The Big Splash: Wet Leg

Interview The Big Splash: Wet Leg

Wet Leg’s instant classic debut album arrives next month to prove that you really can believe the hype. DIY finds the pair clinging onto each other through the whirlwind career trajectory of dreams.

“Wet Leg look right at home as they weave through a magical emporium of props and scenery. Assembled in a discreet space just off Brick Lane, the mini universe comprising a giant chess board littered with playing cards and roses could be taken from the set of Alice In Wonderland, but instead, today, it acts as a suitably bizarre backdrop for the world’s most exciting new band to playfully push each other around.

There’s a sisterly love between Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers that’s instantly apparent as the pair lark about on set, exchanging giggles, glances and whispers in front of the lens. It’s not long before they tumble backwards into the intricately laid-out decor around them. “Ooops! I’ll try not to ruin anything,” promises Hester before attending to a buckle that’s popped off one of the enormous platformed heels of her partner in crime: “Oh, now that’s gonna ruin the whole thing, nobody is gonna listen to our music now!”

This morning’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party setting is, in its own strange way, a fitting one; there’s been a sense of the surreal about Wet Leg since they exploded from thin air last summer with the once-in-a-generation indie banger “Chaise Longue’. And though nobody could have predicted that two girls from the Isle Of Wight in cottagecore dresses singing loaded lines about furniture and buttered muffins could have caught on in this way, with their self-titled debut album arriving next month, the level of noise around the band shows absolutely no sign of letting up anytime soon.

Taking a seat upstairs away from the hustle and bustle between shoots, we ask if they’re finally getting used to being the name on everyone’s lips? There’s a lengthy pause, before Rhian gently acknowledges the tiniest, smallest idea that maybe they really do deserve to be here: “It still really feels weird, but we’ve come a really long way:” Hester, meanwhile, speaks with a whisper so delicate you have to listen closely. “It’s really surreal to think about everything we’ve done over the last few months,” she decides. “We’re just holding on to our buttholes for dear life, aren’t we?”

It’s no wonder that the pair are feeling the full velocity of seat-of-your-pants madness; the bucket list milestones that many bands can spend years chasing (and often still never achieve) have whizzed by in a matter of months. In the first meagre months of this year already, they’ve appeared on billboards from Tokyo to Times Square, placed second in the BBC’s Sound Of 2022 poll and sold out UK and US shows within seconds. Given the pair have previously been cautious about getting too caught up in their own hype, it’s been a hard thing for them to even begin processing.

“There’s no comprehension,” remarks Hester softly. She looks for help with the answer as Rhian attempts to make sense of it all. “We keep seeing all of these things come through and it’s just so funny. We went to see our album announcement billboard in LA when we were there and it was really strange. If we went back and told ourselves in college that we were going to be going out in LA to play some shows, and then we’d go and visit our billboard, it’s just so silly.”

She cites their recent Later: with Jools appearance as just one example of the list of achievements we could spend hours talking about. “That was such a big one for me. Whenever I’d see an artist on there I’d be like, “Woah that’s so legit’,” she grins. “Everything’s happened so quickly that it feels like imposter syndrome and that hits pretty hard sometimes. Luckily we didn’t have to go into the studio for Jools though because I think I’d have been shitting myself.”

He’s just one notable name to have been gushing over the band recently, however. They’ve also won fans in everyone from Iggy Pop through to Hayley Williams and were recently interviewed by bona fide legend and emerging talent champion Elton John during his Rocket Hour radio show. Hester pulls a terrified face when we even mention the name. “I couldn’t really say anything, I was just spinning. I just love him, you’re almost born knowing his songs aren’t you? It’s very incomprehensible.” Rhian feels the same: “He just complimented us loads. He’s so iconic isn’t he? I can’t remember what he even said, he’s such a legend that I struggled to concentrate.”

Considering that Wet Leg’s songs come stuffed with a brutal and deadpan humour, it’s unsurprising that the pair often bat down their serious achievements as a joke. “When people find out that the album’s not real, that’s when we’ll change our names and go live in Acapulco,” whispers Hester in a tone that half suggests she wishes she could do exactly that. Rhian laughs, “We’re just doing it for the pre-orders, we’re getting the album money then heading for the hills.” DIY points out one problem with their escape plan - that we’ve heard the album with our own two ears. “That wasn’t us!” Hester exclaims. “That was Let Weg!”

Whatever they want to call themselves, however, the duo are trying to just take the wild ride one day at a time. As Hester notes, putting on her best spaced-out hippy voice, “We’re just riding the wave man, riding the wave:” “It’s crazy that we’ve known each other for so long and that we’re doing this now, to consider the lives we’ve built for ourselves,” Rhian ponders. “It’s a good thing that you can’t see the future otherwise we’d have probably sabotaged it for ourselves.”

“It’s just really bizarre, but we’re really lucky to have each other through all the scary stuff,” Hester nods in agreement. “Whether we’re recording, playing a show, doing interviews or photoshoots - every step of the way we have to be there to raise one another up, I think that’s really important.”

As their purported (and thoroughly unconvincing) Let Weg alias might insinuate, Rhian and Hester still seem reasonably incapable of believing their own hype. Lucky then, that their debut album does all the talking for itself. It’s a gripping listen from the very first notes of punchy grunge-pop opener “Being In Love’: a track that dispels any concerns that the record wouldn’t live up to their thrilling thread of early singles.

Fun has been at the centre of their mission statement from the word go after the old college friends saw an IDLES set at End Of The Road festival in 2019, realising they wanted to pick up some guitars and start a party of their own. The approach was radically different from the pair’s folk-leaning, insular past projects. They owe the sense of freedom behind the album, they explain, to cutting loose from past confines, having toiled with more introspective sounds previously.

