“I’m not sure if this is a song, I don’t even know what I’m saying,” Rhian Teasdale, Wet Leg’s lead vocalist, quickly mumbles out in “Too Late Now,” the first track of the duo’s second official South By Southwest (SXSW) set in Austin Thursday night. A successful captor of online buzz, the nonchalant indie-rock duo formed by two friends is a testament to the power of having fun.
With only four singles out at the end of 2021, Wet Leg had already shot straight into the stratosphere of rising indie stars, bolstered by TikTok virality, and the band was quickly picked up by Domino Records. A video of the band performing their first single, “Chaise Lounge,” gained over 3 million views on the platform, with many confused by the lyrical nod to Mean Girls. “Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” lead vocalist Teasdale loosely questions. “Musicians not even trying anymore then?” one user said. “She’s just saying words with no meaning,” said another. But unbeknownst to them, that’s actually the point of Wet Leg.
Before joining forces, Teasdale and lead guitarist Hester Chambers were both grinding on different musical projects, the former with folk-inspired RHAIN and the latter with her boyfriend, Josh. It wasn’t until the friends decided to let go of the weight of their ambitions that they actually started to have fun. A collection of loose demos later, Wet Leg was born. “It’s ironic that we found the most success we’ve had from making music once we decided we weren’t going to try really hard,” Chambers told NME. Even the band name sprung from the same nonchalance, as the duo wanted something that could be communicated strictly with emojis: 💦🦵.
Despite any online criticisms of the duo’s aloofness, that very quality of their music proved to be a huge draw at their SXSW British Music Embassy set. Bodies lined down the block just to get into Cedar Street Courtyard, an outdoor venue nestled between two buildings and crammed with eager, sweaty listeners (myself included).
The duo used very few words to address the audience outside of the music, aside from an elusive, pause-heavy introduction (“We are… Wet… Leg”) and responses to shouts from the audience. “You guys are amazing,” someone shouted before they jumped into their final track. “So are you,” Teasdale said. Rather, they let their witty, casually carefree indie-rock speak for itself. While an audio issue bled a noisy crackle into their set, Chamber’s punchy guitar licks and Teasdale’s infectious vocals made it easy to forget. The duo filled out their set beyond the crowd-pleasing singles with teases from their upcoming self-titled debut album, boasting a primal mid-track scream and isolated synths.
While the venue seemed to fill out its 600-max capacity, Wet Leg have yet to mentally catch up to their stellar growth. The duo has supported both Declan McKenna and Inhaler on their tours, and while they’re quickly catching up to their contemporaries, their music is best suited to an intimate setting where Teasdale’s laid-back lyrics feel pointed directly at you. “This feels like where we should be at,” Teasdale told NME, regarding an early February show at a 150-capacity venue in Margate, England. “Those support tours and big stages, they feel like shoes that are a bit big. This feels like the right size shoe.” What better fits the band’s ethos of fun than a small show anyway?
As they bounded into their final track and the first single that blew up, “Chaise Lounge,” the crowd erupted. Algorithms may have played a part in thrusting Wet Leg into the public eye, but their live set proves that digital buzz translates into a tangible audience that extends beyond Gen-Z TikTokers. Even more, 💦🦵 demonstrates what happens when you take yourself a little less seriously: a damn good time.