Graphic: The Recording Academy
Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
Here's who's up for the 2022 Best Alternative Music Performance, a new category introduced at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards.
Call it Tumblr revival or post-quarantine activation, but this year saw plenty of established alternative and indie rock musicians make highly anticipated returns with fresh albums.
Of that set, plenty were recognized in the 2023 GRAMMY Awards’ inaugural award for Best Alternative Music Performance. Arctic Monkeys’ orchestral single “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball," Florence + The Machine’s triumphant "King," and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' first song in nearly a decade, "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World," featuring Perfume Genius, are all up for the trophy.
These long standing musicians are joined in the category by two acts who more recently got their breakthrough moment: Big Thief, who was recognized for their folksy track, “Certainty,” and Wet Leg, who is up for their viral hit, "Chaise Longue.”
The 2022 Best Alternative Music Performance, which aims to honor and uplift the alternative genre, is just one of the new categories that have been introduced for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards. It will exist in tandem with the Best Alternative Music Album category — which was established in 1958 and was referred to Best Alternative Music Performance in 1991, and from 1994 to 1999.
Having both categories will provide more opportunities for the Recording Academy to recognize the diverse communities of musicians and creators who work in the alternative genre.
Read on to learn more about the nominees ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards ceremony, taking place Feb. 5 at Los Angeles’ Crypto Arena.
Read the full list of nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards here.
Arctic Monkeys — "There'd Better Be A Mirrorball"
To follow-up their loungey, high-concept 2018 record Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, Arctic Monkeys returned in 2022 with The Car. Their seventh studio album folds in elements of jazz, traditional pop, and flourishing film soundtracks.
The album’s opening track, "There’d Better Be A Mirrorball" begins with a passage of elegant strings and piano that sets the tone for the rest of the project. Frontman Alex Turner told Variety that the song was specifically influenced by Nat "King" Cole’s 1963 ballad "Where Did Everyone Go?"
Founded in 2002, the indie rock band from Sheffield, England has received six total career GRAMMY nominations. They were first recognized in 2006 when their debut record, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album.
Big Thief — "Certainty"
On "Certainty," Big Thief vocalist and songwriter Adrianne Lenker describes a devotion that fluctuates like a sine wave. "Maybe I love you is a river so high / Maybe I love you is a river so low," she sings.
The stripped-down song is one of 20 that appear on the indie rock band’s sprawling fifth studio album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You. It follows the four piece's 2019 albums U.F.O.F. and Not, which have both previously received GRAMMY nods.
While making Dragon, Lenker said she was becoming more fearless as a writer. "I definitely had a desire for things to be complex: Is this chord progression too simple? Is this lyric too simple? Is this cliche? Is this corny?," she told Pitchfork. "I feel less of that noise in my head, and more of just, 'This is what I want to sing.'"
Florence + The Machine — "King"
"I’m no mother / I am no bride / I am king," Florence Welch repeats like a mantra on her determined pop-rock anthem "King." It marks Florence + the Machine’s seventh GRAMMY nomination since they broke out in 2009.
Written and produced by Welch and Jack Antonoff, the song captures the English artist's sudden "tearing of [her] identity and [her] desires," according to a statement. Though Welch never used to think much of her gender, being a woman in her 30s has brought upon a realization: "To be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts."
"King" appears on the band’s fifth studio album, Dance Fever, which was partly inspired by the work of Iggy Pop and choreomania — a Medieval social phenomenon where groups of people danced erratically.
Wet Leg — "Chaise Longue"
"Chaise Longue," the debut breakout single from Wet Leg, marks the British indie rock act’s first GRAMMY nomination.
The energetic song went viral for its tongue-in-cheek lyrics that allude to academic life ("I went to college and I got the big D") and the 2004 film Mean Girls ("Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin"), bringing the duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers into new visibility.
In a Rolling Stone interview, Teasdale said Wet Leg weren't "making a conscious effort to write anything," and that "Chaise Lounge" came from "that 13-year-old girl sleepover head space." The song leads their self-titled first album, which debuted at No. 1 on the UK charts only two years after Teasdale and Chambers decided to become a musical duo.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs feat. Perfume Genius — "Spitting Off the Edge of the World"
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs returned this year with their first song in nine years: "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World," an insurgent indie rock track that confronts the climate crisis.
