The Women of Wet Leg (2024)

You can learn something about a person from the way she paints a pot. That’s the premise that brought Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, the women of Wet Leg, a British indie-rock band that is among the nominees for Best New Artist at this year’s Grammy Awards, to the Painted Pot, a crafting space in Park Slope, on a recent wintry afternoon. Teasdale, the main singer and songwriter, wore a Buffy T-shirt and a crocheted cap over her silky brown hair. Chambers, blond, with delicate features, was draped in a long cardigan.

After browsing the bisques—fired clay forms that are ready for painting and glazing—Teasdale chose a mug and Chambers a plate. Sitting side by side at a paint-speckled picnic table, they took to their tasks far more diligently than did the rowdy children filtering in for their after-school activity. Wet Leg was taking a victory lap. But in spite of five Grammy nominations, four sold-out New York shows, and upcoming dates opening for Harry Styles, the two women, both nearing thirty, remember what it’s like to play shows for four people. They appear to be taking nothing for granted.

“Wet leg” is a term that inhabitants of the Isle of Wight, where Teasdale and Chambers grew up, apply to day-trippers and holiday-makers who ferry across the five miles from Southampton, on England’s southern coast. (“D.F.L.,” short for “down from London,” and “overners,” from “over the water,” are others.) Teasdale noted that her mother had been a ferryboat captain: “She was something of a badass.” At the band’s high-energy live shows, Teasdale captains the stage, but she avoids the storms of sexist comments flung at them for daring to play electric guitars before they’ve achieved the mastery to shred.

Chambers, who seems like the more introverted of the pair, said, in a small, high voice, “I’m not allowed to read the comments.”

A winged creature that Teasdale named Angel-bat had begun to take shape on her mug, its webbed arms spread wide. As she worked on the image, she sang softly, “Angel-bat, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.” The band had seen LCD Soundsystem in their Williamsburg residency the night before.

Wet Leg, with its deadpan wit and post-punk guitar sound, loosely resembles the B-52s, if Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson had led the band. They chose their name, Teasdale explained, “as a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously, because we’re in a band called Wet Leg.” She limned the band’s origins: “I was, like, ‘Hester, I really want to start a band where we play guitars.’” At that point, the two former school friends had been playing music separately and aimlessly for almost ten years, without success. “And Hester was, like, ‘O.K., then, let’s start a band where we both play guitars.’ And I was, like, ‘But, Hester, I don’t play guitar.’” As a solo act, Teasdale had played keyboard. “And Hester was, like, ‘That doesn’t matter—you soon will!’”

“I want a place that’s fireproof, floodproof, windproof, and close to a Trader Joe’s.”

Cartoon by Anne Fizzard

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On her plate, Chambers was skillfully rendering a horse, in fine detail. Angel-bat stood ready to embrace whatever was coming; Chambers’s steed looked poised to bolt.

“I realized you don’t get anywhere indulging your insecurities,” Teasdale went on. “I spent many years doing that, and I was just so sick of listening to that voice saying, ‘You’re not good enough to do this. This space is not for you.’”

When they began making music together, Teasdale spent six weeks sleeping on a chaise longue at Chambers’s flat. It was uncomfortable, “but I spent so much time sleeping on it I became at one with the lumps,” she said. When they weren’t trying to write songs, they took pleasure in pronouncing the syllables “shays lawnja” to each other. Goofing around at home late one night, Teasdale picked up a mike and sang, “On the chaise longue, on the chaise longue, all day long on the chaise longue,” the first of the band’s memorable hooks. Their single “Chaise Longue” appeared in June, 2021; “Wet Dream,” another banger, followed in September.

Teasdale and Chambers have been touring non-stop for nearly a year; they haven’t been home for more than a few days since last February. At the Painted Pot, the mug and the plate they decorated suggested a yearning for home and domesticity, but they are unlikely to return to those anytime soon.

“Now I go to all these hotels,” Teasdale said, “and the beds technically are really comfy, and the pillows are really soft, but I’m so restless. I need my lumpy chaise longue.”♦

The Women of Wet Leg (2024)


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