| February 24, 2016 | People
Two years ago, alternative R&B trio Wet were merely indie darlings in the SoundCloud scene. Now, they’ve hit the big leagues. Producer Joe Valle spills on the group’s skyrocketing success.
Wet at a recent performance.
Wet is a band with strong Boston roots. Jamaica Plain native Kelly Zutrau fronts the group with her dreamy vocals, and producer Joe Valle from the North Shore brings in the sound. Both met multi-instrumentalist Marty Sulkow at college in New York City and together, they form a blended style of music that intersects various genre categories.
We recently caught up with Valle to hear about the band’s debut album with Columbia Records, their first live performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and the creative progression from EP to full album.
What was the creative process like when going from making music independently to producing a full album for a major record label?
JOE VALLE: The process was more or less the same, surprisingly. Our team at Columbia was very trusting and respectful of us as individual artists and as a band. Beyond weighing in on where songs and recordings were at over the course of the writing process, there was little involvement from the label on the creative side of things. We have always been and will always be an autonomous band, with or without the support of a major label.
What elements from "Don't You" are you most excited about sharing? What inspired the music?
JV: I'm most excited and proud of the album as a body of work rather than as a collection of individual songs. I think the A-side of the record ("It's All in Vain" through "Island") is a really strong sequence and probably the best work we've done so far as a band. I also love how the record flows toward the end—from "Move Me" through "These Days"—and I'm really happy with that sequence as well. As the producer, the music I create to accompany Kelly's songs is inspired mainly by her words. I think if you, as a listener, are willing to truly consider and take on the full weight of her lyrics, they can be incredibly powerful and oftentimes profound in their plain-spoken, direct, and unguarded honesty. The tone of her songs are so clear from the early demos that it makes it pretty easy to develop a sonic palette to support and reflect that tone. From there I'm able to explore and play with sounds and ideas and build a little world.
How do you think your music has progressed since your EP release?
JV: I think we've all grown individually as artists. Kelly has really honed her craft as a songwriter, Marty has developed a unique and distinct style of playing, and I feel I've come to learn a lot more about production and what I want our music to feel like and how to convey those feelings with sound. I think the album we made is more or less a logical progression from the EP: it's more produced and filled out, both because we wanted to move away from the stylistic minimalism of the EP and because we actually had more time to work on these songs than we did on the EP songs. Kelly's writing has progressed significantly and I feel that the album addresses some similar ideas and issues as the EP, but expands upon those and moves toward more of an existential tone than a specifically romantic one.
Kelly Zutrau performing.
What’s it like coming back to Boston to play shows?
JV: Boston is definitely one of our favorite places to play. Both Kelly and I grew up in the Boston area (she grew up in Jamaica Plain and I grew up on the North Shore) so the shows are typically packed with family and friends. Our show at the Sinclair in October of last year is still one of my favorite shows we've ever played. It's both incredible and terrifying to see so many familiar faces in the audience, but the energy from the Boston crowds is so overwhelmingly positive and supportive that it makes being on stage incredibly fun and easy.
Who do you consider your mentor in the music industry?
JV: We've been so lucky so far to be able to work with so many artists, creatives, and industry people that have wanted nothing more than to share their experiences with us and help to guide us in what can very often be an incredibly intense and frustrating industry. More than anyone else though, we owe so much to our friends Trevor McFedries, Patrick Wimberly, Molly Hawkins, and Hassan Rahim for their invaluable guidance and wisdom throughout.
You had a memorable performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. What was that experience like?
JV: The day of the show itself was definitely nerve-wracking, but the actual performance was surprisingly easy. I've never been on a set or worked with a crew with a higher production value. Everyone at the show, from the lighting department to hospitality, was incredibly skilled and helpful and professional in every way possible, so I hope we get to do more TV stuff in the future. On the Friday after the show aired, I got more text messages than I've ever got before or since, so it felt like something really big had happened.
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