Produced by longtime collaborator Dave Sistek of TV on the Radio, the song is a duet between frontwoman Karen O and Perfume Genius that is equal parts vulnerable and resolute. "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World" was the lead single from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ long-awaited fifth studio album Cool It Down.
First breaking out in 2000, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have received three previous nominations for Best Alternative Music Album: 2003’s Fever to Tell, 2006’s Show Your Bones, and 2009’s It’s Blitz!
Photo: Clemens Bilan/picture alliance via Getty Images
5 Artists Influenced By Enya: Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes & More
Thirty-five years after Enya's second studio effort, 'Watermark,' ushered in the contemporary New Age scene, take a look at five artists who have professed their love of the four-time GRAMMY winner.
Enya never used to be considered the epitome of cool. Perhaps that was due to her image as a reclusive castle dweller. Maybe it's because she's never played a single live show in her four-decade career. Or it could be that her music has often been snootily dismissed as the aural equivalent of a bath bomb.
But over time, the four-time GRAMMY winner born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin has received a deserved critical reevaluation. The modern-day consensus is that her ethereal blend of Celtic folk, classical and pioneering use of lush, multi-layered synths — developed in conjunction with long-term creative team Nicky and Roma Ryan — spearheaded a new age for, well, New Age.
She's now talked about in the same circles as Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser and Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, singers that, unlike Enya, were immediately celebrated for pushing their remarkable voices to new otherworldly places. And she's been sampled, namechecked or championed by artists as eclectic as industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, death metallers Blood Incantation and the many-monikered rapper, Diddy.
In fact, think of any Enya song, and it's no doubt been borrowed by an unlikely suspect. "Boadicea" formed the basis of Fugees' career-best "Ready or Not," and rather sneakily without the hip-hop trio asking first. "Wild Child" was given the hardcore techno treatment by Eurodance duo CJ Crew. And yes, that is her most recognizable hit you can hear in the chorus of hip-hop provocateurs Die Antwoord's "Orinoco Ninja Flow (Wedding DJ's Remix)."
Sample or not, some musicians have been more vocal about their love of Ireland's second-biggest music export (only U2 have sold more records worldwide) than others. As her breakthrough album, Watermark, celebrates its 35th anniversary on Sept 19, here's a look at five.
Brandy certainly doesn't see Enya as a guilty pleasure. The R&B star leapt to the defense of her unlikely musical hero during a 2020 interview with The Guardian when the journalist questioned the Irish icon's musical credibility. "Enya's a joke to you?" she asked incredulously. "That's not even possible. I'm a little bit offended."
The man who'd incurred her wrath should have known that Brandy takes Enya very seriously. You can hear the Irish' songstress' influence throughout her enduring career, from the gorgeous multi-layered harmonies of "Full Moon" to the hypnotic chant that weaves its way through the futuristic Timbaland production of "Afrodisiac."
"She has the voice of an angel," Brandy gushed in the introduction for an Apple playlist personally curated to reflect her life, with Enya's post-9/11 anthem "Only Time" appearing alongside Coldplay's "Yellow," three Whitney Houston cuts, and the best of her own material. "I first discovered Enya when I was 15. I love how she layered and stacked her voice."
Weyes Blood, aka baroque pop singer/songwriter Natalie Mering, was also forced to stick up for Enya when she was asked by The Irish Times whether her love of the New Age veteran was shrouded in irony. Her reply couldn't have made her sincerity any clearer.
"She is a completely uninhibited feminine force," said Mering. "A matriarchal force in music. She had so much success because of that distinctive sound. But because music people are obsessed with rock 'n' roll and drums, she doesn't get the attention she deserves. If you look at her record sales, she is, in my opinion, up there with the Beatles."
A year later, Mering waxed lyrical about the former Clannad singer in a Pitchfork piece about Enya's growing cultural cachet. She revealed that the Watermark and Shepherd Moons albums her parents played constantly back in the 1990s were a huge influence on her own LPs, 2016's Front Row Seat to Earth and 2019's Titanic Rising, particularly on the former's ballad "Generation Why." Mering then made a claim even bolder than her Fab Four comparison: "Enya's a drone artist, she's like the most mainstream noise artist there ever was."
