Airbourne

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Airbourne, photographed for Spin in Adelaide, Australia, Jan. 11, 2008 / Photograph by Trevor King
WRITTEN BY
Tom Sinclair

Talk about big balls. If Australian hard rockers Airbourne aren't the most shameless AC/DC knockoff ever, then Rancid's Tim Armstrong never owned a copy of LondonCalling. Runnin' Wild, Airbourne's debut, is a smorgasbord of sledgehammer riffs, crass sex puns ("I got just one wood, six holes to play"), and boozy sing-alongs with titles like "Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast" and "Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women." Frankly, it sounds like the best album Angus Young and Co. never made. (The only thing missing is the schoolboy shorts.)

Being dubbed AC/DC Jr., however, doesn't bother 23-year-old singer/guitaristJoel O'Keeffe; he's flattered. "They're one of the greatest bands in the world," he says."It means we're doing something right."

O'Keeffe grew up in Warrnambool, Australia, where he and his brother, drummer Ryan, were decidedly out of step with their peers' musical tastes. Wholly unmoved by "hip-hop and that kind of stuff," the siblings fell in love with Aussie pub rockers such as the Angels and Rose Tattoo, whom they discovered in an uncle's vinyl stash. "It was like, 'Yeah! This stuff's awesome,' " Joel recalls. " 'How come there's no bands that sound like this anymore?'"

The brothers responded to that question by recruiting guitarist David Roads and bassist Justin Street, and forming Airbourne in 2001 while still in their teens. Five years later, hard work, hedonism, and a helping of luck landed the band a slot opening for the Rolling Stones -- and a reported $2 million offer from Capitol Records in the U.S.

While the Capitol deal ultimately went south (Roadrunner stepped in to release the album over here), the Melbourne-based quartet haven't wasted much time crying in their Foster's. They recently toured with Motörhead ("Absolute masters of their craft!"), the sort of classic hard-rock act they feel far closer to than ostensible peers like Jet andthe Vines, who, Joel reckons, are "a bit different than us."

In fact, the Airbourne boys may be guilty of reverse ageism. "Someone might say, 'Iron Maiden is old,' " says Joel. "They're not old! They're still as currentas ever! They've just got a few more wrinkles." Unlined twentysomething faces aside, Airbourne aim to be every bit as venerable as their heroes. Just give 'em another year or two.

FAST FACTS:

  • Joel was inspired to become a musician at six, after seeing the Atlanta Rhythm Section perform "Boogie Smoogie" on TV.
  • What do Airbourne love most about the U.S.?The cheap booze.Says Joel: "Only $30 for a massive bottle of Jack!Over here, that would cost a heap!"
  • Alas, the foursome have yet to meet their idols, AC/DC.

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