We hung out with US trio Wet and found out about their onstage anxieties and the creation of their debut album Don’t You.
The sun is beating down on a corner of Dalston and the three members of Wet sat before me are hiding behind sunglasses. That might be because of the surprising weather, or more likely, because they’re horrendously hungover after spending all night with a group of their fans post-gig. It seems like Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle and Marty Sulkow may still be tipsy as we stumble through conversation while they nibble at avocado on toast but we have some laughs as a result and as is widely accepted when the sun is shining in Britain, anything goes.
Having met nine years ago at college in NYC, the three of them began making music as Wet in 2012. After being requested by their label to pull their tracks from Soundcloud, the platform that originally won them so much recognition, they became something of an enigma. Their melancholia hued electronica fed with RnB beat tracks reaches out to desolate but warm place, enhanced with synth swells and percussive decoration on tracks like “Dreams”, Wet have added attraction.
And so, with just five tracks readily available for listening on the internet, I come to meet the band armed with little other than a press release and the knowledge that they’re doing something different and the final product Don’t You is nearly here, due for release this autumn. While catching a tan, I find out about their BFF fans, how they’ve learnt to be comfortable on stage and of course, the new record.
I read that you were in a lot of discussion with a lot of different labels, what was that like with everyone wanting you, was it a good feeling?
Kelly: I think it was a really exciting but stressful time, we went to a lot of dinners and we liked everyone we were talking to. We had no idea how we were going to make the decision.
Was it easy to get signed, did you have that new band struggling phase or was it just quite smooth sailing?
Kelly: No we definitely had that!
Joe: Yeah, but nobody was watching that part so it just seemed easy, like we came out of nowhere.
Marty: We had that official narrative of a band where we had like a year or two of playing before we got signed, but like anyone who’s from this industry and has been playing those shitty gigs since they were 17.
I think that makes you as a band though. You all met when you were students, how did you know you all wanted to work together?
Kelly: It wasn’t like an intentional decision; it was really casual at first. We were all really good friends at college and then after college we were all working on music. I remember sending a demo to Marty and we started to send things back and forth through email. We didn’t move back to New York to work on music at all, we just happened to move back to New York and live together and happened to have been working on these demos and just thought let’s keep working on these. It wasn’t like we needed to work together; it was more because we were friends and we didn’t really have that much else going on at the time. It was really fun at the time.
How do you think you’ve all changed since you’ve started? As people and as musicians?
Kelly: As musicians, I feel like we’ve gone from treating it as a really casual fun, social thing to really taking it seriously and trying to make it our jobs and putting in a certain number of hours a day.
Joe: I think one of the biggest changes for me has been how I think about playing live, because I used to not care about it at all and used to try and avoid it and now I realise that it’s such an important part of this and being successful as a band. I’ve kind of learnt to like it and get more excited about playing shows now. It’s a fun part of it now rather than a dreaded thing.
What is your live show like now?
Kelly: That’s the part where you just can’t do overnight. It takes years to get good live. Especially for people who don’t consider themselves musicians. I mean, I certainty didn’t think I would ever be doing music in this serious of a way and don’t feel like I’ve had real practice. I think we’ve come so far since we’ve played our first show but we’re half way there, we’re still really trying to improve and want to get it to a place where we all think we’re really good at it.
Marty: And also you’re always really working out how you want to present your music to your audience.
Kelly: It feels like it’s a really separate thing to me to recorded music. Like there’s the recording part of this and then the live part is a totally different set of skills. It’s so different to try and cut a vocal in a studio and then sing well live or sing with a guitar.
How do you write together? Has it been difficult to say ‘I don’t like this part’ or ‘we need to compromise here?’
Kelly: Sometimes we’re on the same page and then there are definitely times where we have to comprise a lot. That is the hard part of recording, because it feels a little different to other kinds of projects. It feels very personal when you’re working on music, at least for us. Like when you put an idea out there you’re putting yourself out there. If it doesn’t work for other people it can be very tricky to navigate those situations. It can be hard and then other times it’s great.
Do you still get that anxiety of having something out there that’s yours and everyone one else is going to have it?
Kelly: It’s so scary and there are times when I don’t know if I’ve gone to far. There are a couple of times in the album where I’m like, ‘is that too personal or did I say too much?’
What is your first memory of music in your life?
Marty: “Baby Beluga” by Raffi.
Joe: I remember music being important to me in high school, my uncle was in a band, I just remember it being the coolest thing. I remember going to see them play in a show in the city, and it wasn’t like ‘I want to do that’ it was really exciting.
Kelly: My earliest memories of music are of my mum singing growing up. We would be driving a lot with all my little sisters being in the car listening to Madonna, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey – those three mostly. Everyone was singing along as loud as possible. That was like an everyday thing.
Who are the people that have influenced you the most musically and is there anyone who has a creditable career that you aspire to have?
Joe: Career wise I think The XX are a very inspirational group, just to see how far they’ve come, what they do, how respected they are and how they’ve gone outside the traditional boundaries of being just a band. They’ve done interesting things performance wise and I really respect them.