You wouldn't necessarily expect an album featuring a belated riposte to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" to also be partly influenced by the enigmatic darling of the New Age scene. But apparently, Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint does nod to Enya on at least a couple of occasions.
Discussing her 2014 LP with V magazine, Minaj said, "One of my biggest [musical influences] is Enya. There are two records early in the album where the airiness and the whimsicalness remind me of Enya, and I sort of crafted it thinking about her and the way her music makes me feel."
And the rapper also tried to convert her son (still only known by his nickname, Papa Bear) to Enya's studio wizardry while he was still in the womb. The rapper explained on Twitter, "While pregnant I could only play him soothing music like Enya/classical, etc. He'd be more relaxed."
Grimes' fondness for the Celtic goddess appears to have developed over time. When asked about her "Enya on steroids" label early on in her career, the Canadian seemed relatively non-committal. "I probably have the 'Best Of Enya' somewhere," she told NME. "I guess it makes a change from all the Cocteau Twins comparisons."
But over the following decade, Grimes showed more appreciation for Enya's talents. In 2013, she told Rolling Stone that her then-upcoming Art Angels album was heavily influenced by the Irishwoman's ethereal sound, particularly closer "Butterfly" in which she layered "so much Enya synth s—."
Five years later, Grimes included the haunting "Boadicea" on Playing Bloodborne, one of five mood-specific playlists she curated for Spotify. And during her 2022 DJ set at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Grimes no doubt confounded all the ravers expecting wall-to-wall EDM when she dropped in the geography lesson that is "Orinoco Flow."
"I also love Enya or Cocteau Twins, where I can't understand a word they're saying and they're pulling a thread that does not exist in the real world but is still so satisfying." Perfume Genius' 2020 interview with The New Yorker proves that the world music icon's influence extends the female sphere.
The singer/songwriter born Michael Alden Hadreas has repeatedly professed his admiration for Enya in recent years. "My wig has belonged to Enya since 1988," he tweeted in 2019. "Was Enya the first to ever pop off," he posted without any context a year later. And then in 2023, the art pop troubadour named "Caribbean Blue" as one of his 40 all-time favorite songs while joining in with the latest Twitter trend.
Hadreas' love of Enya has undoubtedly filtered down to his own sound, too. Hear the "Orinoco Flow"-esque intro of "Just Like Love," for example, or the celestial "Gay Angels." Speaking to Pitchfork in 2022, he explained that the Irishwoman's general aura is the key to her appeal — and what has helped classify her as a different kind of cool.
"There's something about Enya being so mainstream that is really soothing to me," he said. "Everybody knows who Enya is, but there's also this feeling that it's something spiritual and strange."
The star's unique vibe also gave Hadreas a sense of belonging — something Enya likely did for many of his peers as well. "It felt like a deeper thing, this secret, like I know that I am connected to something, and I know the way I am is OK."
Photos: Jason Stoltzfus; Jasper Cable-Alexander; Christian Alanis; Jada + David; Courtesy of artist
6 Female-Fronted Acts Reviving Rock: Wet Leg, Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn & More
Long a staple of the form, 2023 sees even more women leading the hell out of rock bands. Read on for six rising acts whose bold sound and brash energy are taking rock to new heights.
Neil Young once proclaimed that "rock and roll can never die," and while the genre isn't necessarily topping charts or playlists today, there are signs that rock music is coming back in a big way. In 2023, Neil's truth is being upheld by female rockers.
Long a staple of the form — rock was pioneered by a woman, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, iterated on by female-led groups like Heart and Jefferson Airplane, revived and reformed by the likes of Bikini Kill, and onward to Paramore — women's contributions to rock remain less feted than those of their male counterparts.
Yet female rockers and female-led bands are resonating with today’s younger audiences in big ways, following a culture shift that has resulted in more space for young women to express themselves. Gen-Z and younger millennial artists such as Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and boygenius are known for their honest lyricism; it’s only natural that they’ve gravitated toward the fiery release of rock to further reflect their own individual experience.
