Hard drinkin' Aussie rock and rollers Airbourne come from a long line of Antipodean exports that have brought their gritty attitude and sweat-drenched anthems to the masses. Proud of their musical heritage, the four piece led by brothers Joel (lead vocals, guitar) and Ryan (drums) O'Keeffe have traversed the highway to hell to become one of rock's most exciting live tickets. Back in Europe on the festival circuit, we caught up with Joel at Download for a chat about the long way to the top. Breakin' outta hell; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Joel, how are you today?
I’m great, mate. We just got in from Edinburgh! *Puts on impressive Scottish accent*
You recently played in Belfast and Dublin; how were those shows?
It was great. Both in Dublin and Belfast we could smell the Guinness farts wafting onto the stage, and that’s how we knew the boys were jumping up and down and having a great time. The Guinness was fully going in there and settled, and shaking it up, so that’s when you know the crowd’s rocking along.
Does that motivate you?
You sort of go; “Oh Jeez”, when you go up to the mic to sing and take a big gulp of that.
Do it stop you from doing encores then?
No, no it’s like a thing that you know; “All right, they’re having a good time”.
Have you found that the Scots, the Irish and the Australians have a similar mentality when it comes to having a good night out?
They do. My ancestors were Irish; they came from Ireland over to Australia, so it’s what Ryan and I always talk about; when we get that ferry back to Ireland it’s like; “Oh, we’re coming back home on the boat”. The ancestral blood starts boiling and you start going; “All right, where’s the fuckin’ nearest pub!”
Did you get to have a good look around when you were in Ireland this time?
We didn’t get to really have too much Guinness in Dublin, but I reckon the Guinness tastes better in Belfast, I don’t know why. We always go down to Kelly’s Cellars straight after the show. We were finished at the Limelight, just b-lined it for the shower, booked the Uber, and just got straight over there. Kelly’s Cellars were shutting at 1am, so we had a good hour, and we had four or five pints in there; we just went ‘bang’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’, bang’, thank you very much.
You’re here at Download Festival today; what does it mean to you to play on the main stage to a crowd of that size?
Yeah, they were great, we got them in the end. The wind was sort of blowing around, and we were a long way away from the crowd, but as always, we just bang away and bang away until we get them up.
Airbourne are the perfect festival band, aren’t you?
Yeah, we’re a good time band. We don’t take ourselves seriously. We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. When we get out there and start rockin’, the crowd just sees that – the guy smashes a beer on his head, I can do whatever I want!
It’s a fantastic template; it’s the AC/DC blueprint isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. Back in the seventies, bands that were coming up at the same time as AC/DC - The Angels, Rose Tattoo - that all stemmed from Billy Thorpe and Lobby Loyde. Those guys kind of wrote the Aussie Rock book, which went on from The Easybeats which featured George Young. So there’s a really small group of bands and people that drummed out this meat and potatoes Aussie pub rock which took the most simplistic parts from the American blues and rock and the British blues and rock, and we put them all together, and that’s what it is.
You must be proud to be part of that lineage, because Australia has produced some incredible bands.
Yeah, it has. You look at, even a band like INXS for example, there’s footage when they did Wembley Stadium, and you look at that and go; “Fuckin’ hell!” Like, INXS were playing to that many people? Yeah, you know what, Australia pumps out the bands every now and then.
Airbourne’s profile has gotten bigger in recent years; you must feel like you’re doing something right?
Well, it’s a crawl, mate. We’ve never been that band that had the big apple, Ipod commercial and then all of a sudden shot to the top. We’ve never had any of that; we’ve always been a real grow organically, and that’s always been the mentality; just tour, tour, tour. We just go on. We’re just going to stay that way and tour, and that’s what we’re doing, and we notice that more people keep coming, and it’s like an aircraft taking off; we’re the wheels off the ground, and we’re just taking off, and that’s what we’re doing.
Is it important to you to do it that way, as a grass roots, rock and roll band?
Yeah. We’re a working class rock and roll band. You know, there’s no private jets, there’s no fuckin’ Limousines or any of that shit. We all sleep on the same bus; all the crew, all the band, and we’ve got the one big truck that we jam with all the Marshalls and all that fuckin’ shit. It’s really working class, and it’s the right way. We love it; we love touring, and we love getting out and playing.
Your fans relate to that work ethic too, don’t they?
Well, we have a working class crowd; it’s not like a 'well to do' crowd. They very much turn up and drink, and just let loose and forget about things. We have a saying, and it’s; “Turn the world off, and turn the music up”.
So what’s next for Airbourne?
We’ve got another month and a half of touring festivals through Europe, and then we’re off to South America for the first time. We’re going to be in a fuckin’ van, we’re going to be haulin’ our guitars on flights and shit, and it’s going to be crazy. Then we’re back here in Europe - and back here in England actually - in November. We’re in London at the Roundhouse on 15th. We’ll change the set up a bit, and we’re trying to work on some cool production stuff for the final leg of the tour because it’s the big bang at the end of the year, so we’re going for that. It’s two months of that and then it’s on to the next album.
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Airbourne play London's Roundhouse on 15th November. For more information and ticketing, click here.