I’m standing in the back of Honey Moon Cafe at 2:30 P.M. on a hot Saturday afternoon, browsing their book selection. My nose is burrowed in the first few pages of Eileen Myles’ Inferno when my good friend Allison Becker, the lead singer of the Brooklyn dream pop outfit Wetsuit, approaches me with a hug and a beaming smile, her strawberry curls bouncing from side to side.
The plan for our meeting is for Becker to take me on a tour of her home base: Ridgewood, Queens. Shortly after downing our unreasonably overpriced cups of coffee, we pop by the Helen Levi ceramic shop, Grimaldi’s Bakery, and a record store on Catalpa Avenue called Deep Cuts. Deep Cuts is Becker’s favorite record store in the neighborhood, and it’s easy to see why. Up until then, I never would have expected to walk into a record store that tiny and be greeted with such a wide selection. They had a physical copy of Drive Like Jehu’s Yank Crime next to Anthology by The Clean and every single record in Televison’s discography.
“I like Ridgewood because I like the quiet,” Becker tells me. “You can go out and have a crazy night in Bushwick, and then come home and get cozy in your spacious apartment. I think it’s good to maintain that balance.”
Today, Wetsuit unveils their debut LP Sugar, I’m Tired via Substitute Scene Records. The sound of the LP is equal parts indie rock bombast and dream pop reverie, layering blasts of surf guitar and spiky percussion underneath soft crooning and awe-inspiring poetry.
Wetsuit originated in Becker’s childhood bedroom during the world shutdown in 2020. Trapped in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, plagued by boredom, pandemic fatigue, and a general lack of direction, she dusted off her abandoned Squier strat and wrote her very first batch of songs. In 2021, she expanded Wetsuit with Anders Nils on guitar, bassist Paul DeSilva, and drummer Stephen Cadieux.
Becker’s songwriting is comprised of old poems culled straight from her old journals, which she expands on by reminiscing on her tender coming-of-age moments and grieving the experiences she missed out on as a child. For example, Becker never got to dance the hora at her Bat Mitzvah – a Jewish circle dance where the party attendees sing Hava Nagila and lift up the guest of honor in a chair. “I remember crying the whole car ride home because I never got to have that moment,” she tells me. “So I decided to recreate my Bat Mitzvah for the “Local Celebrity” music video. Getting to have that re-do moment and finally dance the hora was incredibly liberating. A good chunk of this project is about reclaiming my past.”
And while the origins of “Local Celebrity” are slightly different, it still maintains the theme of Becker reclaiming what was taken from her as a younger woman. “I wrote that song about an unhealthy relationship I had with a guy when I first moved to New York. He was in a moderately successful band, and I wanted to come to see his band open for Surfer Blood at the Mercury Lounge. He told me I couldn’t come because tickets were sold out. So I put out a Craigslist ad asking for a ticket, and he confronted me about it over the phone during band practice. The tone of his voice was incredibly smug and I could hear him and his bandmates laughing at me. At the end of [the song’s refrain] you’ll hear me screaming “I hear you laughing at me,” and it’s like I’m screaming for my younger self. It was really cathartic to record.”
As we come around to the final moments of our conversation, I can’t help but ask if that infamous Squier guitar from Becker’s childhood bedroom will ever come out of hiding again. She chuckles. “It’s still in St. Louis,” she tells me. “But we are passing through there on tour, so who knows? Maybe I’ll break out the old Squier for that show. That’d be a really cool full-circle moment.”
What makes Becker’s writing so poignant is how it symbolizes the balance between thinking about life and actually living it. To be human is to constantly be a work in progress. There’s no tidy linear path to arriving exactly where you’re meant to be, because our priorities, dreams, and values often shift over time. And watching Becker command the stage in her frilly dresses and killer rockstar boots, shredding her cream-colored Yamaha strat, there’s no questioning that she’s exactly where she belongs.
Get tickets to Wetsuit’s 8/17 record release show at Trans-Pecos.
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