What makes Kelly Zutrau—the lead singer of Brooklyn synth-pop trio Wet—so unbelievably crush worthy? Perhaps it’s the Massachusetts native’s emotional melodies (as delicate as they are powerful) or the fact that she names Beyoncé and Rihanna as some of her musical influences. Or maybe it’s her minimal fashion sensibilities (think simple silhouettes in monochromatic tones). For us, it’s all the above. With Don’t You, the band’s first full-length debut, due out later this year—the follow-up to their 2013 self-titled, four-track EP—we caught up with Zutrau to chat about what we can expect from the upcoming album, her stage style, and more. Keep reading for our exclusive interview, plus shop the singer’s summer essentials!
How did you, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow come together to start Wet?
Well, we are all from different parts of Massachusetts but didn’t know each other growing up. We all just happened to go to college in New York City and met as students there. The boys went to NYU, and I went to Cooper Union. The campuses are basically on top of each other, so we saw each other around at parties and had a few mutual friends, and started playing music together casually.
Is there a story behind the band name?
We really need to get our story straight, because we don’t have a great one. It’s—a friend suggested it. We had been working on these demos in the summer of 2012, and it was a very casual project that we were doing for fun, and we hadn’t even thought about a band name, and a friend suggested Wet to us, and we all just thought it fit the music and fit something about the tone of what we were making. It just stuck. At first we couldn’t tell if it was a huge mistake to use that as our name because it’s hard to google, but any other name that came up just didn’t feel right.
How would you describe Wet’s sound in three words?
I would say direct, minimal, and emotional.
Who are some of the artists who have inspired you throughout your career?
I mean, I remember when we first started making music, the Frank Ocean album had just come out, and I remember being so inspired by that. And then of course there’s Beyoncé and Rihanna and Adele, and that’s honestly my favourite music [laughs]. The xx has been really inspiring to us, like their minimal, unique sound. My favourite artist at the moment is this guy Sampha from London. I find his voice very moving.
You talked about how your first EP featured a lot of “breakup songs.” What can we expect from the upcoming album?
I think the new album, to us, feels like a natural progression from the EP. The EP was written in a really short period of time, and they were all written when I was going through a breakup. There are some breakup songs on the new album, but I think it’s a little bit broader than that. A lot of the writing explores the loss of a romantic relationship, but all different kinds of loss in general, I would say. And then also, it’s hopeful in a way that maybe the EP wasn’t. I think it spans a range of emotions that are a little more mature. There’s more depth in the album, that’s how I feel. It’s not as minimal as the EP, because I think the subject matter required more from the music. There is so much in the lyrics, and we really pushed ourselves to fill the songs out a little more and spend a lot longer on them. Half of the album has strings and piano and tons of harmony. I think it’s a lot fuller than the EP, and I hope people like that. We like it a lot. But I think it’s it a little bit more difficult than the EP, it might grow on people, and it might not be as immediately easy.
Can you tell us a little about your songwriting process?
I write the songs; I’ll make a demo with my autoharp, which is like a really simple instrument—I think June Carter is the most famous example of someone who uses one—and I’ll write a song on the autoharp and email it to the boys, and they will start feeling it out. Marty does a lot of the instrumentation, and Joe does a lot of the more programming and production work. We all participate in every aspect of the making of the song, but generally I’ll make a demo and they will take it to the next level.
How would you describe your style?
I dress really simply, and most days I’m wearing all black, all white, or all grey. I guess I’m just drawn to really simple, clean-looking things. I feel like whenever I try to wear more-complicated things, it just seems messy to me or all over the place. I think it looks good on other people. I just really like to wear a plain white T-shirt and white jeans most days in the summer. That partly has come out of being on stage and doing photo shoots for the band. I think we all started approaching the way we dress by looking at the whole composition of the stage and treating our outfits as just blocks of colour and texture and making sure they look clean and simple together.
What are the clothing items you can’t live without when you’re touring?
I have a pair of J Brand jeans that I wear every single day and I have a black casual sweater that I got at a thrift store that is really comforting to me. I will wear that when I’m going to bed on the tour bus. I have an Acne sweatshirt that I got to wear on stage; it’s a turtleneck sweatshirt and it’s just really big and comfortable. And I have a pair of Opening Ceremony platform shoes that I like to wear on stage to make me feel taller. I just started wearing this brand called Objects Without Meaning, and they are my favourite new brand. It’s a small company in L.A. run by women, and all of the clothing is really simple and clean and sort of androgynous, and I’ve been wearing a lot of that stuff recently. Generally on tour I try to keep a lot of things that look nice, but the most important thing is that they are comfortable.
Who is your #WomanCrushWednesday?
I have so many women that I admire. I would say right now it’s my friend Carmen Garcia. She lives in Brooklyn, and she’s just a very hardworking, successful friend of mine. She’s a producer on video shoots. She just inspires me to work really hard. She’s also a really great writer; she wrote for Salon for a while. She’s a really smart and special person.
What’s next for the band?
We are just playing a bunch of shows this summer and rehearsing a lot. We’re planning on spending a lot more time in London starting in the fall before our album comes out. We’re working on new music, too. Our album is done, but we’re still just recording.
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