Wet Leg and Edgar Wright on “Shmiral” Success
Few bands embody the onstage/offstage dichotomy quite like Wet Leg. The rock duo, comprised of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, met during their school days on Britain’s Isle of Wight—an island town known for its beaches and Blackgang Chine, a dilapidated, campy amusement park populated by giant dinosaurs, cowboys, and an excess of unsettling nursery rhyme characters. The band released “Chaise Longue,” a witty, infectious debut single in June of 2021, and found themselves practically airlifted off of their native island and dropped onto the international touring circuit almost overnight. Last week, Wet Leg released their eponymous debut record, 12 summery tracks packed with intoxicating guitar riffs, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and one 15-second-long shriek. Given Wet Leg’s uninhibited, gritty sound, the pair’s offstage personae comes as a bit of a surprise. Just ask Edgar Wright. After a gig in San Diego last week, Teasdale and Chambers got on a FaceTime Video call with the Last Night in Soho director, the pair’s shared idol whose movies helped them pass the time during their hometown’s long, slow off-seasons. Wright used some of his finest comedic material to draw the soft-spoken and camera-shy duo out of their shells—with some help from their naked bandmate, Joshua Mobaraki. Below, Wet Leg talks to Wright about going “shmiral,” long screams, and making Wikipedia’s list of “Notable People from the Isle of Wight.”
EDGAR WRIGHT: Hey, guys, how are you doing?
RHIAN TEASDALE: Good, how are you?
WRIGHT: I’m good. I didn’t know that you were in San Diego. I feel bad because it’s not fair to make any rock ‘n’ roll band do an interview at 10:00am. That’s terrible.
HESTER CHAMBERS: It’s shit!
WRIGHT: Hey listen, you are the ones in the wrong time zone. I’m in our native time zone, you should get back over here.
CHAMBERS: I miss that time zone.
TEASDALE: I’ve heard good things about it, but I can’t really remember it anymore.
WRIGHT: The Greenwich Mean Time?
WRIGHT: I had two clever plans for this interview, and both of them have failed miserably. Number one was that I wanted to read out the Wikipedia article titled, “Notable People From the Isle of Wight,” but you’d already done it in a Vogue interview. I was so mad that I’d been beaten to it. Number two was, when I heard your lyric, “Baby, you want to come home with me? I’ve got Buffalo ’66 on DVD,” I was like, “I’ve got Buffalo ’66 on DVD! Wouldn’t it be a great joke to show the girls?” Only to discover that it’s disappeared from my collection. Is that lyric something you said to somebody? Or something that somebody said to you?
TEASDALE: Oh, it’s made up. The character in the song is using his knowledge of cult indie films as currency to pick this girl up.
WRIGHT: I think the reason that my copy is missing is I might have lent it to a girl I was trying to impress.
TEASDALE & CHAMBERS: [Laugh]
WRIGHT: It’s one of those films that probably would not fly today. There’s lots of things in that film that are dubious by today’s standards, and probably wouldn’t get past film Twitter, although I did love it when it came out.
TEASDALE: Yeah. Also, Vincent Gallo is a baddie, isn’t he?
WRIGHT: Here is a good story—this is a true story. I went to a Q&A in Islington for Buffalo ’66 —name drop alert—I went with Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh. That’s not important to the story.
TEASDALE: It’s very important.
WRIGHT: This woman stood up and said, “Mr. Gallo, you keep saying that your film is groundbreaking, but it still has a girl with bleach-blond hair and a motorcycle and a gun. Aren’t these exactly the stereotypical devices of any movie?” And Vincent Gallo responded, I kid you not, “Lady, I didn’t know what your problem is, but if you don’t like the film, you and your lesbian friends can leave.”
WRIGHT: Then half of the audience walked out, and I was sitting there in stunned silence thinking, ” I guess Vincent Gallo is like he is in the film.” The first thing he did when he came offstage was to try and get a number off a girl. So yes, Vincent Gallo definitely has baddie qualities. Put that in print, Interview magazine. I’m not scared.
TEASDALE: He’s going to come for us.
WRIGHT: I was the one who said it, he’ll come for me. I have Isle of Wight history, in that I am originally from Dorset. I was born in Swanage and I didn’t used to go on holiday at all, but one of the only holidays I went on was to the Isle of Wight. I think there’s a photo of three-year-old me on a dinosaur in Blackgang Chine.
TEASDALE: Yes, I used to work there.
WRIGHT: Really? At the time, I imagined that there were dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight. The only other time I went was New Year’s Eve, 2007 with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I have a photo of it, but I can’t really remember much else about it. I had to email them today asking, “Hey, what did we do in Isle of Wight?” All I remember is that Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols was on the ferry over.
TEASDALE: That sounds about right. You probably just went on a walk and went to the pub. That’s kind of all there is to do.
WRIGHT: [Laughs] I really, really enjoyed the album. How long is it in total?
CHAMBERS: Two hundred years long.
TEASDALE: I think it might be 43 minutes.
