‘We want to play arenas, we want to be in game soundtracks’: The meteoric rise of Meet Me @ The Altar is only getting started

From Mortal Kombat to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, games are a key part of in the identity of pop-punk’s most exciting new band

It’s a peculiar name, Meet Me @ The Altar. But it works. It sticks in your head and has a nice cadence to it, too. Better yet, it suits the energy and bright-eyed sound of guitarist Téa Campbell, drummer Ada Juarez and singer Edith Johnson – the three-piece outfit quickly making a name for themselves as one of the most buoyant pop-punk bands operating right now.

That name – stylized and frequently contracted to MM@TA – suits a plucky up-and-coming pop-punk band, right? It’d look great scribbled on Vans bags, stuck on stickers on the underside of skateboard decks, plastered over black T-shirts hanging on festival vendors’ rails. A name can do a lot of work. And this one has video games to thank for its genesis.

“Back in 2015, when the band had first formed, I was sending possible names to Ada,” recalls Téa Campbell, reminiscing back to when the guitarist and drummer were in the early days of making music together. “I was being serious about it – sending actual names – and she just started listing off Mortal Kombat characters.” The duo laugh. “We found out that Sub-Zero was both our favourite character, and I was like ‘oh my God, marry me!’”

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“So then I said ‘MEET ME @ THE ALTAR’, just like that – with the at sign and all caps – and it just looked good,” says Juarez. And there it was.

“A little bit of me does think Sub-Zero would be a much cooler name,” Campbell posits, no pun intended. “But Meet Me @ The Altar works so well.”

This initial flirtation with games isn’t the only time the hobby has had an impact on the trio, either: Campbell recalls that it was in playing RuneScape that she was exposed to a lot of the music she still listens to today. “A lot of people grouped RuneScape in with bands like Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace and that genre, for some reason,” she notes. “Seeing also the RuneScape music videos had a lot to do with [my taste], now.”

Campbell and Juarez go on to namecheck Tony Hawk Pro Skater as another massive influence on them – not surprising, given pop-punk’s proliferation in skating games in general – before Johnson jumps in to declare: “I literally discovered All Time Low through The Sims 4!” to which the rest of the band, in unison, says “same!”

It’s a well-documented fact that the setlists featured in the Guitar Hero games and the seemingly unkillable Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series (as well as the likes of GTA’s radio stations) are responsible for shaping generations of people’s taste in music. MM@TA aren’t satisfied with just having their tastes shaped by gaming, though – the band knows its sound is a perfect fit for myriad games soundtracks, and they want in.

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“Is there another Sims game coming out?” asks Juarez. “Because we need to have a song in that – we need to do a song in Simlish!”

“And our sound is just so perfect for [a Tony Hawk’s game], or Skate 5” adds Campbell. “A lot of people say that our sound would suit like an anime intro, too,” she laughs. “And I think there’s some crossover with that and video games.”

To really drive that point home, the band’s first single from the ‘Model Citizen’ EP, ‘Feel A Thing’, starred the trio performing live as animated avatars of themselves journey from an arcade into a ludicrous dragon-slaying quest: it gels with the crunchy, glitchy 8-bit inspired intro to the song – something that was added to the track by the producer – and should act like catnip to that sensitive flavour of nerd that exists at the crossroads of punk and gaming.

The band has already noted that they’ve reached a new audience thanks to the video; people that wouldn’t have otherwise given them a second look got hooked on the visuals, and now listen to them on the regular. It’s a tactic the band is employing quite a lot; they’ve just come off the back of tours supporting both Coheed and Cambria and All Time Low – two bands with markedly different audiences to what you’d expect an all-girl pop-punk trio to appeal to. But getting in front of people is all part of the job when you’re touring, and it’s working.

“The first Coheed show we did, we’d cleared our DMs on Instagram beforehand so we could see how many people had added us to their stories after the show, and it was like 70 or 80?” recalls Campbell, smiling. “I know a large majority of their audience probably would never have given us a second thought, but we were right there in front of them and they were like ‘oh shit! They’re actually really good!’”

Back in 2018, MM@TA, by their own admission, were playing to “20 or 30 kids a night” and had “maybe 3000 Instagram followers”. Now, performing to far bigger crowds, the band gets to watch as the audiences’ “biases melt off their faces” as they play, and their following is up 60,000 and counting. They get to represent women and people of colour in the traditionally white-washed genre that is pop-punk. They get to play songs called, for example, ‘Hit Like a Girl’, and connect with members of the audience that have perhaps never felt represented before.

“There was a show in Ohio, and there was this one little girl in the front with her parents,” Johnson says. “She was so excited to see us; she was jumping around and having the best time ever. I made sure to wave at her, and tell her that she can do anything she wants, and that she’s awesome. Her parents DM’d us after the show to tell us we’d made her whole week, and that she was so happy to see an all-girl band in the line-up.”

Meet Me @ The Altar
Meet Me @ The Altar (Picture: Lindsey Byrnes / Press)

What better way is there for the band to continue representing, fighting the good fight and making an impact than to carry on what they’re doing now – but at scale? The band has stadiums in their sights (eventually), but for now it’s all about getting onto the radio and then doing a headline show. “Hopefully in a year, we’ll be that song on the radio that you hate hearing now because we’re playing all the time,” laughs Johnson.

“When we’re headlining, because of all these fans we’re picking up with our videos, from Coheed, from All Time Low… our crowd is going to be the weirdest melting pot that anyone can imagine!” says Juarez.

The experience of touring – now that Covid-19 restrictions have lifted somewhat – has altered the way that Campbell writes her songs, too. “Regarding the instrumentals specifically, I write them with our live show in mind,” she notes. “Even though we’re playing clubs and amphitheaters and stuff now, we are writing songs with the arenas in mind so that when we do get there, it makes sense that we’re playing those songs there.”

We note that she says, “when” and not “if”. It’s a quiet confidence we can get behind. “Riot Fest was the biggest show we’ve played so far,” says Campbell, “and it just felt natural to be in front of a crowd that size. I think the bigger the crowd, the more comfortable we’ll feel. We’re pumped, and we’re ready to keep on climbing.”

Pop-punk has always been about the underdogs – more specifically, it’s been about the underdogs having fun – and whilst the genre’s renaissance may be headlined megastars (Olivia Rodrigo, Willow) and interlopers (Machine Gun Kelly), it’s bands like MM@TA that’ll forever be at the tattered, beating heart of what makes it great.

Finding a home in game soundtracks and fighting their way to arenas from their humble roots? It’s a perfect rags-to-riches narrative, worthy of Guitar Hero’s inevitable reboot or that covetable slot on The Sims 5. You better be listening, developers, because MM@TA is only getting bigger.

Meet Me @ The Altar has just come off support tours with All Time Low and Coheed & Cambria. The band will tour the UK again in May 2022, supporting State Champs on the following dates: 

  • 8 – Bristol Marble Factory
  • 9 – Southampton Engine Rooms
  • 11 – London Electric Ballroom
  • 12 – London Electric Ballroom
  • 14 – Glasgow SWG3 Galvenisers
  • 15 – Manchester O2 Ritz
  • 17 – Leeds Beckett Students Union
  • 18 – Birmingham O2 Institute
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