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Government grant for overseas tour The Answer to bands' prayers

By Maureen Coleman

The frontman of Northern Irish rock band The Answer has described a Government grant for touring overseas as "priceless".

Cormac Neeson said the special funding from the Music Export Growth Scheme meant the Co Down rockers could tour Japan and the US next year to coincide with the release of their fifth studio album.

The band – who supported Aussie rock legends AC/DC on their famous Black Ice World Tour – are one of 15 hotly-tipped acts signed to independent labels who will benefit from grants being made available under the scheme.

The scheme was set up by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) to help small and medium-sized independent music companies increase international sales.

Cormac said: "We'd been inundated with comments from angry Americans on Facebook, saying they'd seen us playing with AC/DC and wanted to know why we were only doing a few shows in the States.

"The thing is, touring the States is an expensive operation and to make it worthwhile, it would need to be a full-scale tour, where we really get the chance to make an impression.

"So we were having a run-of-the-mill conversation with our management about this when they mentioned the Music Export Growth Scheme, which supports indie record labels and helps promote music around the world.

"We said 'yeah, let's get in touch and see if we meet the criteria' and then we got the great news that we were getting funding. It's priceless really."

The Answer have been playing at festivals across Europe all summer and are taking a break before this month's Sunflower festival. Then it's back to the studio to start working on the new album.

Cormac said: "We've played a few gigs in Japan, in places like Tokyo and Osaka, and we've done lots of Press and acoustic sessions there too. But we'd love to do a full, extensive tour of the country as well as the States.

"This funding means that we'll be able to do that now and with the release of the new album early next year, it's already shaping up to be an amazing 2015."

Also receiving funding is electronica musician Max Cooper, who is originally from Belfast, award-winning multi-instrumentalist Imogen Heap, Leeds band Hadouken and Liverpool indie rockers The Wombats.

Just over £250,000 will be provided to independent music companies representing artists who span a cross-section of music genres.

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