WHAT’S hot and steamy and comes from Cowes? Or, more accurately, who are the racy music sensations from some other undisclosed place on the Isle Of Wight?
The answer is Wet Leg, with their decidedly silly name (but one you won’t forget in a hurry).
Hester and Rhian have just released their self-titled debut albumCredit: Handout
The 12 songs spanning 37 minutes are a refreshing post-lockdown exercise in letting your hair downCredit: Handout
They are best-mates Rhian Teasdale, 28, and Hester Chambers, 27, and they have just released their self-titled debut album. The 12 songs spanning 37 minutes are a refreshing post-lockdown exercise in letting your hair down.
“We want to be goofy and a little bit rude,” they say (justifying my use of the word “steamy”).
“We want to write songs people can dance to. And we want people to have a good time, even if that might not be possible all the time.”
Their music draws on bubblegum pop, French disco, a touch of Beastie Boys punk attitude and cool, off-kilter indie acts like The Breeders and Big Thief.
Wet Leg might sing about the vagaries of relationships — simple, relatable stuff — but lead singer Rhian’s singular vocal intonations come straight from the Bjork school of quirkiness.
Now they are the biggest thing to venture across the Solent since The Bees made a buzz with their psychedelic sound in the Noughties.
Today, Wet Leg can celebrate an overwhelming response from the record-buying public as their album hits No1 in the UK’s Official Charts, outselling its nearest rival by four times as many copies.
When SFTW asked for an interview, we were told Rhian and Hester were “too tired” after their whirlwind rise to the top.
To borrow from their daft but insanely infectious signature song Chaise Longue, no doubt they’re taking some “horizontal” time out eating “buttered muffins”.
You can just imagine their chaises longues, too: Victorian, button-backed and upholstered in red velvet.
But, undaunted, we have decided to look into the Wet Leg phenomenon anyway and we have gathered up plenty of telling insights from the pair.
Mostly, the quotes presented here were those they shared with their label Domino (Arctic Monkeys, My Bloody Valentine) in the run-up to various singles and, eventually, the album.
Their journey together began as teenagers when they met at Isle of Wight College, Newport, where they bonded over a BTEC music course.
After that, Hester took to making jewellery and Rhian immersed herself in the local music scene while also venturing further afield as a wardrobe assistant.
In 2019, the story goes, they were enjoying a typically lazy, hazy Isle of Wight summer of funfairs and playing festivals with a couple of local bands.
When they found themselves at the giddy heights of a Ferris wheel one balmy night, they decided to form Wet Leg.
So far, I have discovered two explanations for the ridiculous name. A) It’s a locals’ term for non-islanders getting wet when they disembark the ferries across the Solent. B) The duo were making band names out of various emojis and Wet Leg “kind of stuck”.
Rhian tells the On The Wight website: “We liked it because it was just such a dumb name for a band. It’s a good reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.
“When we had our first meeting with our manager, he wasn’t so keen and asked if we’d considered changing it. We stuck to our guns, though. It’s important to have trust in your own bad taste.”
Today, they each wear small gold necklaces made by Hester, one saying Wet and the other saying Leg.
In their album biography, Rhian tells of the rather whimsical reason for forming a band.
“Initially, we started the band because we wanted to get free entry into festivals, to put the summer we’d just had on loop,” she says.
“So I guess we wanted to make music that would fit in that setting, in that headspace. Because for the most part, the bands we’d been in before took themselves a bit too seriously, let’s say.”
Hester sees it like this: “We were both working full-time jobs, so it’s miraculous we managed to find any time.”
And Rhian again: “But being at a festival and being a bit inebriated helps you come up with your BEST worst ideas. You get that sense of drunken clarity on things.
“I still have flashbacks of us earnestly declaring to our friends that we were gonna start a band and that the name would be Wet Leg. The general response was a slightly patronising pat on the back and, ‘Sure you are’.”
But releasing that song, Chaise Longue, as their debut single in June last year to the wider world was a genuine case of “light the blue touch paper and stand back”.
‘SENSE OF HUMOUR’
With its insistent beats and laugh-out-loud, half-spoken lyrics, it represents three minutes of shameless fun and, of course, it became a massive viral hit.
“It’s just so dumb,” admits Rhian about the track. We were not going to be like other bands indulging that ‘struggling artist’ thing. We have a sense of humour. Start as you mean to go on.”
