Indie

Wet Leg Tells Us How A Viral Hit Can Still Launch A Career

Last year, few singles connected with fans and critics more than Wet Leg‘s “Chaise Longue.” (In fact, the song was No. 17 on Uproxx’s year-end songs poll.) Written by Wet Leg co-founders Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers over a relaxing holiday season, “Chaise Longue” is a three-minute burst of simmering post-punk with speak-sing vocals, jagged-lightning guitars and propulsive rhythms. On the surface, the song is simple; however, its arrangements are like a brilliant puzzle stitching together disparate instrumental parts, vocal melodies and syncopated sections, like the bridge’s “On the chaise longue, on the chaise longue, all day long on the chaise longue.”

While the song’s name refers to a piece of actual furniture at Hester’s house, the lyrics themselves are also delightfully absurd, a tongue-twisting pastiche of images that’s like a grown-up nursery rhyme. There’s cheeky irreverence (“Is your muffin buttered? / Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?”) and sly wordplay that uses repetition and rhyming for effect (“Mommy, daddy, look at me / I went to school and I got a degree / All my friends call it the big D / I went to school and I got the big D”).

Although “Chaise Longue” was a brilliant success, it’s understandable that launching a music career during a turbulent time can be somewhat disorienting. “Six months ago, there were a couple of festivals happening, so you came out of lockdown and went into a big outdoor arena of 30,000 people,” Hester says. “And it was really daunting just walking around so many people. It was like, ‘At least we’re outside, but no one’s a meter apart.'”

However, the band are gearing up to release their self-titled debut album (it’s due April 8) and Wet Leg will be back in the U.S. in March (fingers crossed) after a sold-out fall 2021 tour that drew raves. Teasdale and Chambers Zoomed for a conversation during the early evening their time to discuss how “Chaise Longue” came together, its impact, and how a successful debut album can benefit a new band.

Where was the band at the point then when the song came together?

Rhian: We were doing the band. We just didn’t really write the song for the band.

Hester: We had played a couple of gigs as Wet Leg, but we hadn’t written “Chaise Longue.” And then we wrote it just for fun, rather than like, “This is going to be the next Wet Leg song.”

R: Yeah.

H: And then Wet Leg was like, “Yeah. Okay. Let’s have it.”

R: Yeah, we adopted it.

Sometimes when you’re being creative and not thinking, “I need to have it for a specific thing,” you can be a lot freer and a lot more open. There’s not as much pressure.

R: Exactly. I’ve had like conversations with a lot of friends who are making music, and they’ve just had similar experiences [where] their more successful, poppy songs have been written kind of like as a bit of a joke, as a bit of a, “Oh, okay. We’ve got like 15 minutes left of the session. Let’s just make something for the hell of it.” I feel like it’s a repeating pattern, it’s a recurring story.

I know there’s an actual chaise lounge. What does that look like?

H: It’s just a long, soft thing. It doesn’t have an arm. And it’s blue. Yeah. It’s just, it’s old and long and blue.

It sounds very comfortable, which is also conducive to creativity.

H: Oh, it’s actually really lumpy.

Oh, no!

R: It’s characterful.

H: Yeah. It’s a character-building experience to sleep on it.

R: I ended up sleeping on it for six weeks instead of [the intended] couple nights, like we both originally thought. It wasn’t a problem at all.

The days just kind of like ticked by. It was just Christmas holiday, and we’d been doing this six-week long, teenage girl sleepover. We watched the whole of Buffy, all of X-Files. We baked cookies every day, and my mouth hurt because I’d eaten so much sugar. [Hester laughs] My mouth literally hurt for the whole six weeks. But it was really good.
And Hester got really into painting, like these Bob Ross paintings. Loads of mountains. He has that like TV program — and so we’d put that on, and Hester would create masterpieces. I would give it a go, but then like end up smudging everything in. I had this brown canvas in front of me by the end of it, and Hester would have beautiful mountains and trees.

When this song came together, did you do lyrics first and music later, or was it sort of a combination of like both things at the same time?

H: It was just a silly jam. Joshua [Omead Mobaraki], who plays keys in our band, put down some drums, a synth line, and bass, and then Rhian was just freestyling the lyrics. And then we took it to the practice room. So we got real drums, and then we recorded it with Jon McMullen in London.

The structure — we sorted out the arrangement and Rhian, you finished off the lyrics. It definitely transformed over the time we worked on it.

R: You can hear the demo of “Chaise Longue,” it’s on the b-side of the seven-inch that we put out. That’s “Chaise Longue” in its purest form, pretty much. I say “chaise longe,” because that’s how I thought it was pronounced at the time. And then when we went into like the real studio, I thought I’d get my friend Google out and actually learn how to say it, and Google told me it was “chaise long.” So that’s what we went for. Well, there in the States you say “chaise lounge.”

