““I hit rock bottom that year, but with that came the most growth. I came more into my own confidence and really honed into my creative identity.”
Frontwoman Merilou Salazar is one piece of self-identifying “riot pop” band WASI. Now married to her partner and bandmate, Jessie Meehan, her coming out journey culminated with finally telling her mom — after Meehan proposed.
“I actually fully came out in 2017. The last person I had to truly come out to was my Mom,” said Salazar. “I’ve been avoiding it my whole life but this time around my partner had just proposed so I figured there’s no way I could work around this now.”
Her previously close relationship with her mom became strained after November 2017 when she came out.
“… It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to [do],” she said. “She immediately disowned me, and it felt like every ounce of shame I had hiding in my body came and ate me away.”
Despite it being a difficult time that she recognizes had a positive benefit now that there is distance from the initial ache.
“I hit rock bottom that year, but with that came the most growth,” said Salazar. “I came more into my own confidence and really honed into my creative identity. Facing that fear that I’ve carried my whole life liberated my whole life in the end.”
WASI is a family, one that she leans heavily on and finds comfort in. Her band is supportive and “75%” of the band is queer.
“As an individual, I use music to speak my truth. WASI’s music is so much the narrative of optimism/love as it stems out of pain and shame,” said Salazar. “WASI is more than just music for us. It’s our family. When Jessie and I got married, Kai and Lindsay, the other members of the band, played our wedding song. It’s our ideal world where us outsiders get to beat the bullies and shame that hold us down.”
With cross genre influences like Blink 182, The Clash and Post Malone, Matt and Kim and Tegan and Sara, it’s not hard to see where “riot pop” comes from but it also has another meaning. It’s also easy to see where Salazar’s dream collaborators come stem from, Lizzo, MIA, Kygo, Yaeji and Superorganism to name a few.
“We call our music riot pop – which is the name of our debut album dropping June 7,” she said. “Riot pop or dance punk is how we categorize our music if we were to give it a genre.”
While she’s been able to grow from her past, with the help of her band Salazar aims to use her identity to live honestly.
“Our identity means to us self-love and to question the status quo,” she added. “To not let society box us in, be ourselves and live our best lives.”
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25, according to their website. Click here to make a donation.