Originally posted on DUM DUM Zine
Riot pop darlings WASI have been making major waves this year with their hard candy hooks and balloon laden dance shows, and that’s not even half the party. It’s their passionate activism with songs such as the post-election “Pussy Grabs Back” that’s married their longstanding DIY following with broader fans who connect with their much-needed messages of queer visibility and the heroism of connection.
In our latest installment of Text Message Interviews, DUM founder Taleen Kali chats with Jessie Meehan and Merilou Salazar of WASI about the more personal turn of their 2nd album, the importance of creating safe spaces in our DIY communities, and how music has the power to carve out and connect in today’s age of digital responsibility.
DUM DUM Zine (DD): Hey hey WASI! Taleen here, ready to get our epic text message interview started?
Merilou Salazar (MS): Omg, born ready
Jessie Meehan (JM): Hi Taleen!!!!!
DD: Hey! Ok let’s get started babes can you each send me an image that’s currently inspiring you? Here’s one from me!
MS: Omg did u take that?
DD: Haha no I wish! Saw it on Twitter with the caption “dolphins are great”
MS: This one is from girls rock camp
DD: So amazing. Also is that from the most recent Girls Rock Camp that you performed at recently? Also tell me about that pup!
MS: Oh yah, the first one! Haha. We didn’t play, just volunteered.
JM: That’s Ferris!
DD: Oh wow taking it old school! I know y’all played the last 2 and did a music video last year. That was so fun to watch! What was the experience like this year, as veterans?
MS: Oh man, girls rock camp is the bestttt. I feel like we get more from the camp than the campers half the time lol. It forreals is a utopia
DD: That’s amazing! Mothership Fest is one of the only other times I’ve felt that surreal utopian feminist experience, it was so amazing bonding with you guys there last year (and thanks for playing in my band for the Bikini Kill cover at the end lol).
MS: Thank u for asking us to play with you!It’s the best. Yeah Mothership is built on that utopian experience too. I remember all of us sitting on those bean bags together soaking it all in. Like why cant the world be that peaceful and free?
DD: Gosh yes! At one point some of us were walking to our cars to unload gear and I remember scanning the area and feeling this immediate wave of relief because the entire campground was full of women and I felt so safe! I felt like I was on Themyscira from Wonder Woman.
JM: Yes! I have been struggling a lot w work lately and I feel like mothership is the oasis in the desert I’ve been treading for some time now. I love how you can freely talk about things and not worry about hurting feelings
DD: You’re playing again this weekend! Anything special planned for your performance this year?
JM: Well we’re all about those balloons and dancing so that’s always gonna be our vibe! We’ve got a plan to sound a little bigger and fuller this time around
DD: That sounds fantastic. I still have all the feels from last year and can’t wait for this year. One of my favorite parts of the dance party y’all started (aside from the amazing balloons) that has still stuck with me was the moment Merilou said “Dance, if that’s what you’re comfortable doing!” It was such a beautiful moment of consent-based performance which was an eye opener for me that night. Can you comment on that Merilou?
MS: Haha aw thanks! <3 everyone absorbs the moment differently, be it dancing with your clothes off or just being present with us. As long as you can sense it, we did our job. and i think bringing that up last year (and shows in general) hopefully encourages that space of inclusion to absorb the moment without asking anyone to conform to anything.
DD: Of course! So in the same vein of that sense of utopia and safety we felt as Mothership. one of DUM DUM Zine’s goals in 2018 is going to be helping to make venues safer spaces for lgbtqia and femmes to play, book, etc. What are some ways you can imagine a safer future, or have seen good examples of in the present?
MS: Thats awesome! The world needs it right now, esp so many diy spots closing.
And thats a great question! I think a space where, as a minority, we feel like our voice is heard. Be it thru the audience, other artists in the space, etc.
I think a safe space does its best to be intentional, inclusive and community based. Being part of the diy scene is a core part of who we are as a band, and when the energy is real, safe and intentional – the show becomes bigger than just “a show”. It becomes a bunch of moment that i believe has the power to change peoples lives.
JM: Merilou that’s an amazing response, and to add, we came from a place where we truly didn’t fit in ANYWHERE. We were too nerdy for the cool kids and even too nerdy for the nerds haha in high school. While we were playing out in oc, we weren’t punk enough for punk or emo enough for emo (at that time) so we kinda just did our own thing. We know what it’s like to be an outsider bc that’s our life story so we like to create a space for people to feel safe and be an “outsider”. No matter how fucked up things are in the world or at home or whatever, when you’re at a WASI show you’re gonna have a good time and forget all that shit for a min. At least that’s what has gotten us through. Our main inspiration and motivation comes from a place of positivity within a community. I love playing it’s my fav thing to do mostly bc I feed off of other people having fun and being there for each other
DD: I love that so much. You guys are heavily involved with our L.A. music scene too. Thank you for always bringing so much intentionality to our communities!
Let’s play photo swap! Send me a selfie or a photo of what you’re doing right now and I’ll send one back
MS: Strolling around w ferris!
DD: Haha I’m still doing my morning pages so LeeLoo is itching to do her longer late morning walk!
DD: Tell me more about Ferris: boy girl genderqueer? Do they come on tour?
MS: Ferris is a girl that lovesssss men. Like shell bat her eyes at dudes all day. We found her when she was a puppy under my cousins house in Long Beach. We didnt want to take her to the pound so jessie took her home so thats that lol.
