Dork Radio
Now playing:
In the mag...
Featuring YUNGBLUD, Baby Queen, BENEE, Joe Keery and loads more.
Order a copy
December 2020 / January 2021

Hype List 2020: Inhaler

Packed shows, indie bangers and limitless ambition - there’s more to Inhaler than simply the obvious...
Sign up or log in to follow artists
Published: 10:20 am, January 07, 2020Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Hype List 2020: Inhaler

Pubs on a Monday night are an odd place. The weekend is over, those looking for the party to end all parties have returned to the everyday rhythms of modern life, and the smell of 'what on earth happened last night?' is beginning to subside, if only slightly.

In the heart of East London, this Monday night is somewhat different. There are no pub quizzes here, only a distinctive rumbling sound. Careering down tight steps and sticky floors, it's a noise that gets louder and louder as a long line of people shuffle in their shoes, trying to peer down the corridor ahead at a packed room.

As you move closer, you're hit with something else: the sort of stadium-sized hooks and effortless swagger that'd come from a band set to be fronting magazine covers and taking on the world. Thing is, Dublin newcomers Inhaler are already doing that.

The sweaty basement soon becomes the sort of feverish release of energy that any act would trade their nan for; chorus after chorus of hands-in-the-air frenzy. When it's all said and done, they've stolen the show. They were only meant to be the second band on.

Inhaler's first London headline show, held a couple of weeks earlier, sold out months in advance. To contain the sheer size of the moment going on, they had to move the show across Camden to a bigger venue. There were icons of music past gathered, streams of adoring fans and enough cans of Red Stripe to go round to make a supermarket blush.

Singer Elijah "Eli" Hewson led guitarist Josh Jenkinson, bassist Rob Keating and drummer Ryan McMahon through a thrilling set packed with points and flicks of a band full of confidence, with singalong refrains galore.

This sort of takeover isn't your usual bang-for-bucks band on the rise. It's the whole package.

"Honestly, it's absolutely nuts," cracks Eli. "It's all happened really fast, and we're so grateful for that. It's a lot to take on at once."

It's the afternoon after their Monday night turn in an East London basement, and the band are taking a moment for a quick lager in an empty brewery bar. It's a perfect time to pause, if only for a second.

In just under a week, Inhaler will be off to America for a string of shows with Blossoms. Then there's a festival show in Mexico, another trio of UK headline shows in December, a headline show in Tokyo in the new year and plenty more to come. For most of the morning, they've been stuck at embassies making sure they can travel. The world well and truly awaits.

"We'd built up this small fanbase in Dublin, so when we first came over to the UK, we expected nobody to know us. We did a few support shows, and from there it's been nuts to see the growth. That London show was insane. Insane."

"Every night on the tour we just did was great," continues Ryan. "We found out the whole tour had sold out and the fact people are paying to come and see us…"

"What are they doing?!?" laughs Eli, "It's true, though! When you hear that our tour sold out, which is great, you think, do people want to come and see us play that much? It's incredible."

"I wish I kept a diary of sorts just to keep up to date with where we've been and everything going on," admits Ryan. "Like, did we do that two days ago?!"

"The drive I had to be in a band was more of just a middle finger to all the teachers who were saying that we needed a real job"
Eli Hewson

In the eye of a storm about to land in full force, it feels like Inhaler's star is already marked in the sky. With only a handful of songs out in the world, they've captured the sort of attention that people will talk about for years to come. Basements in pubs are already firmly in the past, and something much larger is in their vision.

"You could say that we're a rock band because we have guitars, but we're still evolving as people, let alone musicians" explains Eli. "Things are being made and formed now, those decisions are happening right now. It feels like a very transitional time for us."

From the hype lists, the talk of their early years and whatever's been written about their journey so far, one thing is definitively clear: if you think you know what Inhaler are all about, then think again.

"It's funny," recalls Eli. "Ryan came out in this outfit the other day, and we were like, 'Ryan, your outfit is just nuts'. He said, 'yeah, I call it the Inhaler outfit'!"

"I was saying I dress how our music sounds," Ryan explains. "No idea what the fuck is going on, but it works, and you better be ready."

There's an immediacy and urgency to everything Inhaler serve up. A straight to the jugular kick of mammoth pop hooks drenched in the raining darkness of a leather jacket on a night in the city. From 'It Won't Always Be Like This' and its skyscraper refrain, to the adrenaline rush of 'My Honest Face', and the lush warmth of 'Ice Cream Sundae', there's a constant push of sounds that always feel different. Yet, underneath there's one consistent statement: this is your next favourite band.

"We all have very individual tastes in music," says Eli, "but have this cross-section of stuff we all absolutely love."

Rob continues: "There's definitely music that each of us listens to that none of the others like, which is a really good thing. There have been many situations where I've played something to Eli, and he's been like, 'nah, that's not good'. Then, two days later, he's like, 'yeah, man!" And vice-versa. It pushes us all. You like to say we're a rock band, but we're experimenting with rap beats and loads of different bits and bobs at the moment, and that comes from all of our own tastes."

