Before the Irish group took to the Brudenell stage in Leeds, I had a chat with them to discern how their nostalgic sound has come about, and to find out more about their upcoming album.
Though Inhaler’s current line-up was formed in 2016, the boys have been playing together as kids in a school band since 2012. They’re candid about why it took so long to release the singles that are available now, saying, “we just weren’t very good is the honest truth. We had potential but potential wasn’t enough. We have two singles out from like 2016, and that period of writing and playing just seems so far away from what we’re doing now.” Instead of immediately releasing music, the band wanted to pin down what their sound was going to be like, and know what sort of tone their album would take before they started putting anything out.
With a journey spanning around seven years now, it isn’t surprising that the band consider themselves to have changed “ridiculous amounts” in that time. “We’ve only properly been touring since March,” they reminisce, “and even that feels like it was 5 years ago. I think we’ve all kind of changed as people as well as the music; the songs grow up with us. We’ve just put out a single called ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ which has been around since we put out ‘I Want You’ which was our first single. We had the option of putting it out then but we decided to wait. Learn how to play our instruments. We really couldn’t play anything,” they laugh.
“All the songs at the moment are about the same thing, and that’s just figuring out what our songs are going to be about.” The group are not yet story tellers, perhaps owing to their young age. They talk a lot about leaving their Irish safety net to tour the UK for the first time; about being free in London, turning 18 and doing what they want for the first time.
They still maintain that ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ was the hardest track to complete. “We didn’t want to change it too much but at the same time there was like a 5% space of the song where we were just changing it for three years. I think that was the hardest one to just like get right. We wanted the song to change with us and it never quite felt right.” ‘My Honest Face’, however, “was more organic and it just snowballed its way into being released.”
Dedicated fans of the band will know about the issues the name Inhaler has caused, but the band prefer to think of the name’s origins. It came from “years and years of having shit names”, and was settled on when the band were “just fed up” of thinking about it. “The honest truth is it was just a name,” they confess. “It was something that stuck. I had asthma in school and no one really believed us … and everyone kept calling us the inhalers, so it just kind of stuck. And it felt right.”
One of the most effective production techniques seen in the bands’ singles is perhaps the gunshots in ‘My Honest Face’, which elevate the track to a level that seems far more experienced than we might expect from a relatively new indie band. “That is actually the glorious work of our producer Anthony,” they explain. “We didn’t use a real gun.” “We just thought it’d breathe a bit of life into it, and it worked with the lyric ‘5 in the back’ – like, getting shot.” The song-writing process, however, remains a joint effort, with all four of the members deciding how things sound.
“The Strokes weren’t just good because they had fucking great songs, they were good because they looked cool”
Unlike the apathetic philosophy most new bands take towards their image, believing it may be shallow or an afterthought to the music, Inhaler believe the image of their band is “an important thing.” “We think it’s way more important than most bands these days think,” they tell me. “Paul Weller once said, back in my day when we were into bands we were into the clothes they wore as well. There’s definitely a lack of inspiration with a lot of bands – not even inspiration but I feel like there’s a lack of effort out there.”
It’s easy to mistake this attitude for haughty, and the group are quick to disclaim this elevated state. They laugh, “don’t get us wrong; we don’t always get it right, with the image, like. We’re constantly changing stuff. But we’re thinking about it, which is the main thing. I think a good band is something that can give you everything. The Strokes weren’t just good because they had fucking great songs, they were good because they looked cool and looked the part … we just saw the 1975 and they sound good, the visuals are great and they look cool as fuck.” They compare their situation to dressing up to go to a party; “you’re dressing to impress, you want to make an impression. You can’t really do that in a t-shirt and jeans.” “Even if we do wear t-shirts and jeans sometimes,” the lead vocalist cuts in. “I wore that last night.” Their guitarist consoles him by adding “at least you had a leather jacket on as well.”
This is perhaps perfectly emblematic of the nostalgia Inhaler seem to exude. They care about looking like bands from decades ago; about reviving heavy guitars and simple lyrics. They condemn a large percentage of the current music scene, but allow that “it’s really getting better.” Eli explains, “I think for a while it was kind of the Wild West and all the labels were trying to figure out how to monetize music again, and I think because of that there was less room to create. There’s so many great guitar bands coming out now like Sports Team, and Fontaines D.C. as well. It’s looking really hopeful right now.” They do, however, still evidently draw the majority of their inspiration from past rock bands, creating a sound that older audiences seem to massively respect, and younger audiences alike seem drawn to.
They reveal that the album concept is currently in the works, and has been put together after the band were in the Netherlands. They explain their slight fear surrounding it; “the first album, once you put that out, as much as we don’t like it you do get labelled. We just want to make sure we’re completely confident in the songs.”