Wet Leg: “I think there’s more authenticity to the music if you’re having fun”

Explosive debut single ‘Chaise Longue’ made the Isle Of Wight duo indie’s buzziest breakout band in years. NME hitches a ride on a sunny afternoon in Margate to see where their debut album will take them

“Is there a tattoo parlour near here?” Hester Chambers asks excitedly, mere seconds after she and bandmate Rhian Teasdale bundle into the small, dark basement of Margate’s Elsewhere venue. It’s Chambers’ birthday, and she’s keen to commemorate it with some fresh ink – not that she knows what the new design should be, mind. “I wanted to get a new tattoo in every place on this tour,” she explains, her eyes widening with enthusiasm as she talks. That expression is quickly replaced with one of dismay when she’s asked just how her mission is going. “I haven’t managed to get any so far,” she sighs.

While Chambers is trying to plot a celebratory piece of body art, singer and guitarist Teasdale is stood behind her marvelling over a pastel green vegan birthday cake with ‘good times all the time’ piped on the top. The phrase is something of an unofficial motto for the duo: it’s the slogan that’s emblazoned on their Instagram bio, and sums up their attitude of only wanting this band to be fun. It’s also the hushed mantra of their latest single ‘Angelica’, but the song – about desperately wanting to leave a house party – subtly acknowledges that it’s not a realistic expectation to have of life.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

In the half-day that NME spends in the company of the Isle Of Wight band, though, you could be convinced that it is entirely plausible for there to be no bad times ever. We’re swept along on a seafront roller-skating sesh (featuring word-perfect recitals of scenes from Peep Show), and get a surprise when Teasdale gives us a thumbs up after soundcheck with an oversized rubber prosthetic addition protruding from her hand. “I found it on the street,” she shrugs nonchalantly, enjoying our puzzlement. At least for today, the good times are a permanent presence.

Hanging out with the two pals feels like a whirlwind of silly fun and giddy joy; Chambers is the softly-spoken, shy yin to Teasdale’s more outwardly confident yang, and their bond is one that allows them to build their own hilarious world where they meet in the middle. It’s nothing compared to the exhilarating hurricane the band have been spun around in over the course of the last nine months.

“Being in a band can make or break a friendship… we’re staying solid” – Rhian Teasdale

Wet Leg appeared seemingly out of the blue last June after being snapped up by Domino Records [Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand], and soon grabbed hold of the indie world’s attention with their debut single ‘Chaise Longue’, an instantly addictive piece of daft and surreal post-punk. Its cheeky humour was just what was needed after months of going up the walls in lockdown, and, unsurprisingly, everyone went mad for it. “I went to school and I got the big D,” they chant in a piece of saucy, winking wordplay – an antidote to the po-faced, dour post-punk that’s been in vogue of late. A video of them prancing around the fields on their native Isle Of Wight bolstered the viral potential, and the song landed third in NME’s Songs of The Year ranking in December.

Since then, the pair have had us in the palm of their hands as they’ve proven there’s much more where that legend-making first track came from. ‘Wet Dream’, which wittily rebuked an ex’s inappropriate late-night texts, initially showed they were no one-trick ponies, while they capped 2021 off with ‘Too Late Now’ and ‘Oh No’, a pair of songs that navigated adulthood and the modern ails of a life lived online. In a few weeks time, they’ll make it abundantly clear that the world was right to gas them up with the release of their self-titled debut album (April 8), which packs in 12 tracks of dizzyingly perfect indie.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Wet Leg on the cover of NME

If Wet Leg’s sudden breakthrough was a surprise to both fans and industry, then it was certainly a surprise to the women themselves. Before forming the band, the duo had been working on other music projects – Chambers with her boyfriend Josh, and Teasdale as the folk-leaning Rhain – but were growing steadily disillusioned as they failed to take off. Chambers even started working at her family’s jewellery business, while Teasdale was working as a stylist in London. But a summer spent running around at festivals gave them a new idea: start a band together and just do it for the fun of it – no expectations and no ambitions.

“I’d always wanted to do music for a living, but it was making me really sad,” Teasdale reflects now sitting in a booth in the venue’s record shop-cum-bar. “Then I found this job that I was doing before [we got signed] and I realised my day-to-day happiness had gone way up.” That realisation made her rethink her desire to get “on the treadmill” of trying to make a music career happen. “It’s not very good for your mental health,” she says. “I just didn’t really know what I was doing with music before this.”

“It’s ironic that we found the most success we’ve had from making music once we decided we weren’t going to try really hard,” Chambers observes. But the very fact that Wet Leg took things back to a pure core, her bandmate reasons, is exactly why their music is connecting now.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

“I think there’s more authenticity if you’re having fun,” Teasdale muses. “If I go to a gig, I don’t want to see people doing a rock star act – sometimes it can be quite contrived and people think they have to be a certain way as a musician.” With Wet Leg, what you see is what you get: two best friends and their band laughing their way through this strange new life.

