Wet on Fire

Just this week their sound has been called "Brandy by way of Björk" and their new album, out today, is about to monopolize your playlists. Ladies and gentlemen: Wet.

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Kelly Zutrau
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In their quaint cabin deep in the woods of Hadley, in western Massachusetts, Kelly Zutrau, Marty Sulkow, and Joe Valle of Wet are having doubts. "I kind of have weird feelings sometimes," confesses singer Zutrau via Skype, sitting between her bandmates on their couch, "that if I can do this, almost anyone can do this. They just don't know that they can. I don't know…" she trails off, pensively. "It just feels like I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time."

"Sometimes I'm just like, 'If people only knew how fucking easy it was, everyone would be writing songs.'"—Kelly Zutrau

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But Wet's fans, whose ranks have been swelling exponentially since the trio released their first EP, in October 2013, and critics, whose acclaim has risen to a crescendo this week (the band's debut album, Don't You, was released today) would strongly protest this. Just ask the adoring, sold-out crowd at New York City's Bowery Ballroom last night, or the sold-out crowd who will be in attendance tonight at Rough Trade in Brooklyn (their tour of the U.S. and Europe ends at the Scala in London on March 23; as-yet-unannounced summer festival dates are inevitable). See also the glowing write-ups in The New York Times and The New Yorker (the latter went with the headline: "Wet: the Future of Pop"). No two ways about it: Wet are having a moment.

From left: Joe Valle, Kelly Zutrau, and Marty Sulkow.
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Not that you'd know that, to hear Zutrau tell it. "There are definitely a lot of things at play," Zutrau says, "but sometimes I'm just like, 'If people only knew how fucking easy it was, everyone would be writing songs.'"

Only it's not that easy to write songs with the kind of hypnotic charm that courses through the self-produced Don't You. Some of the tracks gathered may well sound familiar: "You're the Best," for example, that first appeared in the fall of 2013 and which Zutrau wrote in an hour, has 10 million streams on Spotify. Other tracks have been even longer in the making.

"I do like pop music and love R&B, but I don't think that's our music. I don't even think that's a goal."—Joe Valle

The writing began in 2007 when the three were just 18 years old and in college in New York (Zutrau at Cooper Union, Sulkow and Valle both at NYU). Back then, their influence was rooted in folk music. "The very early Wet, if you find it, still has pretty folky elements," says guitarist Sulkow, now 27. But after some experimentation with electronic drums, things quickly changed. "That was sort of the first shift," he says. "And then it just sort of slowly started to solidify around this sound."

Now, Wet's sound is rich with ruminative synthesizers which swell slowly and deliberately beneath Zutrau's crystalline voice as she sings about love, loss, and the many and various intersections thereof. By fusing the lyrical sentiments you can find in their folk beginnings with the groove of R&B, Wet have landed upon a sound that's both time-honored and utterly modern. "I'm scared that no one loves me," Zutrau sings against a clapping beat, a sparkling synth, and trembling strings on "Body"; "I don't believe you when you tell me that you love me most and tell me I'm the only one," she laments on "It's All In Vain": It's sad become sexy; breakup music with a beat you can actually dance to. Or sway to, at the very least.

And despite the fact that they've landed upon such a seductive sound, the members of Wet are still not sure if they're where they want to be musically, not just yet. "Not to say we don't like our music but it's changing so quickly for us," says Valle, the band's resident producer and multi-instrumentalist. "I think our sound is something that's going to be constantly changing based on what's going on and what we're into. Like, I do like pop music and love R&B, but I don't think that's our music. I don't even think that's a goal." 

So, what is the goal? For now, it's to keep writing in the little rustic cabin they call home. The band prefers to write in the solitude of the woods, enjoying hikes and, in the summer, dips in the creek to refresh their collective mind. According to Zutrau, they're already almost halfway finished with the next album, a creation process fueled by the anticipation of their debut LP. "The only productive thing I've been able to do with that anxiety is work on a lot more music," says Zutrau, laughing. "We just want to be ready to go for the next one." Of the new songs she won't say much yet, other than: "They're much less focused on relationships and more just the fear of failing very publicly." She pauses, and sinks back into the couch. "I think it'll be cool," she says, with a soft smile.

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