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THEY’VE fielded the inevitable question so many times they must be tired of hearing it.

So what did happen to Embrace?

Not sighted on the rock music radar for the best part of five years, the band born and raised in a garden shed in Bailiff Bridge has been written off so many times their obituary is becoming dog-eared.

Understandably. Now you see them, now you don’t. Since they played their last gig in Edinburgh in 1996 they haven’t played a note in public, there have been no interviews, no record releases.

The expectation was huge. Their debut album, “The Good Will Out” went to No.1 in the UK albums chart, they had Coldplay no less as support band on tour and released more successful music including the critically acclaimed album, “Out of Nothing”.

They had, in the words of the song they recorded for England’s World Cup sortie in 2006, the “World At Their Feet”.

“We were at our most commercially successful standpoint and we just stopped,” says Danny McNamara, lead singer. “No fanfare, no big announcement, nothing. But we didn’t split up, oh no.”

But while they may not have buried Embrace, as individuals they were working on their own projects. The band was on the back burner and in some respects they had only themselves to blame.

They had set the bar extraordinarily high. They could have gone on making albums backing them up with a tour and a clutch of promotional appearances.

That could have been good enough for some bands but not for Embrace. Good was, and still is, not good enough.

“That’s where the bar is,” says Danny. “It’s always been there but it’s just a lot more obvious when you’ve been away for five years and it feels like everyone has forgotten about you.

“It’s why whenever we go away we always come back armed to the teeth with big tunes.

“Embrace is known for having the most amazing fans in the world but if you want your record to matter to more than just your hardcore followers you are going to have to write something that’s such a distilled, burningly amazing tune that no-one can ignore it.”

The indications are that Embrace are about to deliver the goods, armed with those big tunes Danny talks about. And he is lifted by the experience.

“I’m enjoying it because for the first time I’ve accepted that making a great album isn’t easy. In fact, if it’s going to be the best then it’s probably going to be the hardest and we have to take our time.

“But it’s hard for all the right reasons. We’ve not got rich and bloated living on islands with drugs habits.”

The album is still a work in progress but Danny is proud of the story so far.

“After five years of writing we have a bunch of big tunes. Everyone is smiling but we aren’t patting ourselves on the back yet.

“We need to write more and get the performances and the music right. It’s going to take a while but we were born to do this. Mark my words, it’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Embrace appear to have rediscovered the reasons that first welded them together as a unit.

With the pressure off, they have had time to evolve – and got a lot better in the process.

“We stopped the runaway train that was speeding out of control and now here we are back to doing what sets us apart again, the thing that’s kept us going all the time.

“The five of us have been together with exactly the same line-up since the start and we are closer now than ever. There’s a chemistry between us that I never really saw before. Being away has enable us all to see it for the first time.”

Danny won’t be drawn on when the album will be released. “It will be out when it’s ready,” he says.

“What will become clear over the coming weeks is that I’m not in this for money, power or fame. I’m writing songs again because it’s really the only thing that makes any sense to me.”

The album, he promises, will deliver.

“What I want is for all the work, all the belief, all the promises we’ve made over the last 15 years to finally be met with the most blindingly unquestionable piece of work we’ve ever created.

“The five of us are in the process of making our best album. A watershed. A landmark album of fearless melody and fearless music.”