On the day I meet Inhaler, Brighton is one interminable cloud. I’m beckoned to them relatively late, and from the other side of town, and so pass along the seafront with wet notes in hand, ink running, embarrassed to meet a group who seem quite so cool, quite so sodden.
The foyer of Komedia is cold. Illuminating onto the redbrick kerb, it draws me in, then offers only plastic seats and pricey drinks. I sit in the corner and listen to soundcheck.
It’s rock ’n roll, baby. A guitar whines and snares smack. The bass drum stomps occasionally. Then I hear a voice straining against the monitor. I text the tour manager and await my admittance.
The bodies hanging around the bar are older than I’d expected. Two events are going on tonight; Inhaler are playing downstairs while some niche film screens upstairs. There is, however, a separation between the old boys in the doorway and those at the bar. Some wear jackets with elbow patches, others, anoraks. I suspect the latter may be waiting for the gig to start.
I watch them mull about the room, the latter noticeably quiet in comparison to the fogies. Then I’m lead from the foyer, up the stairs and through offices, into the greenroom. The lack of warmth I’ve felt so far disappears. I’m greeted by a smiling quartet, who seem fond of the wet look.
Inhaler are composed of Robert Keating, Ryan McMahon, Josh Jenkinson, and Elijah Hewson. They each rise to greet me, dressed understated with their respective jewellery about their necks, on their fingers. Any other band could, perhaps, create some sense of infringement on their chill-out, but as they each sink into their seats, and I into mine, it feels I’ve been admitted to join. We start talking.
The boys aren’t in Brighton for long. Originally from Dublin, Brighton marks one fly-by of many stretching from now to December, when they’ll play two shows in Dublin to mark the end of this, their first headline tour. Three of them, Robert, Ryan, and Eli, met and played together from the age of 13, and were joined by Josh at 16, whom they say changed everything.
“Before it would’ve taken us a month to learn one song.” Says Eli.
“…and it certainly gave us more drive.” Adds Ryan.
Josh sits smiling.
“That’s pretty nice to hear.” He says. “It was a big thing to do band practice. Every Wednesday, it was exciting.”
“And meeting in school is kind of rare.” Ryan interjects. “Meeting other bands, it seems bizarre we’re so close.”
Laughter permeates the few pauses in our conversation. Despite the nature of the chat – an interview – the band’s camaraderie ensures its equal division. Each has something to add to another’s comment, they relay off one another, build their points. It seems their music making isn’t much different. They state plainly, there isn’t much hidden meaning to their songs.
“…yet.” Ryan is keen to state.
“Its more a process of… someone digs out a guitar riff, throws it at the bass player.” Says Eli. And from there the song builds. This is evident in the tracks they’ve released so far; ‘Ice Cream Sundae’, ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’, and ‘My Honest Face’ are examples of venerable collaboration. They may not be plumbing the depths of artistic vision, but they slot perfectly into the pop scene; they make you nod your head, sway your hips, stomp your feet. On the whole, it seems the band are hot on the heels of recent Indie success stories, like Catfish and the Bottlemen, or The Amazons. That such notable songs have emerged early in their career is nothing short of exciting for the future.
The group’s idolisation of their predecessors is evident, too. Though they state that their music interests are diverse, there’s an obvious grain running through those they admire. Cited are bands such as The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, The Pixies. They’re also tuned into their Irish heritage, Fontaines D.C and Shame rear their heads multiple times. Bands, Josh says. “Smashing it.”
So how must it feel outside Ireland? How do the audiences here compare to there?
“They’re varied.” They assent. It seems English audiences are renowned for a lack of energy.
“Smaller shows have a tendency to have an older audience.” Eli says. “The formulas that we write attract very old school [people]. I think they attract an older generation. But the places we come back to, there’s a young fanbase starting.”
That must be frustrating, I say, but the band admit that the age isn’t so much an issue as is energy.
“It’s a pain when people stand at the front and they don’t move… you look over their shoulder and see kids jumping. It’s like, let them move!” Eli continues.
“Eventually the people at the front… they’re seduced by Josh’s guitar solos.” Robert adds.
Eli seems somewhat pained when there’s a lack of audience energy. However, as a group, they all seem attuned to audience psychology.
“People [in England] seem to come to gigs here with their guard up. But Josh and I went to see Richard Ashcroft and Josh turned and said ‘I feel more self-conscious than Richard.’” Says Eli.
I suppose it’s something about being British, then. This seems odd, when our festivals are so renowned. Inhaler are keen festival players, the energy, the vibe…
“Everybody knows they’re gonna get f**ked up.” Ryan says.
They’ll surely be doing the rounds next season.
“For sure.” Eli says.
Soon Gary, the tour manager, peeks his head in.
“Dinner, boys?” He says.
Eli mentioned earlier, Gary’s one of those guys that know five people in each city. Tonight they’re going for Thai.
“The best you’ve ever had.” Gary announces.
I stand up, still damp, and the five of us assemble ourselves for a picture. Shaking their hands, I thank them for their time, then walk back into the cloud.
Later that night I return for the gig. Those in their anoraks have lined themselves along the walls, so they may lean, should their backs ache. I suddenly understand Eli’s frustration. They are old. One woman with blue-grey hair must be in her seventies; shrunken, she’s barley taller than my hip. Some kids do come. They’re GCSE age, and the lot of them appear fans of the band. They’ve planned for tonight and the rain hasn’t stopped them, but they rock their heads as lightly as the old boys.
As the band’s set progresses, they work their magic. Robert steps down off the stage and into the audience. He confronts one of the taller dancers, boogies, looks as though he may head-butt them before returning to his position above the crowd. The drums and guitar form a sweet symbiosis. Eli’s voice fills the room, and my ears are numb by the end of it.
What the set reveals is that age doesn’t matter. Sure, there are some nodding their heads, filming the whole thing without moving, but they’re hyper-english, not old. The grey-haired woman is absolutely freaking, shaking around, flirting with a slightly younger guy in front. She loves it, is so short I doubt Eli will be able to see her. Stuck behind two young guys with their arms folded, she’s evidence of the music’s power. The little old lady affirms a fact; Inhaler are writing timeless songs. Eventually, they’ll rock everyone, young and old.