WRIGHT: I must have listened to it five times in a row without stopping, because it was giving me exactly the kind of pleasant, buzzy feeling that I wanted.
TEASDALE: Yeah, we had a few more songs, but when it came to doing the tracklisting we just discarded.
WRIGHT: Am I right in thinking that you were a band before the pandemic, but you didn’t start recording until the pandemic?
TEASDALE: “Chaise Lounge” was the only song we had recorded before the pandemic, and then we had booked time to record some more with our friend, John McMullen, in London. I’m sorry, I’m so spacey today.
WRIGHT: It’s 10 in the morning on the West Coast, it’s completely allowed.
TEASDALE: I feel really nervous talking to you!
WRIGHT: Why? Because I’ve seen Vincent Gallo in the flesh?
TEASDALE: Because you went to the cinema with Howard Moon! So when lockdown hit, we just had this one song and we were like, “Oh, should we make a music video for it, since we can’t get in the studio for a while.” So we made the “Chaise Lounge” video and recorded “Angelica” with Hester’s boyfriend, Joshua, who’s also in the band. He’s actually right behind us.
[Joshua sits up in bed, shirtless]
WRIGHT: Hello, Josh. I’m getting some sexy time here. I love this. Because this is going to be in print, I should point out that Josh is lolling about naked in bed. At least, I’d imagine that he is under the covers.
CHAMBERS: He’s naked as you want him to be.
WRIGHT: I’ll just imagine the rest. I’m presuming that most of the videos are shot on the Isle of Wight as well. It seems like you shot them all in some strange summer that I don’t remember, and I was thinking, “Maybe lockdown was just more fun on the Isle of Wight.”
TEASDALE: Yeah, it was special. In the summer, the Isle of Wight is always full of tourists, so the beaches are always really crowded. We had a time where I was hanging out with you two with quite a lot—Hester and Naked Joshua. We’d go to the beach every day and see no one and have a picnic. It was so good.
WRIGHT: Was it the first time in your lives that there weren’t any outsiders on the Isle of Wight? That must’ve been amazing. The other thing that Isle of Wight is famous for is rock festivals. Is that something that you both grew up with? At what age were you starting to go to music festivals?
TEASDALE: I think I was 14. How about you, Hester?
CHAMBERS: I remember at one of the first ones I went to—I was really young—there was a didgeridoo, and I cried the whole set because it was a really scary sound.
WRIGHT: What was the band?
CHAMBERS: I don’t remember, but it still harrows me to this day. I’m finally getting better at listening to didgeridoos, but I still find them pretty terrifying.
WRIGHT: Am I right in thinking that you direct all your videos as well?
TEASDALE: We did “Chaise Lounge,” “Wet Dream”—
CHAMBERS: ”Angelica,” and, very exciting, our newest music video is coming up and it’s directed by Lava La Rue, and she’s a huge fan of yours.
TEASDALE: There are loads of you references.
CHAMBERS: It’s an homage to you. It’s a fan video.
WRIGHT: Which track is it for?
TEASDALE: It’s “Ur Mum.”
WRIGHT: I’m looking forward to seeing the bit where you do the longest, loudest scream, in that case. A high point of the album.
TEASDALE: Yeah. When we play it live, we do it a bit differently. We have a good little scream therapy session.
WRIGHT: The scream on the album—is that done in one take? It’s not several screams cut together, that’s just one scream?
WRIGHT: [Laughs] For the reader, Rhian’s shaking her head.
TEASDALE: It’s been manipulated a little bit.
WRIGHT: People say that Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” is stitched together from 200 different takes, so it’s okay. It’s very permissible. The past nine months for you guys have been absolutely insane. You’re now on your second or third tour before the album comes out, and you’ve already been on American chat shows. It’s extraordinary.
TEASDALE: It’s pretty wild, huh?
WRIGHT: But am I also right in thinking that you recorded the whole album before “Chaise Lounge” was released?
WRIGHT: It’s amazing to have something that becomes that—I’m trying to figure out how to say “viral” without saying “viral”…
CHAMBERS and TEASDALE: “Shmiral”?
WRIGHT: [Laughs] Thank you. Congratulations on a shmiral sensation.
CHAMBERS and TEASDALE: [Both laugh] Shmank you.
WRIGHT: So, you’ve been sitting on this amazing debut for nearly a year.
TEASDALE: Yeah, we finished recording, but then we had to do all the artwork and get it mixed and mastered. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, it feels like we only really finished it six months ago. When you finish a film, how long until it’s released?
WRIGHT: It depends on when it’s supposed to come out. Hot Fuzz came out like a month after it was finished. It was really down to the wire. But Last Night in Soho was disrupted by the pandemic, so we shot nearly all of it in 2019 and 2020, and it came out in 2021. It’s really emotional for me to watch that film, because it feels like so much happened in the space and time of the production. So it depends on what it is, really, and whether there’s a global pandemic or not.
TEASDALE: When you watch your own stuff, are you transported to that version of you? Do you put yourself into your art and your characters?