Eilish’s GRAMMY-nominated breakup anthem "Happier Than Ever" invokes the classic rock format of beginning acoustic and swelling into an epic band finish complete with a guitar solo and a final 20 seconds of feedback-driven noise. Rodrigo has several rock songs on her smash hit debut album SOUR including "good 4 u," another enraged breakup song with emo tinges that is currently sitting at 1.7 billion streams on Spotify.
Finally, while the debut album from boygenius, the record, is mostly in the indie wheelhouse of members Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus, the single "$20" is an alt-meter rock song. The trio details the stories of early youth wherein all it takes to avoid responsibility is $20; Bridgers literally screams her request for money at the song's close.
But how to define rock — is it a feeling or an attitude? A sound or a set of instruments? For the purposes of this list, rock is categorized as guitar-forward and band-based. First and foremost, guitar is at the forefront — generally distorted, though an acoustic or clean sound can lend an upbeat energy or psychedelic quality. Second, rock is a band genre, even if a group is named after one person, the band creates real cohesion (e.g. the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Steve Miller Band). In 2023, women are leading the hell out of these bands.
Read on for a list of rising artists whose sound and spirit rock.
As Wet Leg, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers took home a number of golden gramophones at the 2023 GRAMMYs: Best Alternative Music Album for their self-titled debut, and Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue."
Although they didn’t win in the "rock" categories, their guitar-driven success defines the current generation of rock music (to the point that they even beat out well-established acts like Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
Utterly simple in its song form, "Chaise Lounge" captures Gen Z's disillusionment about college, viewing it as more of a gateway to light-hearted debauchery than a path to vocational freedom. Then they tear through the disillusionment with a high-energy, limb-shaking guitar riff.
Rock and roll was certainly invented by Black American artists, but British musicians have consistently innovated and expanded the genre — from the Beatles launching the British invasion, to Sabbath morphing rock into heavy metal, to Pink Floyd’s exploration of progressive psychedelia. Coming out of London, Gretel Hänlyn (pronounced hen-line) is upholding all the best traditions of British rock.
Hänlyn explores every current corner of rock on her recently released EP, Head of the Love Club, and her previous, Slugeye.
With a uniquely deep and resonant tone, Hänlyn has the power and versatility of a crooner. That ability defines the sound of "Dry Me" and other works throughout Hänlyn's catalog. She alters her delivery to befit the yelping and joyful side of rock on "King of Nothing" as well as the seething and scary side on "Drive."
Coming out of Sinaloa Mexico, BRATTY is one of the female rock artists playing Coachella 2023, sharing her invigorated brand of the languorous sound of surf rock.
BRATTY's seaside exploits surely influenced the loungey and chilled-out feel of songs like "Honey, No Estás" and "tarde." With swells and sustains that are reminiscent of ocean sounds, BRATTY’s music transcends language barriers.
Given that the festival has been without a major rock headliner since Guns ‘N Roses in 2016, the rock artists on the lineup this year are there to demonstrate the lifeblood of the genre. BRATTY’s contribution demonstrates that rock can be slower, softer, and just as effective.
Olivia Jean isn’t just a former member of Jack White’s touring band. She’s not just his wife, either. She’s an artist all on her own, and she rocks hard.
As a solo artist, Jean has released two albums, an EP, and a single on White's Third Man Records. Prior to that, she was releasing on the label via The Black Belles, her all-female garage-goth project, which put out a self-titled album in 2011 along with four singles.
Jean’s fingerprints go even deeper into the Third Man archives via her session contributions to different releases like Tom Brosseau and John C. Reilly’s seven-inch single, Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar.
No matter where she’s lent her vocal and instrumental talent, her loud yet bubbly sound is a welcome addition to the catalog.
Jean’s forthcoming album, Raving Ghost, (out May 5 on Third Man), and its first single, "Trouble," touches on all the traditional rock favorites like pentatonic power chords and call-and-response guitar squeals. You can check out Oliva Jean's rock on her American tour in May and June.
Fun fact about the sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe: They are distantly related to Edgar Allen Poe. With that kind of connection, it’s only natural their rendition of rock carries a certain connection to the sounds of generations past. Many of those older sounds of rock and roll stem from their native American South, and manifest in influences of blues and Americana that were born of the same region.
