With the group’s debut album, Allison Becker, who joined her first band (her own band!) at age 30, proves that, in her own time, she’s made it to exactly where she’s always been meant to be
For every 30-under-30 type of list out in the world, there are a dozen intended-to-be-inspirational anecdotes about how old Oprah was before she got a talk show, how many times Thomas Edison got fired before he invented the light bulb and all the weird shit Guy Fieri was doing before he was diners, drive-ins and dives-ing. (Random, totally made-up examples, but you get where I’m going with this.)
The idea here—which, depending on your take, could be comforting or totally terrifying—is that you can’t predict life and you certainly can’t rush it. Sometimes it takes a while to find your footing, discover what really matters to you, and then figure out how to make it happen. Timelines aren’t universal, deadlines don’t exist and every person’s path is destined to be different. And then there’s the other implied and indisputable fact: You can’t arrive at the right destination until you’ve completed the necessary journey.
This brings me to Brooklyn’s Wetsuit. The indie-rock act is the songwriting project of Allison Becker, who grew up and spent time in musical spaces and scenes, but only started making music of her own when she joined her first band—by which I mean started her own band—three years ago, at age 30. After spending years in the crowd, in 2021 she arrived in the spotlight and on the stage. And when you see her up there—dressed in poufy dresses and rockstar-worthy boots, shaking her strawberry curls and dancing around with a guitar while delivering lyrics in her confident, already-recognizable style like she’s been doing it for more than a decade—it’s obvious: She’s in precisely the right place. At exactly the right time.
After months making music alone in her bedroom (more context on the band’s origins below), Allison expanded Wetsuit into a full band with the addition of Anders Nils, bassist Paul DeSilva and drummer Stephen Cadieux. The group then dropped their first single in November 2021 (premiered on BdBK!), and started playing a ton of shows, establishing themselves as much-loved members of our music community since that fall.
And this week, after releasing a string of singles and music videos, the band is releasing their debut album, out August 17th on Substitute Scene Records. And two days ahead of the release, I couldn’t be more proud (or seriously stoked) to premiere it here.
From Wetsuit, this is Sugar, I’m Tired.
Wetsuit is throwing a Bat Mitzvah-themed release show for the record at Trans Pecos on Thursday, and as a tradition that signifies a certain coming-of-age, this theme feels fitting. After all, the discovery of one’s passion and purpose, and the path that springs forth from that finding, could be considered a second coming of sorts. Or maybe a becoming. There’s “growing up,” then there’s growing into the person you’re truly meant to be. And that, more than anything, is something worth celebrating. (Both Bat Mitzvahs, Allison’s first and a recent recreation that might just symbolize this metaphorical second, meet in one of the music videos—more on that below.)
Ahead of the album release, Allison shared the sweet and inspiring story of what is at once the band’s journey and her own, and how—in the span of just three years—she went from music fan to frontwoman:
“Sugar, I’m Tired is my very first record and Wetsuit is my first band. Wetsuit was born in 2020 during Covid lockdown in my bedroom at my parents’ house. I had spent the years prior going to see my boyfriend’s band play at shows around Brooklyn. I grew up singing in school choir and musical theater and was raised on a healthy diet of pop music. Then I fell in love with Regina Spektor, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Donnas and my world expanded. Still, I never thought writing my own music was a thing I could do. Getting stuck at my parents’ house gave me the space to explore writing my own songs for the first time. When I came back to Brooklyn, Anders added his jangly, shoegaze-y layers to the songs and we honed our full band sound by playing live as much as possible in our first year. We took our time before deciding to record (maybe a little too much time) but our lovely Brooklyn music scene didn’t seem to care that we had zero music out! I’m so in awe of what Wetsuit has become and am blissfully happy for our debut record Sugar, I’m Tired to finally be out in the world.”
Allison also openly and generously spoke to each of the tracks, which explore a spectrum of emotions and experiences in the realm of relationships: from budding bonds to warm-and-fuzziness to depression and desperation… from finding true love to mourning lost friends to the oh-so-essential exercise that is exorcizing your exes. All the while, with each story, demonstrating the same honesty and vulnerability that make Wetsuit songs hit so hard.
I’ve wrapped myself / In a neat little bow / I’m a tiny present / For you to hold / I shave my legs but / The hair grows back / I’m a watercolor / I’m fading fast / Sugar, I’m tired / Come rest your eyes with me
“In high school I dated this private school boy and he was a real douchebag. He was super preppy and weirdly fetishized my ‘otherness’ aka just being a Myspace-y Jewish girl. He made fun of me for taking guitar lessons because he was self-taught. He made anti-semetic jokes about me. Still, I tried to mold myself into the person he wanted me to be. Shaving my body hair, wearing sexy clothes. I couldn’t pull it off. It was exhausting.”
Cover me in roses / Find me when the bar closes / Stitch me back together / Paint me shades of blue / I’m only soft with you / You turn me into goo
“‘Clovers’ is a 2-chord jammer love song. It was Summer 2021 and my partner Anders and I had been living together for about a year. I was feeling so much gratitude and contentment in my life, having built this stable relationship and home together and watching it blossom. Life just felt so cozy and nice like taking a big nap in a field of clovers. I wanted to write a song that wrapped you in gooey, cozy, fuzzy warmth, like pulling you under a blanket of clovers.
