Wet Leg: „It’s hard enough to get over the voice in your head, that says you can’t do it“

Two cool, young women in Sarah Kay dresses, a song with a catchy guitar riff as a chorus, confident lyrics performed in a just as cool recitative way – the first single „Chaise Longue“ gave a convincing glimpse of the hype British Indie duo Wet Leg were about to become. But then it all became even bigger –  Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers signed with the prestigious Indie-Label Domino Records and took the music world by storm with their own interpretation of modern Indie meets Rock meets Pop, their self directed funny and colourful videos, their sense of style and last but not least with their debut album, which proved, that they obviously weren’t going to become a one hit wonder.

Wet Leg’s success is indeed an Indie Music dream come true. In 2022, the first whole year of their career, the band played support slots for huge acts like Harry Styles and Florence + The Machine. They played all the big festivals and a hilarious amount of their own headline shows, with venue sizes increasing significantly from the beginning to the end of the year. But Rhian and Hester were also amongst artists like Arlo Parks and Sam Fender, who for the sake of their mental health stepped away from performing for a while, when things were becoming too much. The story of Wet Leg might be a bit of a fairy tale, but a modern one, which allows itself its own ups and downs.

It doesn’t look like Wet Leg will be granted much of a break this year. In latest news, they just took home two GRAMMY Awards, for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Alternative Music Performance, leaving acts like Florence + The Machine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arctic Monkeys behind to cough in their dust. Best time to remember the lovely conversation I had with Rhian Teasdale almost exactly a year ago, when the rise of Wet Leg still was an outline on the horizon (but, to be fair, a pretty clear one already), we were still in the midst of a pandemic and meeting artists in person was a rare and beautiful thing. It was a couch we sat on, not a chaise longue, but that didn’t stop us from having a nice, relaxed chat.

Summer 2021 I was sent the pre-link to your video for „Chaise Longue“ and was asked my opinion. I instantly said: this is going to be a massive hit! And now I can’t stop bragging about how right I was.

(laughs) That’s so sweet, thank you!

How did you feel, when you decided to put „Chaise Longue“ out first?

It made sense to put that one out first, because it encapsulates the spirit of me and Hester. It kind of all comes back to that impromptu, late at night, being a bit silly, watching „Mean Girls“ mood… even when the rest of the album has its twists and turns, it all comes back to that. It’s a good introduction to us as people.

I like how you describe it. As a listener it feels like Wet Leg is a lot about being silly and messing around/having fun/being lighthearted?, but then your lyrics are often so clever. You barely listen to them, then all of a sudden there is this „HA! HA!“ moment.

(laughs out loud) That is so funny. That is exactly the reaction I want people to have. That’s so nice!

For example in „Wet Dream“, where you have this line „What makes you think you are good enough to think about me when you’re touching yourself?“ I like that! Because for centuries women’s lyrics have been more like „Oh God, I hope he dreams about me!“ 

Yeah! I’ve been listening to a lot like for example Ashnikko’s „STUPID“. That really inspired me. And I’ve been through a breakup, so I think I was just a bit cross (laughs). It’s all good now. I’m over it. I’ve moved on! 

So how did it actually all start? Because from the outside it looks a bit like an overnight success, but I know that’s probably only the tip of the iceberg. 

We kind of started the band just to say that we can play festival sets. So we started writing to fill a 20, 25, 30 minute festival set. It all went really quickly. We started writing and we would be playing songs I hadn’t even finished the lyrics for. We played „Oh No“ at Blue Dog and I just repeated the same phrase all way through the song. It wasn’t until we were like oh, maybe we should put this on the album, I should write some more words. You can get away with that stuff live, but if someone’s got to listen to it more than once, you can’t get away with it. So we started around 2018. It took some time until it got serious (laughs).

And you grew up on the Isle of Wight. I’ve been there once.

Nice! But why?! (laughs)

Everybody asked us that! It felt like we were the only Germans on the whole island. But it’s so pretty!

It is really beautiful. My mum’s from there, she moved there when I was seven or eight. And then I was there until I was I guess about 18. I moved to Bristol, I moved to London, I moved to Brighton… I always moved back, but then I moved away again. I live in London now and I’m quite settled there. But I still go fairly regularly. My mum still lives there, my sister lives there and Hester of course.

And you have that amazing festival.

I don’t know about the Isle of Wight Festival. A lot of people think it’s like the old school festival in the seventies. It’s completely different from that. I wouldn’t say it’s much of a music lover’s festival anymore. It has this great heritage behind the name, and it’s put the Isle of Wight on the map. It’s quite commercial. I think there are better festivals in the UK. But we will be playing there this year (laughs). Which is very nice. I shouldn’t diss it. There is just a misconception around it. 

I remember hearing about you playing some festival slots last summer, when the UK went back to having festivals again. Which was totally unimaginable to us at that point! 

