Los Angeles based duo, WASI, have released their debut album, Riot Pop, out everywhere now. The album focuses on self-empowerment, inclusion and self-love, while encouraging listeners to engage in change and acceptance, a timely message for Pride Month. Riot Pop and WASI have received critical acclaim from Buzzbands LA, Curve and Affinity Magazine, among others. The duo will conclude their “Love is Gay” tour on July 8 at Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, while the tour began on June 10. Coinciding with the tour, the duo, comprised of newlyweds Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan,, worked with LGBTQ youth centers around the country at every tour stop, speaking with kids about music, art and spreading their positive message of pride.
Meehan and Salazar also founded and produce the Women F*** S*** Up Fest that takes place in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and as mentioned in their press release, is an event for women to show off their art in a safe, free and empowering environment. Riot Pop is a testament of the duo’s expressive message of fear, isolation, along with love and self-worth.
EUPHORIA. caught up with Jessie and Merilou during their “Love is Gay” tour, and they chatted all about Riot Pop, activism, their tour, music favorites, and much more.
You guys recently released your highly anticipated debut album, Riot Pop. Can you share with us what your songwriting and creative process is like?
Jessie Meehan & Merilou Salazar: We’re so proud of this piece of work! It’s been a journey and we think each song encapsulates a different part of that. For songwriting – we write the core of each song. For some songs, it started with a guitar with melody/lyrics, and for other songs it started with a beat and a chant. It was a tag team experience! For example, Merilou would do her thing then Jessie would come in take it to a whole entire different direction. Then Merilou would add to that, etc. After 70% of the song is done, Kai would come in and add his flavor! We had our friend Cindy play some guitars on the tracks as well. We co-wrote a song with Nate and Matt from The Mowglis and Hunter Burgan produced a track for us to name a couple of the other collaborators. From there, we’d send the raw files to our friends The Fund (aka new Beat fund) and they would take a song to a new level from there. So the whole process was really collaborative which we love.
We think that collaboration is what drives our creativity. Creating is something we discipline ourselves to do every day, even if its just writing a journal (soon to be lyrics) or writing some beats in the morning. It’s when we can share it with each other where we see those creative private moments grow.
As long as the process is authentic, we are open to all the possibilities!
RIOT POP! We were going through a rough time during the writing of this album and I think it was our way of processing. It’s dark, it’s guttural. It was hard work. ‘Riot Pop’ is the optimism we hold onto in the chaos of the world and in our heads. Hope will connect with it ❤️🤘 pic.twitter.com/NBAT0SAKIS
Were there any music influences during writing for this record?
Jessie & Merilou: The world was an influence during writing this record! If we had to put together a compilation album of main inspirations, we’d say K.Flay, Post Malone, The Clash, Matt and Kim and 90s pop (always)
The cover art for Riot Pop is striking and visually appealing…can you share the vision of it?
Jessie & Merilou: Thank you! Our genius friend Donny Phillips illustrated it. We wanted to describe what Riot Pop was through the artwork. We wanted it to describe the societal idea of Riot as we know it and the riot in our heads. We’re huge activists and are really vocal with issues important to us, i.e., LGBTQ, immigration, gender rights, etc. And this outer fight stems from our own inner struggles; i.e., bullying, anger, shame and the whole umbrella of it.
We wanted the album to showcase that inner and outer riot. The artwork are all of the thoughts and feelings going through our bodies in pop art form.
You all are currently on your “Love Is Gay” tour, which shares an important message of love and acceptance. How’s the tour been thus far, and what do you hope the audience and fans take away from your performance?
Jessie & Merilou: We’re currently on the tour right now and for the past three days it’s been an epic world of love. It’s truly a message of love and inclusivity, and creating this space in venues and other communities has been heart warming. We played in Denver last night and was incredible. It was a night with different genres of music and the crowd was into it all.
We hope the crowd can take away from our performance a feeling of letting it all go and being part of an aura of love.
Activism is just as important to you as your music; what was the idea behind “Women Fuck Shit Up Fest?”
Jessie & Merilou: Our activism stems from those feelings of feeling like an outsider. A community that related to those struggles is what has always gotten us through, and that’s what created Women Fuck Shit Up Fest.
Merilou: I started it with a friend I volunteer with at Rock Camp for Girls Orange County. It stemmed from a place of feeling like it we didn’t belong in the music scene. Especially as a starting band, it’s hard to play shows without the “numbers” or the “friends in certain places”. It just felt like we were swimming upstream because we were different, and that we couldn’t be part of a “scene” without having to change a part of ourselves. Women Fuck Shit Up Fest is about owning yourself, celebrating the female identity and changing the status quo.
Who was your first concert, and who has been your favorite so far?
Merilou: Reel Big Fish was my first concert! Favorite so far is Matt and Kim. They are a spiritual, happy and explosive experience.
Jessie: Taste of Chaos 2005 with My Chemical Romance. Favorite is Arcade Fire.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Merilou: First CD I ever bought by myself was the first Avril Lavigne album. Best decision ever.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Merilou: The Clash, Tegan and Sara, MIA, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Odesza (my jam right now).
Jessie: Blink 182 – Enema of the State, Acoustic Soul by India Arie, KFlay, Post Malone – Beer Bongs and Bentleys, *NSYNC
Musically, who has inspired you the most in your songwriting and music?
Merilou: The Clash. They brought a punk identity into my world in a form of alternative pop songwriting, and that to me is my identity. Their lyrics, attitude and energy was so innovative, and to a 12 year old they were the voice that I followed when I questioned my reality. At a young age, my older siblings also inspired my songwriting. They all had different tastes in music from House/Trance to 90s Hip-Hop to straight up Pop. Being exposed to all of those (and their friends who embodied that culture) influenced me as an artist today).
Jessie: Blink-182 taught me how to play bass and utilize my deep voice. They got me through my angsty years.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
Lindsey is an avid music enthusiast, and has worked in every capacity that music and entertainment have to offer. Because her parents had her young, she grew up on mostly '70s and '80s music, which was a staple in their household every day. She has interviewed a wide range of artists and actors, including Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Jake Kiszka (Greta Van Fleet), Beth Hall (Mom, Mad Men), among numerous others. Catch her on Instagram and Facebook @talentinborders.