Inhale: Bono’s son’s brilliant band on embracing nepo-babyism in style
On a rainy and windy night in County Kerry, Ireland’s best new band play their smallest gig in four years. On the previous two nights, four-piece indie-rock band Inhaler performed to 2,500 fans in their hometown Dublin; their last show in London, in October, was at the 3,300-seat Roundhouse. Now here they are in Dingle, playing in front of 68 people. In a church. Where did it all go wrong again?
“Yeah!” laughs vocalist and guitarist Elijah ‘Eli’ Hewson. “We peaked last night in Dublin!”
Inhaler have been through a few months long tour and are going straight into promotion for next month’s release, Cuts & Bruises. Recorded at Narcissus Studio in Willesden, it’s the lean, urgent follow-up to 2021’s debut album, It Won’t Always Be Like This, which topped the charts in the UK and Ireland.
Even though this is a classic guitar band that likes to party, they should surely take it easy and not make it all the way to the Dingle Peninsula for a six-song set for a few dozen people.
But in 21 years, the Other Voices arts festival in Dingle has built an outsized reputation for championing young Irish artists and attracting big international names. And the town’s St James’s Church is the spiritual center of the event, the scene of one of Amy Winehouse’s most legendary concerts of 2006.
“Being asked to play The Church was an honor,” Hewson says, Guinness in hand, as he and his hungover bandmates – Josh Jenkinson (guitar), Robert Keating (bass), Ryan McMahon (drums) – relax after their set. . It would have been great for the singer’s parents to witness this honor. But hey, Bono and Ali Hewson have other fiancés: this weekend, they are in Washington DC, where U2 receives a Kennedy Center Honor for its “contribution to American culture through the performing arts”. So there is this.
The second youngest of the couple’s four children is acutely aware of the challenge of following born man Paul Hewson in the family business.
“I didn’t want to sing,” says the 23-year-old, of the early days of Inhaler, who formed as a school band at private St Andrew’s College in Dublin. “It’s a lot of pressure. It’s exposing, and it feels like a knob! And with the old boy singing, I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t do this…’,” he laughs, ruffling a haircut that makes him the old boy’s spit as shown – in his youth – on the cover of his brilliant recent memoir, Surrender.
But when they were 14 or 15, after an early member of the line-up, namely the singer, bottled up his vocals, Hewson found himself in the limelight. But as Jenkinson points out, “directing came very naturally” to Hewson. “Your motivation came from the fact that you were good at songwriting,” adds McMahon. “Once you were writing songs, you were like, ‘I know how this should sound. “”
Inhaler has been together for a decade, with all four dropping out of college after school, with plans to get into the band. Hewson admits his mother, who has been with his father since their own school days, was suspicious of another man close to her running away to join the rock ‘n’ roll circus.
“She hated it,” he said. “Then when she saw how passionate I was about it and the guys, she had no choice but to jump on board.” Now Ali Hewson is “very supportive,” but there are limits. “The first time we came to London, our Airbnb was cancelled. I phoned her, ‘Any chance of getting a hotel? She said, ‘When me and your dad first went to London, we had to sit on a park bench one night. So do that.
Fortunately, a companion came with a couch. But mom had made her point. “Granted, I had a very privileged upbringing,” says Hewson, a celebrity offspring who knows there’s no point in downplaying or refusing to engage with his parentage. “So the times when they can put me through challenges like that, they do.”
Inhale has undoubtedly made its way through its fair share of gigs in pubs and clubs. Still, as they began doing interviews two years ago, Hewson admitted they were inevitably overshadowed by the world’s biggest four-man rock band. How does he feel now?
“I don’t know if we’re getting out of theirs, I just think our shadow is only getting bigger,” he says.
“But even with that, we don’t feel the shadow of U2,” adds Keating. “It’s just a fact. Of course, we are in the shadow of U2. Any Irish band is – Fountains [DC] are. Unfortunately, Eli’s fucking dad happens to be in the group with the big shadow!”
Hewson smiled. “He’s actually a very small boy himself. I have a bigger shadow!
Last week we talked again. Inhaler had just landed from New York, where they had filmed a performance for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Hours later, Hewson is on the roof of his sister Jordan’s apartment in Swiss Cottage, smoking a homemade cigarette so big I think I can smell it through the Zoom.
Since our last conversation, the “nepo baby” conversation, about the privileges of nepotism enjoyed by the descendants of artists, has gone viral after an article in an American magazine. Hewson’s sister, Eve, an actress who was one of the stars of Sharon Horgan’s Apple TV+ comedy-drama Bad Sisters, had fun on social media with the accusations.
“Actually pretty devastated I’m not featured in the baby nepo article like haven’t they seen my hit show Bad Sisters???” she tweeted. “The nerve.”
“She loves getting involved in it. But I’m a tiny little nepo baby,” her little brother says smiling and exhaling smoke. music, and that’s what I like.
“You just have to wear your perks on your sleeve, because there are plenty of them,” he adds. “But that doesn’t mean people are going to listen to your music or come to your shows.” Or, indeed, give you a number one album.
He’s equally relaxed with the fact that regardless of haircut similarities at some point, he’s inevitably going to sound like dad – a fact brought home on the stripped-down new version of Pride (In The Name of Love ) that U2 released on day before we speak as the first single from Surrender, a compilation to accompany the old boy’s autobiography.
“It’s always funny when people say, ‘God, he looks like his dad.’ Or: “He looks like his dad. Yeah, I’m out of his fucking…” he cuts off with a laugh, aware that mom might be reading. “So I’m definitely at peace with that. This n It’s not a bad thing to look like Bono.
The single If You’re Gonna Break My Heart (Polydor) is out this Friday, January 20. Cuts & Bruises is out February 17. Inhaler plays at Brixton Academy on May 20.
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