by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Wet Denim

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Wet Denim

Starting out as a bunch of mates planning to jam Kings Of Leon style material, Te Wanganui-a-Tara four-piece Wet Denim have turned into something of a live phenomenon, touring countrywide, earning support slots and selling out their own headline shows. Their new single Remedy caught the ear of NZ On Air Music and was included on the December’s NewTracks compilation.

What are your given names, where are you from and what instruments do you each play?

Nick Goodwin takes care of lead vocals and half the guitar of Wet Denim. He hails from the mighty Timaru. Brothers Joe and Jack Ledword cover bass guitar and drums/percussion respectively, with Joe laying down backing vocals as well. Havelock North is where they call home. Luca Crampton, coming out of Lower Hutt, handles the rest of the guitar duties and occasionally dabbles in keyboards.

Luca and Joe are also our in house production team, shaping and creating the recorded sounds of Wet Denim.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

High school music programmes were highly important, the most notable being Smokefree Rockquest, which we all participated in (anyone remember Arlo Mac, Alexis Texas, Jack’s Point, OMMIAM). SFRQ was such a great introduction to live performance, songwriting and functioning as a band.

Any other projects that we might we know you from?

See the previous question! However, in terms of current side projects, Joe produces and mixes for the up-and-coming local artist First Reserve, Luca experiments with electronic music under DJ Pet Center, and Jack runs his own visual creative company, JAW Studio, which is behind Wet Denim and other notable NZ musician’s visual identity.

What’s the story of how Wet Denim came to be? 

Joe and Jack were the founding members, hoping to start jamming some Kings of Leon-type material. Luca was recruited as he had been Jack’s long-time flatmate, and Nick was connected through Joe’s music degree – though he originally wasn’t keen (haha). Joe had a couple demos which we jammed, becoming the basis for our debut EP. Then the rest just fell into place.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

The writing of the first EP was started by Joe and Nick, as they had the ideas that the band was formed off, so it was only natural – but since then the writing has been much more collaborative. We all equally contribute to all parts of a song (Jack doesn’t hesitate to jump on the guitar to show us some parts). This isn’t a blanket rule though, many tracks are individual, with WD members rocking up to practice with full tunes ready to jam.

Lyrics are very holistic as well, Nick may be singing but the lyrics could draw on any one of our personal or shared experiences. An example of our process is the track The Why (hopefully releasing in the not too distant future). Literally starting from nothing, Luca had two chords which he played on the guitar, and then in an hour we had a song written! However it’s not always that quick, we definitely labour over tunes, rewriting whole sections months down the line.

How did you come up with the name for the new project?

The name comes from our friend Katie, who got caught in the rain one day while wearing jeans. She came home, sat on the couch and exclaimed “Wet denim!”, which luckily, Jack overheard.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

A big stand-out would be our last headline show at Meow, which was a part of our 2023 Wet Wander Tour. This show was significant as we sold out on pre-sale tickets alone. Safe to say the show was a banger! 

What makes Remedy stand out for you as a single?

Remedy sticks out as it is our highest energy song to date, it’s also one of the songs written in the debut EP sessions, meaning it’s been a fan favourite at shows for some time now.

What is the story behind Remedy?

The song explores themes of an unhealthy relationship, in which you are aware of the cathartic but also damaging nature, but feel unable to pull away. Each Wet Denim member can relate to the lyrics in their own unique way. This is something we find special about our songwriting – we can all apply the meanings to our own situations.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Nick: I really like the climax of the song – the solo. This section comes after the bridge, which has provided the listener a moment to process what came before. Then the solo comes in and wipes the slate clean – awesome!

Luca: My favourite moment would have to be the chorus guitar lead harmony. I originally wrote this part to follow Nick’s vocal line, and then in the studio ended up recording an additional guitar melody to harmonise with it. I really like the way they fit together with the lead vocal. I think it’s very euphoric sounding.

Jack: The bridge is my favourite part. I like the half-time drum groove and the build-up, and how it functions as a breath in the song.

Joe: I like the literal breath at the start of the song, which comes in before the riff drops. I find this functions as a metaphor for the whole song (‘fuck sakes, I’m sick of this’). Oh, and the second verse bass pop.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

The instrumental is self-produced, Joe hosted the session and did the recording for this one. This mahi went down at Joe’s old bedroom studio (The Office). The excellent mix was done by Neil Macleod, who also recorded and polished the vocals. The track was mastered by Chris Chetland at Kog Studios, he always does a great job. An Easter egg in the song is that layered in with the double snare hits at the start of the track are two crisp cracks of a scrumptious and succulent Birdseye Hazy. These really gave that drum fill nothing because you can’t really hear them.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Fish ’n’ chips are Wet Denim’s favourite takeaway. In all seriousness, we want listeners to leave feeling a sense of empowerment.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I guess this early in our careers, we are generally more focused on releasing singles, to build up a foundation for our debut album. In general, I guess we go off crowd reactions, the “catchiness”, song structure etc. As we produce and refine songs they usually tend to reveal themselves as singles.

Anyone else in your team?

Shout out to Dan Goodwin and Finn Harris who cover sound at our live shows – we couldn’t do without them. Dan is also a great engineer who has recorded and worked on upcoming tracks, as well as a few from the EP. Neil Macleod is also someone we work with a lot – he is a great mix engineer and someone we also look to for general advice. Ben O’Leary and Shaan Singh are great guys, they co-produced the first EP and continue to mentor us, helping us develop our songwriting and craft.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Our track Stuck With You is coming early February, with an incredible music video directed by Connor Pritchard. This song explores themes of struggling with body-image through a nostalgic guitar riff, soaring bass line, punching drums and potent lyrics. We really enjoyed recording this one and can’t wait to send it out. Keep an eye out on our socials for the pre-release build up for this song, and check out the video when it drops!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • Frank on Tap: By Your River
  • First Reserve: No One Thinks We’re Cool
  • Ladyhawke: My Delirium

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others?

Lay it all out. Think of all potential avenues you would spend money on, weigh up the pros and cons of each, be detailed, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get through the first few times!

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

Probably streaming. Meeting a monthly listening quota can be fickle, numbers online are not necessarily good indicators of success – when people are paying money to see you live, that’s a great sign.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Check out ‘For Real’ and the ‘Breaking Through’ podcasts, some entertaining NZ/AU content. We have also been listening to Justin Hawkins’ ‘Ride Again’ podcast, he covers really interesting topics relating to the music industry. Luca loves the YouTube channel ‘collector/emitter’, they do really beautiful guitar pedal demos, which are inspiring and relaxing.

Who did you make the video with?

It was recorded/mixed by Dan Goodwin with assistant sound engineer Finn Harris. The visual aspect of this performance was filmed by D’Artagnan Gould, Nop Warakulnokroh, Alex Shirtcliffe, Nikita Mackrell and Ashley Pratt. The technical assistants were Jackson Kidd and Lucy Summerfield, with Connor Turnbull on lighting.

Any last words?

Thanks to everyone who has been listening to Remedy and our other material – it is awesome to see people enjoying it. Stay tuned for the release of Stuck With You and the accompanying music video. Be sure to catch us (and Frank on Tap) on the Call the Plumber tour!

Cheers, Soggy Boys.