With Wetsuit I sought out to prove that you don’t need to be the world’s most technically proficient musician to write great songs. My hero Sharon van Etten described writing songs as ‘seeking melodies within chords,’ and once that clicked with me it unlocked a confidence in songwriting I never knew I had. I wrote Clovers with just 2 chords and harnessed that simplicity as a superpower, not a limitation.”
Numbers, figures and plans won’t make me feel better / Rules and regulations won’t control your laughter / And I hear you laughing at me
“This song started with the line ‘I hear you laughing at me’ and it’s inspired by one of my most embarrassing moments. When I was 18 I was in a long-distance relationship with a guy who I was madly, unhealthily in love with. I was living in Missouri and he was living it up in NYC. His band was opening for Surfer Blood at the Mercury Lounge, and I wanted to fly in town to go but he told me the tickets were sold out. I didn’t know that list spots existed! Looking back now, it’s clear he didn’t want me there. But I did what any desperate person did in 2009 and posted a Craigslist ad seeking tickets. I knew I had to stand out so I wrote that my boyfriend was in the opening band and I needed a ticket to ‘support my man.’ Naturally, one of his bandmates found it. While they were at practice he called me to ask if I made the ad and I could hear his bandmates laughing and laughing. I’ve still never been to the Mercury Lounge and I’ve lived in NYC for 13 years.”
In the spirit of reclaiming old memories, we made a music video where I reenacted my Bat Mitzvah. Directed by our bassist, Paul DeSilva, we got a group of friends together in the basement of Sundown Bar and reenacted scenes from my bat mitzvah, splicing them with the original footage.”
I lean on your shoulder / And you smell like the summer / And we go back to your apartment / Tell me what you want
“I moved to NYC in the summer of 2010 when I was 19. Me and the Local Celebrity had broken up but I was determined to get him back. I waited patiently in my dorm room for him to reach out. He called, we spent a weekend together, then I waited and waited and waited for the next call. I cried so much I popped a blood vessel on my face. The smell of sweat and hot garbage from that summer is permanently imprinted in my brain. These summers, no matter how deep I inhale, the scent is never as intense as it was. I wanted to bottle that scent, that intensity, in a song. I don’t love as hard as I did then and it took me a while to realize that’s okay.”
Said all you want is honesty / Yes, I let our love atrophy / I take responsibility / I couldn’t love you eventually
“’I don’t love as hard as I did then and it took me a while to realize that’s okay.’ Before I realized this, I had a 2+ year on/off relationship that dragged out longer than it should have. I always (unfairly) compared the heavy, teenage, soul-defining ‘Local Celebrity’ love I had with my new relationship, and no matter how hard I tried it could never live up to those expectations. We kept breaking up and getting back together. I felt a rush from the little victories of getting back together, the proof that I was still desired by someone. I liked the validation I received from being a ghost that haunted my ex.”
Rearrange the furniture / The polka dots on my comforter / Hear the mice they are circling /In the walls while you’re holding me
“‘Polka Dots’ is inspired by a series of poems I wrote in 2014 right before I got together with my partner Anders. It’s my way of letting the demons of my past relationships go out with a bang. If you think of ‘Clean Coming’ as the tiny bottle of intensity, ‘Polka Dots’ is king-sized (and ‘Clovers’ is the antidote.)
On the surface it seems like a love song but I think of it more like an ode to the codependency of my past. I’m constantly making demands but eventually end up overpowered.”
Sea full of mermaids you’re the only one
“This song is for our dear friend Johanna Gertz who passed away unexpectedly in June 2021. Anders and I met Johanna while working at a coffee shop in the Lower East Side. Her nickname was Twiggy but she introduced herself to me as Johanna. I started working at the coffee shop a year before Anders, and I was so scared of Johanna when I first met her. She towered over you with a huge pile of neon hair on top of her head, piercings, tattoos and long acrylic nails. I had never met anyone like her. She invited me to drinks at Max Fish after a closing shift one night and we became friends. She was my first real New York, non-school friend. When Anders was hired he and Johanna always worked the closing shift and always got into trouble afterwards. We were regulars at all the bars on the block of our coffee shop and would trade lattes for margaritas with the bartenders. Johanna made art her whole life and embodied her art wholeheartedly. She spent 3 years illustrating and perfecting an incredible custom tarot card deck. She made beautiful tie-dye sheets and clothing. She taught me how to crochet. She loved the beach and would spend days at the Rockaways or Coney Island beach posted up on a blanket drawing, hula hooping, journaling, creating. She loved her friends and family fiercely. We love and miss her so much.”
Sugar, I’m Tired is out on all platforms on Thursday! Don your best Bat Mitzvah attire and join me in saying mazel tov to Wetsuit that night when they hit the stage for the Sugar, I’m Tired release show with the dream team that is No Kill and Debbie Dopamine (complete with a photo booth by Sydney Tate!). Grab your tickets here.
Photo (provided by the band): Elizabeth Renstrom