Q&A with Wet Leg

British indie rock/pop band Wet Leghave only been a thing for a handful of years, yet their rise has been meteoric. The core pair of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers saw their “Chaise Longue” single become a viral hit last year, and then the self-titled debut album shot up to number one in the U.K. album charts (and a respectable #14 in the U.S.). And all of this from a band that, they say, really just formed in order to get into music festivals for free. They’ve been one of the surprise success stories on the last 12 months, but that success is well deserved. We chatted with Teasdale about their story so far… 

Music Connection: A bit of background first—how and when did the band form? What was the mission?

Rhian Teasdale: It started in the summer of 2018, at the very end of the summer. Basically, me and Hester had just, like, played loads of festivals together. Not as Wet Leg, but I had a solo thing that was failing. I was sick of doing it, so I was, like, ‘Hester, please can you come and finish these shows with me that I’ve been booked for? I really don’t want to do them, I’m too scared, please come and hold my hand.’ She was, like, ‘Yeah okay,’ and that was the first time that we’d played music together, just the two of us. Because we’ve been doing backing vocals for our friends’ bands, and bits here and there. But we’d never played together, so that was when we first played together. 

At the end of the summer, we were, like, “Well, that’s that then.” All of the shows we’d been booked for had finished. But then we were, like, “Hang on a minute, why don’t we just start a new band so that we can do this next summer, as well? Get booked to play some festivals, and then just stay for the weekend.” It’s a good way to get into festivals for free. And we really enjoyed playing music together. So that’s when we decided to start Wet Leg.

MC: And how did this project develop into what it is today?

Teasdale: I didn’t really play guitar and I was, like, ‘I think in this band I want to play guitar.’ Hester was, like, “Okay, I’ll help you.” So, it’s just gone from there, really. It was always supposed to be something that we did alongside our jobs. Hester is a very talented jeweler. She makes bespoke, handmade jewelry. I was working as a wardrobe assistant in London for commercials. So, we’re just super, super busy with that and happy with our lot, to be honest. The band was always supposed to be something cute to do on the side so that we would always have music in our lives. So, after that summer, when the festivals had finished, it felt like, “Oh well, we’ve got nothing going because everything has stopped.” Then lockdown happened, and I went back to the Isle of Wight, and just cracked on with music stuff, just as something to do to keep our sanity.

MC: Describe the sound... How has it evolved since the start?

Teasdale: The solo stuff that I was doing was pretty folky, and introspective, and a bit sad. I think when we started Wet Leg, we just wanted to do something where we weren’t taking ourselves too seriously. Because the thing before took itself very seriously. The reason we started writing, originally, was just to fill enough time for a festival set. So, we figured, ‘It doesn’t really matter about the lyrics, because we’re never gonna record this shot and nobody really, really listens to lyrics when you’re just passing through a festival. So, we just wrote a bunch of weird songs pretty quickly. A few of them are on the album. Like, “Too Late Now” and “Oh No.” “Chaise Longue” wasn’t even written for Wet Leg, and “Wet Dream” as well. They were just songs that me and Hester, and her boyfriend Joshua [Omead Mobaraki], wrote really late at night. Just to go in a folder, and there it would stay, until it didn’t. 

MC: I’m English and know the Isle of Wight—is there a healthy music scene there?

Teasdale: When I was there, there wasn’t [a scene] really. I feel like it’s getting a bit better now, in that there’s a music venue. When I was growing up, you just wouldn’t get, and you still hardly do get, touring bands coming over. Likewise, it’s very difficult as a band to get off the Isle of Wight. It’s just so expensive, and so cut off from every other music scene. But there are people making music there, and there always has been. There’s a good folk scene. It’s kind of a “make your own fun” kind of place. 

When I was there, there were lots of DIY gigs, and the Ventnor Fringe Festival was just starting up. I think it’s been going for 11 years now, and that’s a really cool little festival. But when I was there as a teenager, we had the Isle of Wight Festival, and Bestival, and that would be it. Sometimes I’d go across the water to see a gig. But yeah, it was incredible going to my first festival when I was 14 or 15, because obviously it was so close to home. Your parents were like, “Okay, I’ll just come and pick you up if anything bad happens.” Whereas if the festivals were off the island, there’s no way that my mum would have let me go to a festival off the Isle of Wight.

MC: “Chaise Longue” was your debut single last year, and it blew up. What do you put that down to?

Teasdale: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I just remember going to Latitude [another U.K. festival]—that was our first gig since we released anything as Wet Leg—and that was just such a fun festival. It was the first festival back after lockdown, and I think everyone was just really excited. Including me. I was really excited. So, I think maybe releasing a single around then was probably good for everyone. People were just excited to get out of the house and watch the music. But yeah, I did not expect it, because eventually it’s a song about a piece of furniture. So, what are all these people doing listening to it and sharing it? People are mad. What’s wrong with people?

