Inhaler on Second LP ‘Cuts & Bruises’: “We Were Forced to Make Really Hard Decisions”

Inhaler shared their debut album, It Won’t Always Be Like This, back in 2021. The record housed 11 simmering guitar anthems fit for packing clubs in their native Dublin, despite being written amid lockdown.

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Their efforts scored them the first No. 1 album by an Irish band in the U.K. since The Script did it nearly 13 years ago. The laud drew many eyes to the four-piece – frontman Elijah Hewson (as in Hewson, Bono), bassist Robert Keating, guitarist Josh Jenkinson, and drummer Ryan McMahon – waiting to see where they would go next.

The group met back in school, pulled together by something that is often the onus behind burgeoning rock bands: a love of guitar music. What was once likely a cure for teenage boredom turned into a make-or-break pursuit – one that they came out the other end of as one of the most exciting alt-rock acts in recent memory.

They made the leap across the Atlantic last year, touring the States, and have since earned opening slots for the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles.

With that kind of upward trajectory, the follow-up to It Won’t Always Be Like This needed to have serious boosters behind it to keep up its momentum. Luckily, they delivered on that front – and then some.

The group shared their sophomore record, Cuts & Bruises, last month. Despite risking the dreaded “sophomore slump,” Inhaler says they felt an uptick in confidence going into Cuts & Bruises.

“I think we’re a lot more comfortable than the first time because we had never done it before,” McMahon tells American Songwriter. “It was this big, scary thing.”

“It was definitely a more pressurized experience making this album,” McMahon continues, referencing the juggling act of touring and writing this record. “But, we’ve been very overwhelmed by the response that it has been getting.”

“It’s two completely different sides of the brain,” Hewson adds. “We were on tour and then we’d come home for two days and we’d go straight into the studio. But, I think the time pressure helped in the end. We were forced to make really hard decisions and there wasn’t time for arguments really.”

“It was a crazy time,” he continues. “We’ll try and never do that again.”

Cuts & Bruises is another 11-track record, but that’s largely where the comparisons stop between the band’s two albums. Though their amped-up guitar motif is present throughout, they’ve matured their sound by way of dazed, sprawling indie anthems that take a headier approach than their previous effort.

Elsewhere they slow their usual pace for songs like “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart.” The track is steeped in Americana, resulting in something that feels timeless – classic in a refreshing way.

If you’re gonna break my heart / Smash it to pieces / ‘Cause I’m not gonna need it / As much as I do right now, Hewson sings. The song lives in leftfield compared to the rest of the record. That contrast was a conscious effort for the band.

“‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’ was a bit of a risk for us,” Hewson says. “We thought it was time to do something different, take a risk, and show people we can do more than a big guitar vibe. It’s one of the best moments in the gigs now.

“Once we got the lyric we felt like we were on safe ground with it,” Hewson adds. “If you have a strong chorus, I think you can do anything – we could make a rap song and have it feel like the right vibe for us.”

In addition to “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart,” the band previewed the record with the singles “Love Will Get You There” and “These Are The Days” – both of which speak to the power of connection.

“Love Will Get You There” urges the listener to let their heart take the wheel for a while. “These Are The Days” is a typified road track that mulls over the band’s days on tour.

That sense of connection, particularly with one another, became a guiding force on the record.

“Friendship and companionship with one another, that’s something we lost a little bit along the way,” McMahon says. “With making the first album during COVID and trying to juggle touring and recording over the past year, it was a difficult time for each of us.

“While we were writing this album, we realized the thing that binds the band together is the fact that we were friends before we started taking this seriously,” he continues. “This album is about us trying to regain that and hold on to as best as we can.”

In the face of growing fame and a brighter spotlight, do the band get on as well as they used to? Or is there a measure of fracturing?

“We’ve gotten older and more or less irritable,” Keating says. “We still get on as good as we did as kids but it’s different. Because we work together now, there is probably more pressure on our friendships, but there has always been a focus on us getting on well together.

“When most bands split up it tends to be people who just don’t get on or drugs,” he adds. “We’re not doing either of those things.”

For some, Inhaler’s arrival seemed like it happened overnight. For the band, their journey has been more gradual, riddled with ups and down, and grounded by hard work.

“That’d be a dream come true,” Hewson says of being a quick success story. “We’ve had a very gradual rise. We played for nobody for years. It wasn’t like we had a massive hit single and immediately started living in mansions. We still live with our parents. I think having that to come home to has really kept us grounded.”

The band is slated to come to the U.S. next week (March 6). They have stops planned in Austin, Nashville, Washington DC, Atlanta, and more. Find their full tour dates HERE.

Photo by Lewis Evans / Interscope Geffen A&M/ Press

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