From the moment their single ‘Chaise Longue’ landed, there was little doubt that Wet Leg were instantly elevated to buzz band status. What’s followed is anything but ordinary. With only one other track ‘out’, the noise around the duo is already deafening. With a debut album planned for 2022, there’s no other act who could lead off this year’s Hype List. Wet Leg are the real deal.
Words: Jake Hawkes. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
We love a bit of hype here at Dork. The fifteenth album from an ageing indie rocker might be some people’s cup of tea, but there’s nothing quite like a brand new band crashing through the proverbial front door armed with a basketful of great songs and a whole lot of excitement.
Enter Wet Leg. You may remember them from our feature a few months ago, or possibly from literally everywhere else music has been played since they first arrived. Debut single ‘Chaise Longue’ was an absolute banger, and now follow-up ‘Wet Dream’ has proved the Isle of Wight duo as far more than one-trick ponies. A smart, catchy indie-pop song, it’s just as polished as their first effort but in a different enough vein that we still can’t pin down what the future may hold. One thing’s for certain, though – it’ll be very, very good.
When we speak to Rhian, one half of the band, she’s just finishing off her fourth coffee of the day and wondering whether the combined caffeine intake could kill her. “I’m enjoying being at home for a few days, so I may have overdone it a bit,” she says with a laugh. “But if the caffeine makes you feel like you’re gonna die, then you can properly appreciate being alive and really treat every day like it’s gonna be your last, right?” she takes another sip of coffee as she muses on her potential demise.
After 18 months of being legally obliged to stay at home, it may seem odd to be relishing the opportunity to spend some more time there, but nobody can claim Wet Leg aren’t making the most of being able to travel again. Their schedule has included a slew of festivals, support slots with the likes of Inhaler and Declan McKenna and a headline tour in the new year. “It’s been such a whirlwind,” Rhian says with a shake of her head. “We’ve been jumping between playing support slots in places like the Kentish Town Forum and playing these smaller venues, which feel much more in line with where we feel we should be playing. I’m honestly not sure if me and Hester [the other half of Wet Leg] are super present at those bigger shows, because it’s just so strange.
“Honestly, when we play the bigger venues, it’s mainly us wondering when they’re gonna notice that they’ve booked the wrong band and tell us to leave. Just house lights up, someone walks out on stage and tells us they were actually looking to book a much bigger band called Let Weg!” She laughs again, seemingly genuinely incredulous at the band’s continuing popularity. “We’ve done a lot of getting to grips with touring as well, which has mainly been Itsu pots and weird hotels – it’s been fun. We’ve got our rider all worked out now as well. Houmous, tomatoes, salad and bread. The rock star lifestyle is making your own sandwiches before a set. We switched from bread to wraps recently, which has been pretty exciting.”
Nutritional riders are one of the perks, but going straight from 0-100 can have some downsides, too. By the time most bands are selling out any venue, they’ve usually had a lot of experience of playing to empty rooms and pubs full of disinterested punters. Depressing? Yes. Useful? Definitely. Those gigs are where bands make mistakes and learn how to do everything that can’t be experienced in a rehearsal space on a suburban industrial estate. Wet Leg, on the other hand, are working out what sort of live band they are in full view of the world, often with a crowd that would make a veteran band jealous.
“We’ve got our rider all worked out now: houmous, tomatoes, salad and bread”Rhian Teasdale
“I still don’t know what’s going on,” says Rhian. “We’ve only got two songs out, so I kind of want to go up to everyone after the gig and check they’re alright. They do know that other bands have whole albums and stuff, right?
“It’s especially weird supporting these huge bands, even though Declan and the Inhaler boys have been so lovely to us. They’re important partly because it gives us the opportunity to play our music to new people and steal a few fans along the way, which I’ve been told is the aim of it. But for us, the really invaluable bit has been just developing ourselves as people that play music on stage, as opposed to people that play music locked away in a cave with nobody watching. We’re getting our live set up to scratch and hopefully gaining some fans!”
Mixed in with these support slots have been huge festivals including Latitude (so full that the queue to get in seemed to consist of everyone at the festival) and Isle of Wight, which was a homecoming of sorts for the duo. “It’s a weird one,” Rhian says of the island’s yearly dose of live music. “Most of my friends have drifted away from the Isle of Wight and live in places like London and Bristol, so even though it was a hometown gig, it was mainly vague acquaintances who are going to judge you really, really hard,” she laughs. “Honestly, there are about 15 people who live on the island, so we were wondering where the other people would come from, but it was pretty full. It was another weird one, because our first gig there was in 2019 on one of the small local stages, so to come back after lockdown as a real band with a name on the poster was absolutely mad.
“I remember when we played in 2019, we did our little 20 minute set of songs we had thrown together so we could get a free ticket and afterwards we saw a friend and asked them what they thought of it. He was like, ‘yeah, it was a bit hit and miss, maybe three out of ten for me?’ So it didn’t take much for this year’s experience to beat that one!
“It was also weird because it didn’t feel much like a festival. We’d gone pretty ham at Latitude and Green Man, so we’d got that out of our system there. Isle of Wight was more ‘turn up at a sensible time, play our set and then home to walk the dog’ – we weren’t very rock’n’roll.”
While the music world is open for business again, an aspect of finding success in a period when gigs weren’t allowed is that any fanbase, no matter how engaged, can feel intangible. Social media numbers and radio plays might be indicators of popularity, but what if all your fans are abroad, or those streams are just because you’ve been put on the right playlist? “It’s still a weird one,” Rhian says with a shrug. “We’re so in the mindset of this not feeling real that even when we do play, you find ways to discount it. The support shows are great, and people have been super lovely, but you’re still very aware that you’re not the main event. Festivals can also feel a bit ‘right place, right time’, so I think until we play some headline shows, it’s going to feel really weird. Our Instagram following keeps growing, too, and I just don’t know who these people are. It’s good, but it’s just really intangible.”