Yeah.

R: Because it is a sun lounger, which makes sense. [sings] Tomato, tomato; potato, potato.

When the song transformed, did you feel that there was something special, or was it just sort of like, “Okay, this is another song in our repertoire.”

R: Mm. I think it was the first song we recorded. For me, I was more excited about the band, rather than the songs [as an] individual thing. I was just really excited to be making music with you.

H: We loved it when we first recorded it, and then the next morning we listened back to it and we were just like, “Oh my God, this is so silly, but really cool. We love it so much.”

R: We did about three songs in that first recording session. We did “Chaise Longue,” “Too Late Now,” and we did “Red X,” I think.

H: Yeah. That sounds right. And then some other ones that just stayed in the box.

R: I would love to listen to those.

It’s hard sometimes, because when you’re first doing something and you’re putting stuff out there, and you do something, you’re like, “Oh, is this going to work?” And then when you actually get to the final point, you’re like, “This is not working at all.” You’re like, “There needs to be some more work done on it.” Things sometimes click right away, and other times, it takes a bit.

R: Part of making music is just learning to put things down, to say things are done. Some things are done straight away and it’s obvious, and some things are done and you’re not satisfied with them, but that’s okay. They’re still done. It is what it is. Move on.

That can be so hard, because you could sit there and spend hours in the studio, just going over it to perfect it. This is why bands take two or three years in the studio. You want it to be perfect.

R: I think it was really good with “Chaise Longue,” and also making the album, because we didn’t really have any of that pressure. We were just very happily working our jobs, and so we never really thought anything of it. It put us on a really good start to enjoy it, basically. I think when you start putting pressure on yourself from the outside world, that’s when it probably becomes not so fun. And what’s the point if it’s not fun?

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s why people have really gravitated toward the song. It’s so lighthearted and it’s fun to sing the lyrics; it’s kind of tongue-twisting. It’s just really joyous. And I know that you have said, “Oh, it doesn’t really mean anything.” And I think that’s okay! The entire vibe of it is very cathartic. And especially after the last couple years have been so hard for everyone, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s not very serious, but it’s fun.

R: Yeah. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Hester, I hope you don’t mind if I speak for the both of us on this, but we’ve had to interviews where people have been like, “Oh, so, like what does it mean? What does it mean? What’s the deeper meaning?” [Laughs.] And we’re like, “There is no deeper meaning. We just made it. It just ended up like that. It was an accident.”

“Chaise Longue” was Wet Leg’s debut single. When did you know or really sense that the song was really taking off, and was resonating with people?

H: When we first started playing gigs, that’s when we got to see in real life that people were actually listening to the song because they were singing it back to us. You can watch numbers on Spotify, see how many people have listened to it. But it’s just a number. You don’t see any faces in those numbers. I don’t know if this is making sense, but like…

R: Perfect sense. I agree.

H: So seeing people at gigs is like, “Wow, you are real. I can see you with my eyes.” That’s when it’s easy to tell.

I like the way you phrased that. Because I think that’s very true. Sometimes metrics of success now are view counts or listens, but there’s something different about being in the same room with someone, and maybe they’re screaming the lyrics back at you, or jumping around. It gives a little extra oomph that makes you realize, “This is real. This is in real life. This is translating.”

R: Hester, remember when we played in Paris, and we were like, “Oh, maybe we should do like the French version.” I learned the lyrics in French, because I thought it would be funny. And then when we gig and we tried to do them in French, I sang [sings French lyrics] and then after that, people were screaming the original lyrics, the English lyrics back at us so loudly. I was like, “Let’s just switch back into the English, because that’s what people are singing along to, because somehow all of these people in Paris know it is that.” Which was such a shock.

It really seemed like the song especially helped Wet Leg get a name for itself before you even came over to America. Was that also the sense that you had on your end?

H: “Chaise Longue” [has] done the complete opposite of, I guess, of what we thought would happen. Because when it first got mentioned, “Oh, we’re thinking maybe of going to America before the end of the year.” It’s like, “What? No, hold up. We’ve only played five places in the UK.” Going to America, it’s really cool how people there are listening to us from across the pond.

As a new band, what advantages and benefits did having a successful debut single give to you?

R: We signed to Domino mid-lockdown, before releasing anything at all. We prepped and had a bit of a… I don’t know, in lockdown, we made ourselves quite busy just to stay sane, really. And then ended up signing to Domino, which was just incredible. Like, so, so weird. And then we released “Chaise Longue.” That’s our first single. I mean, if it didn’t do very well, Domino being the big indie label that they are, they’d probably still support us. But it’s helped that it’s done really well. It’s given us more momentum to book the American tour, the first one and then the [upcoming] one in March as well.

