After having to adapt to a completely new life under lockdown, Inhaler’s debut LP screams of longing for the past, while acknowledging the difficulties of the future.
Having seen each other grow up, and having experienced the isolation of lockdown together (but separately), it’s no wonder that Inhaler’s debut LP, It Won’t Always Be Like This, feels as much mature, as it does nostalgic.
In light of this stellar release, Happy got the chance to sit down with vocalist and guitarist, Elijah Hewson, bassist, Robert Keating and guitarist Josh Jenkinson, to chat about life’s pressure cooker moments, and embracing the new age.
HAPPY: So what’ve you all been up to today?
ELIJAH: We haven’t been doing much! It’s like 8 am for us, so we’ve been up early doing our interview even though we don’t look like early risers!
HAPPY: That’s so valid, but thank you anyway for coming in and talking to me today! And also, slapping new album by the way!
ELIJAH: Thank you very much man!
JOSH: Thank you very much!
HAPPY: I wanted to ask, It Won’t Always Be Like This really seems to draw from that early 2010’s Indie-rock, and it feels very nostalgic in a way. I was just wondering how you got the balance to celebrate that sound, but also make it sound so seemingly new and original?
ELIJAH: I think we just tried to keep it really spontaneous in the studio. We don’t really get bogged down by what we sound like too much. I think a lot of bands kinda go to be in a band and they say ‘we’re gonna sound a certain way, we’re gonna use a certain amount of effects pedals and dress a certain way,’ and I think that we’re really free and just try to write the best song as possible. We’re not really bound down by sonics in any way – we just try to have fun with it and I think that’s where the music gets its vibrance and stuff like that. It’s an important part of the writing process for us, to just keep it open, and try to experiment.
HAPPY: Yeah, because there is also so much diversity in your music. You’ve got synthy stuff going on in Ice cream Sundae, and weird wonky vibes going on in We Have To Move On, and I guess it’s interesting to touch on the concept of genrelessness. I guess do you feel like you’re in the genreless movement?
ELIJAH: We love it! We would be a part of it forever if we could! It’s kind of a symptom of our generation in that way. Everyone’s about making their own playlists and finding their own music. It’s not like you go into a record store and you go into the rock section or the punk section or stuff like that – you kinda just make it yourself. So, I think our music does want to represent that in a way. I think as people, we listen to a lot of types of music, all the time. We used to listen to just rock music, like Joy Division and all that kind of stuff, and hated everything else, but weirdly, the older we got, the more open we got with other music. Except for Josh… actually, that’s a lie! We all listen to crazy types of music!
HAPPY: I guess, what’s the ‘weirdest’ type of music you’ve been listening to that’s informed the music?
ROBERT: It depends on what ‘weird’ is. I listen to classical music sometimes which I guess is kinda weird.
JOSH: Black Midi, and the like!
HAPPY: Yeah! Maybe this is just an Australian thing, but it’s always interesting to hear about bands who start directly live gigging, and then going into a studio format. With the pandemic going on, how was it making that transition into something that’s a lot more focussed and refined – combined with having to do things over Zoom?
ELIJAH: Yeah it was weird! We kinda used to work in a process where we’d go on tour, and then we’d come off tour for just a day and do a single, and then we’d get back on tour – and we’d just do that for ages because we were gathering such momentum playing live. We didn’t need to spend anymore time in the studio than that. So kinda when the lockdown hit, we kinda just had this long period of time where we were like ‘ok fuck, it’s time to do our album,’ and we kinda just had to change and recalibrate our brains – and just take on a new work ethic, which was interesting for us and took some time to adapt to. It was definitely a different kind of experience.
As friends, we weren’t allowed to be together for four to five months., When we finally got together it was such a high-stress environment – it was like a pressure cooker almost!
ROBERT: (To Elijah) Your Mic’s not working.
JOSH: I think you’re covering your Mic!
ELIJAH: Oh Weird!
HAPPY: Now you’re back!
ELIJAH: Oh! I was just saying that it was like a pressure cooker and the lid came off a few times. Ya know, I think that kind of stress is important because we were just so focused, but we weren’t like hanging out, it felt like we were punching the clock. We were always just kinda mates in a band, rather than a band who were also mates.
HAPPY: Actually, how long have you all known each other?
ELIJAH: I’ve known Rob since we were 13, Josh since we were 15, but Josh and Ryan knew each other when they were like five or six.
JOSH: It’s a long time!