Larkin Poe's Venom & Faith was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 2019 GRAMMYs. Grounded in swinging rhythms and twangy notes that have hallmarked the blues since its inception, the Lovells demonstrate their understanding of the music’s roots on a technical and emotional level, alongside their ability to carry the genre into the present.
Their latest album, Blood Harmony, follows the hereditary thread of blues giving birth to rock and roll. Larkin Poe dial back the swing just a bit and turn it up to 11 for hot and distorted tracks like "Bad Spell," which features guitar breaks that will have Stevie Ray Vaughn jamming along in his grave.
Another product of London, Sarah-Jayne Riedel fronts the just-out-of-the-gate alternative rock band, Dutch Mustard. Last year Dutch Mustard released their debut EP An Interpretation of Depersonalisation, and was quickly featured on BBC, getting airplay on Radio 1’s Future Artists and being selected by none other than rock's enduring sage Iggy Pop on 6 Music.
Dutch Mustard produces a sound that is as dreamy as it is heavy, finding that middle ground in guitar tone between fuzzy and pristine. Then on songs like "Something To You," vocal layering adds a hopeful flavor. Dutch Mustard, like the other artists on this list, make listeners feel hope not just for the band, but for the future of rock.
That future is especially bright considering Riedel wrote all the songs and demoed all the instruments herself in her bedroom before bringing in other musicians. The first EP was written entirely during the first COVID lockdown as well.
With that kind of creativity and versatility coming from her, there is no telling where she’ll take her music as her career moves forward into an open industry.
Photo: Lorne Thomson/Redferns
9 Must-See Acts At SXSW 2023: Wet Leg, Balming Tiger, Armani White, The Lemon Twigs & More
As the music showcases kick off at South by Southwest 2023, get a preview of some of the most-anticipated acts who will hit the stage in Austin.
When South by Southwest takes over Austin, Texas every spring, the city explodes with culture, new ideas and fresh sounds. Hundreds of artists descend to perform a variety of engaging showcases, intimate sets and show-stopping performances hoping to make their mark.
Since the festival's inception in 1987, the SXSW music showcase has become one of the largest music festivals in the world; everyone from Patti Smith to Childish Gambino to Garth Brooks has been on the bill. But one of the biggest draws of SXSW is the chance for music discovery, as bands from all over the world travel to Austin each year — and this year alone, 1,400 bands will perform throughout the week.
As the 2023 iteration gets into full swing, check out nine buzzing artists appearing at SXSW, including a recent GRAMMY-winning duo, a viral rapper on a victory lap, and popular English music collective rock outfit who is starting to turn heads stateside.
Performing as part of the British Music Embassy showcase, the curiously named Wet Leg is composed of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who spin bright, buoyant pop that reflects an innocence. As a result, their knack for songwriting and performance garnered them two GRAMMYs in February for Best Alternative Music Performance for single "Chaise Longue" and Best Alternative Album for their eponymous debut (they were also nominated for Best New Artist). As if that weren't enough, their charming hilarity has helped them they've also become TikTok darlings, collecting over 13 million likes on the platform.
"We're just trying to enjoy where we are and where we're going and see what happens," Chambers told GRAMMY.com last year. "I really can't think too far ahead right now — it's a bit scary."
Recently singled out by The Hollywood Reporter as a highlight of this year's festival, Italo-Congolese artist Sans Soucis' sound is branded as a "soul-invigorating" artist. They blend a variety of disparate styles — such as Congolese Rumba, R&B and alt-pop — into a tidy and refreshing sonic package, landing somewhere in between Solange and PinkPantheress. Just listen to the effervescent melodies of the standout track "All Over this Party" for evidence of a sharp talent.
"Sometimes I do solo improvisation sessions," they recently said of their songwriting technique. "I just connect pedals to my synth and record random stuff. On another day, I'll start sampling sounds from them."
Hot off his viral track "Billie Eilish," rapper Armani White rolls into Texas as one of the festival's more well-known featured performers. It's a victory lap that also marks a new chapter for the 26 year-old Philadelphia native who recently released the follow-up single "GOATED," an extension of what he refers to as "happy hood music."
"You see the smile on my face, you see all my jagged teeth and you have no idea what the hell I've been through," he told Notion earlier this year. "That's really what I want to portray – no matter what you go through, you still find a way to stand up and smile."