With traditional avenues of interaction shut down, a lot of acts found alternative ways to build fan communities, from Instagram lives to WhatsApp groups. “We actually did a YouTube live thing when we launched the ‘Wet Dream’ video, which was really fun,” says Rhian. “The issue we’d have with a Whatsapp group is that I’m just really bad with my phone, so would probably just forget to respond to anything! I think Sports Team are probably quite good at it, but I’d basically just get freaked out and put my phone away. Maybe we’ll start one when we feel a bit more like rock stars – if that ever happens. I always feel like people who are good at this stuff are probably quite good at using dating apps. If you’re good at Tinder, then you’re probably good at Instagramming nice strangers who say they like your music.” She pauses and holds her hands up. “It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?”
Whatsapp group or no, Wet Leg’s fans seem plenty engaged. The murmurings of a one-hit-wonder have been well and truly silenced by ‘Wet Dream’, but did the anticipation scare them as they geared up to release song number two? “Oh my god, it was so awful!” Rhian groans. “I basically felt sick and was moody for about a week leading up to it being released. I think we were even more nervous because we’d been living in that honeymoon period of skipping along on the reception of the first single, then someone basically taps you on the shoulder, and it’s like, ‘shit, now we’ve got to release more music’. Luckily that also went down well, so now I’m ready to feel sick and moody all over again for song number three.”
‘Wet Dream’ is a song about an ex who used to text Rhian saying he’d been having dreams about her. It’s whip-smart, funny and has an earworm hook that’s likely to have you accidentally singing out loud about touching yourself. Basically, ‘Chaise Longue’ was the best song we’d heard all year, and ‘Wet Dream’ is the best one we’ve heard since then.
“We chose ‘Wet Dream’ as the next single because we wanted to continue on the theme of dicks”Rhian Teasdale
“We chose ‘Wet Dream’ as the next single because we wanted to continue on the theme of dicks,” Rhian says, trying and failing to maintain a straight face before collapsing into giggles. “No, no, I’m joking. I think it just felt like a bop. We haven’t got anything similar to ‘Chaise Longue’, and I don’t really thing we’ve got anything similar to ‘Wet Dream’ in the bag, either. It was very hard to choose, but in the end, it just felt like the next single.
“It was also hard because our radio plugger loved the song but was a bit nervous about it being called ‘Wet Dream’ in case radio stations thought it was too racy – but I think there’s way racier stuff out there, so we went for it anyway. It seems to have gone down well too, which is always nice.”
‘Wet Dream’ also came complete with a music video, which sees Wet Leg returning to the cottagecore aesthetic of the ‘Chaise Longue’ video, but this time with added lobster claws. “I wanted my performance to be quite sexy, because it’s quite a sexy song,” explains Rhian. “But just being straight-up sexy is not me, so I had to get the claws involved – sexy but also a lobster. Also, the song’s called ‘Wet Dream’ and lobsters are from the sea, so why not be a lobster? Lobsters are wet for most of their lives. It’s very deep and symbolic, quite a lot to take in. Plus, we had the lobster claws from a photoshoot we did with my friend who’s a stylist and costume designer, so there was that, too.”
The video, directed by Rhian and Hester, was also a way to re-engage with a song that had been written for a while before release. “It was enjoyable to go back to it,” says Rhian. “It’s a song for the sake of instant gratification – it’s a pop song. Because of that, there’s no timestamp on it, no danger of us not identifying with it in the future. If it’s a deeper or more introspective track, you can lose the association you had with it, but this didn’t have that time-sensitivity, so it was great to be able to release it and feel the same way as we did when we wrote it.
“We’ve done everything in a bit of a funny way, so we do keep having to revisit and tweak things in a way that a lot of bands probably don’t. We started recording before we’d ever played anything live because of lockdown and shows not going ahead. So sometimes we’ll play stuff that’s already recorded in a live setting, then have to backtrack to the recording and redo bits and restructure stuff. There’s been this back and forth, which I suppose isn’t usual.”
The build-up of energy over lockdown has meant that the past few months have been even busier than usual for gigs, albums and new bands, all jostling for attention. A lot of acts have jumped straight from a packed festival season into a headline tour without any room to breathe in between. Wet Leg are in the same situation, only with pressure to release a debut album at record speed and take their place on the bigger stages that they’re still working out how to fill.
“I can’t really talk about album stuff, except that you can hopefully expect something in the spring or summer of next year,” says Rhian, picking her words carefully. “I’m not being coy on purpose, I promise! I just don’t know what’s happening when and what I can say. We’re so busy at the moment that I honestly don’t think we’d have time to write anything more than what we’ve written pre-starting recording though, so a lot of it is going to be songs that we’ve written during or even before lockdown.
“We’re so busy at the moment that I don’t know what’s going on,” she says, fumbling off camera looking for her schedule. “I’ve got two phones at the moment like a drug dealer, because one has all of the things we’ve got coming up on it. Upgrading parts of the headline tour, which is really weird. Plans are being made, but everything’s so up in the air that nothing feels very concrete at the moment. Discussions are happening somewhere, but I don’t know exactly where!
“The maddest thing, though,” she says with a grin. “The maddest thing is that we’re supposed to be playing America and have already sold out New York. That’s insane, just completely mad. Although I’m trying not to get too excited because we do seem to have the worst luck with stuff – maybe there’ll be another pandemic, or our visas will get revoked, or there’ll be a zombie apocalypse. If none of that stuff derails us though, we’ll see you in New York City.”
Taken from the December 2021 / January 2022 edition of Dork, out now.