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Wet Leg: Riding The Wave

todayMay 18, 2022 7

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photo credit: Hollie Fernando

***

Three days ago, the absolute, what-the-hell-is-happening surrealism of Rhian Teasdale’s life came crashing down on her, and she began to cry. Luckily, her bandmate Hester Chambers was there, standing right beside her in the parking lot of a venue in Ohio—or Wisconsin, or Illinois, or some other huge state that neither of these small-town English musicians ever dreamed they’d be playing.

“It’s not that I was unhappy. I just felt so overwhelmed,” Teasdale says. “I had a little cry on Hester’s shoulder, then I felt better.”

So what broke Teasdale, hours before her party-starting, indie-punk band Wet Leg took the stage in a beautiful old theater to a deafening crowd? Their brand new tour bus.

You see, a year ago, no one had really even heard of Wet Leg—outside of their families and friends on the Isle of Wight, an island south of mainland England, and a handful of independent label folks and assorted industry tastemakers. And now, they are rolling around on a fancy tour bus, crisscrossing the vast United States and playing sold-out shows to fans who have only heard four of the band’s songs.

That’s right: Wet Leg’s debut album was released in April 2022. When they sit for this Zoom interview in early March, the members of the band are playing a world tour on the strength of less than 12 minutes of music—which has flipped the switch on a seemingly unstoppable hype machine that’s successfully churning out palpable excitement.

Since their first single, the inescapably quippy and punky “Chaise Longue,” dropped in the summer of 2021, Wet Leg have racked up millions upon millions of streams. Insanely famous people have publicly expressed their fandom. Iggy Pop called them cheeky and wicked. Dave Grohl told The Guardian that he plays “Chaise Longue” on repeat. Lorde said she adored them while remotely accepting an NME award in a pool. And before they appeared here in the pages of Relix, they’d already become darlings of nearly every British music publication.

Here’s the thing: Wet Leg aren’t blowing up for nothing. Maybe after two brutal pandemic years, everyone needs some tunes that are devilishly fun, rocking and danceable. Or maybe they would’ve been stars no matter when they materialized from the grassy fields of the rural Isle of Wight. It’s impossible to know. But, thankfully for the band, Wet Leg’s 12-track debut is every bit as infectious as those four songs— ridiculously catchy, sometimes laugh[1]out-loud funny, often sexy, and always grooving and electrifying enough to inspire sing-alongs and crowd-surfing alike.

Still, for Teasdale and Chambers, it’s been a lot. And in that venue parking lot, staring at their new 10-bunk tour bus, a twinge of anxiety poked out of their otherwise exceptionally calm, cool, collected, English veneers. A few days after those tears, Teasdale is already able to illustrate their meteoric rise through the lens of their vehicles.

“On our first little tour, we hired a six[1]seat Mercedes van—just a little thing. And six months ago, Hester and I and the band piled on top of each other, yelling, ‘We’ve got a rental van! We’ve fucking made it!’” she laughs. “Then we got a bigger van the next time out. It had a table in it! We could play cards!”

“So now, having a bus…” she says, before trailing off. “What in the hell?”

On the U.S. stretch of Wet Leg’s current months-long spring tour—which wraps all around North America, then catapults back home to Europe—Teasdale, Chambers and their bandmates (bassist Ellis Durand, drummer Henry Holmes and keyboardist Joshua Mobaraki) are riding in style, on a bus that once belonged to Loretta Lynn. They call it the Coal Miner. Their bus driver, Ron, is perfectly lovely and hasn’t gotten too annoyed with them yet, they say.

“I think we’re probably quite a polite band. And it’s so cute to roll out of our bunks in the morning and hang out in pajamas,” Teasdale says. “But with 10 of us, including the crew, we have to do a headcount each night before we set off, like on a school trip.”

She then retells a horror story she heard from the group’s tour manager: He was working with some Australian band before the time of cell phones. And a band member hopped off the bus at a truck stop for coffee. The bus took off without him and drove for 500 miles before realizing that he was gone.

That’s when Chambers, by far the quieter and more subdued half of Wet Leg’s songwriting duo, speaks in a near whisper.

“I’m quite scared of that happening to us, too.”

***

Hester Chambers and Rhian Teasdale both grew up with a lot of space to spread out. Teasdale describes her childhood as “isolated.” The rural Isle of Wight is England’s largest and second most populous island—but it’s best known for its quiet, except for the one weekend each year when the legendary Isle of Wight Festival takes over. The future bandmates didn’t meet until they were both studying music at Isle of Wight College, but as teens, they both spent their weekend nights drinking on the beach until the police inevitably broke up the party and sent everyone home.

“I don’t know why we didn’t just pick a different beach,” Teasdale says.

“Well, we’d risk it for the biscuit,” Chambers answers softly.

The real fun happened on the ferry ride into London to catch some shows—but it came with complications.

“You could never hear the last song of a set,” Teasdale remembers. “If you did, you’d miss the last ferry back home—a very unique problem for us.”

Both women enrolled in the same college, but met each other only peripherally while floating in the same social circles.

“I saw her and thought, ‘Oh, she’s really cool, I better not talk to her,’” Chambers says.

“You were very, very quiet—very shy,” Teasdale says, smiling warmly. “Look at us now! My how the times have changed.”

