Many alternative rock fans across the United States know the fun yet poignant songs of Los Angeles based band WASI. Originally formed by bass player Jessie Meehan and lead singer Merilou Salazar, the duo have spent years making music that reflected their activism, focusing on girls’ empowerment, queer visibility and immigration. However, when they began forming the band WASI to reach a bigger platform with a more dynamic sound, they knew they needed top tier talent alongside them to achieve their dreams. When they found Kai Nakamura, an esteemed guitarist, producer, and songwriter from Japan who is not only an extreme talent, but also someone who shares their ideals, they knew they found a perfect fit.
Since finding each other, WASI has become an international sensation, with prominent singles including “Pussy Grabs Back” and “Floor Talk”, both of which have been featured on radio stations throughout the US and Canada. They have toured the country on the distinguished 2018 Vans Warped Tour, collaborated with the popular alt rock band The Mowgli’s on a remix of their hit single “Mr. Telephone”, released their powerful album “Riot Pop” and performed at many celebrated venues in America that reflect what the band stands for, including the “Love is Gay West Coast Tour” in celebration of pride month, and the SoCal ACLU Festival, where they were directly invited to participate by the American Civil Liberties Union.
After a discrimination incident in which an employee at Walgreens wouldn’t let Jessie Meehan, who identifies as female, use the female restroom, Meehan partnered with the ACLU to create a nationwide Walgreens gender neutral restroom policy. Their project together went viral, and it only became natural for the band to perform at ACLU’s 100-year celebration festival on March 23rd, 2019 at Grand Park in Los Angeles.
“It was really amazing to be part of a project that was bigger than myself when this came around and I wanted to be able to be as supportive as possible. The ACLU creates a better and safer world for disenfranchised communities and gives a voice to those that don’t have one. Immigration is a major issue they continue to work on, and as an immigrant myself it is important to be the voice for others like me. The ACLU works in educating folks of their rights and empowering them to do more themselves. They work really hard in creating a brighter, safer future for all and I am proud to say that I have had the opportunity to work with them,” said Nakamura.
Because the stage for the festival was bigger than anything they had played previously, WASI wanted to put on the best show possible. Nakamura, on top of performing on stage as guitarist, took on the added responsibility of making the show visually stunning. There was a large LED screen behind the stage, and he and the band worked to create a video that told Meehan’s story and then would blend into visuals to go along with the music. They created a custom image with “Riot Pop” artwork to promote their album in the background while they performed.
Nakamura then ensured that the live sound and visual performance was exactly where it needed to be. He worked with the members of the ACLU in achieving this feat, along with headliners Tom Morello and K.Flay.
“This was definitely one of the best shows we had performed as a band. It felt incredible to be asked to be part of something so big and to share the stage with such amazing acts. It just felt really amazing to be recognized for our music abilities, and not just for the activism work. Working with the members of the ACLU on this project was really fun and it felt great to be part of something that brought visibility to a current issue. I want to be able to work with others in creating a better future and this project enabled me to do that through music,” said Nakamura.
The event was a success and WASI was very well received by the ACLU community, not just for the impactful story of a band member changing restroom policies across the country, but because of the catchy and dynamic sound they capture. Nakamura is proud to have played such a large role in the band’s outstanding success on such an important stage and aims to always make their music count for something more.
“It feels great that I had the opportunity to be part of a project of visibility honestly. My goal with music isn’t just to be a musician and producer but it is also to make a difference in the world, and I feel like working on this project really gave me that opportunity. I really look forward to working on more projects like this one,” he concluded.