HAPPY: Yeah! I also wanted to ask about the fact you had these songs drafted, and then you re
ELIJAH: I think we only kinda re-did one song, which was It Won’t Always Be Like This, and we just kinda wanted to do that because WE sound different as a band, and we’re better at what we do with deeper voices, and a bit of facial hair on our chin (laughs). It was our first single, and we wanted it to sound how it does live. So, we did that.
We had a few other songs that we had written from when we were 16-17, and those songs were more lyrically inspired by, you know, teenage stuff, which is a bit more light and throwaway – which is great, we love that kind of stuff, but when the pandemic happened, we had no choice but to write about the world we were living in, and how that was affecting us.
We also had to do a lot of maturing in the lockdown. Being in a band is a great way to escape growing up (laughs). So, when the pandemic hit, we all moved back with our parents. People forget, but at the beginning of the pandemic, nobody knew what was going on. Everyone was really frightened, we were certainly frightened. We didn’t know when we were going to play a gig again, so it kinda felt like we were in a bit of jeopardy, or something like that. So, it definitely seeped its way into the lyrics and made them a bit more high stakes.
HAPPY: It must’ve been gutting to have been developing a base for so long, and taking off, only to have the pandemic come through and halt that so quickly.
ELIJAH: Yeah man, it sucked! We were gonna do a whole tour of the States in the May of that year. Yeah, I think we stopped feeling stuff after that got cancelled (laughs). And Glastonbury as well, we’ve missed two years of Glastonbury, which we were meant to do, and it really sucked… but you just play with the cards that you’re dealt with, and get on with it. I think we’re lucky because we could just move home with our parents, and just write music and just od that – we were 18. But our crew on the other hand, they’re all adults. They need to pay for themselves, pay for their families and stuff like that. So, I hope music comes back soon so they can get back on it.
HAPPY: While there’s also nostalgia for touring, I always like to ask artist what their favourite, and least favourite part of touring is – like what you love, and what you can’t fucking stand about touring.
ELIJAH: Ooooo. The one thing I can’t stand about it… is leaving a venue right after we finish a gig. I hate that. I love to stay around and have a drink. But the thing I love is travelling on the bus at night time!
ROBERT: Yeah, playing gigs is the one thing I love from touring.
JOSH: But the one thing I hate is not being able to use the toilet properly on the bus.
ROBERT: Oh yeah, that’s it! You can’t do a number 2.
JOSH: Only number 1’s.
ELIJAH: Yeah I hate that actually, you’re spot on!
HAPPY: Why can’t you shit on a bus?
JOSH: It doesn’t just go out on the road, it stays in the bus.
HAPPY: No I know it goes into a tank, but like… I just thought you could shit on a bus?
ELIJAH: Maybe on Tyler The Creator’s bus you can take a shit, but not on Inhaler’s bus. Like, you’d have to be pretty massive.
ROBERT: Not the poo, just the person.
ELIJAH: Yeah, the size of the act basically. We’re on like a cheaper bus, so we have to deal.
HAPPY: The ‘size of the act’ got me (laughs)
HAPPY: In that case, I guess is there any future plans for gigging, are you planning to come to Australia when this settles down?
ELIJAH: Oh we’d love to man! That’s the dream. We were meant to do Splendour, but as soon as possible really man – when we’re allowed into the country. But, we have tours booked in the UK in September and October, and Ireland in December, so we’re really just gearing up for that.
That UK’s opening up faster than anywhere else, so we’re probably gigging there first, and if not there, we’ll try to get into America or something – and maybe we’ll stop in Australia if it opens in time.
HAPPY: If we let you in…
JOSH: Yeah, it sounds pretty fucking impossible to get in.
HAPPY: Sorry about that!
ROBERT: That’s ok!
HAPPY: Before I go, is there anything I haven’t touched upon that you think is important?
ELIJAH: Yeah actually, when we come to Sydney, what venues should we play?
HAPPY: Oh, definitely the Landsdowne, and the Enmore Theatre, they’re iconic!
ELIJAH: We’ll definitely do the Landsdowne, we’ve never played a gig there, so I’m excited about that!
THE BAND: We’re sorry we’re super tired!
HAPPY: No no! thank you so much for talking to me!
ROBERT: If we meet you in real life, we promise we’ll have a lot more energy!
HAPPY: This was a really good chat either way, be safe and hopefully we’ll see you soon!
It Won’t Always Be Like This is out now and available on all streaming services!
Interview by Mike Hitch