Rising Band Profile: Inhaler

Updated: Aug 8, 2019


Members of Inhaler from left to right: Ryan McMahon (drums), Elijah Hewson (vocals and rhythm), Josh Jenkinson (lead guitar), and Robert Keating (bass). Image courtesy of Ste Murray and Golden Plec.

I consider a band’s name to be the book cover of the music world—it’s what I use to gain my initial perception of an artist that I haven’t listened to, and from that I decide whether to delve into their music. Given that, I probably wouldn’t name my fantasy Grammy-winning, Glastonbury-headlining band Inhaler. Maybe bureaucratic field-trip permission forms during elementary school are to blame, but when I hear the name “Inhaler,” I can’t help but envision a young child having an asthma attack and a school nurse having to rush to bring an inhaler to said child. 


Since I’m not asmathic, I didn’t find Inhaler via Google search, but rather Instagram. As an Oasis fan on the path to obsession, I was scrolling through Anaïs Gallagher’s Instagram page, wondering to see what Noel’s nineteen year-old daughter posts in her spare time. While there, I noticed a group of guys who had been featured in many of her posts. Out of curiosity, I checked out their Instagram (@inhalerdublin) and once I realized they were part of a band, I decided to give their music a go. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I took a liking to their music and style. 

Hailing from Dublin, Inhaler formed in 2012 by school friends Elijah Hewson on vocals, Josh Jenkinson on guitar, Robert Keating on bass, and Ryan McMahon on drums who decided that “their future would be defined by the mystery, magic and unknown pleasures contained within the grooves of their parents’ vinyl collections rather than the pages of any torn or tattered textbook.” Considering that three of Inhaler’s members were thirteen when they formed, they straddle a paradoxical notion of veteran newcomers. According to Keating in an interview with music website NME, the band  played “its fair share” of pubs and small music venues throughout Dublin in their early years trying to make a name for itself. Even with only six released songs, with the earliest from 2018, Inhaler’s members show that they definitely possess musical talent and creative merit:


“My Honest Face” is Inhaler’s newest studio single, released last May. While Jenkinson’s infectious guitar riffs and Hewson’s crisp vocals are the standouts, each member exhibits excellent musicianship. The song perfectly fits the bill to be a pop-rock sensation, but its lyrics also have a degree of pensiveness as Hewson struggles to “find [his] honest face.” The bridge, with an instrumental build-up culminating with Hewson essentially screeching (it sounds better than it reads), is my favorite part of the song.


WARNING: This video may potentially contain seizure triggers for those with photosensitive epilepsy. The song’s audio can be found here.


An almost eight-minute tune, “There’s No Other Place” was released with “My Honest Face.” The song has relatively few lyrics and Hewson’s vocals take back stage, but this allows the Inhaler’s musicians to shine through several instrumental solos. In particular, the drums are more audibly prominent in this song than in the band’s others, adding to the visceral aspect about the song’s subject of being in love. Nostalgic for the rock ballads of decades past, this song would be the pinnacle of an average band’s repertoire. However, for a talented band like Inhaler, this is just the beginning of a hopefully long career. 


“It Won’t Always Be Like This” was Inhaler’s first studio single. Clearly inspired by New-Wave pop and synth elements, “It Won’t Always Be Like This” conjures early 80s nonstalgia. Like “My Honest Face,” I would describe this song as sonically upbeat but lyrically pensive—Hewson sings about the pains of being used since he’s a “bad old beggar with nothing to do” and that “it won’t always be like this” because he feels like he’s already dying on the inside.


WARNING: This video may potentially contain seizure triggers for those with photosensitive epilepsy. The song’s audio can be found here.


“Oklahoma - Late Night Version” is the accompanying song to “It Won’t Always Be Like This.” A stripped-down, acoustic piece with a gentle piano background, “Oklahoma” is about a long-distance love, potentially unrequited, that failed to materialize. To summarize a general consensus among YouTube commenters, it’s surprising that such young people could pen such poignant lyrics. While the overall wistful sentiment of the song is clear, its lyrics are vague enough to be symbolic of something greater than just an Oklahoma girl. 


On par with the coupling of songs that seems to be a pattern for Inhaler, “I Want You” and “Is She My Girl? (Demo)” were released together in 2018. “I Want You” is a seductive, toned-down song. The acoustic guitar is a constant presence, with the electric adding to the chorus and bridge. What is most interesting to me about the composition of “I Want You” is how Hewson delivers his lyrics in a whisper, almost a moan. The creative risk pays off as it complements the instrumental fantastically, which both create an effect of sexual repression that enhances the song’s lyrical meaning. Moreover, the overall composition of the song allows the chorus—consisting of the phrase “I want you” four times—not to sound completely ridiculous, but rather remarkably suave. At the end, Hewson speaks the last lyrics of the song, putting the icing on the cake of an already successfully experimental song. As the name gives away, “Is She My Girl? (Demo)” sounds raw and somewhat unfinished, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The roughness of the song is a testament to the necessity, and the magic of the creative process. Although I’m not a huge fan of the recording, if this is what Inhaler can produce for a demo, their final product of an album is, no doubt, going to be amazing. 


"I Want You"


"Is She My Girl?" (Demo)


Upon reading more about Inhaler, I stumbled upon another fact that complicated the whole “veteran newcomer” paradox: Elijah Hewson is the son of U2 frontman Bono, whose legal name is Paul Hewson. Even if you’ve listened to only a few of U2’s songs, you can immediately hear the resemblance in their voices. Hewson’s connections seem to have been put to good use as Inhaler opened for family friend Noel Gallagher’s band a few months ago. Additionally, the band signed with a record label that is owned by Universal Music Group, which also owns the label U2 works under. Although Hewson acknowledges that his father helped pave the way for Inhaler, he wants it to be known that Inhaler will define its own success and is not just “Bono’s kid’s band”. In the same interview with NME, Hewson states, “For me and for us as a band, we’ve known that there’s going to be doors open… There’s no doubt about it, but those doors will shut just as fast as they open if we’re not good. It’s the pressure to step up our game and not be s***e.” 


And so far, defining their own success is exactly what the members of Inhaler are doing. Inhaler has been playing tons of festivals across Europe this summer, and has already sold out shows for its upcoming tour of Ireland, the UK, and the Netherlands in September and October. The band will embark on its first venture to North America as the opening act for British indie band Blossoms later in the fall. 

I’ll admit that maybe I could have cut the members of Inhaler some slack on their name at the beginning of this feature—at least they didn’t brand themselves as Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head. Nonetheless, I do like to believe that a band’s name represents some aspect of its music or overall persona. Even though I initially struggled to do this with Inhaler, it seems that I (inadvertently) put my cheeky teasing and mediocre humor aside (for now) and discovered it unexpectedly. Inhaler is a breath of fresh air, satisfying a craving for music that evokes classic rock but isn’t imitative. I’m sure their music will leave you gasping for more, just as it has for me.

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