Yeah! It was the first one back, the one that we played, Latitude. If restrictions hadn’t been? eased it was going to go ahead anyway as a pilot event, which was kind of strange. But then all the restrictions were lifted and we were just let out to play. But back then it was so strange. It had this weird sort of vibe. Everything felt very familiar, but very new. It had this weird kind of nostalgia to it. We met so many other bands that were playing there. After releasing our first single and playing our first festival and actually there being people in the tent we were playing, that was actually the real moment of – what?! We played „Chaise Longue“ and the people were singing. This was the first time we heard people sing the words back to us. I was looking at Hester and Hester was looking at me and we were just smiling and laughing. 

And were people checking you out a bit, like: ahh, they‘ve got this one single, let’s see what else they‘ve got to offer?

It was a bit of a worry, because we felt so hyped. But no, everyone was so supportive. Continuing on from that festival as we’ve been around, we’ve experienced everyone being really lovely. It feels like they are really rooting for you. We’ve been really welcomed into this crazy journey. 

I do feel like the album holds up very easily energy wise.

Thank you.

And I like the combination of your very fun songwriting and your honest and witty lyrics. Like for example how you compare being in love to being depressed. It weirdly makes sense. 

Yeah. We had a lot of time to think about being in love and not being in love.

Did you struggle with the pandemic?

Do you know what, I was working so much before the pandemic. I’d been working crazy hours. So when the pandemic came and we had to take time off work, I was very ready for it. Sounds really crass. But I just drove myself back to the Isle of Wight, took my laptop and my guitar and wrote songs for the first four weeks of it. A lot of the album was written in that time. But it was scary, and there were conversations to be had with your friends and your family. For the first time you were having disagreements with people, I found that quite hard. I know a lot of people were having a rough time. But honestly, for me it was good. 

I have so much respect for everyone who is pursuing a career in music in these times. It really gives me hope that you guys don’t give up. 

Yeah. If I had to go on holiday right now – I don’t like holidays anyway, I am not a holiday person… 

Well, you grew up on an island…

Right? I was always on holiday (laughs). No, it’s just great having a team of wonderful people who are really pushing for you to get all the opportunities that are on offer. But you get used to doing it this way. We’ve just been doing zooms up until this week, we don’t know any different. So when we were told that we had this promo trip, it didn’t really compute in our heads, we just don’t know it. It’s so fresh, doing everything for the first time. It was a bit of a shame when we had some support slots earlier on but we didn’t get to hang out with the band that we were supporting, because everyone was in the Covid bubble. You can’t have your friends back to the dressing room. But hopefully it won’t be forever! 

You know what I am wondering? Now that you‘ve played so many shows, will it be really different for you to play after the album is out?

Yeah! I really wonder. Right now it’s only my housemates that come to gigs who have heard the album (laughs). They are in the crowd like my number one fans. They are singing along and they say that everyone in the crowd next to them is giving them the side eye, like: why are you such super fans, why do you know all the words? 

And I really like how you combine your music with your overall look. Those Anne of Green Gables dresses were amazing. 

I don’t really know how it came about. It was kind of an accident. I just did a big online shop, ordered a few things, tried on some different looks and photographed them all. It’s basically just Hester and me playing dress up, like you do when you’re a kid. I mean, that’s all that styling is really, isn’t it? Just people playing dress up. It was nice to do it all by ourselves, which we managed to do for two of the videos. The second one we directed, but there was so much to do that we had like a very small team. I’m such a control freak. It’s nice if we can keep it like just us, and if not just us then a very small team. 

But do people question a lot whether you really have full artistic control? Because I feel like especially with young women, people still tend to do that.

Yeah! For sure. That’s really frustrating. In the „Oh No“ video, we went through a lot of our comments. One of the comments was basically saying the boys are running the band and the girls just stand there. No! It’s me and Hester. We created?/started? the band. It’s just so bonkers to me. It’s hard enough to get over the voice in your head that says you can’t do it. And then once you finally break through that and do something yourself, you have people telling you that you haven’t done it…

It is a bit crazy you had to endure/had to put up with all those comments, I have to say. 

It was crazy. I couldn’t go through all of them. I got my friends to help me source/read? some of them. I asked my housemates to help me and send me some funny comments. I said: they don’t have to be bad; they don’t have to be good. They just have to make you think: what was going through this person’s head that made them decide to expel that energy into their computer/on the internet and press send. But my housemates said: „I started going through some comments, but it made me so angry. People say rude things about you!“ They couldn’t do it. But… I don’t know. That was good about repurposing these comments. Everyone can send me these anonymous comments, let’s just take them and repurpose them in a video. It was fun. It felt quite cheeky. Like: „Oh, you think I wasn’t gonna read it? But now it’s in my video!“ (laughs)

Did you get any reactions from people who found their comments in your video?

Yeah! People were like: „Woohoo, you put my comment in your video! This is my claim to fame!“ Some people were really happy. So, nice that we made someone’s day!

The article was originally published in 2022 in German, you can read it here.