Wet Lips’ first show was at the poorly named IDGAFF bar on Hoddle Street in Melbourne, opening for another act. Vocalist and guitarist Grace Kindellan and bassist Jenny Mckechnie were both 19 at the time and describe the show as a train wreck. “We had about two songs, it would be generous to be described as 'ready.' I don't remember exactly how the set went because I drank most of a bottle of tequila that I had snuck into the venue,” says Mckechnie.
From these humble beginnings the band emerged onto the local scene; their sonically charged punk anthems encapsulated the very essence of what it is to be ‘a girl in a band’. Fast forward five years, and we now have their self-titled debut album, due to come out on Friday June 9 and released through their own label, Hysterical Records.
The record was recorded over a weekend last year at Secret Location Studios in Fairfield. “It’s definitely a record of us all being in a room together at what was quite a weird time for us as a band,” says Kindellan. “It's an odd collection of songs that we wrote almost five years ago and ones that we have been playing for about a year. The album is self-titled, and in a way it sums up how we have changed as a band over five years.”
While you wouldn’t call it a concept album, it would be rare to find a debut LP with a more structured message coursing through it. “Quite a lot of the album is about being a woman in Australia in the 2010's; being objectified, ignored, slut-shamed, condescended to, sexually harassed and subtly excluded,” says Kindellan. “And it's about being expected to tolerate all of this happily, quietly and politely while looking fantastic and doing a lifetime of extra domestic and emotional labour.”
These themes are all over the tracklisting; Hysteria tackles men’s innate sense to condescend towards women; Shame is about the power people have over you when you’re attracted, digging deeply into how shit that makes you feel and the conditioning that women have to feel shame simply for desiring someone.
“Some are garage songs for the sake of garage songs, like Spacejam and Period,” says Kindellan. “But Period is also about menstruation which is another thing we're meant to be ashamed of and keep quiet about.”
Between the time the album was recorded and released Wet Lips underwent a member change, with drummer Mohini leaving to focus on her other band, HABITS. Consequently they enlisted Georgia Maggie of Girl Crazy to take the reigns.
“I think we've developed a lot as a band,” says Mckechnie. “To begin with we were a pretty sloppy, punk mess. It was fun and loose and falling apart was almost an essential part of the set. The later tracks we wrote with Mo like ‘Can't Take It Anymore’ have a more focussed sound and lyrical content. Now Georgia is in the band our sound is changing again and I think album number two will be totally different.”
“We didn't really start the band to make music, more to take up space,” says Kindellan. “I would say that now we're trying to hold on to the space we have carved out for ourselves and to make space for other artists that need to be heard.”
While Wet Lips are by no means the first ever femme punk band to come out of Melbourne, their take-no-prisoners DIY ethic has seen them both connect with the local community and open doors for other like-minded individuals. The album itself was funded by the band’s own WETFEST, an annual gig that celebrates diversity in all forms, especially in gender and music.
“We had the first one in our backyard to launch our EP,” says Mckechnie. “Since then it has sold out The Tote two years running and is always best day of our lives.”
Wet Lips will be released on Friday June 9 through Hysterical Records and is available to preorder now.