Dublin quartet Inhaler releases their debut album ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ on July 9th on Polydor Records. ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This' is a record that sees Elijah Hewson (vocals and guitar), Josh Jenkinson (guitar), Robert Keating (bass), and Ryan McMahon (drums) turn their early promise into something special, an album teeming with expansive indie-rock grooves and soaring anthems.
Mark Millar sat down with Elijah Hewson, Josh Jenkinson and Robert Keating via Zoom to talk about the album, songwriting, touring and much more.
Inhaler formed in Dublin in 2012. Since then, you have released nine singles, and you are about to release your debut album. How does it feel that it's eventually coming out?
Eli: Ooh! It's like sending your baby off to college or something. It could go horribly wrong. (Laughs) But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of relief. Not like less responsibility but more responsibility. It feels like a long time coming, and we’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, so we are just excited for people to hear it.
When and where did you start recording the album?
Eli: We started recording it in London with our producer Antony Genn. We were doing singles and stuff, but I guess some of the singles are on the album, so I would say the album has been in the works for two or three years. Only really last year did we get in to actually record the whole thing and finish off the last ten per cent. Which always takes ninety per cent of the time, as they say. (Laughs)
Did Covid and lockdown affect the recording of the album at all?
Eli: Massively! Well, it got delayed by a year first off because we didn’t want to put it out right before the lockdown where we wouldn’t be able to go out and play gigs. That’s what we do, and the songs were written for that atmosphere, so it would be a shame to put them out and our fans not be able to experience that. So we delayed it by a year, which gave us a massive opportunity to write some more material for it. And yeah, we think it's done a lot of good for the album, weirdly enough.
Some of your singles aren’t on the album, such as ‘Ice Cream Sundae’, ‘We Have to Move On’ and ‘Falling In’. Most bands would kill to have any one of those on their debut album. Do you think it’s a good thing they exist on their own?
Rob: Yeah, that’s exactly it. We are always saying that it's not like the old days when you can't get songs in your local record shop or hear them again on the radio. They are there for everyone to hear, and they still exist. That’s what we find exciting about music these days. We can move forward and put some new songs on the album, and people can still enjoy them if they want to enjoy them.
Eli: Yeah, and also, I think those songs speak to themselves. For us, they feel like they have their own place in the world. And I think they didn’t belong on the album. Either because we have moved on or they kind of just did their purpose, and they are there for people to enjoy. I think the narrative of the album was definitely a strong influence on those decisions.
Rob: We will still be playing them at our shows. There were big discussions about leaving them off the album. We love those songs.
The first track on the album is a new version of the early single ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’. Why did you choose to re-record the song?
Eli: I think just because it was our first proper single we put out into the world, and at that point, people didn’t really know us, and they didn’t know who we were, and we knew it was a great song. When we talked about the album title, it made so much sense in a time like this to have a song like that. I think we had grown up so much as people but musicians as well, and we could play it better, and we wanted people to have a better feeling of what it was going to be like live. It sounds a lot more like the live version.
With your singles and B-sides, it was interesting to hear the band experiment and evolve with tracks like ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘There’s No Other Place’. I feel it's all come together on the album. I love that every song sounds different from the previous one. And even within some songs, they go off in unpredictable musical directions. A perfect example is ‘Slide Out the Window’.
Eli: ‘Slide Out the Window’ is probably one of our favourites. Our favourite changes every day, and you’re not technically allowed to have favourites, but I think that song is special because it comes right after ‘My Honest Face’, and they are two big uplifting indie rock songs. And I think to go into a sort of hip hop beat was an atmosphere that we hadn’t touched yet. We love that kind of music, so to put that song third on the album is something that people won’t expect. Yeah, we love that song for that reason, and also, I think it will be a belter live.
Rob: It also segues nicely into the music we are writing now for the next album. It's kind of where we might go with the band. But still with the mindset that we always want to write an album that has loads of different kinds of music and experiments on it but still at its core is focussed on good songs.
‘My King Will Be Kind’ has to be my fav track on the album, it's tremendous. Although I had to do a lyrical double-take when I heard the chorus: “She says I’ve got no love. I fucking hate that bitch.” Not what I expected! But it’s definitely the chorus of 2021.
Eli: Deadly! There you go! We have had that song for a while now as well, and every time we have played it live, our fans have really caught on to that line, and they sing it at the top of their lungs every time. The song is loosely based on a character I’m playing. I think many kids around our age get whipped up into these extreme ideas online, and everybody thinks they have got the answers to everything. I think it just felt like somebody really idiotic was saying it, and we liked it. And it makes you kind of go, “Oh my god, did he just say that? That’s pretty tacky” (Laughs)
Rob: Have you heard what some of the rappers are saying in songs these days? (Laughs) The important thing is that there is no girl that we hate, and it is only a character.
Again, continuing the trend about unpredictable musical directions, ‘Who’s Your Money On? (Plastic House)’ sounds like two songs mixed. Was that intentional?
Eli: It was intentional. There were two separate songs, and the ‘Plastic House’ bit was originally a song that we sometimes used to play live. It wasn’t going to make it onto the album. And we had this other song called ‘Who’s Your Money On?’ that was just kind of a jam. And then our producer said, “I really think that these two things would go well together. We should try and write the first half of it on samplers”.