WRIGHT: Oh, yeah. That’s what’s strange—Shaun of the Dead is a film about a zombie apocalypse, Hot Fuzz is a film about cops in Somerset, Last Night in Soho is about a Cornish fashion student coming to London with supernatural powers—and I say, “Oh, they’re all really personal.” [Laughs] People are like, “How?” But you do put yourself into them, and you’re dramatizing your own mundane experiences into something more exciting. You guys are from the Isle of Wight, and I grew up in Dorset and Somerset, so a lot of what I’ve done is the product of being bored as a teenager. Somerset a very picturesque and beautiful place, but when you’re a teenager, picturesque is not what you want—you want to get to the city. Now I’m older and I think more fondly about my bucolic childhood in the country. So, all of the things you make become like love/hate letters to the place that you’re from.
TEASDALE: Yeah, I can relate to that.
WRIGHT: I can feel those country vibes in your work as well. The album seems to have themes. One theme is that it seems like you guys get annoyed at house parties a lot.
TEASDALE: Yeah. FOMO is such a thing, isn’t it? And you’re always trying to “live your best life,” but sometimes you just need to listen to yourself, and maybe just don’t don’t go to the party. I’m not able to do that quite often.
WRIGHT: I didn’t have Instagram when I was growing up, so I was always thinking that there must be something cooler going on without me. I grew up feeling like I was never going to the cool parties, but it seems like, from your album, that you’ve been to the cool parties, and you’re not impressed.
TEASDALE: Yeah, that’s it.
WRIGHT: I think it’s a good message to tell the young people out there: don’t worry guys, you’re not missing that much.
CHAMBERS: We’ve dipped our toes in the little pool of music videos, but you are a filmmaker. We are not filmmakers, but if you had a tip for us, what would it be? Also, what’s one of your favorite movies?
WRIGHT: Well, what makes you think that you’re not filmmakers? That doesn’t make any sense, because you already have a point of view and an aesthetic. You can tell what a Wet Leg video is just from the four that you’ve released already, which is great. Why don’t you make a Wet Leg movie? Here’s the pitch: every attraction at Blackgang Chine comes to life, and only Wet Leg can stop the chaos from spreading across the rest of the world.
TEASDALE: [Gasps] The Mouth of Hell.
CHAMBERS: The Weather Wizard!
TEASDALE: The Rumpus Mansion!
CHAMBERS: There’s also a really scary Humpty-Dumpty there.
WRIGHT: Okay, I’m going to suggest a favorite film of mine. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t imagine you guys not loving it. Have you ever seen the 1974 musical Phantom of the Paradise?
TEASDALE: Phantom of the Paradise? No, I haven’t seen that.
WRIGHT: I’m going to get it to you because I cannot imagine that you wouldn’t love it. It’s like a rock musical. It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, it’s got a ‘70s score written by Paul Williams, and it’s fantastic. That’s one of my favorite films that I think you guys would dig.
TEASDALE: I’ve written it down. One last question, do you have a DVD collection?
WRIGHT: I do, I can show you. Hang on, we’ll take a little walk. Buffalo ’66 is not there because I looked for it earlier. Look, here you go, this is what I was doing during the lockdown.
[Wright shows Wet Leg his substantial DVD collection]
TEASDALE & CHAMBERS: Wooowwwww!
WRIGHT: Physical media—it hasn’t gone away! Who knows when the internet will go? I’ve still got a lot of Blu Rays to organize. I can’t stop buying them— I went on a bit of a crazy Amazon kick during the lockdown. The Oxfam around the corner from my house has had a steady stream of the ones I’ve been giving away. I donate a lot of horror films to the Oxfam. I wonder about the kind of the person that goes in there and finds all these really hardcore horror films. Somebody’s going to have a wild afternoon.
TEASDALE: We love horror films.
WRIGHT: What are some of your favorite horror films?
TEASDALE: Evil Dead.
CHAMBERS: I like Death Becomes Her, I think that’s such a funny film.
WRIGHT: I saw that at Bournemouth when I was at art college. I haven’t seen it since— I don’t want to guess a lady’s age—but probably before you guys were alive.
TEASDALE: I was alive. I was just coming out.
WRIGHT: I’m going to come and see you guys next month!
CHAMBERS: Oh, yeah, we heard!
WRIGHT: Where are you playing?
TEASDALE: I think at the Electric Ballroom, but I can’t remember. It’s really hard to keep track of anything because everything’s so mad right now, and I’m quite a spacey person anyway, which doesn’t really help. Having such a full schedule ahead of us makes me look even more spacey.
WRIGHT: Just live in the moment, you guys are having an amazing ride. Your album is fantastic, and having listened to it five times in a row yesterday, I have to tell you, I could have listened to it another five times. Maybe this will be a good way to wrap up this interview. We’ve heard from you, Rhian, you’ve said Evil Dead. Hester, you’ve said Death Becomes Her, but what is the favorite horror film of Naked Josh behind us?
NAKED JOSH: Hi, I’m Naked Josh. I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but I do like Battle Royale.
WRIGHT: What a movie!