"I don't want to sound too grandiose about it," Eli picks up, "but I think our music tastes are a reflection of just so much information being about these days. The internet, Instagram - everyone's on the same buzz and getting a mix of everything. It's not like back in the old days where you'd hold your vinyl under your arm to show what kind of person you were. Now, everyone's a part of the same culture, and in it, you don't know who you really are."

"We like to take different elements of different phases in music," remarks Ryan. "Music determines how you think, how you dress - and naturally we're consuming that in our own lives."

Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler

It's Dublin where things all began. Teenagers knocking around and trying to work out what they wanted to do with their lives, music drew them together and helped to form their sense of being.

With music always on in each of their households - you may be familiar with Eli's dad's band too, give him a Google - it wasn't until Eli was 12 or 13 that he really took notice, when he listened to a copy of 'Ziggy Stardust' given to him by his godfather. "When I told him that I wasn't really into music, he looked at me with a face of disgust," Eli laughs.

Going along with guitar lessons, it was a surprising source that got him into performing. "Weirdly enough, it was Guitar Hero!" he admits. "It's odd. If you talk to a lot of different musicians our age and in bands - they were into it. It all just grew from there."

Bonding over a shared love of music, and a camaraderie that practically rings off them today, finishing each other's sentences and rolling with everything life is throwing at them, their path was set.

"Us three [Eli, Rob and Ryan] went to the same school and were in a band before," explains Ryan. "There would be this school concert that would happen every year, and for a long time we'd be the only band playing, which we thought was really cool but at the same time a bit mad. We were like, why aren't there more bands? Why aren't there more people listening to what we're listening to?"

"I remember the first day that Josh joined," says Rob, "which I now see as quite a pivotal moment for us."

Josh raises a beer in acknowledgement. "The reason I joined was that I was at a party with Eli, and he played 'I Wanna Be Adored' by The Stone Roses on the speaker, and I was like - I've heard this before, but I don't know where from. It just sparked interest from there."

Eli cracks a smile. "I made sure to be at that party because I knew Josh was going to be there," he laughs. "I'd heard the band he was in had split up and was trying to woo him!"

The woo-ing worked. With Josh firmly in the band, a newfound focus kicked into gear. Other career options never stood a chance.

"It was weird in Ireland at that time, because for us we just wanted to pretend we were rock stars," elaborates Eli. "We'd get together on the weekends or after school and play music, play covers and smoke weed. Just live it! Then we just fell into it, and it became something we could really go for."

A myriad of influences and styles left their mark on the band as they found their feet, from the punchy rock of Royal Blood ("we saw them and were just blown away," remembers Eli), to the shining pop charm of 80s-90s Manchester bands like The Stone Roses, The Smiths and Oasis, to the more visceral energy of Shame. Each has played a part in the Inhaler melting pot.

"I actually remember with Blossoms," points out Eli, "I remember when their debut album went to Number One and us sneaking off in class to sit in the computer rooms blaring Blossoms tunes and celebrating the fact they'd done it."

"It's such a confusing time for people to be alive, and nobody knows what the future holds"
Eli Hewson

By the time their last exams were up, it was clear that none of them wanted to go on to college. Playing shows in any pub that would take them in, it was a game of working their way across Ireland to make a name for themselves.

They're the first to admit that they needed time and experience to become who they wanted to be. That step of playing live and learning from it, morphing into the band that now it seems only play to sold-out rooms.

"Actually playing shows, it was an introduction to the real world," recalls Eli. "We used to play in this place called The Grand Social. We were all underage and definitely shouldn't have been gigging there in the first place. We'd play to our family and friends."

"We had to sneak Rob into our own gig once because he got kicked out as he was going on stage," cracks Ryan. "We had to wedge open the back door and bring him in that way."

"I remember during one song, might have been a Kings Of Leon cover," continues Eli. "The kick-drum and the drums started to fall apart, and they were going all over the place. We had to find some Sellotape, tape it all up, and then just get right back into it.

"But those shows were so fun. There was no pressure on us at all, and we just got to go up there and play. You'd feel at the time that these gigs were the biggest in the world."

Ryan recognises just how important those nights in pubs and bars were.

"It took us doing those gigs for us to realise just how much we loved doing this, and that we did want to take this somewhere.

"When you're doing a school performance, it feels very wrong. It doesn't embody anything. As a serious live band, you have to put yourself out there. You have to learn and test the waters and open yourself up to be ridiculed."

"And you will get ridiculed," jumps back Eli. "Whether it's playing to three people or playing to ten thousand people, you have to be able to adapt to it."

The live space is where Inhaler thrive. Before releasing any songs, they knew they needed to play and play and play. As Eli admits, "it's all well and good to cook up a demo at home on your laptop, but you could play it live, and people just go, what the fuck?"

