Wet have been extremely busy in the past year. They recently put out their first album as a twosome, ‘Still Run’, and followed Florence and the Machine on their world tour. On November 28th, after having performed to sold-out crowds at the O2, they returned to a more intimate setting to play a show at Oslo, Hackney, a show where people were exclusively there for them. Before the show, I had the opportunity to interview both Kelly Zutrau, the lead singer, and Joe Valle, who focuses on the production.
They seemed incredibly excited about being able to play smaller venues. When asked about their experience playing with Florence and the Machine, both Kelly and Joe were still appreciative. “The big shows were really cool, I think the way it sounds too is really fun,” Joe said. “Because it was so new, it took a while to get comfortable but by the end, I think it felt pretty normal in a way.” “There’s a lot of separation from the audience, it’s more of an abstraction rather than individual people,” Kelly added. “With this, there’s more at stake because the audience is there to see you. There’s less of a disconnect.”
The band’s enthusiasm was clear the second they stepped on the stage to perform their first song, “It’s All In Vain.” The show lasted for a little less than an hour, as the band played through a selective mix of older and new songs. The bond shared between Kelly and Joe was present on stage as they looked at each other for reassurance and shared jokes. Kelly Zutrau was dressed in a baggy white suit and dark red lipstick, but despite her powerful ensemble there was something incredibly vulnerable about her performance.
This was clear when hearing Kelly’s soft and emotional voice as she sang the lyrics to ‘11 Hours’, ‘You took my power, you leave me no choice,” from the band’s most recent album. These lyrics evidently meant a lot to her and to the band. When first hearing the songs from “Still Run”, the band’s album released earlier this year, they seemed quite dulled down as if something was missing. However, watching Kelly’s performance and hearing the heightened production live brought the songs off of the album to their highest potential. Mid-show, Kelly announced that they would be playing something very special for the audience: a stripped-down version of their latest single “You’re Not Wrong.” Joe exited the stage, leaving Kelly to play a softer alternative to the formerly extremely upbeat song alongside their guitarist. The performance added a sense of melancholy that one might not have noticed at first listen.
After fifty minutes, Kelly bittersweetly announced the last song of the evening, “Lately,” which ended with her off-stage as the instrumentals echoed in the background, making the music feel all the more powerful. However, the cheers in the crowd brought Kelly and Joe back to the stage to play one last song, stripped-down. When talking with the two of them, both artists seemed interested in the idea of making durable music. After watching their performance, I believe they’ve succeeded in doing just that.
Your album’s been out for over half a year, how’s the reception been?
Kelly: It’s always hard to judge how it’s going. We’ve been on shows and people seem to be listening. We’re working on new music. I think it’s something we talk about a lot is that bands are successful in different ways now that music works in the way it does. And it’s just hard to tell who’s listening and how well it’s going.
How have all the changes you’ve gone through as a band reflected in your music and your performances?
Kelly: I think it’s been interesting for us to try and figure out how to do the live show in particular, because it used to be three of us on stage. And now it’s just me and Joe and we’ve experimented with big bands and lots of players and on this tour we’ve just had a guitarist. And it’s been fun but it’s been a challenge to communicate what your music is when you don’t have your own backing band.
How was playing big venues on tour with Florence and the Machine?
Joe: It was fun but I think I like this, playing more intimate venues more, better. I guess we’re more used to it but the big shows were really cool. I think the way it sounds too is really fun.
Do the bigger audiences affect the way you perform?
Joe: Because it was so new, it took a while to get comfortable but by the end I think it felt pretty normal in a way. We were all comfortable on stage.
Kelly: There’s a lot of separation from the audience, you’re so far away. It’s more of an abstraction rather than individual people. I feel like we just got used to that and now tonight is going to feel crazy because we’ll be able to see all these faces. With this, there’s more at stake because the audience is there to see you. There’s less of a disconnect. Both are interesting learning experience. That was a good learning experience, getting through a show that big.
Has that affected what your favorite songs are to perform?
Kelly: I would say in a smaller venue we play more stripped-down songs, just vocals and, like, one instrument. Those tend to be really exciting in that setting because it’s so intimate and intense whereas in a bigger venue you just want to keep the most upbeat songs and keep it going, keep people’s attention because they’re necessarily there to see you.
Are there any songs that you’re looking forward to tonight?
Kelly: Yeah, we’re gonna play one of the new ones from the album “You’re Not Wrong” but we’re going to play it stripped down.
I really loved the music video for that song, in regard to the aesthetics of it, how do you choose how they come about? Do you have the aesthetics in mind or do they come when you’re writing the song?
Kelly: I think it’s a mixture. There are always visual associations we have when we’re making the music. But music videos are really hard to get right. We actually worked with a photographer who’s on tour with us, Kellia. She co-directed it with us and it was a very low-budget video. We did it kind of quickly, we threw it together but her aesthetic kind of shines through. It’s a cool video but we’re trying to refocus a little bit and plan out our visuals a little bit more.
Do art and fashion influence the way you write your music?
Kelly: Fashion less so, it comes in later, I don’t know much about it but I’m just in awe in it. Both Joe and I have visual arts backgrounds so that’s ingrained in the way we think and problem-solve. I think there’s a connection between a painting I make and a song I write. And similarly for Joe, the way he designs a poster is relatable to the way he’s producing sounds. Maybe.. that might be a stretch but I think it’s connected...I think the way everything works now, it seems like music is just one part of the larger cultural moment. It’s all tied in together.
Joe: It’s funny because the designer we worked with for the layout and a lot of the visuals for this campaign now is working with musicians a lot more than he was before.. There’s a lot of design moments that are related to music moments. We picked him because his stuff is reminiscent of how we want the music to be perceived and I’m sure other people are working with him for the same reason.
What artists and what in general is inspiring you right now?
Kelly: I just listened to the new Robyn album and I thought it was so good and fresh and fun. I also really like that she’s been around for a long time and made a really good album because what scares me about music right now, and culture in general, is how quickly things are turning over. It feels like you have this quick moment when you’re young and if you don’t grasp right on to it you’ll lose it before you know it. Seeing artists that have been around for a while and are older but are still relevant and finding their way has been really interesting to look at, rather than just the new cool pop person. It will be interesting to see who lasts because I think it is difficult to keep doing it, but that Robyn album is so fun.
Joe: I was listening to this performance about the death of Matthew Shepard. There was this whole choral piece written about his life. I listened to the whole thing the other day, it’s mostly acapella and acoustic guitar. It’s not very sing-songy, it’s almost reading like a Wikipedia bio, a well poetically written Wikipedia bio about his life and his family. Otherwise, I haven’t listened to much new songs.
Kelly: It’s hard when you’re making an album and your head is so deep in it, I have found for a little while after, you don’t listen to music, it’s difficult (laughs)
So what would you do instead?
Kelly: I started painting after, which is something I used to do, but I started painting more since our recent album came out, I felt like I really needed to get a little perspective. I just went so deep into it and had all of these expectations and ideas, that were more or less based in a world in my head alone and not that connected to reality. It’s been really good for me to do something that I feel passionately about but isn’t so linked to other people’s perceptions.
What are your plans for the future and your music?
Kelly: We’re wrapping up this tour and then we’re going to go back out on tour in the US, very soon, early next year. We’re just working on new music and trying to figure out non-conventional ways of putting it out into the world.
Photo credit: instagram.com/kelianne