Influenced by '60s-era bands including the Beach Boys and the Lovin' Spoonful, Chicago natives Divino Nino trace their roots back to Bogota, Colombia. As a result, the mix of the music of their heritage along with their various influences from the '60s manifest itself in spirited and catchy songs like "XO" and "Drive" which boast both Spanish and English lyrics.
"When I listen to a good song, my body inherits the feelings of that track," said vocalist Javier Forero to the website 15 Questions. "I just become intoxicated and get inspired to dance or make a track that reminds me of those feelings."
Considered a household name in the busy London music scene, the collective Steam Down makes their American debut at SXSW to demonstrate why their star is rising back home. A music collective founded by the producer Ahanse, their debut single, "Free My Skin," promptly set the internet on fire upon its release. Along with now infiltrating the American market, they're currently prepping a highly anticipated debut album.
"How can we live in a more harmonious way?" says Ahnase of his overarching goal to Sussex Jazz Magazine. "How can we create the feeling of what that can be? That inspired what Steam Down is now, which is: how do we start thinking about how music can be the tool for creating harmony between people?"
From a London music collective to a South Korean one, Balming Tiger is made up of a ragtag group of creatives (including rapper Omega Sapien and the singer/songwriter Sogumm). Their esoteric production and melodically adventurous songs may make you think of BROCKHAMPTON, but with a K-pop twist. The group heads to SXSW riding high on their biggest success to date, the popular "섹시느낌 SEXY NUKIM" which features BTS member RM and has collected 52 million streams on Spotify alone.
"We are pushing our agenda to broaden the genre of K-Pop," frontman Omega Sapien told High Snobiety last year. "The world is not ready for this part of K-Pop yet. Welcome to the dark side."
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
With a name like that, you could have perhaps guessed that the group is a stoner-rock band. Hailing from Newcastle, England, the eccentric group — also known as Pigs x7 — has been steadily rising since the release of their quirky 2017 debut Feed the Rats, which began a fearless hard-rock reputation. The group rolls into Austin weeks after the release of their fourth album, Land of Sleeper.
"As a band we're constantly playing on the edge of absurdity and absolute commitment to seriousness," guitarist/producer Sam Grant recently told The Line Of Best Fit. "Somehow we're constantly trying to sit in the middle of it..."
The Lemon Twigs
Hailing from Long Island, New York, this duo made up of brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario was born out of a childhood as Broadway performers. Now in their late 20s, the pair later zeroed an artist project of their own and set to release their fourth studio album, Everything Harmony, in May.
As a result of their indie-slash-glam rock sound, the group has won praise from everyone including Iggy Pop and Elton John, the latter of whom raved of the group: "They're so out of left field in their songs. They don't have any rules and that's sometimes the way it should be."
After California native Samuel Regan met Bologna, Italy-born Luca Lovisetto while studying abroad in Italy, the two became musical partners — and now, they're eight years and four studio albums in. The shimmering sounds of Baseball Gregg will be on display all over Austin, including a showcase presented by the Italian Trade Agency. Their music, meanwhile, has inflections of sunny California pop; take for instance "Sad Sandra" which opens with a glistening synth and is complimented by falsetto vocals that joyfully shine like the sun.
Photo: Hollie Fernando
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Wet Leg On How A 6-Week Sleepover Spawned Their "Jaggedy" Indie Rock — And Global Fame
The Isle of Wight duo detail how they overcame fear through collaboration, which resulted in their viral hit "Chaise Longue" and a debut album that earned them three nominations at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
When Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers first started making music together, they never imagined their silly tracks would ever be heard — let alone get nominated for GRAMMYs.
It was December 2019, and the two singer/songwriters — now better known as indie rock duo Wet Leg — were in the midst of a six-week long sleepover at Chambers' house in the Isle of Wight, a small island off England's South coast where they both grew up. In between doing cozy activities like baking cookies and following Bob Ross tutorials, the two would stay up in the living room quickly getting out unserious song ideas with Chambers' boyfriend, Joshua Omead Mobaraki, who is now their touring guitarist.