The countless nights and shows carved out new tracks, new ways to approach being in a band and new avenues that finds them on the cusp of the big leagues.

It's all part of the defiance and passion that's led Inhaler to where they find themselves today: a gang ready to make a mark on the world, and with the sort of universal anthems in their back-pocket to back it up.

"The drive I had to be in a band was more of just a middle finger to all the teachers who were saying that we needed a real job," lays out Eli. "'What's your band? What are you ever going to achieve with your band?' Here we are."

Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler
Hype List 2020: Inhaler

As they drink down the last of their beers and laugh about stories from the past few years - including a quickly-abandoned plan to release 'Ice Cream Sundae' just so they could play it to everyone on holiday in Magaluf - Inhaler think back to the nights they've witnessed over the past few months. It's easy to call this moment a real game-changing one, but the nights across Ireland, the UK and Europe have cemented the fact that they're onto something huge.

"I don't think there are any limits to what we want to achieve or what we can achieve either," Eli states.

"On the last tour we did," Ryan continues, "for the 45 minutes we were on, we wanted to give people a sense of escapism from the bullshit they have to deal with in their everyday lives."

"Yeah," picks up Eli. "It's such a confusing time for people to be alive, and nobody knows what the future holds. It's really important, right now, for us, just to have a safe space where we can go, fuck it, and forget about everything for a moment."

In that spirit, attention is beginning to turn to that debut album and a chance to firmly capture 2020 as their own.

"When you put a debut album out there, that's what people are going to label you by," explains Eli. "So you just want to make sure it's perfect, and it fits all those needs. We've got all the tunes, but it's just about getting them recorded and getting them recorded right. We have a message, and something to say.

"People want something that all fits together as one thing. The biggest bands are focused on the aesthetics too, and we love that. Some bands will just go on in a t-shirt, and it's cool if it's a good t-shirt!

"I remember Paul Weller said that back in his day if you were into a band, you were into the way they looked as well and it all goes hand-in-hand. I think that's really important.

"I have nothing against bands who are just solely about the music, but I think you've got to give people the full package. Represent your music visually, whether it's how you look on stage, the live show, the clothes you wear or the guitars you have. Fashion may get old, but the music and the show doesn't."

Looking beyond simply being another band, Inhaler are better placed than most to lead the charge.

"We want to make our music, and it's hard to do right now because we don't have the resources," lays out Eli, "but going into the future when we release a song - we want it to be an event, you know?"

They're all fully aware of the age they find themselves in, tuned into 2020 in a way that pulls in the influences that laid the path before them but with a knowing nod to being a young person in a time full of so much change and uncertainty.

Ryan notes: "Someone said to us recently that because of the influence of social media and the availability of music today, music is now seen as a sugar hit of sorts. There needs to be that buzz and then it's on to the next song. For us, it's all about putting out the best content possible regularly. With the album, there's not a pressure to get it done, but a pressure to get it right."

"Also, we're just really enjoying touring at the moment," adds Rob. "It's been so beneficial to the music and the growth of the band. We don't want to take our foot off the gas, but we want to get that balance right of playing shows and getting the album done. We're getting there."

If the reaction they've been getting live so far is anything to go by, then it seems Inhaler are right on course. Unreleased tracks that fill their set continue that vein of uncompromising hit after uncompromising hit - whether it's synth-laden post-punk drives or swooning all-encompassing raptures that jump between Joy Division and The Killers at the touch of a dime. There's simply no stopping them now.

"Right!" announces Ryan as the band walk through the graffitied streets of Hackney. "Just need to record the debut album and tour America now."

Catch Inhaler while you can, or you'll be stuck in the queue wishing you were there.

December 2019 / January 2020
Grab this issue

December 2019 / January 2020

Featuring Girl in Red, Inhaler, Beabadoobee, Blaenavon and more.

Order a copy.
Make sure you select the correct shipping location. If you select UK but enter a non-UK delivery address, your order will be refunded and cancelled.

Give all this a try

Hype List 2021: Olivia Dean

Hype List 2021: Olivia Dean

Walthamstow's Olivia comfort in music more so than Dean wears her heart on her sleeve; every tune an introspective masterclass in storytelling.
BENEE: "2020 has been a bloody shitter"

BENEE: "2020 has been a bloody shitter"

A rare bright point in a pretty damn difficult year, BENEE's arrival has been a serotonin shot in the arm. With her debut album finally here, the future looks brighter already.
Shame: "I promise you, we'll do Brixton Academy soon"
Cover feature

Shame: "I promise you, we'll do Brixton Academy soon"

The wait for shame's second album may seem to have lasted longer than it actually has. as they stand on the edge of a huge 2021, we get ready for a record that isn't supposed to be funny, but...
Like this? Subscribe to Dork and get every issue delivered direct to your door anywhere on the planet.

© 2018 The Bunker Publishing