Airbourne are an Australian hard rock band formed in Warrnambool in late 2001. Founding members are Joel O'Keeffe on lead vocals and lead guitar, his younger brother Ryan O'Keeffe on drums and David Roads on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. They were joined by Justin Street on bass guitar and backing vocals in mid-2004. Roads amicably left in 2017, Mathew Harrison joined in 2018 and after a short tenure was replaced by Jarrad Morrice on rhythm guitar and backing vocals in 2022.
The band's debut album, Runnin' Wild peaked in the top 30 on the ARIA Albums Chart. It appeared on the United Kingdom Albums Chart and United States Billboard 200. By August 2013, it was certified with a silver award by BPI. Their second album, No Guts. No Glory. reached the top 20 on the ARIA Chart, top 40 in the UK, top 5 in Germany and also appeared on the Billboard 200. Their third studio album, Black Dog Barking also reached top 5 in Germany. In 2016, Airbourne released their fourth album, Breakin' Outta Hell, which peaked at No. 3 in Germany. Boneshaker , the band's fifth studio album, appeared in the German top 10.
Airbourne formed as a hard rock band in late 2001 in the Victorian city of Warrnambool by Joel O'Keeffe on lead vocals and lead guitar and his younger brother Ryan on drums. Joel had played guitar since the age of 11 and Ryan got his first drum kit four years later also at the age of 11. At 17-years-old Joel provided guitar for his father Dennis' vocal performance in January 2000, with his mother Anne on bodhran and vocals, and uncle Colin on tin whistle and vocals.
Airborne initially performed as a three-piece with an unnamed bass guitarist. Joel met David Roads when the two worked at the Hotel Warrnambool. The pair brought their guitars to work and, after their shifts, jammed on song ideas. Roads was asked to join the group on rhythm guitar and they rehearsed at the O'Keeffes' home. In November 2002 Warrnambool City Council and Arts Victoria released a Various Artists' CD album, Hard Wired: Youth Compilation Album. Airborne provided two tracks, "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Give It all You've Got", which were recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool earlier in the year. The CD was given away to local students as well as 300 additional copies provided, "to help further the careers of the eight bands... airplay and gigs outside Warrnambool."
Adam Jacobson joined on bass guitar early in 2003 and they played regular gigs at the local Criterion Hotel. In March of that year, as Airborne, the four-piece – Jacobson, the O'Keeffe brothers and Roads – won a statewide band competition, Push-On, in Melbourne. Their early material was influenced by Australian rock artists AC/DC, the Angels, Billy Thorpe and Rose Tattoo.Classic Rock magazine's reviewer described how they are, "shamelessly derivative and gloriously entertaining." As Airbourne, they recorded an eight-track extended play , Ready to Rock, which appeared in July 2004 via Field Man Australia, an independent self-funded release. Recorded at Hot House Studios with the band producing while Frank mastered it at Moose Mastering, Richmond for Sik Kitty Production. It was only sold at gigs and by 2017 became, "highly collectable." Pedro B of Sputnikmusic rated it at 3.0 out-of 5, "A valiant first effort by a very young band, but marred by cheesy lyrics, repetition and excessive adherence to source material."
By the time the EP was issued Jacobson had been replaced by Justin Street on bass guitar. Ryan had met Street while stumbling home drunk from a party. In early 2005, the band relocated to Melbourne. Their talent manager, Gregg Donovan, handled the negotiations with four major record labels before they signed a five album record contract "for a seven-figure deal" with Capitol Records/EMI Music Australia in October. Initially the members shared a house, where they "lived off bare essentials like cans of baked beans and things like that. We played one gig a month. It was hard in the early days, building yourself up." The group supported Mötley Crüe, Motörhead, Iron Maiden and the Rolling Stones, as well as performing at summer music festivals.
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