- Words Ross Mondon
- Photography Lillie Eiger
- Styling Sam Carder
- Grooming Elaine Lynskey
New kids on the block, Inhaler, discuss all things new music, suspicious parents and taking all genres in their stride.
Ireland’s been doing the absolute most recently, giving birth to some of the hottest artists around right now. From the rise of pop’s resident ‘sad boy’, JC Stewart, to the soft piano melodies of Luz, it’s Dublin quartet Inhaler who have slowly emerged through the smoke and are setting the tone for old-school indie-rock with a modern twist.
Consisting of four young lads, Elijah Hewson, Josh Jenkinson, Robert Keating and Ryan McMahon, Inhaler are really only just kicking off within the world of music. Whilst guys at their age are typically seen in and out of house parties and pubs at the weekends, Inhaler have been grafting away, taking their music from the school grounds to the stage of Electric Picnic.
Making their musical debut in 2018 with the single “I Want You”, to their rousing hit “Cheer Up Baby” that dropped this week, the four-piece band have racked up millions of streams and landed themselves fifth on the BBC Sound of 2020 poll. Whilst they might have musical veins running through their families (Elijah’s dad is the iconic Bono of U2), you can’t ignore that Inhaler are carving out their lane and leaving quite the mark.
After what has been a year of ups and downs that’s left a live music-shaped hole in our hearts, Inhaler have stayed intact and are coming into 2021 with a few tricks up their sleeves.
You’re probably sick to death of talking about it, but what has the past year been like for you lot as a band?
Rob: It’s been an interesting year for sure. We had live gigs taken off us like every other artist so it was kind of hard to adapt and realise that wasn’t going to be happening for a while. We went back to our roots of writing again, which was great because we didn’t get a lot of time to do that when we were on the road.
Eli: I think we were lucky as well because we hadn’t put out our album yet. And there’s a lot of artists who are either on their album campaign trail when it happened, or they were literally taking the world by the balls. And it’s got them. But I think for us it is different because we had half the album finished and we knew that there was a chance to write more music for it. So, it allowed us to develop the album and give it a lot more love and attention than we would have usually been able to do.
You started out in Dublin. I’m sure you’ve all got individual influences, but what was the key element that got you together and how did Inhaler kick-off?
Ryan: I suppose it started off with myself, Eli and Rob when we were about 12 or 13 in the same school. And Josh was in a different school, and we all met him at the same time when we were about 15 or 16. I remember Eli was at the same party that Josh was at, and we were looking for a guitar player at the time. And he goes up to Josh, starts talking to him about guitars, he plays him, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ by The Stone Roses and, instantly Josh appears from the smoke and, he’s hooked and, now here he is.
We were only talking about it the other day, the first rehearsal that we all had together. We immediately felt it was working better as a unit than the three of us had done before. We used to be in a band with our mate Sam who played the guitar and, unfortunately, that didn’t work out but, then Josh joined. He was able to pick up the parts well and, we started to gel more as a group.
A few months later, we then played our first gig together. Then I think it was about a year later or maybe two years later, we did this festival in Ireland called Electric Picnic. And that was the first time we had done something like that – it was probably the biggest gig we had played to, with like 200 people. But it was that moment where we thought to ourselves, okay, people have turned up to come and see us. So, there’s probably something in there. And you know, it’s easy for me to say that now, it wasn’t so easy for us to say that to our parents at the time, they were like, ‘Oh I’m gonna be in a band’. They weren’t too keen on it, but of course, every one of our families was and still are incredibly supportive of us wanting to pursue this because it’s the one thing that all of us collectively are good at.
Eli: Steady on.
Ryan: I know. Sorry, excuse me. As professions go, I’m a drummer in a band, I’m not gonna be fronting my own group if it doesn’t work out so, I don’t know what else to do.
Individually, are there any artists out there who have really inspired you?
Ryan: For sure. We’ve all got our own individual ones and then they cross over as well.
Josh: I think we take inspiration from absolutely anything we hear and, we’re all very into different styles and genres, so there’s rarely a time where one of us feels like a black sheep for listening to something as we all jump on it and go, ‘Hey that’s pretty good’.
Back in the day, you were also known for pursuing heavy metal; what swayed you back down the route of indie-rock? Would you re-visit metal in the future?
Josh: We are not good enough to play heavy metal, to be honest
Ryan: We’re also a bit soft, aren’t we?
Josh: We are.
Rob: Some of the lads like listening to metal more than I think others.
Ryan: I was jamming Motorhead before coming on this call. I was having a great time. I’m still am.
Rob: I mean we’re not aspiring to be just an indie rock band for sure, though we’re not aspiring to be a metal band either. But who knows?
Ryan: Eli said time and time before is that we’ve never been a band as we started off wanting to be a certain thing. But then I suppose when we were 13 or 14, we wanted to be our heroes at the time. Like everyone does, but we didn’t start being, oh we’re gonna dress this way, we’re gonna play this music. As Rob said, we all love good music and, we take inspiration from literally everything. The music that we all listen to, impacts what we create. And generally, when we’re on tour or something similar, there’ll be a phase of all of us being together listening to one artist or something that will impact how one of our songs will sound later.