While Chaise Longue was produced by Jon McMullen (Arctic Monkeys), most of the other songs were recorded in April last year with in-demand producer Dan Carey (Fontaines DC, Goat Girl) at his London studio.
There, they dipped into raw material that was basically a bunch of home demos made on GarageBand.
Rhian and Hester say: “It was such a beautiful, homely studio, with no glass separating us. We didn’t have much studio recording experience, but we immediately felt at ease at Dan’s. It just felt right. We made friends with his fluffy, white little dog Feta.
“If we ever got into a rut with anything, we’d just take five and go hang out with Feta. She was a light to us in dark places when all other lights had gone out.”
So now let’s take a deep-dive into some of the other Wet Leg songs, including the consistently high-quality follow-up singles Wet Dream, Too Late Now, Oh No, Angelica and Ur Mum.
Rhian describes the full-tilt Wet Dream as a breakup song: “It came about when one of my exes went through a stage of texting me after we’d broken up telling me he’d ‘had a dream’ about me.”
Good job the ex remains anonymous because it contains the lines: “Saw you at the side of the road, there’s no one else around/You’re touching yourself, touching yourself.”
At least he had the good taste to offer a night in “with Buffalo ’66 on DVD”, a reference to the rather excellent comedy crime drama starring Vincent Gallo and Christine Ricci.
And here Rhian reveals the inspiration behind the more measured Too Late Now, with its scuzzy bassline and airy synths.
“It is about sleepwalking into adulthood,” she says. “I guess this song reflects on some of the pressures and pulls of life. Sometimes, I get really inside my head and everything can feel very overwhelming.
“I think this song is about accepting that life can feel a bit s**t from time to time. Maybe don’t indulge that thought too much, though. Just take some time for yourself. Take a breath. Have a bath.”
Hence the great line: “I just need a bubble bath/To set me on a higher path.”
But in reality, Rhian isn’t prone to wallowing in Radox. “I’ve got business to do,” she says. “I can’t just sit and soak myself into prune-hood.”
Things get heavy on the stomping Oh No, which is about being alone at 3am with just your phone for company. For the accompanying self-directed video, they took the brave step of “obsessively selecting our favourite bits from the comments sections across our socials — the good, the bad, the ugly”.
Rhian says: “It’s quite an odd thing to suddenly open yourself to so much criticism and praise alike. “The comments that complete strangers will leave on our videos are so funny and range wildly in sentiment.
“Although we know it is bad for us to read them and we try to avoid it, sometimes it’s irresistible when you’re on your own.”
Another Wet Leg fan favourite, Angelica, is about Rhian’s oldest friend and housemate. It was recorded in Hester’s living room by bandmate Joshua Mobaraki.
The song, she says, is “laced with disenchantment, even though the chorus is ‘good times, all the time’”.
Elsewhere, the album’s opening song — the sparsely arranged Being In Love — deals with how life goes on hold when you are suddenly smitten, while Supermarket is about being thrown out of a shop while “totally pickled”.
Everyday tales effectively told. Hester takes lead vocals on Convincing which, she says, is about acknowledging “that you’re blue and not ready to do anything about it”.
Ur Mum, the most recent Wet Leg single, bears a brutal opening putdown.
“When I think about what you’ve become, I feel sorry for your mum.” And maybe it is a reflection on needing to break free from the small-town existence offered by the Isle of Wight when Rhian sings: “And when the lights go down on this f***ing town, I know it’s time to go.”
Rhian wrote the song one evening while working on a fast-food commercial in her job as a wardrobe assistant and it bears her “longest and loudest scream”.
She says: “I snuck my guitar into my hotel room and wrote it at the end of a long, boring day. Sometimes it’s just good to have a big scream, isn’t it?”
One of the most endearing things about Wet Leg is that they don’t pretend to be virtuoso musicians
“For us, it’s just, ‘Does it sound good?’” affirms Rhian. “Often it’s the rough bits, the weird, wonky melodies that you hold on to.”
And Hester adds: “Being such close friends, starting this band together was such a refreshing experience. We help each other take risks and do things that scare us.”
Their strong bond is plain for all to see on the album cover. “It’s a photo of me and Hester just after we’d come off stage,” says Rhian.
“I’ve got my arm around her waist and she’s got her arm over my shoulder and we’re ever so slightly hunched over . . . ”
Hester completes her sentence: “Like we’re telling each other a secret — or quietly plotting world domination.”
Right now, their plot is hatching nicely . . . even if they are called Wet Leg.
Their strong bond is plain for all to seeCredit: Handout