As Aussie’s rock & roll exports AIRBOURNE released their sophomore soundtrack to drunken debauchery and good times, No Guts. No Glory, the band’s rowdy brothers – frontman Joel O’Keeffe and drummer Ryan O’keeffe – sat down to talk about what they’ve dubbed “a good definition of what we do.”
See what the guys had to say about the making of the album, the final result, meaning behind the title and lead single “No Way But the Hard Way,” having the world as their playground, and meeting so many of their influencers.
What’s behind the title No Guts. No Glory?
Joel: Well it’s sort of a saying that we had in the studio and its pretty close to our hearts about what we’re about as a band and what we do and especially what we set out every night to do when we play a live show. We’re very passionate about rock & roll, we treat every show like our last. So that being said ‘No Guts. No Glory.’ is a good definition of what we do. Any significance to it being two separate statements?
Ryan: Someone was grammatically fucked up (laughs).
Joel: It’s more emphatic. We’ll go with that.
What was your mindset going into the studio to record your sophomore album?
Joel: Well this one, we were closer to this record; we slept in the studio, and stuff like that, so we were there every step of the way. There’s more of the band on this record, there’s more of a live sound, everything about this is just more rock & roll.
Was that a conscious decision before you even started?
Joel: I think because we’d been touring for like 2 years on the road and we sort of knew what we wanted to do with this album, we just sort of had an idea; we were ready to make sure to do things like sleep in the studio, be there every step of the way, never let it get away from you and just get the best thing down on tape.
What were your goals with sound this time in comparison to the last record?
Ryan: On this record, the difference was focusing on the room sound and capturing the energy of the room, and getting mics in the spots where they would capture the reverb and kick and the guitars and everything – same guitars, same amps as the last record, but that was the only difference.
Ultimately, you’re trying to capture your live sound?
Ryan: That’s right, we want to get that on a record, because that’s the energy. When people crank it up, that’s what they feel, it’s not tangible, you can’t touch it, you can’t see it. When you hear it, you can’t really define what it is, but you sure as hell notice it when it’s there and when it’s not there. It’s a good feeling.
What do you do to amp yourselves up to create that energy?
Joel: We just have a few beers… usually the crowd will do it. You’re doing something you love, you just want to play rock and roll. It’s just that one hour/ hour and a half on stage, that’s everything you live for the entire day, really.
Ryan: We usually, up until the first song, we’ll walk out and we’re just four blokes having a couple of beers, but as soon as that first chord hits, we become something else. Then you’re in the rock show, and for the next hour and a half or whatever, it’s cool. Joel: You know in White Men Can’t Jump? It’s like Woody Harrelson, when he’s like, “I’m in the zone!”
What do you hope to achieve with this second record?
Joel: Just to say we’re in the zone! We want to put it out there and let it do what it’s gonna do, and we’re gonna tour for the next two years.
Ryan: As long as it gets a lot of people drunk, gets a lot of people laid, gets a lot of people feeling good about themselves and having a good time.
Where do you draw inspiration to music that brings that out in people?
Joel: It feels so good when you play it. That’s the only way to explain it.
Any favorite songs from the session?
Joel: “It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over,” I like that one, it’s fast, it’s about drinking and rock and roll, good times.
Ryan: I think I’ll go with “Blonde, Bad and Beautiful.”
Is that what the girl on the cover represents?
Ryan: Yeah. She’s a nice girl. That’s what we did with the cover, all the stuff represents the tracks, it’s not just a bunch of stupid shit. It has a meaning.
Is she someone specific?
Ryan: That wouldn’t be fair to say!
What about “No Way But the Hard Way” – as the lead single, what’s that song all about?
Ryan: The song is about having a band and being on the road – there’s times where you’re 24 hours in the van, stuck in a blizzard, or you crash it because you slide into a ditch and stuff like that… there ain’t no way but the hard way. You have to do whatever it takes to do what you want.
You just finished a tour in snow-covered Canada this winter, did you encounter any more blizzards or ditches on that run?
Ryan: We did a tour in Canada in a van, and the van broke down on the way to one of the shows. We’d just come up from the States, so we had about 50 dollars, and we broke down and me and the guitar tech went up in the mountains in the middle of the night [for help] and it turned out to be a construction site, and no one was there. We opened up all the tractor panels and tried to find a wrench to fix the tire, because the trailer tire had gotten out of alignment. We couldn’t find any out there, and then we realized there were probably going to be bears around, so we decided we had to get out of there and get back to the van which had no heat or anything, so everyone was freezing. And then a car drove past: they pulled over, we paid them 50 bucks and a bottle of Jack for the wrench and they helped us change the tire and get going.
What are some other crazy tour moments that you can recall?
Ryan: Lots of things happen all the time. We just had a bug on the bus, which is not really a crazy story, but that got seven out of nine of us.
Joel: Yeah, it was like Event Horizon, have you ever seen that movie Event Horizon? It’s that thing that’s trying to kill them, they don’t know what it is, just like that…every day, you wake up and you open up the curtain and say, “You didn’t get hit, did you?” “Yeah, I got hit in the middle of the night.” And it’s just this terrible thing.
Ryan: I remember doing a show when Roads was hung over, and the strobes came on and he fell over into the light rig.
Joel: It was funny. But it’s just all a big blur.
Four dudes in a van constantly on the road – how do you all get along, especially you two being brothers?
Ryan: We lived in a house together for three and a half years, all the band, so we’re kind of trained in a way in living together. We live on a bus most of the time.
Joel: We’re a band of brothers, you’ve seen the series. It’s all good.
Ryan: The whole world has now become our home – it’s just a big city. Basically, the hotel room is our living room, and it just takes nine hours to get from one room to the other. What do you listen to on the bus?
Joel: There’s a band called Rhino Bucket. The Poor. Screaming Jets. Rhino Bucket is an American band from California, they’re real rock and roll. Anyone who’s reading this, please listen to Rhino Bucket. And Screaming Jets and The Poor and Broken Teeth.
Always after the core of rock & roll, what are some moments in your career where you felt fulfilled and who are some of your influences people might not even expect?
Ryan: Meeting Lemmy, the Stones, playing shows with these bands and seeing how these bands operate.
Joel: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Status Quo…
Ryan: Just playing shows on tours and stuff, running into bands – we just finished a tour with Motley Crue, that was really fun. They’re really cool guys.
Joel: The Motley Crue guys were really, really great and looked after us …we just drank every night and had a good time. Most of the bands we play with tend to come up and say they’ve either heard of us before or they say “Fuck, you guys are rock and roll.” “Of course we are, we grew up listening to your records, what did you expect?”
Ryan: Cinderella’s always been a big influence. Rose Tattoo’s another one. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Little Richard of course. Some of these influences, you may not see straight away. But it’s the core of rock and roll.
Joel: I want to meet Little Richard. He’s such a wild man, he’s got rock and roll coming out of him his entire life! We ‘d like to meet AC/DC, too, that would be cool. Get a few tips (both laugh).
Airbourne’s ‘No guts. No Glory’ is in stores now. You can pick it up online HERE.