Two years later, a song birthed from those delirious jam sessions called "Chaise Longue" almost instantly took off. The quirky track hooked listeners with its effortlessly cool post-punk guitar riffs, sardonic vocal delivery, Mean Girls-referencing lyrics, and sexual innuendos.
The viral popularity of the single — as well as of the other impishly upbeat tracks on the duo's 2022 self-titled debut — has propelled Wet Leg's whirlwind success, which includes landing three nominations at the 2023 GRAMMYs and an opening slot on Harry Styles' tour in the spring. (Their album also received two more GRAMMY nominations, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Remixed Recording for the Soulwax Remix of single "Too Late Now," but those nominations go to the engineers and remixers, respectively.)
Though the two first met at Isle of Wight College — where they both studied music and subsequently dropped out — they first set out as individual solo artists. After becoming a little defeated from playing countless gigs with no certain direction, they both decided that they should stop taking things so seriously — and having a friend certainly helped.
"I feel like we're quite encouraging of each other," Chambers tells GRAMMY.com from a hotel room in New York City, where she and her bandmate had just arrived the night before. Teasdale grins, "Sometimes quite aggressively."
This emphasis on joy and camaraderie has led Wet Leg to writing their most gutsy, hilarious lines ("I went to school and I got the big D," goes one cheeky line on "Chaise Longue") as well as lyrics that capture the modern anxieties of directionless millennials. Any sense of unease is erased when their songs descend into cathartic guitar strums — making the magic of Wet Leg as blissful as it is fun.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, Wet Leg reflect on their unexpected nominations, having retro sensibilities and leaning on goofiness.
Welcome to New York! How are you feeling?
Teasdale: A bit dozy, a bit tired. We went to see LCD Soundsystem [during their residency at Brooklyn Steel] last night. The night before that, we were flying from LA on a red eye. So a little bit weary, but it's good to be in New York.
Congrats on the GRAMMY noms. How have you been processing them?
Teasdale: Well, it's so weird to see us nominated, for one. Then it's so weird to see us sandwiched between like, Karen O <a href="https://www.grammy.com/artists/yeah-yeah-yeahs/15944">of the [Yeah Yeah Yeahs] and Björk in the Alternative Album [category] — all these really legitimate artists.
Chambers: It's surreal.
Do you have any hopes of winning?
Chambers: I don't really think it's for us to say. Maybe it's common for musicians to not really think about that part of the music industry. The main thing is that we're getting to make music, it's not really about the wins. To be honest, being in New York and getting to go to all these places and play music — that's the win for us that we're most focused on.
Teasdale: It would just be nice to go. When we got nominated for the Mercury [Prize], it was just cool to see the show and how it all works. I've always dreamed of going to the Mercurys in particular, since it's Brit-centric. But I wouldn't have even thought, "I want to go to America and go to the GRAMMYs." So long and short of it is, I'm very excited to go and see the ceremonious happenings [Laughs].
I know you two met in college, but only started making music together in 2019. When you decided to become a duo, what kind of things did you connect on?
Teasdale: I'd say… fear? [Laughs.] I think when we started Wet Leg, we had just been to see some local bands at Isle of Wight Festival, and we were watching a lot of people playing music kind of nonchalantly and not being scared. We were like, "That looks really fun. Why don't we stop caring? Why don't we have a fun time?" It sounds simple and a little bit dumb, but before we started Wet Leg, both of us made music separately, and it was just scary.
Chambers: Yeah, scary. I found [myself drifting] into not really wanting to do music when I was by myself. When we started [Wet Leg], I definitely felt this feeling of sunshine [wiggles fingers]. It was a big shift, and it's much easier to face the fear when you're not alone.
Some of the big themes that stood out to me on the album was being a little dissociative and antisocial, and navigating weird sex stuff. When you were writing the songs, were you stopping to talk about these themes, or was it more fast and intuitive?
Teasdale: No, it was really funny when we finished the album and looked back at the patterns in what all the songs were about. It's funny, it's like a snapshot of that point in life. We were 26 and 27, and for me, I didn't really know what I was doing with my life, career-wise, and I had just been through a big breakup. I was feeling like all my friends around me were getting legit jobs and getting married, and I was just going to the same kind of festivals and parties. I was getting that feeling of like, "OK, maybe it's time to knuckle down and find my way." I guess that kind of all [leaks] it's way in there. But we didn't discuss it, because we also didn't really think that we could make an album.
