Inhaler are feeling a little worse for wear, though they make very valiant efforts to hide it. Last night, the band played a particularly rowdy show at the Sebright Arms, sharing a bill with Limerick’s very own Whenyoung. Decked out in leather jackets, quiffs akimbo and sunglasses firmly on, they swagger into NME HQ the next day in a neat formation. In unison, shades are tucked away into pockets, and very politely, they request strong black coffee, please, if you’re absolutely sure that it’s not too much trouble.
“It might’ve been a little bit too Irish…” starts bassist Rob Keating tactfully, caffeine fix now in hand. “The pints started flowing,” nods his bandmate Ryan McMahon sagely. “Eli asked if there were any Irish people at the show on stage, and this group cheered,” Rob recalls. “He was like, ‘oh no, there’s already too many of us.’”
They’ll just have to get used to it. From Dublin and far beyond, there’s a steady stream of young Irish bands making serious ripples internationally: The Murder Capital, Fontaines D.C, Just Mustard, Inhaler, Silverbacks, and the aforementioned Whenyoung to name just a few. “We grew up trying to start something, and not really seeing anyone else do it, “ Rob says. “Once we got our fake IDs sorted, and went to see all these bands we realised there was a scene out there.”
There’s something of a domino effect taking hold in the rock world. “In the UK, too, with bands like IDLES and Shame,” Ryan points out. Inhaler went to see the latter play in Queenstown as 18-year-old punters, and the show turned their worlds upside down. “Rage is such a big thing when you’re a teenager, and rage just left rock music for a while,” lead singer Eli Hewson points out. “That’s what bands like Shame are bringing back. When you see them it’s just pure rage.”
“Rage is such a big thing when you’re a teenager, and rage just left rock music for a while”
To this day, there’s a conspicuous fact that follows Inhaler around everywhere they go – singer Eli’s dad is Paul Hewson. You’ll probably know Hewson Snr. better as Bono – sunglasses affinado, and the lead singer of Ireland’s most successful band. Constantly being mentioned in the same breath as his dad doesn’t bother Eli: instead he grabs the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at his old man at the very first opportunity.
“People our age don’t know who U2 are,” he declares. “They don’t care. I’m not dissing him or anything, but he’s had his moment,” he laughs, before looking concerned. “I say that he’s had his turn jokingly,” he footnotes, backpedaling slightly. “That can’t be the headline,” he adds cracking a grin, “or I’ll get a hiding when I get home.”
“He’ll get the belt out,” snorts drummer Ryan McMahon
“People always ask: do you get really good advice from your dad about music and songwriting, and the honest truth is …no!” Eli picks up. “Yeah, they’re a really successful band, but I have completely different opinions on songwriting to him.” “I’ve never heard of ‘em,” retorts Ryan.
In recent months, the band agree, the dad-sized shadow looming over the entire band has taken a back seat – increasingly the Bono enthusiasts who packed out their early shows are making way for a younger crowd who think that “U2” is a form of txtspk (apologies if you’re reading this, Bono). Instead, Inhaler see the doubters who think they’ve been given a leg-up thanks to the family connection as people to win over.
“I always say to the lads, if I was another dude, and I heard that Bono’s son was in a band, I would just want them to be crap,” says Eli. “I would!” he protests. “I don’t blame anyone who does think that, either – and it drives us to prove ourselves. I think it drives us to want to actually perform better, and prove ourselves, playing in the toilets and doing all of these mad tours. It drives us to be better. If we were shite, you wouldn’t bother talking to us,” he points out.
Inhaler met each other at school, and first formed a band because – to be completely blunt – they didn’t really know what else to do for work experience, and recording a couple of tracks together sounded like a laugh. “If they had said no, I think I would’ve had to work in Tesco,” Eli says. Their earliest material – ’Is She My Girl’ and ‘I Want You’ – was recorded as part of those same extracurricular sessions, taking liberal influence from the likes of Velvet Underground and The La’s. Since, their ramshackle rock has “discovered New Order” jokes Eli. It has also sprouted far heftier choruses.
Until this year, Inhaler were touring out of Eli’s mum’s Ford Galaxy (“she made a little Inhaler sticker for the back” he winces, “so embarrassing”) but this year, they’ve retiring their faithful wagon to head out on a string of tours. Along with a headline lap around the UK later this year, they’ll be going as far afield as Japan – with a pitstop opening for Kasabian next summer. There’s also a debut album in the works. The band can’t quite believe it. “When we started the band, we weren’t thinking about what our message was,” Eli says. “We were just mates having fun and slagging each other off.”