By Shelly Simon
EP album cover art by Aine Lynn
When you get together with your best friend, life partner and badass person, there’s bound to be blessings. That being said, Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan aka riot-pop rockers WASI(pronounced Wa-zee) continue to create inclusivity within their work by writing songs and performing in spaces that encompass the same values.
Their style aims to gloss over the glamour that the West Coast prides itself in. With exceptionally dark lyrics that dance in-between the stark sounds of the synth-and-bass tones; WASI is a women-fronted outfit worth trying on. From playing sold out feminist and LGBTQ events throughout the west coast to co-throwing their own music festival (Women Fuck Shit Up Fest) – and now they’re back with a bangin’ new EP, a coast-to-coast tour and a renounced sense of confidence.
Tom Tom is thrilled to premiere the title track from WASI’s EP and got the chance to chat with the band about the record, their goals as a band and their experience as Californians.
Introductions: Name + the Instrument you play in the band
Merilou: vocals, production, guitar, synth, beats
Jessie: vocals, production, bass, guitar, synth, beats
What’s the inspiration behind ‘Stranger California?’
This is one of those tracks that wrote itself within 15 minutes. Jessie jammed out on the drums at a jam session with our band. We took that beat home, programmed it on logic, threw a few chords on it and busted out the lyrics and melody to the chorus. A majority of the Stranger California EP is based on basically writing free-flow lyrics on top of a beat. It was a new way for us to reach into our artistry and show a new side of our songwriting that we’ve been working on.
Jessie: I think the overall feeling that we aimed to invoke in this track was the darker sense of hope. It’s a bittersweet pot of pain, jadedness and optimism. It’s inspired by hope after being broken over and over again; while finding something new to hold onto to give purpose to what you’re doing. Broke, not broken!
Merilou: When we tell people we’re from California, more often than not there’s a specific stereotype that comes with it. This typecast of care-free Californian, thanks to shows like the OC, Laguna Beach, the Hills or whatever. For me, growing up by the beach was my place to find safety and peace in myself. Outside of that, I felt forced to wear an inauthentic mask just to survive. Meaning, I grew up in a home with about a dozen people in it at all times, immigrant parents, aunts and uncles working for an “American Dream.” As much as that life gave me the opportunity to grow up with these opportunities, it also cornered me into a space where I couldn’t be queer or an artist; a double-edged sword of sorts. Being loud and punk wasn’t ok – as a Filipino-American I was raised to work hard and trust a system that wasn’t built for me. Eventually, the gay clubs in LA were my safe space. Overnighters at the beach just to wake up and get to school at 7am was my space. Riding my bike to band rehearsal 20 miles because I wasn’t allowed to play guitar in my home was my identity. All the while maintaining a 4.0+ G.P.A. This was my California.
Your EP ‘Stranger California’ will be released independently on February 14th; how does it feel to release your 3rd EP and keep rallying to create more music?
Feels great! We wrote about 100 songs for an album, broke it down to the 20 that we felt would belong on an album, and from there broke that down to separate EPs. Our last EP, COUP, was the first of this series and this is the 2nd. It just feels great to be putting art out there and constantly redefining ourselves in this crazy world.
The new EP contains noticeable high-energy & hyper-electronic sounds which compliment your previous work. What’s different about Stranger California that listeners should know?
Merilou: For this EP, we took time to ruminate on how it would translate to our live shows. It’s funny when we perform and people think I’m wasted on stage. When I perform, a different person comes out that people don’t expect. That shameless/loud/fearless person inside me gets a chance to have a voice, and for the writing of this EP I tried to tap into that person as well. Unleash the beast!
Jessie: A majority of our beats are written with midi keyboards and then translated to a Roland SPD-SX for the live set-up. We try to hybrid the electronic beats in our music with what our drummers bring to the live show. That way it proves to be energetic and dynamic while also holding true to the electronic elements of our music. Since there are a handful of different electronic beats and live instrumentation going on, most of our rehearsals (in the rhythm section) are repetitive. By rehearsing the same section over and over again, we aim to capture the essence of a moment. We truly love our bandmates for bringing their flare in recreating the sounds and energy for the live experience.
If you could describe WASI’s sound/energy in one word, what would it be and why?
“Vulnerable” – While our songs are more often very up-beat, engaging and energetic, we really have been working on tapping into these inner *~ deep feels ~*. Our new song “Puzzles” (on Stranger California) is mostly about both of our experiences with deep depression and that is probably the most vulnerable song we have.
“Real” – We used to be so afraid of what “others” thought. Both of us were bullied a lot growing up. Even though it sucked, this was a fundamental element to our development as artists. These times helped shape who we are today and pushed us to find our identities within our music. Now our creative content is based on what is true to us; not on what we think we should do. Throwing away what others think is the proper process to creative production.
What are your goals as a band this year?
Goal as a band is to expand our horizons. Touring to places we’ve never been; pushing our live shows to the loudness it has yet to reach! Finally, writing songs that reach more depths than our previous product.
What’s in your refrigerator right now? What snacks are you stoked to bring on tour?
Well first, our sponsors are Clif Bar, Justin’s Almond Butter and Stumptown coffee! These badass businesses are going to be getting us through tour. In the fridge, we have Tofurky sausages, cashew milk and the green can Coca-Colas. Stoked to bring on tour? Fruits, nuts and Yerba mates.
In another life what would you two be?
Merilou: I’d be an undercover detective
Jessie: an extraterrestrial
Catch the crew on the road!
Guitar – Kai Nakamura
Drums – Lindsay Martin
Guitar (part time) – Cindy
2/6 – Slidebar (Orange County, CA)
2/15 – Play Like A Girl Hip-Hop Night (DT-LA)
2/20 – Slidebar (Orange County, CA)
Stranger California Nationwide Tour
3/13 – Phoenix, AZ
3/14 – 3/18 – Austin, TX SXSW
3/18 – San Antonio, TX
3/21 – Brooklyn, NY
3/22 – Philadelphia, PA
3/24 – Womxn Fuck Shit Up Fest DC – Washington DC
3/27 – Nashville, TN (with Caroline Rose)
3/28 – Atlanta, GA (with Caroline Rose)
3/29 – Durham, NC (with Caroline Rose)
3/30 – Chapel Hill, NC (with Caroline Rose)
3/31 – Charleston, SC
4/3 – Las Vegas, NV
Keep Up With WASI