Band To Watch: Wet Leg
Here’s a hot take: Funny music is unfairly maligned. Perhaps it’s even underrated — while there’s no shortage of critical adoration for music that tugs at your heartstrings, there’s always been something about the idea of music that makes you laugh that feels a little cringe-adjacent. The phrase “musical comedy,” for example, tends to produce an involuntary shudder in most reasonable people.
Waving the flag for great music that makes you snicker are the Isle of Wight’s Wet Leg, who have become one of 2021’s most promising (and prominent) indie darlings. Before today’s release of new singles “Too Late Now” and “Oh No” they only had two songs to their name, but both were refreshingly silly — and most importantly, not cringe in the slightest. Their music is, in the words of one YouTube commenter, “so cool I’d be nervous to talk to it at a party.”
It’s true: Wet Leg are cool. They might hail from the southern coast of England, but their sound is pure West Coast charm and perverse Midwestern nonchalance — which is to say their closest musical relatives are perhaps the shambling slacker rock of Pavement or the Breeders at their goofiest and most carefree. Debut single “Chaise Longue” is a smart, charmingly nonsensical bop, which blends flipped Mean Girls references (“Is your mother worried? Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?”) and bawdy puns (“I went to school and I got the big D”) with an infectious chorus.
In a similar vein, second single “Wet Dream” is an entertaining rebuke to a booty-calling ex, in which lead vocalist Rhian Teasdale’s sultry come-ons (“Baby, do you want to come home with me?”) are entertainingly deflated by her dubious boast “I’ve got Buffalo 66 on DVD.” Their flair for the sardonic and slightly surreal carries over to more vulnerable material like “Too Late Now,” billed as a song about “sleepwalking into adulthood.” Even their band name — which doesn’t mean anything at all, according Teasdale — summons up a tangle of gross, sexy insinuations. Wet Leg are a fizzing tonic for the UK’s indie rock scene, a genre well known for its tendency to take itself a little too seriously.
“Chaise Longue” blew up as much as a guitar record ever does these days, garnering millions of streams, regular rotation on the likes of 6Music (the BBC’s alternative station), and praise from rock royalty like Iggy Pop and Hayley Williams. The music video — in which Teasdale and her bandmate, Hester Chambers, frolic around the Isle of Wight, dressed in ankle-length skirts and straw boater hats, like they’re on some kind of indie rock rumspringa — has garnered over 1.5 million views.
Perhaps the secret to Wet Leg’s success is how fully formed the world around their music feels. The band materialized onto the scene armed with a compelling set of visual and cultural references, combining a dreamy, Wes Anderson-esque aesthetic with sharp, sardonic indie rock. This wasn’t an intentional choice, Teasdale explains, but it’s one that fits; she likes “the feeling of juxtaposing an ultra-feminine style with music that’s something completely different.”
Their success came as something of a surprise for Teasdale. She had already had one stalled solo musical project called RHAIN — yes, the vowels in her first name were switched around — which she (somewhat unfairly) summarizes as “folky stuff… I played the piano really badly.” Teasdale knew Chambers from their days attending college together on the Isle of Wight. They had occasionally collaborated, but mostly spent the intervening years weaving in and out of other projects — Chambers worked on her family’s jewellery business, while Teasdale, demoralized by the music industry, had settled into her Plan B career as a wardrobe assistant on commercials and music videos. When “Chaise Longue” was released, it was listed in the New York Times singles column alongside Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits,” a video for which Teasdale had worked in the wardrobe department: “I told Ed to tuck his shirt in… and he did!” Teasdale recalls, proudly.
When the pandemic ground normal life to a halt, Teasdale suddenly had a lot more time on her hands: “Suddenly me and [Chambers] actually had the time to focus on making music. Wet Leg began as just us pursuing our hobbies, because it was a good way to fill our time, but we ended up finding a manager in lockdown, signing to Domino [Records] in lockdown, hitting all of these career milestones in lockdown…” One of the next milestones on tap: the release of their self-titled debut album in April.
Like TV Priest or Dry Cleaning, Wet Leg have firmly joined the ranks of the bands who have had to negotiate the majority of their careers while the world was shut down. Before lockdown, they’d only ever played four gigs, with three of them “on the Isle of Wight, for [their] parents.” By contrast, their fifth-ever gig in a packed-out tent at Latitude Festival, as part of the UK government’s pilot scheme testing out the viability of live events after the pandemic. Wet Leg are wasting no time catching up, though — they’ve just come off a stint supporting Declan McKenna and Inhaler, with the latter celebrating their last set by delivering a real-life chaise longue mid-set, for the band to recline on while playing its namesake. As we speak, they’re gearing up for a UK headline tour — one which quickly sold out, prompting them to dryly tweet, “Big thank you to everyone that’s bought a ticket after having only heard two songs haha.”
While Teasdale described life as a solo touring artist as a bit of a drag (“lots of driving places by yourself, and soundchecking on your own, having all of this lonely weird limbo time”), her experience touring as part of a band has been a very different experience: “It’s been fun, really fun, we’re part of a lovely bunch.” And if it stops being fun, Teasdale makes it clear she won’t be sticking around — this time, she’s adamant that “we’re not trying to achieve anything… we’re just in a band for the fun of it.”
01 “Being In Love”
02 “Chaise Longue”
04 “I Don’t Wanna Go Out”
05 “Wet Dream”
07 “Loving You”
08 “Ur Mum”
09 “Oh No”
10 “Piece Of Shit”
12 “Too Late Now”
Wet Leg is out 4/8 on Domino.