Meet Me at the Altar
Meet Me @ The Altar present a new musical and cultural paradigm for pop punk. The Florida-based trio— Edith Johnson [vocals], Téa Campbell [guitar], and Ada Juarez [drums]—write the kinds of anthems that you can scream along to at a festival, head-bang to in a club, or sit with while in your feelings at home. The women may have met via YouTube – in true modern-day fashion – but the band shares a classic mission. Flipping the script for rock music and its culture, they bring together elements of Warped Tour era punk, 2010s pop, and easycore. At the same time, their 2021 EP, Model Citizen [Fueled By Ramen], projects a different kind of message loud and clear.
“To me, Model Citizen is about acknowledging that you aren’t where you would like to be in life,” says Téa. “You’re experiencing those lows and highs that put everything into perspective and show you the steps you need to take. The idea of Model Citizen isn’t reality, because no one can be perfect. However, you can recognize the need to be better. If you’re on any kind of stage, you’re going to be a role model, whether you want to be or not. We’re honored to be in a position where people are listening, so we’re going to encourage them.”
“You’re hearing this message directly from us,” adds Edith. “We’re writing everything. When you’re women of color in a band, it’s easy for everyone else to forget the most important thing…We’re not just brown women; we’re musicians.”
Music initially bonded them. Orlando native Téa linked up with New Jersey-born Ada after she heard Ada’s cover of Twenty One Pilots’ “Holding On To You” on YouTube. The lineup solidified with the addition of Edith from Atlanta. Florida became their de facto home base as the three-piece made the most of every meet-up, practicing for hours on end and gigging. Upholding a D.I.Y. ethos, Téa took the reins and booked their first tour as the group got in a van and threw down at shows in support of the Changing States EP in 2018. In 2020, early champions such as Halsey, Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, and Dan “Soupy” Campbell of The Wonder Years came forward as the trio inevitably inked a deal with Fueled By Ramen.
On the heels of singles “Garden” and “Hit Like A Girl,” widespread tastemaker praise followed. The FADER christened them “One of the most exciting young pop bands in the United States,” while Rolling Stone hailed them as “One of 2021’s most exciting new rock acts.” Vulture predicted, “Meet Me @ The Altar make a convincing case that the future of pop-punk is Black, Latina, and female.” Meanwhile, Nylon summed it up succinctly, “Meet Me @ The Altar is the future of pop-punk.”
While amassing critical acclaim, they tirelessly wrote and recorded music, maintaining an impressive standard of perfectionism.
“In March 2021, we had a whole EP written, and we scrapped it,” admits Edith. “We wrote ‘Hit Like A Girl’, and something had changed. Before that, the music was a little more relaxed. ‘Hit Like A Girl’ was so
energetic and hard-hitting. We wanted everything to feel cohesive and flow. The evolution had to make sense.”
Days before entering the studio, the band wrote an entirely new EP. They decamped to Indiana with frequent collaborator Roye Robley, stayed in a “semi-shady hotel,” and recorded Model Citizen. Musically, it struck a balance between influences as diverse as Ke$ha, P!nk, and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!. Nothing was off the table—from towering vocal runs to a double bass barrage. The group introduced the EP with “Feel A Thing.” Video game-style synths give way to a chugging riff as Edith’s confessional lyrics bleed into a chanting refrain punctuated by a harmonic swell.
“When I wrote it, life felt really weird,” reveals Téa. “There was a sense of numbness. It’s okay to not be positive all of the time, because life isn’t positive all of the time. Especially through COVID-19, it was hard to find a purpose when you’re isolated by yourself. You don’t know where you’re headed and feel a little lost. By acknowledging you’re searching for purpose, you get closer to happiness.”
“Mapped Out” alternates between upbeat instrumentation, lyrical introspection, and vocal ad-libs. Trumpeting a clarion call, Edith admits, “I’ve gotta keep searching,” as her voice dips in and out of a distorted breakdown. Propelled by a pummeling beat and punchy guitar, “Brighter Days (Are Before Us)” signals the sunshine on the horizon with an affirmation. “It’s about feeling sad, but realizing there are better days ahead,” says Edit.
Then, there’s the riff-heavy “Never Gonna Change,” which Téa describes as “about accountability and admitting you’re the reason for your problems.” The EP culminates on the thundering groove of “Wake Up” where one final onslaught ends with a reminder “Stop freaking, freaking out”—and a lot of laughter.
“After taking accountability, you’re like, ‘Okay, what am I going to do about this?’,” explains Téa. “So, you realize, ‘I’m not alright. I need to wake up. I need to do something. I don’t want to be like this’. It ties into the theme of Model Citizen and trying to become who you want to be in your head.”
“When we grew up listening to this kind of music, nobody looked like us,” Ada leaves off. “Since we didn’t have anyone to look up to, we knew we had to give the next generation of girls a band to look up to. We want to influence people. We want to be those role models. We want to lead the revolution of looking like us and making music. It’s weird it hasn’t happened sooner.”
“It’s happening now,” adds Téa.