MC: Having fun with words?

Teasdale: Yeah. With “Chaise Longue,” that was just an unhurried, un-self-censored kind of time. It wasn’t supposed to go anywhere. That one wasn’t even written for festivals. That was supposed to stay in a folder on the computer. It escaped somehow. But yeah, that was because I was staying at Hester and Joshua’s flat, because I’d come back to the island for Christmas but didn’t really have anywhere that I wanted to stay. Family can be a bit intense and it’s much nicer to stay with friends. Hester made up the chaise longue that’s in her living room. She makes it into a little bed for me, and that’s where I sleep. I ended up staying, like, six weeks. 

It sounds really, like, I was that friend that wouldn’t leave. I know I can’t speak for Hester and Joshua, but it really felt like they wanted me there and we were having a good time. We were having a right old laugh. Hester was going through a stage where she was painting like Bob Ross; she was watching loads of those and painting. She had about 30 mountain-scape paintings that she’d done, around her flat. Eventually, she had to do a shout-out on Instagram and get someone to claim them because she’d painted so many. It wasn’t even lockdown, but it was like lockdown vibes. We just stayed in, did crafts and made songs. Baked cookies. It all sounds very twee. I cringe at myself, but it was really fun. That’s where “Chaise Longue” and ‘Wet Dream” came out of.

MC: Since then, the buzz has just grown and grown—how deliberate has it been? How strategic have your drops been?

Teasdale: We’re signed to a label, so I guess Domino have their strategy. Our management have their strategy. But I guess you can hope that stuff goes as well as it can possibly go, but I think even they’re a bit “Ooh, this is going well.” Pleasantly surprised.

MC: How much do you put the success down to social media? How do you use it?

Teasdale: I really don’t love social media. I really don’t. But it is a marketing tool and it is important to have it. I’m a millennial, so Instagram was normal for me, and TikTok is still a bit mysterious to me. Even though numbers-wise we have our biggest following on there. But also, we receive the most hate on there. So, I don’t really go on it too much. I just drop a post and then run away, and try not to get too much into it. Even the compliments—I don’t think they’re good for you. In a way it’s cool, because you can do shout-outs on your stories and be, like, “Hello, I’m looking for a vegetarian restaurant” nearby this random place that we’re playing a gig, and you’ll get loads of replies. So, it’s kind of cute in a community way. But I just don’t like it. I wish I did, because I see some of my friends that are in bands and play music, they use it in such a wholesome way and they’re able to get their personality across. But I think maybe as we’ve gained more of a following, I’ve kind of put it more at arm’s length. It kind of freaks me out a bit more than it used to. 

MC: The debut album was released in April––where was it recorded? When? Who with?

Teasdale: We recorded it with Dan Carey at his studio in Streatham, which is in his home. When we went to visit, it had a really homely feel which I think was really important for us. I can’t imagine us going into a studio and having to do our takes through glass. It was really cool recording with Dan because generally he will track everyone together at the same time. We hadn’t been a band for very long and we’d done, like, three gigs. So that was maybe a bit much for us at that point. So, we did bass and drums together, and we did mine and Hester’s guitars together. So, it was really nice, because you don’t get that panic when the record button is pressed and it’s all in you and it’s like, “don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up.” It adds this realness to it. Dan would also have these games where we’d track, like, three songs at a time, and if you mess up on the third take, you have to decide whether you keep it or scrap the whole lot and start again from the beginning. That was fun. That kept it fresh and a little bit stressful in a good way.

MC: Does it feel like there’s any pressure, with the added weight of the buzz?

Teasdale:Not really. It’s just, like, the damage is done. We’ve made what we’ve made. There’s not any point in putting energy into stressing about how it’ll be received. You can’t change that. Also, we were kept super busy in the run-up to the album. There wasn’t too much time to get existential, fortunately, because I am quite good at that.

MC: What has been the response to the album so far?

Teasdale: It was very, very strange. I felt really strange for a bit. Everyone was asking about pressure in the run-up to it, and when it did really well, that’s when I felt pressure to live up to this ‘You’ve got a number one album,’ and I think we all felt like the pressure is put on you to be as good as this thing is saying you are. So, I felt a little bit uncomfortable with it for the first couple of weeks. After that happened, after that news happened, which is strange because I want to be, like “I was so happy, I felt amazing and like I’d accomplished everything I set out to achieve.” But we never really set out to achieve it. I felt happy, but odd. Like, when someone says that you’ve done a good thing. I was, like, “When are people gonna realize that it isn’t real.” Like imposter syndrome. Which doesn’t make sense.

MC: Are there any themes/concepts to the album?

