In 2006, Merilou Salazar was planning an after school event for her high school in Buena Park, and when the suggestion of a live band performance arose, she sprang up and said she had a band that could play. She didn't. In fact, she didn't even know how to play an instrument, though she owned a guitar. Seventeen days later, she had recruited Jessie Meehan on bass, along with her neighbor and another mutual friend, and The Midol Poppers played their first show. It was awful.
Now, seven years later, Salazar and Meehan have stuck together through a slew of different musical acts, the most recent being We Are/She Is. After a move from Orange County to Los Angeles, the girly duo found what they were looking for musically and personally, changed their band name to WASI, and fashioned themselves stage names: Cosmo and Jess, respectively. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with the Riot Grrrl-inspired twosome about their gradual evolution and what's next for WASI.
OC Weekly (Katrina Nattress): Why WASI?
Cosmo: We always casually went by WASI. After moving up to LA a year and a half ago, we kind of figured out our sound and vibe and felt like WASI was way more fitting for us.
Jess: We've just been doing this for so long and feel like overall have evolved into something else.
As far as the sound, how has it evolved since the name change?
Cosmo: It's a lot more poppy and energetic. A lot more us. We're really influenced by '70s British punk.
Jess: I'm big on Katy Perry and Britney Spears, just sayin'.
Has it been difficult to start new?
Cosmo: It feels more natural. And we already have eight or nine shows booked in November. We're pumped.
I noticed a lot of your shows next month are benefits and events.
Jess: Yeah, we're big on that. We've done a lot of Riot Grrrl events and LGBT stuff, and we get received really well in that community because we relate to them and they relate to us. And benefits as well – we've had our own struggles. We're playing a benefit for a women who has cancer and that hits home for me. I had cancer a few years ago, and I'm okay now, but it's like, “How do we give back?”
Talk to me about Ladyfest.
Cosmo: It's a three-day event and completely focused around the DIY femme community, female empowerment, gender neutrality, supporting minority groups…the groups that are ignored. It's our first time playing it, so we're fucking pumped.
Jess: It's about having an environment where female-fronted bands can come and perform and not worry about being judged.
Cosmo: And the workshops are about issues that aren't generally discussed. It's hard to find these spaces.
Jess: We're also really about showcasing our passions through our music…we've both dealt with oppression. I grew up homophobic because of my surroundings. It was always obvious that I was fucking gay, but I was really homophobic. And when I did realize my sexuality, I got picked on a lot. It doesn't happen as much anymore, but I do still kind of face it day to day.
You're also pretty influenced by the Riot Grrrl scene. How'd you get into that?
Cosmo: We figured it out in Portland. We played with a band called Glitter Express, and that was the first show where we realized the Riot Grrrl enthusiasm. The crowd was completely crazy. We loved it so much that we booked two or three more shows up in the Pacific Northwest. So we wanted to find that community down here, and the Inland Empire has an amazing scene.
Jess: It's a community of people who stand for something.
What are your goals for 2014?
Cosmo: New music – an EP for sure. Touring, playing a lot of shows, working more on merch and how to navigate the new music industry. Oh, and a music video is in the works!
WASI performs Friday, November 8, at 8:30 pm at Ladyfest LA (Nov. 8-10), Heart of Art Gallery, 1907 Rodeo Rd. Los Angeles, CA. https://www.facebook.com/LadyfestLosAngeles. All ages, $3-5 donations.