In the wake of The Answer’s sterling comeback album Sundowners, and ahead of their peak time set at this year’s south Walian hard rock bonanza, the Steelhouse Festival, the Northern Irish band’s vocalist Cormac Neeson chats to John-Paul Davies about what it means to get the band back together and to play another show on top of the mountain.
When you all decided to take a break from The Answer in 2017, did you think you’d ever be making another album with the band again?
Cormac Neeson: It was a time of great uncertainty for what the future held for the band, there was no set return date. We knew everyone was going away to work on different projects – you didn’t know what kind of timeframe all those projects would need to work through. We kinda knew we needed to step away from it for a while but we didn’t know how long that while was going to be. Talking to you now, having picked the reins back up and made an album we’re really proud of, it feels good – it feels like it’s all happened at the pace it needed to for us to come back and feel fully committed.
Now that you’re back on the road, does it feel like you were ever away?
Cormac Neeson: It certainly didn’t take long to get back into some bad habits. But the bad habits is usually where the fun is at, you know? One thing that has been kind of cool is that the chemistry in the band has never been stronger. And you really feel the benefit of having come through since we were kids. We’ve lived out a big chunk of our lives together and you feel that bond and that unity and also the ease in each other’s company. Also, I think we’re actually better players now because we’ve been away working across different genres and found different ways of doing things. So we’ve come back having matured as players.
So is Sundowners the best representation of The Answer on record?
Cormac Neeson: I definitely think, out of any of our albums, there’s a cohesiveness to this album where every song gels with the others and every song can stand on its own. We came into the studio with a very clear idea of who we are. The Answer are many things, but with this album we tried to really hone in on the soul of the band, and that was one of our guiding premises working through songs. We had a very unified vision of who we are as a band and I think you can feel that on the record.
The New Wave Of Classic Rock movement has gone from strength to strength. Do you feel the band had a big part in starting things off, way back in 2005?
Cormac Neeson: I genuinely don’t know the answer to that question. I know when we started out, there weren’t many bands treating guitar-based, 70s-influenced, blues-rock as anything that was really worth taking seriously and we didn’t care whether people thought we were cool or not.
You last played Steelhouse in 2016 for the fourth time. What does the festival mean to you and what can we expect from your set?
Cormac Neeson: If that’s not the most performances by anyone, then we’re definitely up there! From that first time we played it we’ve always felt very welcome – and then you step out onto the stage and the audience are obviously very happy to have bands up the top of a mountain playing loud rock music as well. It all creates a very unique atmosphere that The Answer can get on board with.
We’re looking forward to getting on stage, playing the new songs from Sundowners and the fan favourites, and hopefully reminding people what we’re all about. But also enhancing the experience with new material and bringing a whole lot of soul and raw emotion to our 60-minute slot.
The Answer play Steelhouse Festival, Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm, Ebbw Vale on Sun 30 July.
Tickets: £145 weekend/£20 under-15s; day tickets also available.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES