Wet Leg: “We want to be recognised as guitar heroes”

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. This week, Wet Leg discuss navigating viral success and being the change they want to see in guitar music

Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers write songs like jokes scribbled onto napkins: short, punchy, and firmly tongue-in-cheek. That was all well and good when the duo started out in the summer of 2019, before anyone was really listening. But after being plucked from obscurity by Domino (Arctic Monkeys, Blood Orange), their band Wet Leg became an overnight sensation almost a decade in the making.

In June, debut single ‘Chaise Longue’, a barnstormer stuffed with impatient, overdriven riffs and deadpan one-liners (“Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?”), went unexpectedly viral – a feat so astonishing that it’s practically unheard of for guitar bands in their position. It is instantly quotable, almost painstakingly addictive, and has now been played over 2 million times on Spotify alone, helping Wet Leg find an international audience eager for their provocative lyrics and Violent Femmes-inspired grooves. This memorable introduction certainly got people talking (perhaps “a little too much”, suggests a still-bewildered Chambers), but above all else, it begged the question: when was the last time that guitar music felt this goddamn exciting?

“We could have never predicted this,” says Chambers over Zoom, pondering why the duo’s music has been received so eagerly. “We do feel really lucky – but we still have no idea what’s happening.” She looks over to Teasdale halfway through her sentences, almost as if to check that they are both on the same wavelength. “I think we’re just going to live in the moment as much as we can. I just can’t imagine things ever getting better than they are now.”

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It all started with a pact. Following almost a decade of friendship (Teasdale and Chambers met at college, and played in various bands and as fledgling solo musicians on their native Isle Of Wight), the pair took a spontaneous, mildly drunk ferris wheel trip at 2019’s End Of The Road festival. It is here where they found the embryonic elements of Wet Leg after seeing IDLES storm the main stage that evening – and they decided to start something of their own, on the basis that they “wanted to have more fun than every other single band”.

“We agreed on the premise of our band there and then: as long as you’re having fun, then everything will be alright,” says singer Teasdale. “And we’ve told ourselves that we’ll stick to that, always.” It set them unwaveringly on a path towards experimenting with different styles – including percussive elements and big pop choruses – before they finally nailed the Wet Leg sound while stuck together in quarantine, as Teasdale learned to play guitar in between songwriting sessions and hours of longboard dancing – an intricate subset of skateboarding that the pair say taught them how to be more patient with each other.

Playing their first real performances to bulging festival tents this summer – including a legend-making Latitude set and more recently, a homecoming show at Isle of Wight Festival – the pair proved that they have enough material to keep the band moving forward beyond being the flavour of the month. With its hollered vocals and squally riffs, they say that second single ‘Wet Dream’ – a punk-leaning number that is equally cheeky as its predecessor – was received ecstatically. But these shows (which included support slots with Declan McKenna) also proved that the band is still in its infancy – despite the fact that they’ve already achieved what so many of their peers could dream of.

“We’ve been playing big stages that we haven’t properly grown into yet,” Chambers explains. “Even on a practical level it’s been a challenge; I’ve struggled with asking for what I want in my monitors and coping with the size of the crowds that have come to see us.” She pauses. “But that’s OK. We’re always learning.”

Wet Leg have come to realise that bearing up to their new everyday reality is an extraordinary experience for any band to process, let alone one that had only played four gigs – “including three on the Isle Of Wight to our family,” says Chambers, giggling – prior to lockdown. When asked if they think that the hype around them is overblown, they agree immediately, and posit that the feverish online chatter and mega-exciting cosigns (from Hayley Williams and Iggy Pop, no less) have burdened them with stratospheric expectations from the off.

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“We want to be recognised as guitar heroes, as it doesn’t hurt to win sometimes,” Teasdale says, hesitantly, as though she is analysing her own answer word-by-word in real-time. “But also, you just have no control over these things as music is so subjective, and we’re not ultra competitive people…”

NME interjects: But surely there is no harm in being competitive, though, when the bar has already been set so high by yourselves?

“It’s absolutely nuts – and right now, we can’t even see past tomorrow,” she responds. “But we’ll leave it to other people to worry about that.”

Wet Leg’s new single ‘Wet Dream’ is out now

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