The Band Wet Will Get You Through Your Breakup
There’s a certain kind of vibe you sometimes expect from an artist based in Brooklyn—something cold about the Bushwick lofts and artisanal pickle shops that dot Manhattan’s neighbor to the East. Oftentimes when you think “Brooklyn-based artist,” a barista with a shitty rock band, an artistically inept trust fund kid, or a college-dropout-cum-aspiring-writer comes to mind. Essentially, people you’d probably want to avoid at all costs.
Wet are none of these things.
After bursting onto the scene in 2013 with their self-titled EP, and releasing new singles over the past few months, Wet has been pretty impossible to avoid. If you’ve been through a breakup in the past two years, “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” is almost definitely on one of your playlists. By creating high quality and beautifully produced minimalist pop with a definitive R&B tinge, Wet is one of those bands you have to really try to not like.
And, as it turns out, this is an apt description of more than just their music. Even on the freezing January day when we met up with them, it felt impossible to not like the Wet trio: Joe Valle, Marty Sulkow, and Kelly Zutrau. Despite being known for some sad, sad jams, the band is warm, humble, outgoing, and most of all extremely nice.
After briefly popping into the rehearsal space they’re borrowing from Ra Ra Riot, Wet led the way to Calexico in Greenpoint to get burritos—a favorite of theirs in the time leading up to their tour and debut album release. All three, and the drummer they’re working with for this tour, ordered “wet” burritos. The irony wasn’t lost on anyone. As we settled in, they felt like any other group of twenty-something, burrito-loving Brooklynites. It was easy to forget that they’ve racked up millions of plays on Spotify, got signed to Columbia Records for their debut album Don’t You, and are about to go on tour—first across the United States and then in Europe.
“You get out and go sit in a room with no windows and you wait, then you soundcheck, then you wait again. Have you ever read the play ‘No Exit’ by Sartre?”
As the roll out to their album takes off, the band is feeling the transition from being an indie group putting music on Soundcloud to having a major label debut album. “I don’t feel pressure with there being an audience,” Valle explained. “But I feel pressure with there being a label behind us.”
“Whether you like it or not, you have to be more intentional about your choices because there’s a lot of people involved,” Zutrau added. “When you’re making music that you’re not sure a lot of people are going to hear, you just make it and put it out and you don’t think about it as much. We had a lot of pressure—mostly coming from ourselves. We wanted it to be good, we wanted it to sound like it could be on a major label; that meant something to us. Now, for the next one I don’t know if that will be so much the case. I don’t even know if that’s a real thing: what a major label debut album sounds like.”
There is one major different between their EP and their album: time. And as they worked on Don’t You, they decided to be a bit more lush in their production. “It’s a lot less minimal than the EP,” Zutrau said. “We spent a lot longer on it and worked with a lot more people on it and had a lot more instruments. Just spent a lot longer on the songs. I think you can hear the time in each song. There’s a lot more going on.”
Now the pressure is off, at least in terms of the album. Don’t You is done after a few months of recording in Massachusetts—the state all three are from, although they met in New York. They’re now spending a few weeks in New York before heading back to Massachusetts for a Northampton show on January 24th. Being on their own is a bit of a mixed bag for the trio. According to Zutrau, a normal day on tour is “a lot of waiting around.”
“On tour, you wake up in a dark hole sometime between noon and 2PM…” Sulkow explained, pausing as Zutrau interjects that when he says “dark hole” he’s talking about their dark tour bus with blocked windows. “And then you get out and you’re in the city where you’re playing. You get out and go sit in a room with no windows and you wait, then you soundcheck, then you wait again. Have you ever read the play ‘No Exit’ by Sartre? It’s about like all of these people in a room trying to figure out why they’re there. Sometimes it reminds me of that.”
However, not everything about touring recalls the famous quote “hell is other people.” Sometimes, touring can be enjoyable too. “It can be very fun at times,” Valle said. “Like with Tobias—we just went on tour with Tobias Jesso Jr.—he was a really interesting guy and fun to be around and his band was really great.”
“It’s fun to bond with people,” Zutrau added. “You bond really intensely on tour—this sounds stupid—but because it does feel like a struggle a lot of the time. But it’s really fun if you like the people you’re doing it with. The last tour we did with Tobias was fun, it was like a huge group of people, and it felt like summer camp. It’s this experience adults don’t get to have, when you’re intensely spending time with a group of people and doing everything together.”
As we finished up lunch and headed back to the rehearsal space, stopping to get coffee of course, we passed an outdoor marble showroom. With slabs of clean marble, intensely strange statues, and an open fence, it was impossible not to stop in—despite the January cold and wind. Coffee in hand, the band goofed off and were good sports, playing in front of a towering column with the feet and face of human being. “I can’t wait to cover my kitchen in this,” Zutrau halfway-joked.
Everyone in the band had moved to New York City for school—Valle and Sulkow went to NYU, while Zutrau went to Cooper Union—but why Brooklyn?
“It’s cheaper!” Sulkow explained. “I mean, the first apartment I got out of the dorms was in Brooklyn.”
“We’ve all lived in Brooklyn longer than we’ve lived anywhere else—other than where we grew up,” Zutrau said. “It does feel like home when we get back here. I would live in Manhattan if I had the opportunity to. But I like the feeling of going to meetings or playing a show in the city and then taking the train to Brooklyn and getting off and like seeing the lower skyline. I like feeling that Brooklyn is the place to go to sleep, to make dinner.”
They’ve all been thinking about the Brooklyn/Manhattan divide. Zutrau was recently—and briefly—featured in a video by Gothamist about the possible closing of the L train between the first avenue stop in Manhattan and the Bedford stop in Brooklyn. Since it came out, she says that everyone’s been mentioning and quoting the video to her. Her bandmates are no different.
“I don’t know what we’d do without that L train,” Valle said, in a tone similar to what you’d use to tease a sibling. “The J, maybe…”
All photography shot exclusively for Milk by Carlos Santolalla.
Don’t You will be released on January 29th, and is available for preorder on iTunes.
Stay tuned to Milk for more jams.