Wet Leg Are Here for a Good Time, All the Time
"The hype is lovely, but I don't think it's very conducive to having a fun time."
Published Apr 06, 2022This is all a bit of a shock to Wet Leg. Seemingly overnight, the Isle of Wight duo of Hester Chambers and Rhian Teasdale became the biggest buzz band of the 2020s solely on the merits of their viral debut single "Chaise Longue" — so they're still just getting their legs wet with the whole thing.
"We haven't really set out to do anything ever," says Teasdale on a Zoom call with Exclaim! in early January, which she and Chambers join from their respective homes — still adorned in Christmas decor — on the island off of England's south coast. "It's all just been completely accidental. Happy accidents all along the way."
The holiday season is also eminent in the story of how "Chaise Longue" came about: it was born of Teasdale returning to the island for Christmas, having moved to London to work as a fashion stylist, and accidentally spending six weeks on the chaise longue at the place Chambers shares with her boyfriend Joshua Omead Mobaraki, now the band's touring keyboardist. (Wet Leg's live lineup is further rounded out by bassist Ellis Durand and drummer Henry Holmes.) They painted, baked cookies, watched Mean Girls on repeat, and recorded a farcical ditty about a piece of furniture that would sit in a folder on Teasdale's computer for months.
It went on to become one of the four demos that got Wet Leg — named after a pair of emojis selected at random — signed to the iconic label Domino Recording Co. Since the single's release last June, it's been streamed millions of times and has presumably done remarkable PR work for the term's correct pronunciation, drumming up hype that will hit a fever pitch when Wet Leg release their self-titled debut album on April 8.
"The hype is lovely," adds Teasdale, "but I don't think it's very conducive to having a fun time."
And having more fun than every other band — "Good times all the time," a mantra echoed sombrely in "Angelica" — is the basis upon which Wet Leg was founded: by two friends of over a decade, mildly drunk at the top of a ferris wheel after watching IDLES play at the 2019 End of the Road Festival.
"We started off in a pretty casual relationship," Teasdale says of their friendship, "and now we're married."
Chambers, who is lovingly called HC by her counterpart, agrees: "But I think it's really amazing to be experiencing this with you and the band. I feel very supported through a really scary time," she says of their quick rise to prominence (and during a pandemic, no less).
"That's the most important thing: the people that you surround yourself with," Teasdale adds. "People that want similar things and people that are gonna be able to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation we're in as much as us."
Why take yourself too seriously in an industry — and a world — that won't take you seriously anyway?
Teasdale describes a "lightbulb moment" when she and Chambers were watching the all-male band that played before them at their very first gig as Wet Leg at Isle of Wight Festival.
"The stage chat was like, 'Oh, my pants are stuck right up my ass.' And it wasn't shocking at all — like, yeah, of course that's what you'd say," she recalls, realizing that if she or Chambers were to say something similar, "It would probably stick out a bit more."
In Wet Leg's NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, we witness Teasdale in an open secret with her bandmates, prefacing their performance of the expansive "Too Late Now" with "Okay, everybody hold onto your buttholes!"
"I don't need no dating app / To tell me if I look like crap / To tell me if I'm thin or fat," she proceeds to speak-sing as the song continues to unravel, rolling in like fog.
"As a woman, you get so much outside noise — your only value is how pretty or cute [you are]," Teasdale explains. "That's kind of the way it is in this society, so it's still a struggle every day to kind of be like, 'Actually, that's not the highest value thing in the world.'" They grapple with this daily struggle with humour, even leaning into the comments section on topsy-turvy doomscrolling anthem "Oh No" with a video featuring screenshots lobbing critiques of their appearances and (frankly, misogynistic) industry-plant accusations.
"We have a song called 'Wet Dream' and it's really not that risqué — it's actually so innocent — but I guess if a guy were to…," Teasdale pauses, shaking her head. "I don't know. Everyone kind of pretends like we've come so far with equality and I kind of have to disagree."
The throbbing second single is the perfect encapsulation of the sensuality — and silliness — that forms the zeitgeist of Wet Leg's catalogue, as well as their music videos.
"It was pretty fun in the 'Wet Dream' video — being like, 'Okay, let's make something that's kind of sexy, but I'm going to do that with these big, goofy lobster claws, because that's the only way I can,'" admits Teasdale.
She adds, "Imagine that video without the lobster claws! I just wouldn't be able to do it, I can't take myself seriously."
It's no wonder Wet Leg can't buy into their own hype — that would require taking themselves seriously, which is directly antithetical to their approach to making music.
Having been playing in bands since they were 16, the pair had both reached a point where they had let go of putting pressure on themselves to rise to prominence in their respective folk-leaning projects. They had a lot of friends around them in bands who had become really caught up in trying to break through.
"They really want to quote-unquote 'make it' so much that you see them and they're not even enjoying playing anymore," says Teasdale. "I have a lot of friends in bands that are a bit lost."
Chambers admits, "It hurts my brain trying not to get too bogged down in any of it. It's gone a cool way and we'll just see what happens and where it takes us, and just try to stay happy in where we are and what we're doing. Otherwise, it's not the fun thing we decided to do."
In the same vein, the duo have expressed trepidation about being embraced by the music industry as women in their late 20s — especially "having some silly lyrics and things that are a bit funny or a bit gross," including a song comparing an ex to a literal piece of shit and the wry middle-finger of "Hope you're choking on your girlfriend / When she calls 999, they cut the line" on "Loving You."
But this trajectory has been necessary to the sound that alchemized in Wet Leg's particular brand of bright-eyed deadpan.
"When I was younger, I'd always try to sing really complex things," Teasdale says of the talk-singing style that she embraced on tracks like "Chaise Longue" and "Too Late Now." "I got a bit older and realized what you can put across with something that's very simple and doesn't require any effort or energy at all," she explains. Letting go of that perfectionism made Wet Leg to join a fleet of emergent UK bands like Dry Cleaning, Squid and Black Country, New Road, finding their own post-punk delivery in a winking snark.
"It was just like an easy way to ad-lib stuff — you don't have to think about melody, you just kind of think about the content of the lyricism," muses Teasdale. "For me personally, because I've always really loved singing, it's another part of my voice that I haven't really explored." The cool directness and its disaffected detachment isn't one-note, though — she also explores her longest and loudest scream on "Ur Mum," clocking in at over 11 seconds.
"We were very loose with it all and would work on the song as a song rather than focusing on it being on the album," Chambers says. "We weren't trying to put any pressure on [ourselves] — it was just quite organic seeing how we'd take the songs from demos to finished tracks."
She adds, "Hopefully it will add to the list of Wet Leg sounds," including the Sharon Van Etten-like sound of her taking lead vocals on "Convincing." The "You should be horizontal now" sentiment of "Chaise Longue" reappears on the garage-doo-wop album opener "Being in Love," as the duo journey with deliberate joviality through navigating existential dread, fluctuating levels of ambition, inappropriate text messages and getting too high with an infectious joviality. Much of it is knowingly silly, as is this whole situation for them.
"I don't think either of us had really ventured off the Isle of Wight for a fair few months and then, all of a sudden, we were at Latitude Festival, where we played our first gig back — which was our fourth gig ever," Teasdale reflects, still clearly trying to process it, noting that all of the lockdown restrictions were still in place when "Chaise Longue" went viral.
"It's weird going from that state of hibernation — I think everyone went into like, just wildness," she adds. Now they've toured the United States (though their Toronto and Montreal stops fell victim to postponement at the height of Omicron) and went to Mexico to open for none other than IDLES.
It's precisely the kind of international-scale, full-circle moment that will continue to shock Wet Leg.