“I think we just let go of trying to do anything with our music,” explains Rhian. “We’ve both been in bands since we were sixteen, and this time we were just totally doing it for ourselves. We’ve spent so many years feeling the pressure of our peers; we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. This time, we realised that music should be fun, we need to be doing it for ourselves and nobody else.” Hester adds: “That’s something to try and hold onto amidst all of this craziness.”

“For me personally,” says Rhian, “maybe it was a little bit more convoluted beforehand. I wanted to do it so badly that I was just anxious the whole time and not in the best mental state. It’s funny that the moment you stop trying and just give up on something it clicks. We were both so busy working our jobs, and we’re not super super young when, with music, there’s so much weight on [that]”

She has a point, but luckily there’s been a trend of bands recently who’ve been finding joy a little further on in life’s game. Wet Leg’s own sources of inspiration IDLES found fame in their thirties with “Brutalism’, and in the same age bracket, Leeds’ post-punks Yard Act nearly clinched a number one spot with their recent debut album “The Overload’ - a record that embraced fun and humour in similar fashion.

Wet Leg broke out when Hester was 27 and Rhian was 28 and, though hardly old, Hester explains they both felt a stigma around age before that. “When we started the band we were talking about this and finding solace in the fact we can still do it and be as silly or childish as we like with the music and it’s OK,” she says. “It doesn’t matter that we’re not twenty. There’s such a big thing about age that we do think about it, there’s so much pressure for us ladies especially.”

Their album can be silly, childish and fun, but it can also be incredibly hard-hitting at the same time. A perfect example comes with “Piece Of Shit’ - a brutal airing which leaves little to the imagination. Rhian sings about a barrage of messages from her ex, signalled by arcade phone sounds. “Now you call me up / Alright I’m not enough / Alright I fucked it up / Alright I’m such a slut.” The track comes as a flick of the middle finger that says it all.

Rhian says that Hester has been central in encouraging her to open up so completely on such matters, another example coming with the festival-ready groove of past single “Wet Dream’, a track that also deals with said ex calling her up with unwanted information (“What makes you think you’re good enough / To think about me when you’re touching yourself?”). “Sometimes I’m like, “Guys is it OK to say this?’ when I’m with the rest of the band,” she chuckles, “and they’re like, “Oooh, it’s harsh, go ahead’.”

It’s this brutal honesty and razor-sharp delivery that undoubtedly makes Wet Leg such a formidable force; there’s an alchemy behind the songs that merits all the hype. When we ask why they feel they’ve struck such a chord, meanwhile, things take a sweetly emotional turn. Rhian mulls on the thought before suggesting, “It’s very difficult for us to see because we’re so in it.” Hester, meanwhile, looks directly into her counterpart’s eyes and gives it a go. “It’s because you’re a very eloquent lyricist and the way you present your feelings is very different and quite unique, but they’re so relatable and such a joy to listen to.”

Rhian begins blushing, hiding behind a long strand of her hair that she’s fashioned into a make-do moustache over her lips. Hester continues: “It’s like when you’re reading and there’s an image that’s part of the story you’re reading; it’s so visual, it hits like a big spark,” she smiles to her bandmate. “You’ve always been super effortless with your writing, you can just make a hooky chorus. Even in the sadder songs, they’re really beautiful but clever. You’ve always had this kind of magic vibe.”

Set for release via Domino (Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Blood Orange), the possibilities of “Wet Leg’ and its eponymous authors feel limitless. Though the label association might increase their chances of bagging a Number One, they’re not fussed on the thought of a chart position. “Someone is thinking about it but we’re not,” explains Rhian. “There have been conversations behind the scenes and it’s quite interesting to hear, but it’s not something we’ve been pushing towards.”

DIY points out that it would be the first UK number one album for an artist hailing from the Isle Of Wight - surely a huge achievement for their stomping ground? “That’s so funny,” says Rhian. “I think everyone back home is like, 70 and not our target demographic. There are some younger people in bands there though. When we were growing up we had The Bees, I think it’s important to have representation if you’re going to have any kind of aspiration. It would be cool if some other girls from the Isle Of Wight were like, “Hey let’s start a band’, because it can be done.”

When it comes to looking forward, Hester says focusing on their own creativity helps them remain blinkered from the noise. “We’re just quite off-the-cuff people, flying by the seat of our pants,” she shrugs. “When we think about what’s to come, it’s actually more about looking forward to practising with the band and working towards new stuff. It’s about trying some new songs and writing together. We’re always looking forward to what we’re going to do with our future and our time.”

Given the band started out as a hobby, just like their efforts in roller skating and longboard dancing through the pandemic, should we expect a similar upward trajectory for those pursuits too? A Wet Leg Longboard Olympic 2024 bid perhaps? They both take on a glum expression. “It’s so gloomy and wet out and longboards are so impractical because you can’t fit them in your suitcase,” Hester explains. “Maybe we’ll look forward to picking it up properly again in the summer.”

It doesn’t look like Wet Leg will have time for that, however. There’s the milestone of their imminent debut to hurdle first, plus a long sold-out UK tour, another US tour, a summer jaunt to Australia, a series of hyped festival slots: With all signs pointing to a second all-conquering year, the only people left to hop on the Wet Leg hype train are the duo themselves. Finally, as today’s interview comes to a close, Rhian lets her humble guard down ever so slightly. “We’re onto something really good,” she nods slowly. “We’ve got our fans now, we’ve got each other, we’ve got a team we love. It’s such a nice journey to be on with our friends.”

Even though she says it with a cautious whisper, that’s just fine: the world will be doing Wet Leg’s shouting for many years to come.

“Wet Leg’ is out 8th April via Domino.

As featured in the March 2022 issue of DIY, out now.

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