"It's the transition between thinking you're a teenager and thinking you're an adult..." Irish rockers Inhaler talk making debut album It Won't Always Be Like This
Irish rockers Inhaler have been teeing up their debut album for the last five years, teasing an ever-expanding fanbase with singles, including rippers like 'It Won't Always Be Like This' and 'Cheer Up Baby', but this week is the time when it finally emerges.
The band first came together back in 2012 when they met at St Andrews College in Blackrock, Dublin, when they were just 13. Sticking together through their school days, they dropped their first single back in 2017 and have toured relentlessly right up until the point they were legally required to stop.
Now signed up with Universal imprint Polydor, the group's profile has been given something of a boost by the nature of frontman Elijah Hewson's parentage. In case that name doesn't ring a bell, he's Bono's son. That alone will prick up ears and probably earn the band some more casual listeners than the average young indie types might get, but, in the end, they'll still have to earn.
As their debut LP, It Won't Always Be Like This, comes to hmv stores, we spoke to the band about why the creation of the LP was a pressured affair and why their longtime producer began their relationship by telling them some very hard truths...
Every band, whether they've wanted to be in a band all their lives, or have just come round to the idea, has imagined making their debut album and what it'll be like. How was it for you guys?
Elijah (Hewson, singer): "There was a lot less alcohol involved than I thought there would be. We liken it to a pressure cooker. We came out of lockdown. We hadn't seen each other for four or five months. Suddenly we were thrown into this really tight, controlled space and we had to make a record. It's a great record, but it was not easy. We had to get used to each other again, find ourselves as a band again, all the while coming with music. It was very demanding."
You guys have been friends for a long time, how did you manage the pandemic when you suddenly couldn't see each other every day?
Elijah: "It was hard at the start. We talk to each other all the time, so there wasn't a need to make an effort to keep our relationships strong. But, when we got back together to work, we had to rebuild things and build up the casual vibes of Inhaler. You need to be comfortable with each other and feel like you can do stupid s**t."
When do these songs date from? Are they all recent or have some been with you for a while?
Ryan (McMahon, drummer): "The two oldest songs on the album are 'It Won't Always Be Like This' and 'Cheer Up Baby'. We wrote them when we were 16 and 17. Then you've got songs like 'Totally' and 'In My Sleep, which were written during the first lockdown. That lockdown actually really benefitted the album, it gave us more time to write more material and head down avenues we'd never been down before. This feels like an album and a half, it's five years of material."
Was it important to you to have that span of material?
Elijah: "It was never planned. We didn't sketch it out, it just happened. Being in lockdown and written about that and trying to make sense of the wider world, it sits in nice contrast with a song like 'Cheer Up Baby' which is about going to a party and fancying a girl. That juxtaposition is what this record is. It's the transition between thinking you're a teenager and thinking you're an adult and you don't really fit in either bracket."
It's an 11-track record, is that 11 down from 13, or 11 down from 15, or 11 down from 50? How much did you have to choose from?
Ryan: "I think we recorded about 15. The four we shelved in the meantime we may well revisit for the next record."
You did the record with Anthony Genn, how did that relationship start? Is he someone you've known for a long time?
Elijah: "My family knew him because he was friends with Noel Gallagher. We knew he had a studio and I bumped into him when I was about 16 and asking if we could use his studio and he said yes. He was basically doing us a favour. We did a day with him recording a song, we got on really well and then I asked to bring these guys over."
"It started a really good relationship with him and we've been working with him since we 16 and 17. He's really kicked us into shape. Not just the record, but as people and as players. He's the first person who ever said to us, "You know, you guys are a bit s**t'. We needed that. We really needed that. It made us value his honesty. It made us take ourselves seriously. We'd done half days and we'd practise on weekends and gig and we thought we were good. Hearing that made us get off our arses and practise. You realise that every time you climb one mountain, you see the next one on the horizon."
Having started as a kind of student/teacher relationship, has it now evolved into something else?
Ryan: "It's more a partnership now. In many ways, he's the fifth member of Inhaler, he was someone we hit it off with immediately. When we started getting better and developing, working with him became much more fun. We experimented with him a lot. Rob (Keating, bassist) ended up playing the harp on a track. Ant doesn't confine himself. He always wants to push things. You need that if you're going to write great songs."
What's the song on the album that's been through the longest journey?
Josh (Jenkinson, Guitars): "'Cheer Up Baby' goes all the way back to 2019 and it's gone through a million changes. Ironically, the finished product is as close to the start as you could get."
Elijah: "Which is mad. But you do feel like you've got to through that pain and all those different changes to convince yourselves you've got it right. That's a lot of being in the studio."
Conversely, is there one that came together and was recorded very quickly?
Ryan: "'My Honest Face' was very quick. We jammed that out around Christmas in 2018 and went into the studio and it together fully in a day. 'In My Sleep' was very, very similar. The trashier, rock and roll songs come together faster."
When did you decide that It Won't Always Be Like This was the right fit for the title?
Rob: "It was in our heads the whole time, but we didn't pin it down until we had to. We always knew, out of all our songs, it had the impact and a statement. We didn't want to call it Cheer Up Baby. That would have been a bit weird. It also has a nice bit of positivity with the pandemic association. Little silver lining."
Elijah: "We did sit down and really try and come up with something else. But nothing else ever worked. I'm glad, it really works."
You start touring in earnest in the late summer then pretty much don't stop for a year, are you excited? You've got an awful lot of shows booked...
Elijah: "We've been practising a lot and we're wrecked afterwards. We all need to hit the gym to get ready for how exhausting it's going to be. The last time we came off tour, we felt like machines. The first couple of gigs will be like doing it for the first time."
Ryan: "Wanting to tour has just grown and grown over the last year. We want to get back out and see our fans. They've been so good to us and particularly during the pandemic."
You said earlier you've got a fair chunk of new material, are you going to start road testing new songs as you go?
Rob: "We might try one or two songs when people have had enough, but we'll need to road test the album first. We were used to writing songs and putting them straight into the set. It's been nice to write without having that, just having songs for ourselves and taking our time with them."
Ryan: "Right now, we're trying to get a headstart on the second record. We've toured the world from a couch in the last two months, but we've been able to go straight back in the rehearsal room."
Elijah: "We will really have to learn to write on the road because we're going to be on the road for a long, long time now."
Inhaler's debut album, It Won't Always Be Like This, is hmv's Album of the Month and in stores now. You can purchase it here in hmv's online store.