Since giving up the day-job, the pair have come a long way, as illustrated through two separate events that have happened in the last few months. First, while doing a short US tour in December, they went to see a billboard announcing their album in LA’s ultra-cool neighbourhood Silver Lake. “The next week the billboard that was up there was Jack White,” Chambers says. “And his was smaller than ours! I remember I was like, ‘This is not OK!’”

Then in January, they opened for IDLES at London’s O2 Academy Brixton. It was a full-circle moment: seeing the Bristol punks at End Of The Road Festival in 2019 was the moment that sparked the idea to set this whole journey in motion. “It was something we joked about for ages, and then it happened,” Teasdale says of the gig. Having previously supported Jungle and Sports Team at the iconic venue, their third Brixton set gave Wet Leg a good opportunity to assess their progress.

“It’s ironic we found success once we decided we weren’t going to try really hard” – Hester Chambers

“The first time we supported Jungle there it was completely terrifying,” Teasdale says. “So it was really nice thinking back to that first time we played at Brixton and realising how much more comfortable and confident we’ve become as a band. We’re starting to settle into stages that before were just so anxiety-inducing.”

Given the buzz surrounding Wet Leg, the duo have proved as much of a draw as whichever headliner they’ve supported, and they’ll quickly level up to the same status as their peers later this year with sold-out gigs at London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town and a full UK tour. Still, while they’ve been regulars on big support tours with the likes of Declan McKenna and Inhaler, it’s the 150-capacity Margate venue they’re playing on this night in early February that is a far more comfortable space for them.

“Ordinarily, this is somewhere we would have dreamt about playing,” Teasdale says, gesturing to the venue around her. “This feels like where we should be at. Those support tours and big stages, they feel like shoes that are a bit big. This feels like the right size shoe.”

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

Three weeks later, Wet Leg are sat in a pastel pink room on the top floor of a Brixton house where the walls are lined with different shapes and styles of mirrors. It’s just over a month until their album will be released, and they’ve convened here from the Isle Of Wight to speak to the many, many journalists wanting to grill them on the record. The following week after our chat, they’ll head back to the US for a massive tour that will keep them on the road until just before the album drops, and, in a break between chats, Teasdale is bemoaning one aspect of the tour. “How am I supposed to pack for a month?!” she groans, burying her face into the sofa.

Packing woes aside, the band are in good spirits – although nine months on they still seem bemused that any of this is happening. “Album schmalbum!” Chambers giggles when the record is mentioned. “How funny.”

The band’s success might appear to have happened overnight, but while the rest of the world was oblivious to their existence, the pair were busy spending lockdown working on demos and songs that now make up their debut album. Having written the bulk of the tracks from the comfort of anonymity, having to mould them into a real record was a daunting task. “Obviously, when we went to the meetings before getting signed, we were like, ‘Yes, hello Domino, we’d love to sign for you and we’d also love to record an album’,” Teasdale recalls. “Even when we said that and it was discussed, when recording it actually came around we were like, ‘Huuuuuuuuh’.” She draws out that last syllable for longer than necessary and in a much higher register than her normal voice, sounding like a confused dolphin.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

Teasdale likens making the record to writing an essay: “You’re like, ‘How am I going to write 10,000 words?’ And then panic sets in.” But if ‘Wet Leg’ were being submitted for an assignment, it would score an instant A+. Its creators might look back on the studio sessions with ultra-cool producer Dan Carey [Fontaines D.C., Squid] with the same trepidation and fear as the first day of school, but it feels flawlessly confident in its execution, capturing the twisting path of life in your 20s – through shitty exes and general malaise – and making it feel like a wonderfully exhilarating trip.

“Now I’m almost 28 / Still getting off my stupid face / Fucking nightmare,” Teasdale sings on the melancholy trill of ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out’. Apathy is outlined on ‘Being In Love’, the album’s infectious opener: “I know I should care / Right now I don’t care,” she admits in its first verse before reeling through a list of problems that are plaguing her, like insomnia and a lack of concentration. “I don’t think I felt lost when I wrote those songs, more just reflective,” she says. “Kind of just looking at things with a greater perspective. I had my objective hat on.”

“The billboard promoting our album was bigger than Jack White’s – that’s not OK!” – Hester Chambers

For Teasdale, the album contains some of the lessons she’s learnt in the last few years. Take the intoxicating tumble of ‘Angelica’, which boasts the realisation that you can leave the house party if you want to – or, as she puts it, “I could literally go home and watch Lord Of The Rings right now.” Instead of being about someone who is flailing and floundering, she says it’s about “working your way through life in the world. The world can feel a bit lost sometimes, but” – she stares off into the distance and pauses – “all who wander are not lost.” She flashes a knowing look at Chambers on the sofa next to her and devolves into a fit of laughter. Teasdale explains: “That’s a Lord Of The Rings quote!”

