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Artist Spotlight: Airbourne

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Artist Spotlight: Airbourne

Airbourne drummer Ryan O'Keeffe chats to Eventfinda about the graft that went into the new record: Black Dog Barking, the band's hefty touring schedule, and how he wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, where exactly are you?

Berlin. We’re about to start a European tour, just doing some rehearsals in Berlin, and we start the first show in a week.

At this point, you’ve finally gotten the record out. That must be a relief.
Definitely a relief. Joel [O'Keeffe: vocalist, guitarist and Ryan's brother] and I say this album took a couple of years off our lives, making this thing. We went seven days a week, and every little nuance, every little thing about the album has definitely got our stamp on it, and has definitely been thought about a hundred times, so to have it out is a huge relief.

Did you get to the point where you started to second-guess your decisions?
I think when we worked with Brian [Howes: producer], we were all on the same page. In our heads we all knew what we wanted the album to be, we were just trying to get it there. Once we’d recorded it, Joel went right into mixing, I went off and did the artwork. So everything from the font on the lyrics, to the colour, has been planned out. Everyone wanted to put the album name on the cover, but I liked the fact it was just the image.

There is a strong visual aesthetic that runs through your catalogue and merch. Are you the one responsible for this?

Joel and I sort of have a concept around it, and we use the same artists, the Sharp brothers from the Blue Mountains. We always get together and start bouncing ideas. We wanted it to be simple, aggressive, and that was the kind of image both me and Joel had in mind.

And musically, your Australian rock influences: The Poor, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, are always brought up when discussing your band. Are there any more hidden influences, or acts that inform the sound that are yet to be mentioned?

Maybe a bit of Bruce Springsteen, Credence. We love Maiden, we are huge Maiden fans. And all the [bands like] Metallica, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Motorhead, Ministry...

Those are all fairly evident, yet overseas press in particular seem determined to pigeonhole you. Do you go “Oh great, another AC/DC comparison?"

Not really. To be honest, when someone puts us in the same sentence as AC/DC, it’s still a honour, as much as if I was still in year twelve and someone said: "Hey, you can have a band, and people are going to be writing ‘AC/DC’ in the same sentence as your band", I’d be fucking jumping on tables – and we still do.

How long do you generally tour on each album?

This one is going to definitely go ‘til the end of 2014, and hopefully even longer. We love touring, we really enjoy ourselves and we love being on tour buses and stuff like that.

Do you get homesick, or at the least, a bit displaced?

We are always displaced, even if we are in Australia working on an album - we don’t really watch the news. We’re used to living in Europe. We know our way around most cities in Europe. Earlier this year, we were at the same airport we just arrived at, and it’s like arriving at Tullamarine or Sydney or somewhere: you know where certain restaurants are, you know what food is great. The other day we went beer-garden hopping. It’s fucking awesome.

In terms of recording, how far ahead do you work? The new record just came out; do you already have a bunch of songs ready for the next one?
We’re just enjoying this one for now. Play the new songs, enjoy it, and later on this year Joel and I will start throwing some stuff together and looking into it all, but sometimes it’s good to just have a breather. We’ll put stuff together while still on the road, ‘cos obviously it makes things a lot easier if you have stuff ready to go once you get off the road, rather than starting with a blank canvas. Often Joel will start playing a riff, and we’ll record it - sometimes that’s the end of it, other times, we’ll be practicing and someone will start playing it, and we’ll go, “Fuck, didn’t we record something similar to that, eight months ago in Italy?" If that’s the case, then obviously it’s memorable.

Airbourne are set to perform Melbourne's Corner Hotel on July 20.

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