We Are/She Is, Are Feeling the Beat
You grew up with Tegan and Sara, now get smitten over the indie pop duo that is Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan.
Photo credit: Kat Juarez
On any given day, Orange County, California just might seem like a conservative oceanside town with some killer surf spots. If you ask Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan of We Are/She Is about their show at O.C. Gay Pride this year, they might tell you about the super right-wing country show happening right next to the tent they performed at. But they’ll also tell you just how well received they are, even with the labels they’ve been given from the beginning as "a lesbian-fronted band." For the last two years, they’ve been performing electro-alternative music together. And they’re the kind of duo that finishes each others sentences and haven’t lost themselves into the abyss of music fame.
The two girls first met in a high school physics class nearly seven years ago. Salazar asked Meehan if she wanted to play bass in her new band. For one, Meehan didn’t know how to play bass. And Salazar didn’t really have a band. She had signed herself up for a show that was happening in two weeks. But the two hit it off instantly. They added a drummer into the mix, and formed He’s Not Gay. “We’re two lesbians and he was a straight guy,” Salazar explains.
Meehan taught herself bass, and although the performance was a rocky one, they’ve come a long way. After their first band broke up, they transitioned into We Are/She Is. “We completely changed everything: new music, new image,” Meeham says, to which Salazar adds, “We definitely wanted something a little more dancier, a little more mellow, and at the same time, a little more relatable. With He’s Not Gay, we just sang about random high school crap,” she laughs.
With one EP under their belt, Young and Pretty Clean, and a new EP on the way this fall with a brand spanking new Kickstarter campaign to help fund the new tunes, We Are/She Is produces a soundtrack of singles that have everyone in the lesbian community talking, and feeling. A lot.
Pictured: Jessie Meehan and Merilou Salazar, Photo Credit: Kat Jaurez
You may have caught their singles “Barlights” and “Puzzles” on The Real L Word. “The first time our song was in the episode, we were joking around like, I bet you it’s going to be a big pool party, and then at the end of it, everyone’s just gonna fuck,” Meehan jokes. And, well, their predictions rang true.
The second time their song aired, they were in one serendipitous circumstance, playing a show with Uh Huh Her. Salazar and Meehan laugh about getting a little tipsy and loving every second of that night, recognizing the awkwardness of knowing some of the lesbians in the crowd. From the beginning, they’ve wondered what kind of audience they would draw. After performing at the OC Music Awards, they were on the map, but it’s the hard work they put into circuiting all of the Pride events, be it as performers or patrons, an arm-full of their EP and merch in tote, to get the word out about their music.
Going forward, they have their sights set on touring, noting multiple acts that have influenced them through their music journey, some of which they’d love the opportunity to play with on stage. Meehan cites Matt & Kim, the Ting Tings and Metric. Growing up, Meehan reminisces over loving Blink 182, a California staple. For Salazar, she was led through some tender moments as an adolescent with the aid of music. “I remember growing up and the Clash got me through everything. They hit all the right spots. And it was funny because I was this little nerdy Asian kid, who was into this super British punk.
Meehan points out how “right” Salazar gets it, lyrically, thanks to that dark angst she brings to the table. Essentially, We Are/She Is is “high energy, fuck the world,” so says Meehan. Their shows are legit shows. They’re a far cry from shoegazers, and they’ll leave you walking away with a plastered smile on your face, saying, “Wow!” The two often go to other shows—supporting local bands who share that similar vibrant branding of California bands.
When We Are/She Is embarked on their west coast tour, they traveled up to Portland and Seattle, noting how different the music scenes are from city to city. Meehan and Salazar weren’t sure how their music would go over, but found they were acknowledged for that particular Southern California sound. “It’s funny because I don’t really notice the different music cultures everywhere,” says Salazar.
What’s true is that Southern California has an exact sound, be it garage rock, surf punk, chill-wave, or in a word: summer. We Are/She Is evokes a time and place many of us associate with good vibrations: be it high school parties, college nights when we watched The OC, or moments of enlightenment when we were coming of age. Maybe we still are. And that’s why an act like We Are/She Is finds its position with a young version of Tegan and Sara. And best yet, the meet and greets abound, the interaction with fans who come out to see them is there for the taking.
Salazar and Meehan connect with their fans on a level that make them fans forever. “I don’t even like to call them fans, they are friends,” says Salazar. And Meehan agrees. “Come over to Merilou’s house for beer.”
What began innocently, a string of high-school themed songs, ready-made anthems for lesbian youth vying for the chance to be understood and guided through their own tender time, is now a mature, fun loving duo with just the right attitude, wearing their hearts on their sleeves, rocking the mic with a sound that is sure to please and find itself right at home on our playlists—especially our pool party playlists. (wearesheis.bandcamp.com)
To support We Are/She Is on their latest EP, check out their Kickstarter campaign.
We Are/She Is will be performing next on Nov. 4 at Palm Springs Pride.