Teasdale: I think that was one of the fun things about making an album. Oh, we’ve never done this before—is it going to sound like a complete body of work? Then it was really fun, recording a few songs and then I think we dropped a couple. The tracklisting part was really fun, because I’d never realized how much difference it makes. I’d never had the opportunity to record a bunch of songs and then play about with the order of them. See how it made me feel. Once we had everything tracklisted, as we were mixing it I noticed that there were recurring themes and then maybe it’s not too random. Maybe it does fit together. There’s a bit of heartbreak in there, which is a recurring theme. The sense of disenchantment. There were a couple of words that came up three or four times, which is quite interesting because I definitely didn’t consciously do that. 

MC: How does the songwriting process work? Pick a song on the album and take me through it…

Teasdale: “Chaise Longue” is quite a unique one. That came out of this time when I was staying at Hester and Joshua’s house. Joshua also plays synth and guitar in the band with us now, which is cool. But he started off with a little drum loop and a bassline, then we set up a microphone and it all came out at once. It was, like, seven minutes long, the original version. It’s actually the B-side of the 7” of the song that we released on vinyl–the demo from that night. We didn’t really fuck with it much, so it’s all there. You can see how it went from this seven-minute silly jam to a three-and-a-half-minute pop song. When we were recording it, Hester came up with a guitar riff. The second verse, I thought about that for a couple of weeks.

MC: What gear do you each use, both on stage and in the studio?

Teasdale: I’m not a gearhead at all, so I’m gonna be really disappointing. Now, I’m using a selection of EarthQuaker—pedals—because they came to one of our shows. It’s really cute, actually, because the first pedal I ever bought was the Avalanche Run by EarthQuaker. I don’t really know much about anything, but it looked pretty cool and I liked their branding, man. So, I bought this pedal and we played this gig in December in New York, and one of the people from EarthQuaker came to our gig. She was, like, “They can have whatever they want.” So now I use a selection of EarthQuaker, and so does Joshua and Hester. It’s really fun being in a band when you’re at the level where you get free shit. You feel a bit guilty, because we’ve got so many guitars now. I have, like, three guitars. I started off playing a surf green Jazzmaster from Gumtree—that was my first guitar. Then I bought a little vintage guitar, a Ramus, which I’m playing now, actually. I’ve got it with us in, where are we, Rotterdam. Hester plays a beautiful Hofner, another vintage guitar. That’s what she played on the album. On the album, I mainly played Dan’s Mustang, which is his favorite guitar. I asked him what his favorite thing in the room is, and he picked that guitar. It was in a house fire, so the neck is all smooth and it’s a nice feeling guitar. I don’t want to tell you what I’m playing at the minute, because it’s not very cool. It’s a Fender amp, maybe a Fender Deluxe—I don’t fucking know. But it’s not a cool one, because it’s digital. It’s like a practical school shoe. It’s ugly but your mom’s making you wear it. It works really well, and our sound engineer has a great time.

MC: What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?

Teasdale: There’s been so much. That’s like saying, what’s your favorite song in the world? I will say something, just so that you can write it down. A highlight for me was making the “Yer Mum” video and the team that we had on that. It was such a great team. Originally, we started out making videos by ourselves, it’s kinda been hard not having the time to do that ourselves. Having to reach out and work with other people. But that video was so fun and so wholesome. It was written and directed by Lava La Rue, and our whole team—we had an all-female team apart from the assistant director. He was a he, but everyone else was femme. It’s so good—I just love to work with women doing their thing. 

MC: What does the future hold? What are the band’s plans for the next year or so?

Teasdale: To the end of the year, we’re just going to be out on the road pretty much. We go home for a bit after this, then we’re going to Primavera, then we go to Sweden and Norway. We’re playing Glastonbury, then we’ve got some U.K. touring, the Isle of Wight Festival, too, which will be nice because I can see my sister and my mom, and walk some dogs. Then we’re going to Australia, then back to America—just shit loads of touring. 

Contact Chloe Walsh, [email protected]

The band’s native home of the Isle of Wight is the largest English island, and the second most populated. It’s located in the English Channel, two miles from the mainland at its closest point. And it is, of course, home to the Isle of Wight Festival.

As Rhian Teasdale mentioned in the feature, Hester Chambers makes jewelry. “I’m Hester, I make fine jewellery [U.K. spelling] in silver and gold. Each piece is made one by one, start to finish, using techniques I’ve learned from my father over the last 15 years,” she says on her website.
Find her at hesterchambers.co.uk.

The band got their name by randomly hitting keys on an emoji keyboard. The emojis for “water” and “leg” popped up on the screen, and they ran with it. So, to speak.

• Wet Leg won three Libera Awards this year: Breakthrough Artist/Release for “Chaise Longue,” Video of the Year for the same song, and Best Sync Usage for “Chaise Longue” in episode 5 of Gossip Girl.

Joshua Omead Mobaraki, Chambers’ boyfriend, was initially a touring guitarist and writing partner for the duo, but according to Teasdale has now joined the band on a more permanent basis.