Artist of the Month is an accolade given to a rising artist or band on the cusp of stardom. In April 2022, we give the nod to one of the buzziest bands around, Wet Leg.
Getting Wet Leg on the phone for an interview is impressively challenging. In the run-up to last week’s release of their self-titled debut, the Isle of Wight duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers were, in their own press rep’s words, “scheduled within an inch of their lives.” Between countless interviews, their second tour of the United States, and performing on nearly every late-night show there is, the buzziest band around is hard to lock in for a 30-minute chat.
All the attention has been a wild ride for Wet Leg, but an understandably exacting one. As Teasdale notes, it’s hard to appreciate the landmarks when they come at you so fast. “It’s so funny; we sat on the plane [home to England] and went through our camera roll,” she recalls. “It’s so interesting to look back at the year that we’ve had. It’s important to take it all in because stuff is moving so quickly. Sometimes it’s hard to be as present as you’d like to be.”
It’s even harder to be present when your WiFi connection is so spotty that your speech frequently devolves into electronic gibberish. “Beep, boop, boop! You’ve gone a bit robot-y again, HC,” Teasdale laughs every time Chambers cuts out during our call. But the two roll with the glitches just like they’ve rolled with everything that’s happened to them since forming in 2019.
Before coming together under the Wet Leg title — a name arrived at by blindly typing out emojis on a phone — the two attended Isle of Wight College. Although they were in the same performing arts program, their friendship didn’t blossom until later. “I always knew I wanted to be friends with her because she was so effortlessly cool and herself,” says Chambers. “I don’t have very much confidence in myself. I keep telling myself I can’t have a nice thing because I’m not worthy, but being friends with Rhian gives me a perspective on life.”
“It works both ways as well,” chimes in Rhian. She doesn’t necessarily buy into the “extrovert” and “introvert” labels some have hoisted on the soft-spoken pair, instead noting, “We do have a lot of the same fears and internal battles, we just kind of present them a little different. Me and Hester and our friendship has been integral to having the gusto to start the band.”
Even with a crappy internet connection, it’s easy to hear the personal connection between these two. They’re constantly checking in with each other, picking up dropped thoughts, and supporting one another in their honesty. Though quiet, the dynamic is so sweetly earnest that it’s hard to imagine they haven’t been the dearest of friends since grade school.
Once they’d become close, starting a band wasn’t an immediately serious proposition. They’d both had prior projects in the “vibrant” Isle of Wight music scene, but as Teasdale notes, “There’s a lot of creativity, but not much opportunity” on an island with a population just over 140,000. Teasdale was working as a commercial stylist and Chambers had joined her family’s jewelry business; the idea of making it off the island as a touring band had given way to financial realities.
“Growing up there, you make your own fun,” says Chambers. “It’s expensive to get across the ferry to tour as a band.”
That ferry ride off island also made catching larger concerts burdensome, as it wasn’t cheap and the transportation schedule often meant leaving before the final song. Thankfully, their home island hosted two big festivals: June’s Isle of Wight Festival and September’s now defunct Bestival. “That was pretty inspiring as a young person having access to that, despite not being able to see gigs on a main basis,” recalls Teasdale. “You’d have these big blowouts, and in between, you made your own fun with local bands.”
It was at one such festival that the first inklings of Wet Leg began. They had just seen IDLES perform and were taking a ride on the ferris wheel. (“That does sound a bit twee, doesn’t it?” laughs Teasdale. “That’s our origin story.”) “I just remember that particular day, we had planted some seeds because it was the end of the summer,” recounts Hester. “We were having a silly time at this festival, and then we wrote a little bit of a chorus for a song, and it was like, ‘Well this will make it easier.'”
“You know how toddlers say they wrote a song and they recite it to you?” asks Teasdale. “That’s what we were doing to each other.”
What even they admit is a rather frivolous beginning is actually the essence of what’s made Wet Leg such breakout stars. When a band becomes this big this fast, the derogatory “industry plant” label gets thrown about (Wet Leg themselves have even joked about it). A sudden hit like “Chaise Longue” with its catchy-yet-simple one-note indie sleaze and cheeky, sexually liberated lyrics coming from a cottagecore duo feels like such a perfect “of the moment” conglomeration that it might be tempting to get cynical about it.
But that ignores that Wet Leg directed the “Chaise Longue” video themselves, that those milkmaid dresses were their own choices. It skips over the fact that Wet Leg the album (released April 8th) was entirely recored in April 2021 (alongside producer Dan Carey, beloved figure of UK’s post-punk scene), well before that smash single was released in June. Just like that day on the ferris wheel, they’re simply two friends writing songs they find fun, presenting them in ways they personally enjoy. Because they never intended Wet Leg to become a world-conquering project, it maintains a truly rare authenticity — and it’s connecting.
There isn’t a lot of outside influence on what Teasdale and Chambers are doing together. That’s one of the reasons they chose to sign with Domino. A friend had sent one of Wet Leg’s tracks to Martin Hall, who in turn convinced the duo to let him manage them; they quickly met with three different labels. “Domino was one of them, and it instantly felt like home,” says Teasdale. “It felt so mad that they would offer us that home… it was the combination of an iconic label and good, genuine human connections.”
From there, it was one of the most meteoric rises of the modern music industry. Within the span of months, Wet Leg went from playing small New York venues like Baby’s All Right and Union Pool to the 1,800-capacity Brooklyn Steel. Their next North American shows will come as openers for Florence + The Machine (tickets you can get here). “It feels like you’re wearing your mom’s high heels,” Teasdale says of that swift, exponential growth. They have, of course, been able to get their footing at a number of “fun, sweaty, small shows,” as well — even if it’s only because “they’ve tried to upgrade us, but it hasn’t been possible.”
The arrival of Wet Leg has made it evident all that hype wasn’t misplaced. Tracks like “Wet Dream,” “Ur Mom,” and “Oh No” prove Teasdale and Chambers’ dynamic and commitment to not taking themselves too seriously is a fruitful marriage. Yet equally dazzling as the music is how well these shy English islanders have dealt with the response.
You might want to chalk it up to them being older than your typical breakouts — Teasdale is 28 and Chambers is 27 — and even Teasdale admits, “If we were in our early-twenties, I’d be freaking the fuck out.” Still, Chambers notes that the world of their early-twenties is much different than the one young bands find themselves in today. “I find it hard to think about that comparison realistically. The younger people we know — I’m in awe of them. They have such an interesting perspective of the world currently.”