But tbh maybe ferris is gender queer! Idk..how about ur dog??
DD: LeeLoo just came out yesterday for national coming out day…pronouns are she/they and identifying as puppyqueer
MS: Puppyqueer! Love it. Leelo is adorbs.
DD: Did y’all do anything special for coming out day?
MS: For me, it was alot of reflection on how much being a lesbian has played into my identity and such and how hard it was to finally be ok with it (esp growing up in an ultraaaaaa religious space).
DD: That’s amazing! As a fellow queer POC I totally empathize and identify with that a lot.
How about you Jessie, if you’re comfortable commenting on that?
JM: On the religious thing, my family wasn’t so religious but my best friends family was. I was bullied a lot growing up so I was extremely shy and had hardly any friends. My best friend (and only friend at times) was very religious and I went to church w them and did the whole bible study thing. At the time I was desperately seeing community and I got that, however, I grew up EXTREMELY homophobic bc of it. I hated gay people and would run around saying they were going to burn in hell the worst of them end up being gay anyway, I eventually came out and things got better after I wasn’t so confused
On the gender thing, I have a hormonal disorder called PCOS (poly Cystic ovarian syndrome) and it causes me to over produce testosterone. When I went through puberty, I actually went through a male puberty first (my voice dropped real low and I had to start shaving my face) and by 16 they had to induce a female puberty by giving me birth control. Sooooo that whole thing was fucked up, on top of being homophobic, really over weoght, bullied, and extremely shy. That’s my beginning. When I met merilou and she approached me in that physics class senior year of high school, I had know idea my life was about to change forever. I have no idea what my life would look like today if it wasn’t for that. I was fucking terrified to do anything in front of people, ESPECIALLY being on a stage playing music, I never dreamed that would ever be something I would do. My whole identity and who I am is becoase of music and performing and really growing into myself. I don’t see my early life as a bad thing at all, I see it as an experience I can share w others, something I overcame that was extremely difficult and others can do the same
DD: That’s so inspiring and touching! Thank you for sharing that with me and Dummies.
JM: Aww of course!!! We would share anything w you
Let’s talk more about your music…RIOT POP BABY. I love the EP that came out this year along with all the amazing covers too. Y’all definitely went in a slick production direction while keeping in all the activist and celebratory elements like with songs such as “Pussy Grabs Back.” Could you tell me a little bit about your songwriting process and how you took it into production? Did you write that particular song right after the election?
MS: Thank you! While we were on tour we were up in portland when the post-election protests and in all the anger there were moments of solidarity and hope. Have you read the book “Cunt”? That def played a voice in this song too. And of course the womens march. At that time we were spending alot of time with Alexandria House (a transitional shelter for women and families) for wfsu fest and we were able to join them in a really intimate and powerful conversation the day before the march about who were marching for. It feels like Pussy Grabs Back was a song that kind of wrote itself in this time. So when we finally sat down and threw some chords down, it all just flowed out.
We aimed to create a more personal feel for this EP in both the songwriting and production. Alot of the production ideas came from our living room, and while creating in a more studio enviroment can be beautiful there is also something scary yet exciting taking an idea in your bedroom and putting it out into the world.
DD: I really feel the connection in the songs and your performances. I definitely feel the personal aspect growing in “Coup” compared to “Bleed Pop” which is such a feat especially since the production value is still up there! Y’all are an inspiration. Where did you end up recording “Coup”?
MS: U inspire us too! The femme love all around.
We took floor talk, pgb and superhero to our friends New Beat Fund to produce/mix and for pseudo halo and gold we recorded with our friend Mike with some production additions from our bleed pop producer pete and production/mixing from our guitarist Kai
So all over L.A.!
DD: Btw, I haven’t read CUNT by the way but I read PUSSY: a reclamation right after the election. Have you read that one? Looks like we need to do a book swap lol
MS: I haven’t. Book swap!
DD: SWAP! We gotta do a zine swap sometime too!
MS: Omg yes on zine swap!
DD: What’s next for WASI in 2018?
MS: Yes! Next for wasi? Besides shows thru the end of the year (we cant wait to play with u!) We have a music video coming out soon, are releasing some acoustic renditions of our sofs and more music coming march! Were also planning on hitting the east coast this spring too
DD: Wow, East coast. What a journey! I loved learning about your bond and how you’ve been on this incredible journey since high school
JM: We are currently recording some new stuff which were prettty excited about which we’ll prob be releasing early next year. We’re also planning on playing some out of town shows next year too and get busier than ever!
DD: For our final question, I’m going to ask you the same question we ask all our interviewees at the end: What inspires and astonishes you as a creator?
JM: And inspiration comes From others. We volunteer at the girls rock camp and it’s amazing seeing these kids blossom in just a weeks time and go up there and just do it. It really reminds me of merilou and I when we started. That’s the stuff that inspires me
MS: What inspires and astonishes me are times when i feel authentic connections to the people and the world. Ive been thinking alot about what it means to have life, and so much of it is just being truly alive and in the moment with what we got while also spreading good love and energy. And when i connect with people on that same wave length, that brings me back down to what life, love and happiness is all about. <3 and on a more tangible day to day basis, dope art, dope wine and dope friends inspire me.