INTERVIEW: The Answer

theanswerFollowing on from the success of “New Horizon”, The Answer are preparing for the release of their eagerly awaited new album “Raise A Little Hell” and the subsequent UK tour which kicks off in Belfast in March.

One of the hardest working bands in Northern Ireland, the County Down rockers have forged a reputation as one of the strongest live acts to emerge from N.I. and have consistently offered album after album of bluesy hard rock, and are guaranteed to deliver the same this time around.

Riding on the wave  of success of the last few years which have included a massive worldwide tour with AC/DC, and two studio albums “Revival” and “New Horizon”, the band have been busy working on a follow up that has been described as “a good time rock n roll record…with a few surprises.” The band is sure to keep old fans happy and pick up a few more along the way. And when their opening show in Limelight rolls around on 6th March, it’s one gig you do not want to miss. GiggingNI’s Conor Kerr spoke with Cormac ahead of the show.

So the new album “Raise A Little Hell” is out in March. What can we expect? How is this one different from the last?

“I think it’s a bit more diverse than the last one. New Horizon was very much focused and targeted on writing ten or eleven straight forward rockers. This record has got maybe a bit more depth to it. The only pre-requisite when we were making this record was to really enjoy ourselves and express ourselves as individuals and as a band. And we had a lot of fun making this record. It was all very organic, very natural, we didn’t over think things. We just worked on an idea and if an idea was happening and it was feeling good, then we followed it through and turned it into a full song. It was quite an intense writing period. We wrote it all over the summer there, kind of in between festival shows, over the months of July, August and early September. So it’s all very natural, it’s a good time rock n roll record, but there’s a few surprises on there too.”

Is there a certain theme or message that you get across with the new songs?

“I don’t know if there’s an overriding message or theme, the overriding vibe is kind of making music for the sheer joy of it. We got off the back of the New Horizon tour and we were all pretty drained. It was quite an intense touring schedule and we took a couple of weeks apart and cleared our heads. When we came back into the studio to start writing the next record, we asked ourselves a few questions like “Why are we doing this?” and “What do we want to achieve with this record?” A few beers later it came down to we’re just proud to call ourselves full time musicians, you know making music for a living. That’s reward enough. We just then sat down and wrote some good music and really had a great time writing it and recording it, and hopefully that shows. It’s a record where we’re not taking ourselves too seriously, just making a bunch of good time rock and roll songs.”

I know it’s hard to pick favourites, but are there any songs that you’re particularly proud of?

“It is hard to pick favourites and I’m proud of them all, you know, we would never put a song on the record if we weren’t 100 percent happy with it and proud to call it our own. We’ve already started playing a few songs live like ‘The Other Side’, ‘I Am What I Am’, and ‘Strange Kind of Nothing’. We did a few gigs before Christmas and they’re feeling good and the crowd seemed to be into them. But it’s all top quality rock and roll music and I love every one of them. I’m sure over the course of the tour I’ll be drawn to a couple more than others and we’ll get sick of playing them and we’ll move on to few songs we’ve never tried before. There’s enough on there to keep us interested and keep our audiences interested.”

You recorded the album in Spain, is that right?

“Yeah we did, in a wee town up in the mountains just outside Madrid. It was actually our producer’s great grandmother’s house that he renovated into a residential studio. He kind of held on to a lot of the old Spanish architecture you know, big thick wooden beams running the length of the house. A very vibey place to record music. We lived there, we ate there, we drank there, and we made music there. Just for a month. A month of our lives up in the Spanish hills and we had a good time doing it.”

You’ve teamed up with PledgeMusic as well this time, can you tell us about that?

“Aye, we’re running a pre-order campaign with PledgeMusic. Pledge offer a couple of services to bands and artists, you can do either a pre-order campaign or you can run your whole record through those guys, and fans of the band can pledge money to drum up capital to make the record. In our case we have a record label so we didn’t need to do that. So it’s just really a very concerted, well organised pre-order campaign where people can go online, on to the PledgeMusic site and they can pre-order the record, but they can pre-order with lots of different extras whether it’s a signed lyric sheet or signed drum skin, to an acoustic gig where we’ll come and play in your house, and everything in between; different t-shirts, you can get one of Paul’s signed guitars.

There’s like a menu system and you go on and pick what you want. And it’s working out well for us. It feels very modern for us. It’s very much a way of doing things for the way the modern music industry is, and it just offers our fans a bit more variety, and there’s plenty on there to capture the imagination. But it’s going very well so far, a lot of our fans pre-order the record anyway so to have Pledge driving that whole concept it works out great for both parties.”

You’ve covered different songs in the past like ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘Rock and Roll Cowboy’ as well as others. Have you recorded any others for this album?

“There’re actually no cover versions on this record at all. Usually we do a cover song or two for the bonus disc, but the bonus disc this time round is just kind of left over material that we recorded but didn’t end up on the record and a few acoustic, stripped down versions of songs from the main body of the album. We’re definitely not opposed to another cover version or two in the future, but this time round we’ve stuck to our own original material.”

Your UK tour starts soon too, are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?

“Yes very much so. I mean you do get itchy feet if you’ve been off the road for a while. For a band that tours as much as us, if you haven’t toured for a while it starts to feel a little bit weird and you really do miss it. Especially going out with a brand new album, it always adds to the excitement and that feeling of anticipation. And of course the whole tour kicks off in Belfast, in the Limelight which will be a great night, as it always is in Belfast. I think we started the New Horizon tour in Belfast as well so we’re falling into a really nice little tradition of kicking off all the touring there. It starts in Belfast and makes its way around the UK, then on to Europe, and then on to America, and then all round the summer festival circuit. So it’ll be the start of a really long journey for us, and it seems fitting and right that it should start in the town where we really cut our teeth as a live band.”

What can we expect in terms of the set list? A mixed bag, mainly new ones?

“I’ll say it’ll be quite new record heavy in that there’s twelve brand new songs that people are going to want to hear live at some point on the tour, so you kind of have to work out a way of getting through the whole record over the course of a three month tour. But at the same time you can’t really turn your back on the songs that have really got you up on that stage in the first place, you know? So it’s normally a balancing act. Normally on a tour promoting a new record we play about fifty percent new stuff fifty percent a blend of the last, in this case, the last four records. So it’s a balancing act, but it’s a good problem to have.”

The Answer will play Belfast’s Limelight on Friday 6th March 2015.