Both women dropped out and started working—Chambers making jewelry for her family business, Teasdale working as a wardrobe assistant in London. But fast-forward a few years and they were back on the Isle, where their friendship finally began to blossom as they toyed around with writing music for projects that they’ve loosely described as ‘folky.’

By the summer of 2018, they knew it was time to try something different. The two guitarists began experimenting with a more upbeat songwriting style that was marked by its sharp, witty lyrics and a dry, very British sense of humor that elevated their tight, catchy, punk songs.

“We wanted to make music that was pumped up and good for the festivals,” Chambers says of their darkly poppy tunes. “But we were both quite new to reverb and effects. We were newbies to rocking and to rolling. We really had one goal: to have enough songs for a festival set, so we could get booked and have free tickets and a fun summer the next year.”

It worked and, in 2019, Wet Leg played exactly four gigs, including one in the Isle of Wight Festival’s local talent tent.

“We were so scared. There were about 15 people there—a lot. We were properly pooping our pants at those gigs,” Teasdale says. “These days, we’d be pooping our pants if there were only 15 people at these big gigs.”

“I pooped my pants yesterday,” Chambers says. “It just doesn’t stop.”

“Good thing there are washing machines at so many of these American venues. We’ve got three pairs of pants on tour, so, every night, we can poop our pants and, on the fourth day, it’s laundry day,” Teasdale deadpans.

Chambers responds without missing a beat: “Better out than in, I’d say.”

***

In 2020, something clicked: Teasdale, Chambers and Mobaraki penned the song that would eventually kick the whole Wet Leg train into motion, “Chaise Longue.”

It is hard to state through the written word how perfectly zeitgeist-capturing “Chaise Longue” is, but it goes something like this: Over a fast, pulsing bassline and bouncing percussion, Teasdale sings with a grinning detachment that feels like she is, indeed, the coolest person in any given room, no competition. It’s pure, punk-rock attitude with a world’s-ending[1]so-let’s-party smartass edge that feels extremely now.

“Hey, you in the front row/ Are you coming backstage after the show?/ Because I’ve got a chaise longue in my dressing room/ And a pack of warm beer that we can consume,” she chants. “Is your mother worried?/ Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?”

Wet Leg recorded the tune and got the attention of the highly influential British label Domino. And then, naturally but also suddenly, it was time to write an album. Teasdale and Chambers worked with local friends, cranking out a whole slew of similarly winking indie-punk anthems. Now, with a record label behind them, Wet Leg were blessed with an abundance of options to assemble a whole record. And, on a successful, high-vibe Zoom call, producer Dan Carey—who has worked with Tame Impala, Franz Ferdinand and Hot Chip—laid out the path ahead of them.

In a flash, the band was set up in Carey’s London studio, with the producer listening through Wet Leg’s Dropbox of demos and asking which songs they’d like to build together.

“We’d spent weeks practicing the songs as a full band, but things were still half-baked when we hit the studio. And Dan is a bit cosmic,” Teasdale says. “We were little sheep and he was our shepherd. We’d never made an album before and, well, he’s made a lot of them.”

In a bit under two weeks, the album was recorded—just like that. “It was such a strange feeling on that last day. Dan said, ‘Alright. Let’s go to the pub now.’ We’d always put an album on a big pedestal; to me, it always seemed so unachievable,” Teasdale says.

“We really were pleasantly surprised,” Chambers says. “Like, ‘Oh, hey, it does sound like an album.’”

She’s right—Wet Leg’s debut album, Wet Leg, plays as one fully cooked idea. After one listen, it’s clear that every song belongs and, somehow, every song is just as memorable as the one before it. The LP is packed with call-and-response choruses, tight punk drumming, blasts of guitars and Teasdale’s undeniably cool singing. Call it dance-punk, or sad-girl[1]party-music, or something with pop and a hyphen—but, whatever the name, it’ll beg for repeat plays at cranked-up volumes.

There’s a pervasive feeling of the coming apocalypse on these tunes, too. And whether the song’s about love, self-doubt, drugs or wet dreams, each one is darkly funny and effortlessly catchy.

On the album’s first track, “Being in Love,” Teasdale coos, as if singing a lullaby, “I need a lie down, only just got up/ I feel so uninspired, I feel like giving up/ I feel like someone has punched me in the gut/ But I kinda like it ‘cause it feels like being in love,” before an onslaught of guitars tears the tune wide open.

In June 2021, Domino dropped “Chaise Longue” and, as if the stars had aligned for Wet Leg, the song quickly wormed its way into numerous streaming platform playlists, a diverse mix of radio shows and the heads of millions of people. Follow-up singles were also as successful. And, half a year later, Wet Leg find themselves waking up on Lynn’s tour bus cruising across America, with hopelessly excited crowds singing along to exactly four songs during their set each night. This summer, they’ll play the Isle of Wight Festival, presumably to many more than 15 people.

“Someone commented the other day that, in two years time, no one will remember the name Wet Leg. And if that’s true, then we have to make the most of this. We feel very lucky—and very confused all the time. But we’re making music to keep our spirits high. That was our intention when we started a few years ago,” Chambers says.

“Feels like 200 hundred years ago,” Teasdale says with a laugh.

And then Chambers, speaking more clearly and powerfully than she has all afternoon, declares, “I never thought I’d get to go to America. Plane tickets are expensive, and I never had the money or time to take a holiday. So yes, this is very surreal. And we’re just gonna ride the Hollie Fernando wave, baby.”

Written by: tazz

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