So he cut up the jam and put it on a keyboard, and we started playing it so the bass would be like, dink, da da da da dink, dink! It had a weird feeling, and then it really nicely goes into that other bit at the end. That was our producer's idea to do that. He’s full of great ideas like that, and he’s really experienced in all kinds of genres which is why I think we work so well with him. He has just written a ballet for Switzerland or something, and he works with rappers, and he also works with bands. So, I think to have that expertise around us is really exciting.
Josh, I hear a bit of Thin Lizzy on your guitar on the album’s final track, ‘In My Sleep’. Is that what you were going for?
Josh: Yeah, well, funny enough, that song just literally came out of us getting back together and being in the studio and picking up the instruments for the first time.
Eli: We just wanted to be LOUD!
Josh: Yeah, we wanted to be loud! We spent ages jamming that last section of the song. And the very last bit where it starts getting a bit Thin Lizzy was actually Rob’s bass line first. I just followed, doing a few chords and Robs started doing this crazy shredding bass line, and I said, “That’s pretty cool. What happens if we do it together?” And then you get a bit of Lizzy there. Thanks for picking up on that.
Eli: We wanted that song to feel like we were going there with our Irish roots because we don’t do that much. With the last song on the album, it feels to us like we are coming home. We have landed down at Dublin airport after a tour, and we are going home to see our family. There’s uilleann pipes in there and stuff, and it does feel like Thin Lizzy. We just wanted that to be the feeling of the song... Yeah, it's really good.
It’s a great way to end the album.
Eli: Yeah, and hopefully, it will be great live.
The band heads out on an 18-date tour of the UK & Ireland later this year. How excited are you going to be playing in front of an audience again?
Rob: We are over the moon thinking about it. We will be playing a sold-out show in the Limelight in Belfast. We had played it before when we supported DMAS there, and we also supported Blossoms there. It's probably our favourite venue. We are just dead excited to play shows again and see people.
There are definitely some uplifting anthems on the album. Which song can you not wait to play live?
Josh: I think the first time we play ‘Who's Your Money On? (Plastic House)’ live will be a special moment because I think it's definitely the song that sums up the album process and recording. Because it was such a long journey, and that was the longest song we did. I think when we play that together it's going to be a big moment. We are going to feel a lot of hard work paying off, hopefully.
Eli: The thing is, we wanted when you're listening to the album to feel like you're at a gig, I guess.
Rob: ‘A Night on the Floor’ is a song that we have always loved playing live. I think it's going to be even better than before. Yeah, I guess it’s a selfish answer but... all of them. (Laughs)
Eli: Maybe we are blinded by the anticipation of getting back to gigging, but they are definitely all going to feel great.
Smaller music venues have been struggling because of Covid and lack of funding. How important have those venues been to you starting out?
Eli: Absolutely vital! That’s where every band starts. We started gigging when we were 16-17. We were underage, and technically we weren’t allowed into the venues, but we managed to sort ourselves gigs in places like The Grand Social and The Button Factory. They were really small gigs in front of our mates. But if we hadn’t done them, I don’t think we would have been a band today because that’s where you find your confidence and test out to see if you're actually a good band.
Rob: They are more important than the big venues, I think. There would be no big venues without the small ones. All the small venues through the years have made the biggest bands happen. It's maddening when they are overlooked as they have been.
Eli: Unfortunately, the people who will lose out the most if small venues do go missing are the bands. If you are a bedroom pop artist, you are all right, I guess because you play gigs in your bedroom, but for a band, you have to be able to get out there and test your mettle and try and get better. You can't just go straight from releasing music online and playing in a rehearsal room to playing in a big theatre.
Rob: A huge part of playing a small venue is learning the ropes, and I don’t think anyone can skip it. And I think if they do, they don’t generally last as long.
Ireland has produced some of the biggest bands that are famous worldwide. How ambitious are you guys as a band? What would you like to achieve?
Eli: We are definitely very ambitious, but we don’t have any goals.
Rob: Our biggest ambition is just musical ambition. Especially recently, we are just pushing our songs and what we can do as four lads in a room. I think we are all constantly getting better as musicians, and that really excites us. We used to feel a lot of limitations when we were recording, especially when we were younger.
And these days, we can do what we hear in our heads pretty quickly, and I guess that translates to finished songs. At the end of the day, we want them to resonate with people and make people feel something. Obviously, we would love to do all the big things that bands love to do, like Glastonbury and the works. But for us, it's to have a loyal fan base that loves our music. That means a lot to us.
Inhaler has announced details of a full tour of the UK and Ireland later this year. The dates in September, October and December include brand new UK tour dates alongside the band’s rescheduled tour of Ireland and an additional two new shows.
Tues 28th Sept Sheffield Octagon
Weds 29th Sept Leeds O2 Academy
Fri 1st Oct Newcastle University
Sat 2nd Oct Birmingham O2 Institute
Sun 3rd Oct Bristol O2 Academy
Tues 5th Oct Nottingham Rock City
Wed 6th Oct London O2 Forum Kentish Town
Thu 7th Oct Norwich Waterfront
Sat 9th Oct Liverpool Uni, The Mountford Hall
Sun 10th Oct Glasgow Barrowland
Tues 12th Oct Manchester O2 Ritz
Tue 14 Dec - Belfast, Limelight
Wed 15 Dec - Limerick, Dolan’s Warehouse
Thu 16 Dec - Cork, Cyprus Avenue
Fri 17 Dec - Killarney, INEC Acoustic Club – NEW SHOW
Sun 19 Dec - Dublin, Academy - NEW SHOW
Mon 20 Dec - Dublin, The Academy
Tue 21 Dec - Dublin, The Academy