In terms of recording an album, we’d recorded the album straight off the bat. As soon as we signed to Domino, we went into recording the album, just because of the times. We couldn’t gig. And so the way to make use of the time was to go straight into the studio and record the album. Maybe in the, I don’t know, in the ’80s or whatever, maybe that you could do that. But I know that now it’s certainly like a different landscape. When you get signed, maybe the label will send you on like a little tour so that you can get your material up to scratch, and tried and tested. And we took out loads of random stuff out of a Dropbox folder that we had going, and like, “This one? Yeah. This one? This one. Okay, let’s do this one.” It’s a bit of a different approach.

That is nice, though, when Wet Leg first came out, the first thing that people heard was your music. That’s what people are hearing first. There’s no preconceived notions.

R: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

You were able to make the single, and then also the record, in a really non-pressure filled environment. There were really no expectations; you could just create. And now that the single’s out and people know you all, do you feel any pressure on yourselves, the fact that people might have some expectations now? Have you felt that at all — and if so, how have you dealt with that?

H: Yeah, it’s definitely pressure, but there’s not really much we can do about it, other than just to make what we want to, and to see what happens. There’s so much music, and so many people, and hopefully the people who enjoy it get to listen to it. But yeah, I think it’s inevitable to feel pressure, because it’s like, “Oh, this [single] has done this. What would it mean if the next one doesn’t do as well?” But really, it’s all fine and good, I think. What do you think, Rhian?

R: I think so too. Of course, there’s so much pressure. But what are you going to do with that? It’s not very useful, so you have to push through it and realize that… Yeah, they’re little songs, and we’re very lucky to be in this position. We’re very lucky to be feeling this pressure, of people telling us that they want us to be really good or whatever. Because it’s… I don’t know.

We feel it, but it’s not really conducive, is it? It’s really nice when we’re just playing gigs and that’s what it’s all about, really, isn’t it? It’s about making music, not all the noise surrounding it. You have to remind yourself that quite often. But I think we’re really lucky, because we have each other, and we have our band, and so it helps us to stay sane, I guess.

H: Yeah. Maybe there’s a nice thing about “Chaise Longue” that we were the least in our heads we’d probably ever been making that song. That’s what has made it enjoyable, I think.

R: Yeah.

H: We’re trying to stay on the good side of the fence.

R: As much as possible.

H: I don’t know…

No, keep going. I’m just listening.

H: Oh, I was just going to say that I’m a very sensitive person. I don’t know.

R: I think you’re very strong, as well.

H: I’m like, “Oh, no. This is going to turn into like a therapy session for me.” [Everybody laughs.] No. No, it’s just that this is a strange and stressful, alien world to be in. So it’s okay to feel pressure, and to feel scared and almost like, you want to say, “No, I’m not going do any of this,” but actually seeing us do all the shit we’ve done so far, like, “Wow. We can do some things.”

R: I completely agree with you. I’ve been really in my head all day about everything, so this is like a really nice therapy session for me.

H: Yeah, same.

I think it’s so cool that you have this song that if things are stressful and there’s so much pressure, you have this song you can go back to. And for three minutes you have that carefree mindset. It’s just a way to like exhale. I think that’s so cool. That’s such a nice little thing to have in your pocket, that you can always bring out if things seem stressful.

R: Yeah. I have to say that every time we play it live, I find it really hard to take ourselves at all seriously. And I think that’s definitely not a bad thing.

Yeah. I think people like that. People can be afraid to be goofy sometimes, or let themselves let loose in public. And so it’s like, you are giving them permission, too, just to be like, “You can do this. You can be silly.” It’s almost like you’re a kid again and you’re singing nursery rhymes, or something.

R: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a really nice way to look at it.

Have you had the chance yet to hear your song in a really unusual place, or an unorthodox place that you’re like, “I cannot believe I’m hearing myself somewhere”? Has that happened to you yet?

R: Yeah. I went to a café and they were playing it. Just a café that I would always go to before any of this [pandemic]. And I mean, they didn’t put it on, but it was probably on that Spotify algorithm. That was strange.

And I went into my pub, my local pub, and they were playing it there as well. Just as I walked in, and the barmaid was like, “Ooh, just in time.” I was like, “Ahh.” [Band laughs.] Though I think probably the strangest places you hear it are the everyday places, rather than like anywhere really grand. When it gets into your daily life, your normalcore daily-ness, that’s when it’s weird, rather than hearing it. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s just very funny.

Wet Leg is out April 8 on Domino. Get it here.

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