BBefore Wet Leg, I was very scared of electric guitars because they make the guitar really loud,” says Hester Chambers – well, whispers. I wasn’t expecting it from the co-creator of some of the most delightfully gritty songs of recent years, but the 28-year-old has an incredibly smooth voice. Her bandmate, lead singer Rhian Teasdale, isn’t exactly pushy either. Speaking to the Isle of Wight duo in a sun-drenched, pastel-hued room in their record label’s London offices, I have a feeling their rapid success feels as strange as it is silly.
It all started with “Chaise Longue”. Wet Leg’s viral debut single, released last year, was the match that ignited it. Dead and surreal, he saw Teasdale speaking to a driving beat and post-punk riffs, singing, “Is your mom worried? Would you like us to hire someone to take care of your mother?” It was irresistibly catchy and garnered them tens of millions of streams, praise from Hayley Williams, Iggy Pop and Florence Welch, and a string of sold-out shows.
Dave Grohl told this publication, “Wet Leg are about to take over America,” adding that sometimes he and his friends stay up until 4 a.m. listening to the song “over and over and over again.” Rolling Stone called them “the liveliest new band of the year”. The New York Times said they had “risen as quickly and unexpectedly as any band in recent pop history”.
So what were you thinking when you wrote “Chaise Longue”? “Like ‘music is so fun,'” shrugs the 29-year-old Teasdale. Both giggle. “It was really late at night and it was a song that was meant to be just for us, in a folder called ‘High Jams.'” “I loved those nights,” says Chambers wistfully. “I just listen to what you did the next morning and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ We take so much pleasure in something that’s really stupid.” Some interviewers have tried to attribute “political agendas” to the song, Teasdale adds, “and I said, ‘No, we just had a good time. And that’s okay.’”
Her entire self-titled debut album, out this week, is a pretty good time. They wrote a lot of it before they even got a record deal and there’s a deadpan ease about it all, the lyrics are playful and imaginative, the music a laissez-faire jumble of dream-pop, punk and indie rock. “Piece of S***” is grubby and sluggish – The Moldy Peaches on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; “Angelica” is a choppy, antisocial anthem; On “Wet Dream,” a lively kiss written in response to a text Teasdale’s ex sent her, she asks, “What makes you think you’re good enough to think of me when you touch yourself?”
It was their second single, but first they were told it was “too lewd” to be played on the radio. “It was fun, wasn’t it?” says Teasdale to Chambers. “Because I think if we were hip-hop artists it would probably go unmentioned.” “Yeah, it’s weird,” Chambers agrees. “We did something a few months ago where they asked you to censor ‘Shave my rat’ on ‘Too Late Now.’ I don’t really understand why.”
The line in question, uttered in an ASMR-inducing near-whisper, is, “I don’t need a dating app to tell me if I look like shit / to tell me if I’m skinny or fat / around me to say that I should shave my rat”. Asking them to censor it makes it “shameful to shave your rat or not shave your rat,” Teasdale says. I can’t tell for sure if she’s serious. Did they censor it? “I had to say ‘cat,'” she says somberly. For real? “I’m joking.” They burst out laughing.
Many of the songs on the album are about the same breakup. Twitchy, shimmering and infantile, “Ur Mum” is so brilliant it has the potential to be bigger than “Chaise Longue” – but Teasdale seems to have changed his mind. Especially the line: “When I think about what has become of you, I feel sorry for your mother.” She doesn’t mean it, she says. “It’s about having that realization, like ‘Time to go – time to get out of this one!’ Sometimes you have to pretend that you really hate someone. I think that’s why this song sounds like this… it’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? ‘I’m sorry for your mother’ is a very mean statement.”
It was written, she says, while reflecting on a relationship “where you’re just trailing behind someone. It’s cool to be in love and all, but it’s also cool to feel motivated and committed to yourself and your own goals and aspirations. Sometimes when you’re so focused on getting someone to love you, it’s a lot of energy that could be put into something else.”