As Wet Leg’s early singles quickly attested, there is a humour to Teasdale’s – who is the band’s principal lyric-writer – creations. She makes situations that are, in reality, quite sad buzz with sass and sauce, like on the fuzzy break-up track ‘Ur Mum’ when she tells an ex: “When I think about what you’ve become, I feel sorry for your mum.” Or on ‘Piece Of Shit’, when she eye-rollingly eviscerates a partner with the line, “You say you’re a genius / I say you must be joking,” before comparing them to excrement in a toilet bowl.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

“I always try to dilute serious things with humour, I think,” Teasdale says. “So it only feels natural that if there’s a bit of humour in there, that would attach itself to something that’s maybe a bit sad. I will always try and make light of things, I think.” Turning situations into something funnier is a coping mechanism that she often uses, but she’s quick to point out that’s not a unique thing. “It’s a very human thing. In films, there’ll always be light-hearted moments written into the script, like when they’re on their way to Mordor.”

In case you haven’t guessed by now, Wet Leg – a band who walk on stage to the song ‘Concerning Hobbits’ from the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack – are big fans of the Tolkien film franchise. “I’m such a nerd about it, but it’s the best ever,” Chambers declares. Teasdale, meanwhile, is starting to regret their habit of bringing it up quite so often. “We need to stop talking about The Lord Of The Rings in interviews, it’s so embarrassing,” she suggests through laughter.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

As indie sleaze makes its big comeback, ‘Wet Leg’ feels like a record primed for the indie disco – a race through big hooks, knowingly dumb and insanely catchy lyrics, and the kind of rhythms and riffs that make you want to neck Jägerbombs and throw yourself into the middle of the mosh pit. Listen closely and you’ll hear elements of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, Pixies, The Breeders and more.

Like ‘Angelica’ suggests in its sombrely mocking “good times all the time” refrain, not everything with the buzziest new band on the planet is fun and games. ‘Convincing’, the album’s centrepiece, was written by Chambers about a time when she was battling the blues, but wasn’t ready to start trying to lift herself out of their grip. It’s a softly stormy, poetic track that finds the guitarist as a “lady in ruins”.

“I’m quite a lazy songwriter,” she whispers gently with a sheepish smile when asked whether writing that song helped the process of trying to feel better. “It’s an acknowledgement rather than me processing anything. It’s like I know this is myself right now, and I haven’t been able to switch to the optimistic side of feeling existential yet.”

“I always try to dilute serious things with humour” – Rhian Teasdale

“Your lyrics are really poignant,” Teasdale tells Chambers after her self-deprecating assessment of her work. “You can say something using very simple words, but it means a lot.” The pair look at each other adoringly, big grins spread across both of their faces.

Friendship – as well as fun – is at the very heart of what Wet Leg are all about, something you can grasp from one look at the cover of their upcoming album. It shows the women from the back, arms around each other and heads leaned inwards until they’re touching. Although you can’t see their faces, warmth and joy emanates from it.

The same feeling is palpable when you spend any time with the duo. Theirs is a rare, beautiful friendship that seems incredibly supportive and a blessing as they navigate the wild ride of the music industry’s dizzying – and often brutal – hype machine. Teasdale bursts out laughing at the suggestion – not because NME is wrong, but because a recent photoshoot required her to literally support Chambers in a semi-trust fall, where she proceeded to drop her musical partner.

NME Cover 2022 Wet Leg
Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

“Apart from that one occasion, you do support me,” the guitarist says once the giggles have subsided. “We’re very lucky. It’s a very new, scary thing, and we’re discovering our boundaries that we didn’t know we had. If I’m feeling a bit worried about something, I can be like, ‘Rhian, I’ve got this worry’ and then Rhian will be like, ‘I think it’ll be OK’, or ‘Yeah, I feel this too’.”

When the two friends originally started Wet Leg they likely didn’t imagine they would be spending quite so much time together, intending it to be a fun hobby to pick up while they focused elsewhere career-wise. So far, they’re loving the “weird family” that they’ve ended up forming with each other and their backing band.

“Every time we leave each other for a couple of days and then get back in the van, we’re like, ‘It’s so nice to get the band back together!’” jokes Teasdale. “Every day there’s always something – big things, small things – where we definitely need each other.” She abruptly looks away from her bandmate to NME and wryly clarifies: “In a really healthy way, not a creepy way. In a cool way.”

On their debut album, Wet Leg have crafted the perfect soundtrack to careening through young adulthood with your favourite sidekick by your side. Now, they’re living a hyper-real version of that life and sticking together stronger than ever. “I guess being in a band can make or break a friendship,” Teasdale ponders, face growing solemn for a moment before her smile returns. “But apart from that one time I dropped you and almost broke you, we’re staying solid.”

Wet Leg’s self-titled debut album is out April 8

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