tunesday – a chinwag with rhian teasdale from wet leg
Last week, UK outfit Wet Leg recorded their own version of Aussie band The Chats' iconic track, "Smoko". We weren't surprised to learn of the cover, since Wet Leg vocalist Rhian Teasdale told us just how much the band loves the tune in issue 105. Have a squiz at that chinwag below, then keep scrolling to hear Wet Leg's rad twist on "Smoko" for yourself.
Over the course of about six months in 2021 – a year that has been, for many people, rather uneventful – British outfit Wet Leg (aka Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers) exploded onto the scene on a global scale. Their first two tracks, “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream”, have clocked up millions of streams with their tongue-in-cheek lyrics and infectious hooks. Now the duo, with a few additional band members in tow, are flat out performing a string of shows around the UK. If everything goes as planned, they’ll soon be touring the US.
Rhian finds it all a bit surreal. “It’s so weird,” she says. “I’ll believe it when I see it: when we turn up at the first US show. I think me and Hester are suspicious of it all because it’s just so bonkers.” Before every performance, you’ll find the band standing in a circle and shouting at each other so Rhian can warm up her vocal cords. “I find it quite embarrassing to warm up my voice, so to make it less embarrassing everyone else will make really weird noises as well,” she says, before demonstrating her siren-like warm-up exercises.
Long-time friends Rhian and Hester grew up on the Isle of Wight – a quiet little island off the south coast of England that’s only accessible by boat. While there weren’t many opportunities to see live music when they were younger, Rhian says the island is still a very musical place. “We have a lot of friends in bands and there’s always smaller gigs going on,” she says. “I think the first gig I ever played was in a derelict house. There were candles on the walls and warm beers on the table. There’s a bit of DIY culture there; you make your own fun.”
When they formed Wet Leg in 2019, the duo decided they wanted to play energetic, guitar-led music. Rhian, who had been working on a solo project, realised that she hated performing on her own, so she asked Hester to join her. “It was really scary at first because we’d always been in and out of bands, but we’d never thought to play together before,” Rhian says. “We ended up going to festivals and finished off a round of gigs that I had booked. Having that time and being able to watch music together helped us think about what music we actually wanted to be making and why we were doing this. We decided we wanted to play guitar really loudly, be a bit silly and not take ourselves too seriously, so we made a pact to start a band.”
They’re inspired by “guitar-y” bands like The Black Keys, early Kings of Leon, The Strokes and Big Thief. Another influence – and a band they’d love to collaborate with one day – is Aussie punk outfit The Chats. “I heard ‘Smoko’ and saw the video and thought it was everything. It’s so silly and such a tune,” Rhian says. “I think that sense of fun is certainly something that I connected with and I wanted to write songs like that.”
Rhian and Hester wrote their first two singles during “impromptu midnight jams”. Bored in lockdown, they put together some punk-goes-prairie outfits and directed their own music videos. “My job had stopped, Hester wasn’t going into work anymore and we needed to keep busy,” Rhian explains, “so we made the music videos. We had time to play around with it.”
They also had a bit of behind-the-scenes knowledge up their balloon sleeves. Rhian recently worked as a wardrobe assistant on the music video for Ed Sheeran’s track “Bad Habits”. “I’ve been working for my friend who’s a stylist and costume designer for about three years now. We mainly do commercials and boring stuff like that, but sometimes we’ll do a music video. We didn’t dress Ed, though. We worked with his cool vampire squad.” The experience gave Rhian the confidence to come up with the cottagecore-inspired looks for Wet Leg’s own music videos. Without the know-how, they wouldn’t have ordered “an obscene amount of stuff from the internet” to try on and ultimate make part of their image.
Wet Leg’s band name was a result of “messing around” with emojis. “We were joking that you can make any band name out of emojis. The water droplets and leg emojis were just one of the combinations that we accidentally came upon,” Rhian says. Other combos the pair considered were ‘sparkle poop’, ‘pumpkin sick’, ‘alien nose’ and ‘tooth fairy’. Rhian suggests that, had they gone with Sparklepoop, the duo could have been a comedy cover band of American indie rock outfit Sparklehorse. “Macaulay Culkin’s band The Pizza Underground play Velvet Underground covers, but they insert ‘pizza’ into all of the lyrics. Sparklepoop could be a Sparklehorse cover band but we’d make all the lyrics about poop.”
While Wet Leg’s lyrics may not be about faeces, they’re not squeaky-clean either. In fact, they’re full of innuendos. One impromptu line on their debut single “Chaise Longue” (Is your muffin buttered? / Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?) comes straight from the ever-quotable teen flick Mean Girls. Hester and Rhian played the movie in the background during one of their midnight jam sessions (they also watched a lot of The X-Files and School of Rock).
When the band isn’t writing or performing, they’re trying to get some of that precious shut-eye, or dabbling in a bit of longboard dancing – an arty skateboarding trick where the rider displays some elegant footwork while on a moving longboard. “It’s very pretty,” Rhian says. “You can do cross-steps, pirouettes and this thing called the 360 step.”
The next big goals for the band include making more music, more videos (with the help of an actual director and crew), and continuing to fulfil their main goal: having a good time. “We’ve already played so many fun shows so we’re in shock. It doesn’t feel real.”
This story originally appeared in issue 105.