Onstage at Madison Square Garden this past summer, Wet Leg front woman Rhian Teasdale coached a sold-out crowd of 10,000 to scream as loud as they could. Written into the closing lines of the British indie rockers’ acerbic kiss-off “Ur Mum,” the request electrified an audience that had come mostly to see the headliner, art-pop superstars Florence + the Machine. The collective scream felt cathartic and chaotic and hilarious at once—a perfect encapsulation of the Wet Leg experience.
“It’s a very grounding moment in the set,” the bright-eyed Teasdale, 29, who also plays guitar and serves as the band’s principal songwriter, tells TIME a few days later in Manhattan. For 30 seconds or so, there are no instruments or lyrics separating Wet Leg from fans who’ve flocked to (or stumbled upon) their funny, melodic, sexually frank songs of boredom and frustration. And that’s particularly gratifying for an act whose rapid rise—in a music industry hobbled by a pandemic that shut down touring for the better part of two years—has made grounding moments hard to find.
Formed in 2019 by best friends and Isle of Wight natives Teasdale and guitarist Hester Chambers, Wet Leg—whose evocative name was inspired by a random pair of emojis—was supposed to be a lark. Instead, their pithy anthems of mid-20s aimlessness, composed largely in the cocoon of lockdown, immediately resonated with a famously unlucky generation—now plagued by pandemic-?related layoffs, loneliness, and more than one dangerous contagion—who felt more adrift than ever before. Teasdale recalls that, during the writing process, as she watched friends embark on ambitious careers and committed relationships, “I wanted to find what I was supposed to be doing.” But after pivoting from solo singer-?songwriter to a job as a wardrobe assistant, she was surprised to find that it was music all along.
Within a year of releasing debut single “Chaise Longue” in June 2021, Wet Leg had put out a self-titled album that soared to No. 1 in the U.K.; played late-night shows and increasingly large venues on both sides of the Atlantic; and gotten to hear some 200,000 fans shouting their lyrics back to them at the Glastonbury Festival. The ?highlights of this album cycle are the stuff of rock-god bucket lists—effusive praise from Iggy Pop and Dave Grohl, a shout-out on Barack Obama’s playlist, a short list nod for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize, and a string of upcoming performances in support of fellow finalist Harry Styles, for starters.
It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, for better and worse. “On paper, we’re living the dream, we’ve got the best job in the world,” says Teasdale. “And it really is. But the highs are really high and the lows are really low.” On the road for months at a time, facing a new crowd in a different city every night, she and Chambers have had to make difficult self-care choices. After canceling a few live dates in September, they were open on social media about having taken the break in order to address physical and mental health concerns. “We’re all human, and sometimes it’s too much,” Teasdale explains. “It’s important to check in with yourself, which is hard to do when everything’s so busy, and everything’s so fun, and everyone’s really excited for you.”
The hope is that their honesty will create space for everyone from their backing band and crew to other artists and fans to take care of their mental health, without shame. In that sense, Wet Leg’s openness is just another manifestation of the liberating, self-aware bluntness that suffuses their music and performance style. Sometimes, when doing what you’re supposed to leaves you too exhausted to function, you simply need to turn down the amplifiers, tune out all the noise that comes with being a young band on a meteoric trajectory, and have a good scream.
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