Drones Win 2 At AIR Awards

Melbourne alternative rock act the Drones took out two main categories at the Jagermeister AIR Awards in their hometown Sunday night (Nov. 22), winning the independent artist of the year and best independent album honors.

The fourth annual awards ceremony, organized by the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, was held at the 1,500-capacity heritage Forum Theatre and was filmed for a one-hour special on pay-TV station Channel V.

The Drones, whose eclectic blues-based sound recalls the works of the Triffids and Go-Betweens, toured Europe twice this year behind the Feb. 15 release of the award-winning album "Havilah" (ATP/MGM). The act returns to London for the All Tomorrow Parties festival on Dec. 14, says artist manager Briese Abbot of Sydney-based One Louder Management.

Says Abbot of their win, "They've always had a loyal underground following because they've been an edgy kind of band. But 'Havilah' was a bit more accessible, they allowed a lot more people into what they're doing, and people appreciated that."

Bertie Blackman (Forum 5/MGM) was voted breakthrough artist by the 500-strong judging panel comprising media, retailers and label reps. Philadelphia Grand Jury's "Going To The Casino" (Boomtown Records/Shock) took best independent single.

In the genre wins were country singer Adam Brand's "Hell Of A Ride" (Compass Bros/Shock), punk band the Nation Blue's "Rising Waters" (Casadeldisco Records/Shock), blues and roots singer CW Stoneking's "Jungle Blues" (King Hokum Records/Shock), hip hopper Pez's "A Mind Of My Own" (Soulmate Records/Inertia), dance act Art Vs. Science's "Art Vs. Science" (Green), and jazz act The World According To James' "Lingua Franca" (Lamplight).

AIR GM Nick O'Byrne tells Billboard.Biz the awards are slowly attracting more corporate sponsorship. He adds, "As far as the awards themselves go, we're developing a history of recognising artists that are yet to hit widespread mainstream success - like Gotye and Hilltop Hoods did in 2006 - or are just starting to blossom like Gurrumul Yunupingu and British India last year, and Blue King Brown the year before."