Meet Me @ The Altar: “We’ve always wanted to be the biggest band in the world”

Each week in Next Noise, we go deep on the rising talent ready to become your new favourite artist. Beneath glitchy noise and racing guitars, the alternative trio's debut album offers listeners the courage to fight for a better tomorrow

“We’ve always been an ambitious group,” Meet Me @ The Altar guitarist Téa Campbell tells NME over Zoom. “Since the start, we’ve always wanted world domination – and to be the biggest band in the world.”

And they’re well on their way. Since exploding onto listeners’ radars in 2020, Meet Me @ The Altar have signed to historic emo label Fueled by Ramen (labelmates include Twenty One Pilots) and opened for Green Day and MUNA. They’ve played Lollapalooza, Slam Dunk, US punk-centric Riot Fest and last year’s inaugural When We Were Young Festival, which was headlined by Paramore and My Chemical Romance. But this year brings new firsts for the band: their debut album, ‘Past // Present // Future’, out on March 10, and their first-ever US headline tour that same month.

‘Past // Present // Future’ solidifies the band’s talent for delivering upbeat tracks focused on empowerment and growth. Much like the wave of alternative, guitar-driven music that’s thrived over the past two years, the record is not concerned about what genre it fits into, and it’s not afraid to pull references from different eras. After being heralded as the young heroes of pop punk, why should Meet Me @ The Altar stop there?

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Meet Me @ The Altar’s history goes back to 2015, when Campbell commented on bandmate Ada Juarez’s Twenty One Pilots drum cover on YouTube. The two started talking, eventually coming to the decision to form a band, and they held auditions on YouTube for a singer. Lead vocalist Edith Victoria submitted a cover of Paramore’s ‘All I Wanted’ and ended up joining the band in 2017. With all three of them spread across the East Coast of the US – Campbell in Florida, Juarez in New Jersey and Victoria in Georgia – the band wrote songs remotely, meeting up to play shows whenever they could.

After years of grafting across their local touring circuits, the band went viral over the summer of 2020. After Halsey named them recipients of their Black Creators Fund, Meet Me @ The Altar’s streams skyrocketed, as audiences sought to diversify their listening following the Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. “It’s been great, but it’s also really bittersweet and a little sad that it happened this way,” Victoria told NME previously.

Simultaneously, pop punk was experiencing a revival at the time, and Meet Me @ The Altar became part of a cohort of artists, including Pinkshift, KennyHoopla and De’Wayne, that formed a newer, more diverse, incarnation of the traditionally white and male genre. Meet Me @ The Altar have since worked tirelessly to create space for women and people of colour in alternative music. “It’s really important for us to be able to make people feel comfortable in a space that they normally wouldn’t have and to be able to actually see the diversity in the crowd,” Campbell says today. “When we went to [rock] shows [as teenagers], we never experienced that. So for us to be bringing these people together is so cool. It just drives us to keep going.”

Credit: Jonathan Weiner

They hope to encourage future generations of alternative musicians to pursue their dreams  as well. “We are running so other people can walk,” Juarez says. “We wanted to show all of these little girls that they can do [music] too. There’s so many different ways to get to where we are today – and I feel like it’s just so inspiring.”

Meet Me @ The Altar’s swift transition into the mainstream has brought them closer as bandmates, they say. “When you think about it, there’s no other people on this planet that I’ve had to spend six weeks at a time with, 24/7,” Campbell continues. “There’s nowhere to hide.” The three women’s friendship is clear in the way they answer questions together, feeding off one another’s comments. “My parents see them as my sisters,” Juarez says. “You have to be friends first, and now we’re like family.”

As for Meet Me @ The Altar’s pop punk roots, ‘Past // Present // Future’ sees the band stride forward in a new direction. Lead single ‘Say It (To My Face)’ – a response to online hate – and ‘Kool,’ which is built around blasts of crunching guitar, deliver the hard-hitting sound that fans have come to expect from the band. But there are tracks that showcase the trio’s range, from the bittersweet ballad ‘A Few Tomorrows’ to the rippling grooves of ‘Thnx 4 Nothin’, which glows with sunny melodies that show off the band’s pop sensibilities.

‘Past // Present // Future’ takes influence from a very specific moment in pop-rock history: mid-2000s Disney rock. That era had a heavy focus on teen idols: alternative artists such as Avril Lavigne were frequently played on the now-defunct Radio Disney alongside Disney Channel hyphenates such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. The station largely promoted women, non-binary and gender-fluid artists making guitar-driven music for a young audience. “It was the perfect mix of pop and rock,” Victoria says. “Rock that’s palatable to rock fans but also pop fans. I think Disney Channel and all those movies that [had] people playing guitars, they did a really good job of balancing pop and rock.”

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meet me @ the altar
Credit: Jonathan Weiner

The gritty ‘King of Everything’ was influenced by the movie Freaky Friday, in which Lindsey Lohan’s character plays guitar in the fictional garage band Pink Slip. Meet Me @ The Altar were also inspired by the Disney Channel original movie Lemonade Mouth – starring Hayley Kiyoko, Naomi Scott and Bridgit Mendler – which focused on a group of high school students who meet during detention and form a band. “These kids today are growing up without [Lemonade Mouth]. That’s the point of us,” Campbell says.

To capture the sounds and aesthetics of this specific era, Meet Me @ The Altar enlisted John Fields [Pink, Jonas Brothers]  on production duties, after Victoria spotted his name in the credits for Lovato’s 2008 debut studio album ‘Don’t Forget’. “We did not want this record to fall in the wrong hands,” Campbell says “We needed someone to understand our vision. And he was the vision that we wanted people to understand.” Juarez continues: “There were so many times we were like, ‘[John], remember what you did in this song for the Jonas Brothers? Can you do that with this too, for us?’”

This overarching influence shines through on ‘Past // Present // Future’, from the playful anger that powers ‘It’s Over For Me’ to ‘Same Language’s’ climbing melody. They’re both memorable songs in their own right, but they also brilliantly demonstrate the band’s eagerness to share their love of Disney rock with others. “Goddammit, I want [that sound] to come back!” Campbell says. “That’s our plan,” Juarez reassures her. “It will. I’m going to manifest it.”

Meet Me @ The Altar’s debut album ‘Past // Present // Future’ will be released on March 10

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