“EVERYTHING gets political in Ireland, even our rock history,” says Cormac Neeson, frontman and lyricist of Northern Irish band The Answer.
The classic rock band are in Cork debating which part of Ireland Rory Gallagher belongs to. “He was born in Ballyshannon but raised in Cork – it’s an ongoing debate as to which part of Ireland he belongs to.”
The band, who are from County Down, are touring in support of their third album, Revival, which follows the critically-acclaimed Everyday Demons.
The latest album shares the same rocky aesthetic of Everyday Demons – big licks, huge licks and catchy phrasing, but the lyrical themes reveal a band that’s matured from rock freshers into hard-living post-graduates of rock and roll.
In 2009 The Answer were invited by AC/DC to support them on the European and North American leg of their Black Ice tour. “The lyrics in the album are about the Black Ice world tour and the crazy environment we were in.
“We were playing to thousands and thousands of people and got to experience America in all its crazy glory. The pace of life was incredible – it was all at breakneck speed.”
But the band were on the best rock and roll training scheme available – that of AC/DC. “Brian Johnson would come and drink wine with us in the dressing room before and after the show and enjoyed hearing about the trouble we’d got into the night before. I think we reminded him of what they were like when they were starting out.”
One song in particular tracks The Answer’s antics. “There are references to us picking up bad habits on the tour but enjoying them at the same time.” Neeson’s reluctant to elaborate. “You know what I mean by bad habits,” he laughs.
“Whenever I write lyrics I write about what I know about – I don’t want to be singing about something I can’t back up.”
But he can back up his ditties about touring with one of the world’s biggest rock groups. And it was all thanks to an acquaintance of AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson’s, who gave him a CD of The Answer. “Apparently he had it on in his car and was driving round Florida listening to it. I think he recognised a lot of themselves in us and felt we were kindred spirits – we wear our hearts on our sleeves.”
The band play Sheffield in support of the launch of Revival which, Neeson insists, will not estrange the band’s loyal followers. “We’ve definitely remained true to our rock and blues values but our songwriting has evolved since Everyday Demons. We made the point of challenging ourselves and we’ve tried very hard to do something different but we’re not going to alienate the fan base but equally we’re not resting our laurels.”
The Answer have enjoyed writing it, although they are happy to be on tour again. “I think writing and playing live complement each other. I enjoy both.
“Sometimes it’s nice to go to a residential studio and just be creative and write – it’s a very simple way of life. And it’s nice to see a song evolve in front of your eyes. But then we’re always itching to get back on tour.”
But one thing remains unsettled for Neeson: which part of Ireland can lay claim to Rory Gallagher?
The Answer are back on tour, with a more expansive repertoire of big riffs and tales of rock and roll excesses. The band play at the O2 Academy on October 15.