When The Answer won the opening slot on AC/DC’s globe-trotting Black Ice world tour it seemed one of Britain’s best new bands would finally reach the audience their heady brand of emotive classic rock demanded and deserved.
Sure enough, their polished sets and 70s-flavoured sounds went down a storm on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, with hundreds of thousands of new fans exposed to the Ulster quartet’s undoubted class.
However, the predicted jump in album sales never followed and the latest release, the angst-ridden New Horizon, charted at 45 in the UK – 20 places lower than 2009’s Everyday Demons.
Unperturbed, The Answer have embarked on a run of 40 shows in 50 days, stopping off at Newcastle 02 Academy tonight to prove the band’s original line-up remains as creative and committed as ever.
Formed in 2000, their longevity as an unchanged quartet is just another of the quirks that set The Answer apart from so many of their fickle peers.
“There’s no secret as to why we’re all still together,” said singer Cormac Neeson. “We just make sure that we have a really good, regular ‘barney’ to clear the air.
“If anything is bothering any one of us then it’s best to get it out in the open. This wouldn’t have lasted if we didn’t know how to communicate with each other. A band won’t last six months if it doesn’t have some kind of chemistry at its heart. In that respect we hit the jackpot.
“We have four guys who really complement each other professionally and personally. There are no egos and no divas. It’s a very democratic band, from songwriting to expressing ourselves on stage. Everyone gets their fill.”
New Horizon is an expression of frustration, anger, optimism and honesty. As a result it’s the most compelling Answer album to date. Produced by Toby Jepson and packing a serious punch, it’s clear Neeson is particularly proud of the band’s fourth long player.
“The whole record’s lyrical theme is kind of spawned from the heart,” he said. “It’s spawned from one continuous train of thought.
“There’s an emotional release going on throughout the record where all of us are releasing a pent-up frustration built up over time.
“New Horizon is not entirely angst-ridden – there’s some hope and optimism in there. But it is our heaviest and darkest album to date.”
Neeson isn’t bitter. Nor does he choose to dwell on the past now that New Horizon has done its job in offering The Answer an emotional release. “We just can’t wait to get out there and play the new songs live,” he said. “Playing so many shows in such a short space of time is a challenge. But it’s a challenge we relish.”