If the future of guitar music was laid at the feet of Wet Leg (let's not think about that too literally), you would barely realise it while speaking to Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. On Zoom, both frontladies carry a relaxed, dreamy air that pays no heed their weighty buzz-band status, nor carries hints of their bold tunes, which cram myriad musical and lyrical ideas into each minute.
The obvious case in point is their breakthrough hit of Chaise Longue. Heard in every possible place that one hears new music, from BBC6 Music and indie record shops to hairdressers, it carries everything you could ask from a modern-day anthem: a scuzzy melody that just won’t quit, a driving guitar lick that’s caffeine in sonic form and an oddball humour that makes it even more endearing.
So when it comes to the release of their debut album, Teasdale doesn’t skip a beat when I ask what is the most-asked question is of their hectic promo duties. “Don’t you guys feel a lot of pressure?” she says, with mimic in her intonation. “And actually, we’re so in our own little world that it hadn’t occurred to us until people started asking it, so it’s hard to answer.
“When we started the band, we were in the habit of making ourselves quite small. So it’s funny to get that question because it goes against the premise of Wet Leg, which was to move away from feeling pressure or fear or anxiety.”
The story of how they began is heart-warming. At the end of a summer of festival-hopping, specifically atop a Ferris wheel at the End of the Road Festival, the idea of Wet Leg was sparked so that these besties could have that summer on repeat. They had started off playing folkier sounds, but they were drawn towards the passion of bands such as Idles, Big Thief and Belfast's And So I Watch You From Afar ("My older brother introduced me to them when I was about 17, and I was hooked – they're very fun and arty," says Chambers). That inspired them to inject more fire and fun into their sound.
“The main thing we took from that time was seeing people with their friends enjoying playing music,” says Chambers. It might explain the in-jokes, dry jokes and subtle jokes, although Chambers notes: “We’re probably a bit childish. Teasdale’s really good at dad jokes and I love dad jokes.”
Aided by their years of experience in the game (both are approaching 30) and free from constraints about what they should sound like, their move to embrace a carefree sound has gone better than expected. In 2022, it’s difficult to think of a band more touted than this. Whatever your preferred method of hype measurability, they have it ticked. They came second in the BBC Sound of 2022 (to PinkPantheress), have already performed the rites of passage that are appearances on Later with Jools Holland and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, they’ve racked up more than eight million YouTube views in less than a year, and have sold out almost every show they’ve played so far, including a full US tour.
All this before they’ve released their debut album. But that comes next.
The self-titled album was mostly recorded with Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey at the helm, in April 2021 – after signing to Domino and just before Chaise Longue was released to the world (probably for the best considering the supposed pressure of which they speak).
"I don't need no dating app/To tell me if I look like crap/To tell me if I'm thin or fat/To tell me should I shave my rat"
It’s a kaleidoscope of quirky melodies and smart structures, overlaid with lyrics in which they pay zero attention to what’s societally expected from female-fronted bands – there’s far more than the feminine-fragility/feminine-sass dichotomy at play. That’s exemplified by Supermarket, with all the playfulness of Fight Like Apes, and Ur Mum, a bouncy track in which Teasdale casts an invitation of “Why don’t you just suck my dick?” in the most angelic of voices. Similarly, personal favourite Piece of Shit features fragile vocals and caramel-smooth choruses that belie the icy sentiment of the lyrics, about an ex of Teasdale’s (“Like a piece of shit you either sink or float/So you take her for a ride on your daddy’s boat”).
They join the Wet Leg repertoire along with former singles like the retro-tinged Angelica, and the low-slung Too Late Now, which speaks of modern woes (“I don’t need no dating app/To tell me if I look like crap/To tell me if I’m thin or fat/To tell me should I shave my rat”).
With this proof that Chaise Longue was certainly not a one-off, the album will take them closer to centre stage, a position that they’ve become accustomed to on this wild ride of a year. Their confidence as a band has had to mature rapidly, says Teasdale. “We’ve definitely played shows where it feels the shoe doesn’t fit. It’s all come in quick thick and fast, so there have been moments where it’s been quite overwhelming,” she says.
Sense of ownership
With little choice but to truck on, they’ve embraced the mantra of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
It’s helped the duo as they grappled with leading the band according to their vision, especially at the start when their backing band was a revolving door of musician friends helping out.
"Being a leader is still a struggle when we're dealing with other things, like photoshoots. We're learning our own boundaries, and learning to say 'No, this isn't okay' "
“Because Hester and I are the founding members, there is this sense of ownership. Thankfully our band dynamic is chill now – we’re a pretty solid unit and they’re all friends from home,” says Teasdale.
“But being a leader is still a struggle when we’re dealing with other things, like photoshoots. We’re learning our own boundaries, and learning to say ‘No, this isn’t okay’ instead of just being grateful for the opportunity. So we’ll say if we’re not up for having our photo taken, or if we we’re working with stylists or art directors on a music video and don’t think a choice fits the band.
“Like, the Chaise Longue video was completely, 100 per cent us. We had control over everything like our styling, our make-up, the camera angles. It’s cool working with other people, and it’s never a problem if we speak up, but it’s a journey learning to communicate with people that aren’t your closest friends. But we’re doing it. I’m really proud of us.”
Of the pair, Chambers says that Teasdale is “the most leader-y”.
“We’re lucky to have each other through this to pull and push each other along, with a lovely, loving, supportive arm round the shoulder,” says Chambers, possibly alluding to the album cover in which we see the pair from behind in a sororal huddle. “It would be very scary to be doing all of this alone.”
This summer, the wish that got the ball rolling comes true and they enter a busy season of top-tier festivals. You might spot them on stage, if not the Ferris wheel, at Glastonbury, Primavera, Lowlands and a homecoming at the Isle of Wight Festival. Closer to our shores, they’ll support Inhaler at Fairview Park in Dublin in June.
Life is a rollercoaster
A word of warning: don't think you're headed in the wrong direction if you heard the sounds of Ronan Keating from the stage, as the crooner's signature tune of Life Is a Rollercoaster is, unexpectedly, Wet Leg's current cover of choice.
The song was first picked when they were invited to record a cover for Apple Music. “That’s quite daunting, because so many songs exist in the world. It takes a lot of time to find the one to proceed with. We related to that one because we were ’90s babies, so that was a song on the radio when we were growing up, and we also related to it in the sense that life is quite a rollercoaster for us right now, and we’ve just got to ride it,” says Chambers with a grin.
It’s another nice reminder of how the band don’t take themselves seriously, even amid all the hype around them.
“We’re holding on dearly to the reason why we started the band in the first place, and that was to have fun when we can. Because the world is such a scary and bleak place a lot of the time, so we’re just trying to make it through with smiles on our faces.”
Wet Leg is released on April 8th. The band play Fairview Park, Dublin (June 25th), Limelight, Belfast (November 27th) and The Academy, Dublin (28th)