Chambers: Or that anyone would listen to it.
Teasdale: Yeah, so it's gonna be interesting going into writing the second album knowing that we can do it.
What was the vibe of the writing sessions when you were writing these songs on your debut? Can you set the scene?
Teasdale: With "Chaise Longue" and "Wet Dream," they were both written off the cuff at Josh and Hester's house, in the living room. They were written quite late at night.
Chambers: Not even writing for Wet Leg, it was just a fun thing to do.
Teasdale: Yeah, they were just supposed to stay in the folder on the computer and never see the light of day. Those ones were just kind of [born] out of silly energy. Oh, and "Ur Mom" was written in a Hilton hotel in Croydon [England] after a long day shooting an ad for KFC.
Some of [the songs] were written in solitary, then we sent each other the demos. Then some of it was written together. "Too Late Now" would've been written in a band practice environment. So, there's no set way, which is maybe why the album is so jaggedy.
Watching your music videos, you two are wearing prairie dresses and there are retro television sets. I feel like your aesthetic calls back to an older time. Is there any particular reason?
Chambers: I think we do generally have an appreciation for old things. All of the furniture in our room is secondhand, and we wear a lot of vintage clothing. When we get to a city, we always [search for] vintage clothing shops, it's a really good hobby. Aesthetically, in movies and stuff, it's just comforting.
Teasdale: I also think it's because we shot most of the videos on the Isle of Wight, where we're from. If you ever go there, it's like it's still the '70s over there.
Chambers: It's also a nice juxtaposition. Because we're making music now.
Teasdale: Yeah, making music with the times, I suppose.
In the "Wet Dream" video, you have lobster claws on. How did you think of that as a character?
Teasdale: Me and my friend Emma, who was the stylist I used to work for before we started doing music, were somehow like, "Yeah, let's make some lobster claws." Then we were like, "Should we dress everyone in blue, so it looks kind of cult-y?" I don't know where these ideas came from, it just kind of happened.
Also, the song is "Wet Dream," so obviously the video had to be very sexy. I think that the only way for me to be able to [perform sexy moves in the video] is put on something goofy, like big lobster claws, to embrace my sexuality. There has to be something offsetting it. I'm getting a bit embarrassed saying that.
That reminds me of one of my favorite lyrics of yours, which is on "Too Late Now," when you say that you don't need someone to tell you to "shave your rat." I like it because it's a little gross and unexpected, since the typical slang word would be "kitty" or "cat."
Teasdale: Maybe it's a U.K. thing, because when I was growing up, I'd hear things like, "Get your rat out!" Not that I'd call mine my rat, but some boy across the street would shout that at me.
Growing up on an island, do you think that affects your mentality as a musician? Maybe it feels insular, or like you're in a pressure cooker environment?
Teasdale: Now that we've made some musician friends [who live] off the Isle of Wight, you can see how they fit into a scene and everything that they do, the music industry is right there [watching them]. There's an A&R person like, sniffing around.
Chambers: Whereas on the island, it's not as sizzling. There's not so many venues, and you don't get bands coming into town. You're much more incubated, I think. Pressure cooker is a good way to put it, because there's so many passionate, creative people anywhere you go [on Isle of Wight], but there's less [outside] influence.
Teasdale: But part of Wet Leg being busy and doing alright is that, all of a sudden, bands from the Isle of Wight — like, Coach Party, for example — can ride the wave a little bit. [We're] kind of drawing peoples' attention to Isle of Wight bands, and that's cool.
Do you have any goals for the far future?
Teasdale: To do 20 consecutive nights at Brooklyn Steel? Leave all our guitars up and not have to go anywhere.
Chambers: Yeah, we were saying that it must be so nice that LCD can just pop home once they're done with a gig, wake up in their own beds, and then pop over to the venue and play a show. Touring is also nice, but it's just that traveling definitely makes you a little tired bean, doesn't it?
I really like gigging and seeing places has been really rad, so we're just trying to enjoy where we are and where we're going and see what happens. I really can't think too far ahead right now — it's a bit scary.