Pre Order Released 09/07/21
Inhaler’s debut album is called It Won’t Always Be Like This. The Irish rock quartet wrote the title track over four years ago, but its meaning has changed between now and then. What hasn’t changed in that time? The world is a different place to when singer and guitarist Eli Hewson, bassist Robert Keating, guitarist Josh Jenkinson and drummer Ryan McMahon formed the band as teenagers in Dublin seeking to emulate the big-thinking, big-chorused indie-rock bands they worshipped with some uplifting anthems of their own.
A run of euphoric singles had helped Inhaler gather thrilling momentum by the time the world went into lockdown in March 2020. Over the next year, as they crafted and honed a debut album in a manner that no-one has ever dreamed of making their debut album – writing sessions over Zoom, quarantine conditions in the studio, no pubs open to reflect on a hard day’s tracking – it was the words of their early single that they kept coming back to: “It won’t always be like this”. Six words to hang on to. That sense of remaining hopeful, of pulling through hard times, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, is the thread that ties this mesmeric collection of songs together. “There’s a sense of optimism on this album and the song It Won’t Always Be Like This is the main catalyst for that,” says Hewson. “We kept coming back to that title.”
Debut albums are often a snapshot of a young band’s life but events have meant that Inhaler’s first record has a wider lens than most. “When we started writing tunes when we were 17, they were all about girls, because that’s what you care about when you’re 17,” says Hewson. “I guess we matured, especially over lockdown.” These are songs that capture the uncertain territory between being a teenager and adulthood. “After lockdown, I wanted to talk about more serious things in the world, but I wanted the songs to feel positive,” adds Hewson. “Because… it won’t always be like this.”
As much as lockdown affected the record in practical terms – when they could record, how they could record – it also encouraged the quartet to push themselves harder than ever. “It really felt like everything was in jeopardy,” says Hewson. “It made us sober up a bit and kind of go, ‘this could be taken from us at any minute, so let’s just make the best songs we can.’” “It definitely pushed us to be more demanding,” says McMahon. “Some of the songs we wrote, we ended up writing really difficult parts for them. We hadn’t played them together and it elevated the songwriting to a higher level than we could actually play. It was really freeing.”
After a long stretch of separation, they entered London’s Narcissus Studios with producer Antony Genn last summer with a laser focus. Before cracking on, though, they had to remember how to play together. “When we went in, we hadn’t seen each other for three months and we were plonked into the studio,” recalls Jenkinson. “Ant basically said, “OK guys, get tight again. In four days.” We did. Each day we got better and better.”
They have emerged with an album that captures a fascinating evolution; some songs here were among the first they wrote, fuelled by the exuberance of youth, others were written during lockdown as they tried to make sense of a world shapeshifting around them. It’s a record of gear changes and different dynamic shades that all fits together seamlessly, interwoven by their comfort blanket melodies and instrumentation that sounds expansive and lean and vital at the same time.
It begins with an opening salvo designed to evoke the heady rush of an Inhaler live show, the sweeping rock of the title track and My Honest Face. “There’s songs here that made us fall in love with being in a band in the first place,” says Keating. “It seemed right to open with the two songs that people first heard from us,” adds McMahon. “We’re a rock band, it made sense to open the record with two uplifting and powerful rock tunes.”
Elsewhere on the record, there are beguiling sonic explorations. Slide Out The Window is lush synth-pop that captures the idle daydreaming of wishing you were anywhere but at home during lockdown. “It’s more mid-tempo because we felt mid-tempo, personality-wise,” laughs Hewson. “We weren’t gigging or anything so we were writing more of that kind of stuff.” A Night On The Floor sees space-y grooves and chiming guitars interlocking around Hewson’s soulful croon about doom-scrolling, whilst the Doves-y minor-chord sway of My King Will Be Kind tells the tale of teens having their minds twisted by online extremists. When It Breaks perfectly frames the chaotic news cycle of early 2020 in urgent, wiry rock and the shimmying jangly pop of Who’s Your Money On, with its huge, soaring chorus, is Hewson’s way of apologizing to his bandmates. “I was kind of headless during the album recording, my mind was elsewhere,” he says. “It felt like there was a lot of pressure on this because it was our first record and I needed to escape.” The record ends on two exhilarating highs: Totally is a widescreen anthem made to be played in big venues to mass singalongs and In My Sleep is a chugging, triumphant closer that nods to classic-rock Irish greats of the past.
It has been a journey to get here. “We started writing this when we were teenagers and now we’re adults,” says Keating. “We’re very proud of it,” says Hewson. When everything was going to pot, when the future looked uncertain, Inhaler kept the faith. It Won’t Always Be Like This is a coming-of-age record, an album about adolescence, love, getting lost and finding yourself again. It closes one chapter of the band’s life, and opens another.