Los Angeles indie punk-pop band WASI are on a colorful mission to interlace their current touring cycle with a heaping dose of activism. On the back of their recent debut album Riot Pop, founders Jessie Meehan, Merilou Salazar and company embarked on the Love is Gay tour, bringing together the core messages of their songs and the work of connecting young queer communities via the power and collaboration of music-making. Ahead of their stop at Gold Blood Collective in Utah during the aptly celebratory vibes of Pride month, SLUG spoke with WASI about the big, rainbow picture of the tour and the inspirations for it.
SLUG: Tell us about the central mission of the Love is Gay tour.
WASI: The Love is Gay tour aims to engage with local LGBTQ+ communities in the areas we are going through by creating a safe artistic space. We are all about having a good time together where we can all feel safe to share what’s going on with each other and know we are all not alone.
SLUG: What inspired you to integrate activism and outreach into your tour?
WASI: We participated in an LA version of Love is Gay and people loved it! We have experience in throwing festivals (Merilou started the successful Women Fuck Shit Up Fest with her friend Mayra a few years ago) and thought it would be a cool idea to have a pride-related tour during pride month. Something we did with WFSU Fest was to find a local beneficiary to receive funds raised during the festival that does great things for marginalized communities. It has been such a fulfilling endeavor and we wanted to take that on the road and spread awareness. We are all in this world together for a short time and should do our part to help each other out and make it a better place.
SLUG: What have been some of the best and most difficult moments?
WASI: In regards to touring, some of the best times are just meeting people from all over—truly connecting with people and hearing their stories. Some of the most difficult are just the long hours of driving. We try to stop regularly for some yoga, stretches and burpees!
SLUG: You’ll be meeting with local youth groups in the queer community at each tour stop. What message are you hoping to convey to young queer kids about the value of music and art?
WASI: We come from a place that is pretty conservative—we dealt with a lot of depression and bullying growing up, which we know a lot of folks can identify with. The thing that truly saved our lives was music. That being said, we also never really found a scene we fit in with, so we decided to create our own path and community. We work with the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles as well, which encouraged young girls to embrace everything their own awesomeness through playing music. Whenever we were feeling discouraged or down, we would pick up our guitars and write. This is what we encourage youth to do as well: Whether it’s a paint brush or an instrument, just release everything you’ve got into your art.
SLUG: How did you pick working with Familia for your stop in Utah?
WASI: We were doing our research for local non-profits, and what Familia is doing really resonated with us. We really love the feeling of hope they carry for minorities. As a first generation immigrant, the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identities and an immigrant is something really important for me to connect with.
SLUG: How do your tour dates correlate with June being Pride month?
WASI: We really wanted this tour be a celebratory tour for those who want to be part of it. Pride month reminds us of the struggles that haven’t taken place for us to be where we’re at, and we’re excited to be part of the space in different cities.
SLUG: In what ways is LGBTQ+ activism personally salient for you?
WASI: For us, being queer is something we’ve had to struggle with in our own ways, be it navigating society or just with ourselves. To speak up and help connect with someone the way may have we needed that connection is important to us.
SLUG: How does your music reflect your LGBTQ+ affirmative stance?
WASI: I think just being shamelessly ourselves represents that affirmative stance. We’re loud, we’re proud and we work hard! We try to come into spaces that people may not expect, and I think our live show showcases that. The energy we carry to the live show is part of who we are, and that feeling of pride hopefully can resonate with others.
SLUG: How do you see music and performance art as an apparatus for effecting social change?
WASI: It’s everything! It’s how we express how we feel and how we see the world. It makes sense of the things that don’t make any sense. Art is how we view the world through our individual lenses. We can talk about anything and do anything through art. If our songs make just one person feel better about their situation and make them feel less alone, then we have done our job!
SLUG: After your stop in Utah, what do you anticipate the remainder of the tour looking like?
WASI: Colorful! It is Pride month after all, and we have a lot to celebrate—Being queer, and being loud and proud. We are really excited to meet lots of new folks and make new friends!
WASI play Gold Blood Collective on June 18th alongside their work with Familia during their local stop. The band continue their Love is Gay tour throughout Pride month with several stops through the northwest back into California, ending in their hometown of Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theater on July 8th. Learn more about the band at isawwasi.com and hear them on Spotify and Bandcamp.