Hester Chambers laughs when she is reminded of a recent headline in the NME: “Wet Leg: ‘We want to be recognised as guitar heroes’”. It’s funny, she says, because she and Rhian Teasdale – the other half of Wet Leg – are pretty much the exact opposite of the guitar hero archetype.
“I’m not really sure how that got to be the headline because we’d actually talked about how neither Rhian nor I are confident guitarists in the slightest!” she begins self-effacingly.
“I don’t expect to get to the status of guitar hero. I think it might have come more from the fact that we love guitar music. It definitely sparked something in us seeing bands like Big Thief, and just listening to The Strokes and Kings Of Leon growing up. But it’s really fun to let go of our insecurities. We can say, ‘We’re not like those people, we’re not technical but we can still write songs and play gigs.’”
Wet Leg have caught a buzz with Chaise Longue and Wet Dream, two singles with fuzzy guitars, post-punk energy, and Rhian’s deadpan delivery of some truly filthy lyrics. The project has the refreshing energy of musicians just discovering the joy of guitar, and that’s because, well, they were.
“Something that really blows my mind is that before Wet Leg, Rhian didn’t know how to play guitar,” smiles Hester.
“She’s excellent at writing songs on a piano but had never done it on a guitar. She was like, ‘I’m gonna write on guitar,’ and it just kind of happened. She’s got a really beautiful way of playing and writing. She’s not restricted, not like, ‘Oh, I need to learn these chords so I can make this song.’ She just kind of plays around.”
The two met at college 10 years ago, and Rhian recruited Hester to play guitar for her solo project. “I guess Rhian was the reason I’m getting through my imposter syndrome,” Hester continues. “Doing music at school and college, it felt like quite a boy-dominated thing. There weren’t many girls playing guitar and I sort of felt like I was somewhere I shouldn’t be.”
Hester found her feet on guitar by learning her favourite songs, inspired by the example of other guitar-playing women: “Laura Marling! When I was 15 or 16 she was everything. She makes it look really easy and writes the most beautiful songs. Anna Calvi is the goal for me, if I could play guitar like her... More recently I like Adrianne Lenker from Big Thief; I love the way she writes and plays.”
Wet Leg were formed to have fun, but they quickly created a niche. “We didn’t set ourselves any boundaries,” Hester says. “We took songs that we’d been playing in a folky way and put them in a full band context. We’d just hit our guitars sometimes. Actually hit them! If you’re wearing rings, you can tap your rings over the pickups and they make all these overtones.
“Finding our sound was a bit of an accident. Before we wrote Chaise Longue we had a few songs that we’d jammed together, with a trashier garage-rock sound. When we got management we were a bit surprised that they were like, ‘Chaise Longue is so great; this is what we should roll with to introduce Wet Leg.’ From the beginning we didn’t want to put any boundaries on the music that we were making, so even though it felt quite like a different trajectory, we can still explore.”
Although Hester felt unsure about gear in her school days, she’s now got an interesting selection of vintage gear. Her favourite guitar is a Hofner Galaxie, a space age three-pickup monster that looks like the spawn of a Strat and a Jaguar.
“I recorded with an [EHX] Soul Food overdrive and my Keeley Loomer fuzz/reverb,” she reveals. “The main tone is some fuzz from the Loomer with the Soul Food for the sort of scratchy lead line. For Chaise Longue, I was playing a Danelectro U2. For Wet Dream, I was playing the Hofner that I bought in lockdown. It’s so gorgeous – it’s got like nails in it holding it together, and stuck-on gems.
“Rhian bought a beautiful Surf Green Jazzmaster that’s her main guitar, and she puts that through a Supro combo. I used to have a Fender Deluxe, but it was very big so I swapped out for a Vox AC10. It was a hard decision because I loved the Fender’s spring reverb, but the AC10 sounds warmer.”
Having generated massive interest with their first two singles, Wet Leg are now looking forward to their first album release. But there’s no guarantee it’ll sound like what’s gone before.
“From the beginning we said no boundaries,” Hester says. “So if Rhian writes a beautiful ballad, it’s still Wet Leg. It can be whatever we want it to be.”
- Wet Leg's debut self-titled album is out on April 8 and available to preorder.