There’s something about the kind of potent rock and roll fury that Airbourne cranks out, all cylinders firing, that makes you want to chug a beer straight down your throat and punch the air as though it’d touched your wife inappropriately. It sounds crude, we admit. But that’s the thing about these Aussie pub rock rebels. Their music, like new album No Guts. No Glory., are perfect soundtracks for drunken debauchery, and “that’s what we’re here for, mate,” says rowdy lead guitarist and vocalist Joel O’Keeffe.
Inspired by the likes of Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Angel City, Rose Tattoo, AC/DC and Motorhead, Airbourne have been waving the rock and roll flag for Australia since 2003, and in the process, winning fans and awards, like the one they took home in 2008 from the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, where the band’s album Runnin’ Wild was named the year’s Best Debut Album. They hail from Warrnambool, a small drinking town on the southwestern coast of Victoria, Australia, and they’ve steadily gained an immense following among fans of infectious, high energy, whiskey-soaked, whiplash-inducing working man’s rock. The band’s new album is a mandatory addition to any self-respecting jukebox’s library.
“Basically, we’ve never been about having a specific message; we don’t talk about politics or social injustices in our songs. There are other bands out there to take care of that,” says Joel O‘Keeffe, who, like brother and Airbourne drummer Ryan O’Keeffe, has been playing guitar since he could walk. “With us, it’s not like that. It’s just rock and roll. We want people to have a good time, no matter what. Have a drink, play it really loud, and kick back.”
Airbourne traveled to the Windy City to record No Guts. No Glory. with producer Johnny K, who has worked with Disturbed, Machine Head, Staind, and 3 Doors Down, among others. Like Runnin’ Wild, No Guts. No Glory. continues that good time vibe, but ultimately, according to Ryan, the record is about “standing up and going for it, and being a man. There’s a tougher element to the album, so to speak.” Instead of sleeping every night in a comfortable hotel room bed on the label’s dime, the band actually slept in the studio, taking inspiration from Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band, who were known to live in the studio until an album was completed.
“We found out that they used to do that for the first bunch of records they did,” Joel explains, “so, the drums were set up in a big room with the guitars and [rhythm guitarist David Roads], he slept behind the amps; I slept behind a bunch of amps; Ryan slept behind his drum kit and [bassist Justin Street] slept behind this pool table, and we were all in the studio. It was really fun, because you’d just get up and go, ‘Fuck,’ and start recording. That’s how your day was. You just sort of woke up, had some food, and started recording. Maybe you’d have a shower; maybe not. Just sort of walk around in your shorts all day, just rocking away.”
No Guts. No Glory., the band’s second LP for Roadrunner Records, was recorded live and straight to analog tape, and Airbourne essentially used the acoustics of the recording space as an impromptu instrument. “Instead of closing all the doors and keeping the sound all confined, we just left everything open, so the sound would bleed a bit more, so it sounds a bit more open than the last one,” Joel explained. “That was one of the main differences. We just let it be open. We didn’t care if the guitar solo bled through the bloody cymbal mikes. It’s cool, because it adds to it.”
The album’s a virtual rock and roll buffet, boasting tracks like “No Way But The Hard Way” and “Blond, Bad and Beautiful.” When the band lived together for three years on welfare in a Melbourne suburb, surviving on a steady diet of booze and barbecue, things were tough, and the band nearly burned their home to the ground- literally. “Nothing came easy, and we’d say to each other, ‘Ain’t no way but the hard way,’” recalls Ryan.
No Guts. No Glory. also features a song called “Steel Town,” which was inspired by the band’s time on the road, and some of the people they had encountered. “Every time we went through a town that was a steel town, there was something about the crowd themselves,” recalls Joel O’Keeffe. “They seemed to be a little bit wilder, and they’d always drink the pub dry, and we’d have to get more beer from other pubs. There was always a massive fight, always a crazy crowd. So we wanted to give them a song that gives them a chance to raise their flag and pump their fists in the air, and drink a beer to it. I guess it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire.”
Airbourne will be touring for much of 2010 in support of No Guts. No Glory. and for the O’Keeffe brothers, it’s the band’s live performance that brings folks coming back for more. “We want to become that band that, people hear the name, and they know that they’ll have a good time at the show,” Joel explains. “They know what they’re going to get. They‘re going to get rock and roll, and it’s going to be loud, and they’ll leave the concert with their ears ringing.”