Wet Leg Want To Know If They Make You Uncomfortable
On Wet Leg's debut album, you’re often not sure whether you should be intently listening, raucously dancing, or giggling.
“I went to school and I got the big D,” proclaims Wet Leg’s debut single ‘Chaise Longue’.
In the video, singer Rhian Teasdale stares down the camera with a certain intensity. Wet Leg wants to know if it makes you feel uncomfortable. They want to know if it makes you laugh. They want to know if it makes you feel any kind of way.
It’s why Isle Of Wight duo Teasdale and Hester Chambers have made such an impact in just over a year. Their music is full of ambiguity. Their lyrics are sexually-charged, humorous, and confounding, while the delivery oscillates between the deadpan and the animated. Often, you’re not sure whether you should be intently listening, raucously dancing, or giggling.
It’s rare to strike gold immediately on a debut single, particularly in the world of alternative music, but ‘Chaise Longue’ caught like wildfire. In less than a year, the song has had well over 10 million streams, been listed as the third best song of 2021 by NME, and landed itself a place in triple j’s Hottest 100. It demands an immediate reaction and that’s quite an entrance to make.
“If you don’t get the humour, you’re like ‘this is shit’,” says Teasdale. “It’s nice to be in a position where people really like you or really hate you.”
Thankfully, as they roll towards the release of their debut self-titled album, it’s pointing to the former. Subsequent releases have revealed a band with a supremely confident and coherent sound taking guitar-driven indie rock music and making it both gritty and slick. The frankness and humour have remained intact with each new release but they continue to drop their guard. ‘Too Late Now’ is anxious and bustling, ‘Oh No’ is distorted frustration and ‘Angelica’ is rowdy surf rock.
Throughout they navigate relationships, the online world, and the world at large, making it sounds like a tonne of fun even when it’s not.
The sound of Wet Leg is so realised that you’d think it had been planned out meticulously from the beginning. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason Wet Leg are so accelerating is that they ride a wave of spontaneity.
“It’s nice to be in a position where people really like you or really hate you.”
Teasdale and Chambers decided to form the band in 2019 after watching British band IDLES. They, “wanted to have more fun than every other single band” as they told NME, and so they set out experimenting with sounds.
It’s been working for them but nothing about the start of Wet Leg has been particularly normal. Instead of word spreading through live shows, they signed to Domino before most of the world had heard of them and then found themselves in the midst of a global pandemic. For most young bands, it was a hard stop as touring came to a halt but Wet Leg persevered, focusing on new music.
“Because we couldn’t play gigs or anything we were like well what would be a good use of our time,” says Chambers. “It was a bit backward I guess because a lot of bands will play a tonne of gigs, work out what they want to be, and then go into the studio…”
There were office meetings on what they should be or scrapbooking of influences, the duo followed instinct. It was recommended that they both took a playlist of references into the studio with them but the band rejected that approach in favour of something less forced.
“There were no clear references for us and we didn’t want to set ourselves anything,” says Teasdale adding that they were, “just bumbling along” in the studio. They make starting a band that captures the world’s attention in its first year sound very easy but Teasdale clarifies: “I don’t know if it’s effortless but it’s definitely accidental a lot of the time.”
Party Vibes, With Some Disenchantment Thrown In
Their natural chemistry and joy for being in the band is palpable even from the other end of a Zoom call. For a pair that make music that’s disruptive and attention-grabbing, there’s a calm to the way they interact and speak about their music. “It’s so great being in a band, you just have so much time to practice and get better,” Teasdale proclaims at one point.
Going into the studio to record Wet Leg, the band maintained their original mantra of just having fun. And they did, except unavoidable feelings slipped into the music that they didn’t notice until they listened to it back.
“There was an overall feeling of disenchantment with the world that we didn’t really set out to do,” says Teasdale. It’s a feeling that’s been permeating the globe — heightened by the pandemic — and while this is no album on pandemic-driven distress, it seeps in every now and then.
One of the album’s slower moments ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out’ opens with Teasdale singing, “I don’t wanna go out/It’s been getting me down”. She laments on age, drinking, and a lack of care, concluding at one point, “at least we’re all going to die”. It’s not fun or upbeat but it’s perhaps the best sign that this album is an unfiltered stream of consciousness. No matter how hard we try to party, sometimes we can’t help the world getting us down.
“It’s also party vibes,” Teasdale says directly after revealing the album isn’t all fun and games. Those vibes are certainly the strongest throughout the whole album. It’s a record that leaps along with restless energy. Like a raucous party, it’s never polite or refined. When breakups and anxiety rise to the surface, they never let it stop the celebrations.
Teasdale points out that while she could describe some of the songs as breakup songs, it’s not entirely accurate. “This is a breakup song but it’s not the point of the song,” she says. A break-up song, for example, suggests heartache and sadness but that’s not Wet Leg’s approach.
“Why don’t you just suck my dick,” Teasdale sings on the particularly punchy ‘ur mum’, shrugging it off and getting back to the party. ‘Wet Dream’, on the other hand, is written about an ex who kept texting Teasdale to say they’ve been dreaming about her. They conjure up a steamy dream sequence before Teasdale declares, “What makes you think you’re good enough to think about me/When you’re touching yourself?”
No matter where the mind is darting on the album, they’re taking us along for the ride. The lyrics spill out in a manner that’s impressively loose and lucid. ‘Piece Of Shit’ situates us right in the middle of an argument where Teasdale fires off a great one-liner: “You’re like a piece of shit, you’ll either sink or float”. On ‘Supermarket’, we take an intoxicated trip to the grocery store in a moment of budding romance that brings more excitement to the setting of a supermarket than it has had in years.
Wet Leg capture the moments when life is moving fast. When the party is at its peak. When anger is pulsing. When happiness is blossoming.
On the album’s final moment ‘Too Late Now’ we reach a point where the mind is skipping frantically through thoughts. “Now everything is going wrong/I think I changed my mind again/I’m not sure if this is a song/I don’t even know what I’m saying,” Teasdale sings as the song crumbles around them. She concludes that she needs, “a bubble bath to set me on a higher path”.
Wet Leg capture the moments when life is moving fast. When the party is at its peak. When anger is pulsing. When happiness is blossoming. You collapse with a deep breath at the end of the album, wishing for that bubble bath.
As they approach Australia with a live show, you get the feeling that’s exactly how we’ll be feeling after the energy exert of one of their live shows. They’re set to play Splendour In The Grass alongside a handful of sideshows, marking their first trip to the country. After spending the infancy of their careers watching their rise online, they can’t quite believe they’re heading to Australia. It’s such a tangible measurement of popularity that they haven’t been able to enjoy.
“It’s like we are sleeping in a deep, deep sleep and having really weird dreams,” says Chambers.
Wet Leg’s self-titled debut album is out now through Domino Records.
Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando