Kelly Zutrau, lead singer of Brooklyn newcomers Wet, stares bravely into the stage lights at NYC’s Mercury Lounge. The time is only a few weeks back – but she might as well be looking into the future.
Zutrau raises her strong jaw line, firming her lilting vocal on smash-in-waiting ‘You’re The Best’ and the as-yet-unreleased closer, ‘Weak’. She is at once so fragile that she threatens to cave in, and so resolute that audiences seem to lean on her for strength. Wet courts exactly this duality: without a label, yet on the cusp of breaking into the national and international pop scene.
Forming first as college friends in New York, the university experience ended and Wet evolved to a bi-coastal, almost Postal Service-like project. Drummer and percussionist Joe Valle describes his addition to the band without drama: “Eventually I got looped in on the email chain.”
Zutrau, Valle, and Marty Sulkow – who Valle rather humbly confesses is “the only true ‘musician’ of the band” – reconnected in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in 2012, Valle and Zutrau platonically sharing a room in Sulkow’s brownstone. But a one-month sublet changed with the trio finally making music together in the same room, beginning to book shows and present their project more seriously, a moment Valle calls the “I have a shitty job and I’m in a band” phase.
Things have, inevitably, changed for Wet. The band won’t talk about their label flirtations, though a high-level friend at a major publisher confessed that his company was on the verge of securing a deal with the band – something that Wet and their management deny. But for now, they’re focused solely on music. It’s recorded “on a budget” Valle adds, but nevertheless represents a noticeable change from their 2012 “shitty job” beginnings.
Since then, Lorde has gone to number one on the Billboard chart, and the R&B bonfire has grown hotter. Valle admits the band’s love for Destiny’s Child and Usher, among other 1990s influences, making Wet very “of the moment” and also a product of organic nostalgia. He calls Zutrau’s songwriting a combination of “deeply ingrained musical styling and emotional tones due to hearing these things on the radio as a kid”.
This honesty arises from no great effort on the part of Zutrau, or the band. “It’s just in her nature,” Valle adds. Zutrau sings an answer to this question of emotiveness and restraint on the band’s eponymous debut EP opener, ‘Dreams’: “Feel all those feelings, but don’t make that call,” before – utterly fecund – beckoning the listener closer with, “Bring all your dreams to me, I will hold them.”
The listening public holds the band’s dreams now as Wet do indeed stare into the stage lights of their future. Despite their coy responses, a major label or significant independent record deal is in the offing. What began in one room in Brooklyn is likely to spread well beyond, the burnt neon of the band’s mixture of folk and R&B resonating with listeners far from New York’s downtown scene.
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WHERE: Brooklyn, NY
WHAT: Folk-infused R&B
GET 3 SONGS: 'You’re The Best', 'Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl', 'Dreams' (stream it above)
FACT: Kelly Zutrau initially writes Wet demos on an autoharp.
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Words: Geoff Nelson
Find Wet online here.