Interview: Wet Nuns

The Deep South, facial hair and festivals: Death-blues duo Wet Nuns tell Ally Swadling what it’s like

Photo Credit: Wet Nuns Facebook

Photo Credit: Wet Nuns Facebook

“We sound like Satan wanking off a unicorn on the back of an earwig, whilst having its face eaten off by a Floridian crack-head,” the ever-conservative South Alabaman band, Wet Nuns once proclaimed. To be honest, the hill-billy dyad didn’t actually say this directly to me… and they’re not really from South Alabama either, but let’s not split hairs here. Despite Terence Trent D’Barndance and Wired Earp losing their accents and remembering that they actually live in Sheffield, guitarist Rob and drummer Alexis have been gaining increasingly more recognition. Even so, I’d personally appreciate a new gimmick. “We’re currently learning to talk and play all of our songs backwards. Just for you” Rob assures me, whose facial hair currently appears to be in competition with Alexis’s.

After winning NME’s annual “ip dip” competition, Wet Nuns have since been ordained as one of the magazine’s sacrosanct bands for 2012, and rightly so. Unpretentious and uncontrived, the hairy pair’s onstage badinage (see above) is charmingly silly and adds to their already engaging and innovative sound, not to mention their silly likeable faces.

“I don’t have a fucking clue what we were trying to do when we started this band. Have a laugh I think. We chose our stupid name off a massive list of equally stupid names without thinking anyone would really hear it anyway. We got our first gig by chance; it got out of control really,” Rob reveals.

And while Wet Nuns may have loosely categorised their music as what they like to call “Death Blues”, their penchant for adopting different sounds and genres has made them stand out as a band. “Genre tagging is pretty tiresome from the end of the creator. It makes sense as to why people do it, but at our end it’s as though despite however much creative originality you pour into something, someone always comes along and writes you off into a ‘category’ with loads of other stuff,” Rob explains. “It’s just a bit annoying. Especially the ‘stoner’ label – neither of us smoke weed.” Alexis then adds firmly, “it’s never crossed our minds to try and be original, because if we did, we’d be frauds.”

With or without an ‘erbal muse (although they do admit to being under the influence of “women, whisky, death and Enya”) Wet Nuns still dabble plenty.

“I think we just put into our music what we like. We make music that we’d listen to.”

Is there a specific genre you’re especially eager to play with?

“Most of them. We always try and add some kind of new element into whatever we make. Nothing’s out of the question really – unless it’s fucking shit, like dubstep or something.”

While neither member are from Sheffield, Wet Nuns were born and raised in the Steel City’s thriving and tight-knit music scene: “It’s a small city and everyone knows each other, which means people can be quite harsh on bands (often behind their backs). I suppose this helps bands make sure they’re pretty good before they go out and play for others. We didn’t really do that.” They grin. “Sound-wise I don’t think Sheffield really figures in what we do. I suppose when we started we were trying to sound like we weren’t from Sheffield. Now, I don’t think we care.” To not end up hidden and buried away in the mass of different bands is a feat in itself, but in some ways what is really striking and impressive about Wet Nuns is their two-man set up and the unholy sound and stage presence they’re still able to create.

“Alexis physically abuses me constantly,” Rob gravely confirms when I question the power distribution between them. “It’s not so much a power struggle; he just fully wears the trousers.”

Do you ever wish there were extra limbs in the band; do you get limb-envy?

“Is this a penis question? Obviously being a two-piece there are limitations, but I love that. It’s all about embracing those things or problem solving your way around those limitations. Like Viagra.”

On the subject, what the band lack in flesh they certainly make up for on stage, which is often littered with the odd severed foot or skull. And watching any one of their many horror-inspired (not to mention impressive) music videos, it’s easy to see that Wet Nuns have a taste for the macabre. Their creativity has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated and the video for the single ‘Heavens Below’ is now one of the most watched and wanked over videos on NME. Thanks to the internet, a lot of gigging, talent and earthy sex appeal, Wet Nuns are finally on their first full UK tour and have also rightfully been welcomed onto the festival circuit, playing at Bestival and on the ‘BBC Introducing’ stage at Reading/Leeds festival this summer.

“I think we went down alright. Though, I can quote two tweets from festivals: ‘Wet Nuns do stoner-blues-punk, I don’t.’ and ‘Wet Nuns are shit’”

I’d like to correct that tweet: Wet Nuns are the shit and their ability to adapt to the bigger stages after playing mostly intimate gigs is impressive. “I think maybe a year or so ago we wouldn’t have known how to deal with such big stages but you just have to run around a bit more, fill the space. It has definitely had an impact on the way I approach ‘stage presence’ or whatever you want to call it.” Stage presence and boredom prevention are no concern for them – they’ve got plenty of both. While Rob and his hair frolic about the stage together, Alexis, after a bit of drumming, usually likes to get his tats and tits out like a gnarly ex-convict leprechaun. It’s all wonderful.

Alongside NME and the festival coordinators, Wet Nun’s fan base includes fellow Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys as their fans, of which drummer Matt Helders has remixed some of the band’s single and was also seen on Jonathan Ross’ chat show donning a Wet Nuns shirt, which is promising predicament to say the least.

So what now?

“We always have stupid ideas of bands we could do on the side. We’d like to release some Palmela stuff” Rob continues, referring to their side project, punk band Palmela Handerson. “Maybe next year we’ll try and get some of that kind of stuff going, but the ultimate plan is to get as famous like the Arctic Monkeys and then everyone will hate us. And try and collect as much money and poon-tang as possible on the way. And of course look really cool the whole time. Wear sunglasses inside and the like.”

And any regrets?

“So far I don’t really regret anything. Alexis probably regrets all of it. “

Get wetter about Wet Nuns here and then like them there.

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