the boundaries, The Genre That Would Not Die has, by paradox, constantly had to reinvent itself to stay connected to its core values. However, sixty years into its lifespan, rock is reaching its very limits of creativity; it cannot conceivably get any heavier, faster or more rebellious. In the ever-increasingly intense contest for attention in rock music, many bands rely on pushing those boundaries to gain notoriety. The Answer, along with groups such as Airbourne and Black Stone Cherry, differ by sticking to the blueprints laid down in the 60s and 70s by old greats such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and AC/DC. In the contest for attention, The Answer receive no points for originality, but compensate with the sheer quality of their songs.
Neeson, one quarter of The Answer, has graciously sacrificed part of his afternoon to humour The Siren. The amicable vocalist is speaking from the band’s rehearsal space in Co. Down, where the Belfast quartet are limbering up for their upcoming UK headline dates in support of their third full-length Revival. The album comes four months after their 412 Days of Rock n’ Roll DVD (Documenting their support slots on AC/DC’s recent Black Ice tour), and the band intend to strike while the iron is hot.
“Since that world tour we’ve basically locked ourselves in our houses, writing and recording this album, and we’re delighted to be getting back out again”, Neeson states enthusiastically. “I don’t think that rock n’ roll fans are very quick to forget. It is a fair enough gap since [2009 album] Everyday Demons came out, and it’s about a year since we put together a tour like this one, but we obviously have very high hopes to capitalize on the thousands upon thousands of people that we’ve played to [when supporting AC/DC].”
“It helped us reach such a wide audience”, agrees guitarist Paul Mahon of the AC/DC tour. “I think that we’re only benefitting from that on Revival. The places we’ve been playing have held much bigger audiences. With the DVD, we’ve definitely picked up on that as well”.
That tour was also crucial in helping the band to hone their stage skills, as will be evident when they stop over at Whelan’s in October. Learning to win over arena crowds on a nightly basis developed their ability to command their own crowds. “It takes a couple of shows to get used to the arenas”, Neeson admits. “Not just the stage and size of the venue, but also to learn to win over a mass of people. I remember when we headed to Chicago; we had played two shows with AC/DC at that point, and I remember feeling very comfortable by then… you have to be able to relax to do the music justice. If you stiffen up, that’s not going to help anybody.”
While Neeson is obviously having the time of his life on the road, it is clear that he treats the live circuit with the respect it deserves. A live band first and foremost, The Answer have a professional attitude towards touring that comes from living off of music. “We have a decent following in the UK and Europe, we’ve played a fair few of our own shows in North America, and we also plan on making the trip down to Australia as we’ve sold a good few records there as well. We want to kind of evenly distribute our time in those different territories so that nobody is missing out!” When they are off the road and need to rest up and plan their next raid, the band still choose to return home to County Down. “There’s no better place to go back to”, says Neeson of their decision not to decamp to London or LA, as originally advised- “In this touring bubble you get detached from the rest of the world, Northern Ireland keeps us grounded”.
Before they return to County Down again, the band will make a stop in Whelan’s on October 1st. If you manage to miss it, they will get to you eventually- “Anywhere that wants to have The Answer, The Answer will go and play!”