What’s your ultimate goal, the reason you started music?
Kelly: It would be cool to be like The XX and be able to decide exactly what kind of show you wanted to play and design. Make it perfectly fit whatever you want the show to be. We’re not in that position at all yet, we saw them play at The Armory in New York and it was one of the craziest shows of all time. They only let 40 people in at a time and you were standing around them in a square with the band below you, then the walls started to disappear and we were all suddenly in this huge space. It would be cool to have shows be more interesting in that sense.
Joe: To be able to have that level of control where you’re designing the show both for yourself and for your audience so they have the optimal sound would be an experience. Being able to perform and do things that are a little bit less traditional and more specific to what you need as a band would be great.
If you had a performance like that people hear your music in a completely different way compared to being at the back of a tiny room or in a huge audience in the corner.
Kelly: There’s something about that that makes us really uncomfortable. Maybe that goes back to that stage where were really struggling in New York and no one came to our shows but it’s still hard for us to believe that anyone wants to be there and it would be cool to not have them squished into some uncomfortable space. It would be cool to create an experience that felt more generous on our side I think.
At the moment do you have much interaction with your fans?
Joe: Funny you should ask that actually.
Kelly: We were up all night with our fans. They’re friends now, they were fans in the beginning over here a long time ago and now when we come here we hang out with them.
Joe: It’s this group of people who all met as Haim super fans over Twitter a long time ago and they all started following us on Twitter. So probably like the second time we played here we met up, now they’re our buds.
Kelly: We stayed up drinking and they ordered us food, as we had no idea how to get food here late. It was kind of a lifesaver!
Marty: I went to a flat party at one of their houses the other day actually.
Newfound friends! Tell me about the album from beginning to end, writing, recording, and finishing how long did that all take?
Joe: I think we all had different ideas. Some of the songs on the album Kelly been working on them a long time ago but we didn’t start in earnest I think with the idea of working on the album until like last summer.
Kelly: But the writing period of that started maybe December, January time, before that.
Has it been quite smooth sailing or like a labour of love?
Kelly: It was really intense.
Joe: More the latter!
Marty: People have different ways of working and sometimes people can just throw stuff out but that’s never worked for us.
Did you record it all in Massachusetts?
Kelly: We live in Massachusetts now but we’re in New York constantly. When we were making the album we were splitting our time between the two.
Were you living in the studio, was it really intense? Did you feel like you needed to take yourself away from it from a couple of days to get a break?
Kelly: I don’t feel like we took a lot of breaks because there’s a lot of pressure from both the label and ourselves. Everyone just wanted to get it done because we know how long it takes to get it out there. Once it’s done then who knows how long it will be before it comes out. We just really wanted to get our music out but it took a really long time. We tried to get it done by certain deadlines but we did miss some.
When it was finished did you all have a moment to sit down and listen to it together, what was that like?
Kelly: After mixing it in New York we were in Electric Lady Studios and Tom Elmhirst was mixing it, and he’s the most amazing mixer in the world. He’s so talented and he did such a good. Job. His room is literally Jimi Hendrix studio; the walls are curved to make the sound better and he has the most speakers and equipment you can imagine. We were listening to the album and drinking champagne, it’s never sounded that good again, for sure. We’re going to have listening parties in that way, for press and even friends.
Do you have a favourite song on the album right now?
Kelly: My favourite is the album opener, we’ve just started playing it live, it’s called “All in Vain”. We’ve only played it twice live but it’s had a good reception so far.
Marty: Originally mine was “Deadwater” but now it’s a single and it’s been played so much it’s “All in Vain”.
Joe: I think I like the closer of the album the best because it’s the most different from all the others. I think I have the most distinct memories of that one being made; it reminds me of a very distinctive time of the album being made. It reminds me how hard it was to make that album and it feels really good to listen to it now and for it to be done.
Have you had a favourite point as a band so far? Have you had any crazy weekends or a favourite gig, a highlight as a band?
Kelly: It’s never ending.
Marty: We were in Australia recently and that was really nice, like going to the beach.
Kelly: We had been touring and were exhausted and then we went to this amazing beach and it felt like a day out of your childhood where you were playing in the waves all day. It’s not my favourite place I’ve ever been, is it yours?
Marty: Australia? Oh fuck no. But it was really fun.
Joe: It was my favourite place to tour, it was really nice to play outside in the heat.
Kelly: It’s so different to here; people are so into beach culture there. I like that, but it felt a little like being on another planet. I got a little homesick while I was there because it’s a minimum of 14 hours away from home. I like being here more. I think London is my favourite place to be in and play at. It’s really similar to home but different enough to make it special and exciting and it’s only 6 hours away from New York.
What are your future plans?
Joe: We’re doing festivals all summer
Marty: We’re planning to be back in the UK hopefully for a more extended trip in the early fall. More partying, more fans all the good stuff, maybe a show or two.
‘Don’t You’ is due for release this autumn.
Words: Lily Walker.