Eli: I think it was Nirvana that bridged the gap between metal and indie for us. We opened that door, and we were like, ‘Oh, this is nice in here, we like this’. I was obsessed with Kurt Cobain when I was 15 and watched every interview on YouTube and, that’s how I found Joy Division. I remember we wrote this song called “Is She My Girl” – an old demo on Spotify. And someone said that sounds like The Stone Roses and we were like, ‘Who the hell are the Stone Roses?’ I remember we played “I Want To Be Adored” in my kitchen. You remember that? We did like 30 seconds and, we were like, ‘Nah, it’s not really for us’. And then we became the biggest Stone Roses heads ever. One year later, we were seeing them in a muddy park in Dublin. But that was the moment that I think metal was over for me.
Ryan: Well, I’m staying true to my roots.
With music running through your families, what did each of your parents think about Inhaler when it formed? Have they always been supportive?
Eli: I think my parents were a little suspicious at first. And they’re right to be. But I think once they saw that we genuinely love doing it and it was a real passion that we weren’t messing about – they gave us the blessing and let us not go to college.
Ryan: I also think our parents recognised that we had songs that had the potential to be great. No one ever really pursues anything as much as we have done, for example, with something as risky as being in a band unless you think you have great songs and you’ve seen from other people’s reactions that your songs are good. So, I think that was enough reassurance for our parents.
Eli: We knew that if we were going do it, it wasn’t going to be, ah we’re going to mess about and see what happens. I remember also having a conversation and being like, if we’re doing this, we’re going to do this for real and take it as far as we can go and, our parents understood that. We were serious about it, and we wanted to crack at it. And they were always supportive.
From your debut single, “I Want You”, to your latest “Cheer Up Baby”, how has your sound evolved over time? Do you believe you have grown into a stronger group?
Eli: I think we’ve grown as people from that song. Wow, that song was a long time ago. We were boys, and now we’re older boys. I think our music has grown up with us. It’s changed with us. As we said, we wanted to beat the different bands at different points, but this is what we sound like. And this is the starting point.
Rob: Since then, we’ve just grown up, haven’t we? It’s only natural to start listening to new music as you’re getting older through friends and hanging out and seeing gigs. When we listen to new music, it influences us pretty quickly, and then we’ll write thing based on that. Like if we go and see Depeche Mode, we will then write songs trying to be Depeche Mode. And at the end of the day, we’re writing music. Having fun and when it sticks, it’s great.
Speaking about music, there are whispers that a debut album is on its way, and after seeing a cryptic countdown on your site, what can you tell us about it?
Eli: We have no idea what we can tell you.
Ryan: I feel like it’s sticking your hand in the hornet’s nest, no matter what we say.
Rob: There’s new music coming. And I mean when the countdown ends, there’ll be some new content for people. Whatever shape that takes – I’ll leave you to interpret that.
Ryan: Everyone will find out soon what’s going on. We’re excited to get some music out now because we had to put stuff on hold due to Covi and everything else. It wasn’t a good time for us to get into the studio – so it’s exciting to get the ball rolling again.
*Inhaler have now revealed that their debut album – ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ – will be released on 16th July 2021*
As it’s going to be your debut body of work, with mounting recognition, would you say there’s a pressure looming over your shoulders with this project?
Ryan: I think there’s always pressure on people’s shoulders. We’re in a unique position where we’ve got a great label beside us and management who’ve put in a lot of time and work with us. We want to do it for our team itself because they’re the people who believed in the songs early and gave us the platform to do it in terms of the studio and helping us travel – all the boring stuff. But we want to do them justice. Then, of course, our fans will also be the main thing. I don’t think any of us are that nervous. We’re more excited because it’s such a big thing for us, and we’ve been working on this for so many years.
From coming fifth on the BBC Sound of 2020 list to performing on Vevo DSCVR – what has been the highlight of your career so far?
Eli: Think it’s finishing this album? The last week has been great. And it’s weird. After spending so much time away, when something’s, taken away, you realise how important it is in your life. I think not being able to gig was scary for all of us as that’s what we do for a living. We can write, but you can’t see people’s reaction and you kind of feel what’s the point in writing anything if we can’t go out and dig it? But I think the last week has been amazing because we’ve been able to come back and play together. You know, it feels like this has been eight years concluded. And that’s it sealed away, and we’re off to the next chapter. That’s exciting, getting a fresh start. I think that’s been the most rewarding part about this whole thing – putting a seal on sending that way.
In other news, with live music in sight, what is the dream venue and festival for you guys?
Rob: Glastonbury festival-wise for sure.
Ryan: In the rain, so we get the full experience.
Rob: Sun would do me – oh, we can break history and do Glastonbury in the snow!
Eli: Nah, DJ set at Electric Picnic – DJ our own music.
Ryan: Any gig right now would be my dream.
Rob: That’s corny but good answer.
Ryan: I know it’s corny as hell.
Eli: Weddings and birthdays.
Rob: Depending on the album, we may have to go down the wedding route. Don’t want to write anything off. I will play any gig! We always say we’ll take any show. Maybe there’s a limit, but we haven’t found it yet.
Finally, where do you see Inhaler in five years?
Ryan: Hopefully we’re still together playing live and writing songs that continue to resonate with large numbers of people. I suppose that would be the main dream or the idea of success. And hopefully there isn’t a pandemic still. I want to see Covid-friendly mosh pits. That’s what I want to see.