Electronic music has never been this lonely and beautiful. Brooklyn’s Wet creates graceful songs replete with big hooks—and despite its un-Googleable name, the band has a savvy web presence, too (its website is kanyewet.biz). The trio, composed of Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow, recently signed to Neon Gold and released its self-titled debut EP last week. Wet mixes electro-pop melodies with R&B grooves, perfect for fans of How To Dress Well, Solange, or The xx.
The band just experienced its first CMJ, stuffed with four shows in one week—the biggest shows they’ve ever played, and at least one of the best, at new Williamsburg venue Baby’s All Right.
We spoke with singer Kelly Zutrau on heartbreak songs and how Wet goes beyond the Brooklyn music scene. We’re also excited to premiere the video for “You’re The Best,” which depicts the kind of night that can only happen in New York City.
ILANA KAPLAN: How long was your EP in the works?
KELLY ZUTRAU: That has been in the works since last November or December, so like nine months.
KAPLAN: Nice. How did Wet meet?
ZUTRAU: We all met in college just through mutual friends. Marty and Joe went to NYU, and I went to Cooper Union, and we all started playing music together in a different band, and we kind of kept that going.
KAPLAN: There are a lot of connotations and denotations to the word “Wet.” How did you settle on that band name?
ZUTRAU: Wet. Well one of Joe’s friends actually just told him he thought it would be a good name. We also really liked a good, descriptive word. I don’t know. It just sort of happened.
KAPLAN: It is a good word. Was your intention to be a musician, or did you fall into it?
ZUTRAU: I definitely fell into it. I would say Marty always wanted to be a musician, but Joe and I did it sort of on the side.
KAPLAN: You re-recorded and re-worked “U Da Best” for the record. Why did you change the sound? Was it a demo?
ZUTRAU: They were just demos, and in the end we decided “Bad Idea” didn’t fit with the other songs. We wanted to re-work them and we had the opportunity to work with people we were excited to work with and in a nicer studio. We put “Bad Idea” aside for another time maybe.
KAPLAN: is there a cohesive theme to the record, or is each song anecdotal? Is there a specific theme that relates throughout the songs?
ZUTRAU: They each have their own story. Yeah, I mean, explicitly they’re breakup songs, the songs on the EP. They are all about romantic relationships, maybe not “Dreams,” but the other three are.
KAPLAN: Can you elaborate a bit? Are they just about your relationships?
ZUTRAU: I write the melodies and the lyrics. They are all actually about a specific breakup I had about a year ago.
KAPLAN: How was your first CMJ experience?
ZUTRAU: It was really fun! More people were coming out to see us and that was really exciting, but also a little bit daunting. We saw a little bit of Empress Of, and she was really good. We got to hang out with the guys from the rap group Jody. It was really fun meeting people at The Fader Fort. It was cool talking to Kelela, which was fun for me, because I’m a big fan of hers.
KAPLAN: She’s great! Did you end up seeing P.Diddy at The Fader Fort?
ZUTRAU: I did not. We had to go to another show that night. I was really bummed I missed that.
KAPLAN: It’ll happen next time. So, we’re premiering your video for “You’re The Best” (formerly “U Da Best”). Can you tell me a little bit about what went into making it?
ZUTRAU: The majority of the video was shot over the course of one night in May earlier this year. We only had that one night because Jared Hutchinson, the director, was leaving for St. Petersburg the next day. We began shooting and planning at a friend’s house and then drove up to Greenpoint. We got a lot of footage on the BQE with me and our friend Annie in the back of the car and Jared up front in the passenger seat. We went up to the more desolate, industrial, shipping/receiving parts of Greenpoint between the BQE and Maspeth Creek where there’s relatively little traffic after business hours. There’s also these intense, bluish lights from all the warehouses that mixes well with the orange colors of the street lamps and casts the whole environment in a nice light that looked good in the camera.
KAPLAN: Was it shot at a party or a bar?
ZUTRAU: We ended up at a party at a bar nearby, the Call Box Lounge, and hung out there for a bit. This bar is awesome because it’s this little dinky dive bar underneath the BQE by the McDonald’s and it has this tiny dance floor with lasers and a hidden DJ booth up a ladder in the back corner. The owner is this really sweet older woman, and she’ll let anyone have a party there for free as long as you bring enough people. So we were at the Call Box Lounge for a while, and Jared shot a bunch of footage from the party that’s cut up throughout the video. Overall, the video was done pretty quickly and with relatively little preparation. The objective for the night was to just start collecting some footage and to continue working on things once Jared got back from Russia. But he did an amazing job with the footage we got that night and some other footage he had and cut things together into this cohesive finished product, and we’re really happy with the way it turned out.
KAPLAN: I love how DIY it was, and how it shows the beauty of the city. What sets you guys apart as one of the “Brooklyn-based” bands?
ZUTRAU: We’re all from Massachusetts and have been living in NYC for the past eight years on and off. Over that time, the cohesiveness of any one scene or type of music—the idea of a “Brooklyn sound”—has, to me at least, come and gone. There are a million bands here, and everyone seems to be doing their own thing. I guess what I’m saying is that I feel our music has no affiliation with Brooklyn in any real way, we just happen to live here. In a larger sense though, our music plays into the more general trend of artists incorporating certain elements of R&B and pop into their sound and creating something really unique. There are definitely artists in New York right now who are doing this—people like Autre Ne Veut, Empress Of, Dev Hynes/Blood Orange, SZA—all artists who we admire tremendously, but I don’t think this speaks to some larger, collective “sound of Brooklyn” type thing. We grew up in a time where artists like Usher and SWV were on heavy rotation on the radio and are now adults in a time when the music playing on Hot 97 is some of the most exciting music being made right now. I think that those sounds are deeply ingrained in the way we approach and create music, and it just comes out filtered through our own style and in our own voice.