Wasser began playing violin at age eight while attending grade school in Norwalk, Connecticut. At Boston University, she studied violin with Yuri Mazurkevich and also played with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra, and expanded her horizons to rock with local acts including Hot Trix (which featured Autoclave member and Helium founder Mary Timony) and the Dambuilders, who went on to national success.
Wasser also played with Timony and Shudder to Think's Nathan Larson in Mind Science of the Mind, who released their self-titled album in 1996. The following year, the Dambuilders disbanded and Wasser's boyfriend, Jeff Buckley, accidentally drowned in Memphis, Tennessee. Wasser kept on making music, collaborating with the Grifters' Dave Shouse and Buckley's former guitarist Michael Tighe in Those Bastard Souls in the late '90s, and then with Tighe in Black Beetle, which folded in the early 2000s.
Along with working as a violinist for hire with artists as diverse as Sheryl Crow, Hal Willner, Rufus Wainwright, and Antony and the Johnsons, Wasser developed her own songwriting, and formed Joan as Police Woman in 2002. The band released its first single, My Gurl, early in 2003, and self-released the Joan as Police Woman EP in 2004. Joan as Police Woman signed to the British label Reveal, which issued their full-length debut, Real Life, in summer 2006, along with the Eternal Flame, Christobel, and The Ride singles. Real Life was released in the U.S. in summer 2007. To Survive, which featured a cameo by Rufus Wainwright, followed in 2008. For 2011's The Deep Field, Wasser reteamed with Bryce Goggin, co-producer of Real Life, and took a more upbeat approach. Following the album's release, Wasser accompanied Beck at his 2012 London concert in support of Song Reader and wrote runway music for the fashion house Viktor & Rolf.
On 2014's The Classic, Wasser channeled the feel of vintage soul albums in its often joyous songs. Two years later, she worked with Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Lazar Davis after bonding over their separate trips to Africa: Wasser traveled to Ethiopia to work on Damon Albarn's Africa Express project, while Davis went to West Africa to study the region's traditional music. For 2016's Let It Be You, they drew on Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns that they played on guitar and keyboards. In 2017, Wasser performed with Daniel Johnston on a date of his final tour. The following year she released Damned Devotion, a return to the stripped-down sound of Real Life and To Survive. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi