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Music Biz Success Strategy: The Power of Giving Up. It worked for Wet Leg…

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Two silly girls prancing around a field in Shaker clothes, as if their grandparents had arrived in the US on The Mayflower or something, mixing ‘Innuendo, Mean Girls references and French furniture’ in a song with the soggiest hook of all time? Chaise longue? All day long? Like, who are these two jokers kidding?!?

But the arguments about Wet Leg are over, for now at least.

Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are now holders of all these shiny trophies:

Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance

Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album

AIM Indie Award for UK Independent Breakthrough

Brit Award for Best New Artist

Brit Award for Best British Group

Ivor Novello Award for Songwriters of The Year

Oh yeah, and a load of nominations, too.

Phew! Couldn’t these two quietly spoken girls from the Isle Of White have been a bit subtler about it? This level of acceptance and vindication from music industry academies for a debut album is off the scale, and proves that this was not just about videos featuring period frocks and big floppy hats, though actually those style elements do hint at the ‘thing about Wet Leg’ that makes them different. And what about this ‘Giving Up’ strategy that opened the door for them?

Rhian and Hester grew up on the Isle of White, a culture that (except for its music festival that Bob Dylan played) is widely accepted as being behind mainland UK, with locals cherishing the carefully preserved peace of their retro lifestyle. The two girls knew each other from studying at the local Platform One College of Music but had never worked together. After five years of striving, Rhian was playing to a room full of people munching their supper one evening and not listening to her worthy efforts. She had a kind of tearful breakdown that night and decided to… Give Up. Similarly, Hester was getting nowhere making tracks with her boyfriend, and was also ready to… Give Up. A mutual decision was made to put some tracks together to play at festivals for one last year… A. just for fun and B. to get free tickets to cool events. Then they happened to hear a male band who played music with muscular beats and raucous, driving guitars. ‘Let’s do some of that!’ they agreed, chuckling. From then on, the girls threw worthiness to the wind and started writing fun lyrics and tunes. Rhian was staying with Hester originally for two days, but that became weeks and weeks as they sparred crazy lyrics, with Rhian sleeping on yes, a chaise longue.

The change of style they underwent could be compared to Marc Bolan discarding his acoustic and the name Tyrannosaurus Rex, to become T Rex, belting out electric guitar-driven hits. Rhian and Hester gave up their personal ambitions to create a new entity, a new style, which has led to comparisons with other ironic acts like the B52s.

But they made some great demoes of songs that went against all the current norms. They weren’t only original, but very audacious, a quality that attracted the attention of cutting-edge producer Dan Carey and Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand). At one stage, Rhian got some work on music videos (one of them being for Ed Sheeran), and that experience assisted the girls in the making of their own striking clips. A cool appearance on Jools Holland, a general sense of ‘not trying to succeed’ with comments like ‘we make dance tracks for sad people’ and ‘we write songs we think people won’t like’ etc. in VERY QUIET voices, millions of streams on the quirky videos for tracks like Wet Dream and the Wet Leg mystique came together:

And in 2023, this fluffy snowball keeps rolling on. In April, Dave Grohl took the stage with the girls at Coachella, and at a time when Barbie is a light-hearted smash hit movie, weightless Wet Leg make it look like lots of other acts are trying WAY TOO HARD. The throwaway feel of Harry Styles ‘As it Was’ melts into this carefree castle of 1970’s pop easy listening, and the fans are loving it. Maybe Harry and the girls discuss frocks together backstage, but anyhow he’s a devoted fan and actually covered Wet Dream for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge:

Rhian and Hester frequently support Harry on tour nowadays and the two lasses from the Isle of Wight must have been pinching themselves when they joined this global star on stage, to sing one of their honky little Lockdown tunes, created around a chaise longue just for the hell of it... when they’d Given Up on everything else.

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