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It’s funny, she adds, having to think about this relationship in interviews. “I just feel so different now and they’re probably really happy in their new relationship and I’m really happy. There is distance to it. When we play this song I don’t really think about it. We just play the songs” – she turns to Chambers – “and I smile at you.”
The couple has a sweet, sisterly dynamic. They communicate with looks and smiles, often directing their responses at each other rather than at me. When Teasdale finishes a sentence, she often gestures to Chambers to speak as well – an invitation her bandmate often declines. As they fiddled around in the kitchen before entering the room, I overheard Teasdale say, “I’m proud of us.” She should be.
Wet Leg grew up on the Isle of Wight, which has a small but vibrant music scene. Really small. When I mention my cousin’s husband, who lives on the island and is a musician, Chambers immediately recognizes his name. “Andy! We know Andi! He plays drums!” They’re not sure if there’s a common thread running through the islanders’ music, although Chambers recalls speaking to her mainland cousins as a teenager, ” and they said, ‘Yes, but it has one sound, Is not it?’ Not in a snobbish way.”
“Perhaps in an overly romanticized way?” Teasdale offers. “I think it’s a little over-romanticized.” (A few weeks after we spoke that New York Times Wet Leg’s profile describes the island as “bucolic” and full of “Victorian cottages,” for sure, but there’s plenty of housing developments, too.)
None of Teasdale’s school friends were particularly interested in music, and she had barely played a note when she dropped out of high school to pursue a music Btec, a decision made “out of sheer desperation.” Her mother panicked for her. “She felt that your education was a stepping stone to success.” She even suggested that her daughter join the merchant marine instead. But music was more appealing. It was on this course that Teasdale and Chambers met and they bonded over a shared love of Laura Marling, Patrick Watson and Nordic music.
Their very first practice together felt strange, Teasdale says, because she’d never played music in a room without guys. “It was just different, feeling like it was up to us, I think. I feel like guys have always been pretty confident in spaces like this. I hadn’t really found a place where I felt like I would thrive.” Her brows draw together. “Not that I was mad about it. It wasn’t like we were in bands with guys and we said, “We want to do this,” and they said, “No. We’re boys.’” Again they both burst out laughing.
When they started writing music, their main goal was to enter festivals for free. “It wasn’t about, ‘Is the song good?’ but ‘does that count as a 30-minute festival set?’” says Teasdale. “We wanted the songs to be pumped up and a little funny…but we’re really just a bunch of emos.” The sardonic, sometimes misanthropic mood of her music is “accidental,” she points out. “We tried to write party songs, and then we basically just wrote songs about how we’re at a party and we don’t like it.”
After finding their band name by closing their eyes and pressing random emojis on their phone, the duo performed as “the first iteration of Wet Leg” at a summer 2018 festival, Chambers says. “No,” Teasdale says, “I think it was 2019.” There’s a muffled back-and-forth. No firm agreement is reached. However, they are certain: “By the end of 2020,” concludes Teasdale, “we have signed with Domino.”
Even after they signed that deal, they had no real expectations of success. “Realistically,” says Teasdale, “most people who sign with a label are going to take another job. I think we always thought there was more balance between life in a band and normal life. I don’t think we ever thought, ‘We’re going to sign a deal and quit our jobs.'”
But that’s what happened. In fact, their ascent has been so rapid and steep that they don’t really seem to trust it. You keep coming back to the same analogy. “We’re just trying to catch the wave,” Chambers says. “Because it’s going to end inevitably,” Teasdale adds. “We are very aware of that. It’s important to enjoy the ride, but sometimes you just cling and it’s hard to surface. Some days you show up. Some days you just hold on to the rails.”
Wet Leg’s debut album will be released on April 8th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/wet-leg-interview-album-chaise-longue-b2051215.html Wet Leg: “Chaise Longue was meant to be just for us – it was in a folder called High Jams”