Meet Me @ The Altar: “This is the time for us to take risks”

Rewriting the scene on a mission to be the biggest band on the planet, there’s no lack of ambition to MEET ME @ THE ALTAR.

If you know anything about Meet Me @ The Altar, you know they want to be the biggest band in the world. And they’ve got no problem telling you, either.

“Doubt and fear prevent people from taking action, but it’s that action that causes change,” explains guitarist Téa Campbell. “We’ve never let anything stop us. We wanted to tour, but no one would give us the opportunity, so we figured out how to book things ourselves.” If the trio had been scared, they’d probably still be living in different states and writing songs over the internet.

Instead, they’re fresh from an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where their fiery, confident performance of ‘Say It (To My Face)’ came alongside the announcement of their debut album ‘Past // Present // Future’. Even if you don’t know anything about Meet Me @ The Altar, those three minutes proved the band really could be the biggest in the world.

“I was expecting to feel overwhelmed, but I just felt really comfortable,” says Edith Victoria of their television debut. “I hope we get to do every late-night show, because I want to do it all again.”

Meet Me @ the Altar formed in 2015 when Téa reached out to Ada Juarez, after watching one of her drum cover videos on YouTube. The band was completed by Edith in 2017, and despite living in different states, the trio would travel to play scrappy basement shows and recorded a handful of EPs. Things changed in 2020, though, when, as the world went into lockdown due to the pandemic, their single ‘Garden’ started blowing up online as the pop-punk revival started to take hold.

“I remember that like it was yesterday,” starts Téa. “That was the start of seeing everything we knew we would accomplish finally start happening. Even when we were a tiny local band playing to 15 people, we always knew our band was something really special. We always knew we could go far, and we were going to put the work in to go the distance. At that start of lockdown, it felt like the world was catching up to what we already knew.” Everything they’ve achieved since (believe us, it’s quite the list) has felt like “another little taste of what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Alongside acts like De’Wayne and Pinkshift, Meet Me @ the Altar were championed as proof that pop-punk and rock wasn’t as white, male and stale as it had been in its noughties heyday. “It was very rewarding,” says Edith. “We are one of the best bands to be at the forefront of that, to show that people can look different and making any type of music. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that we’re taking up space, creating music and existing as human beings. We’re proof that things are different this time around, and they can be even better.”

Meet Me @ The Altar signed to the iconic Fueled By Ramen shortly after the release of ‘Garden’, with their ‘Model Citizen’ EP coming the following year. Then they hit the road hard and saw first-hand that their music was making a difference.

“Because we got our following over COVID, we didn’t really see any of our growth beyond numbers on a screen. Now, we’ve done so many tours and talked to so many people that have told us, ‘your music has literally changed my life’,” says Téa. Those interactions are the ones that mean the most to the trio. “We get it. We would have felt the exact same way if a band like us had come around when we were growing up. We had always been waiting for something to come  along until we realised, ‘I guess we’re it’.”

It wasn’t all positive, though. Despite the scene becoming more inclusive, Meet Me @ The Altar were still on the receiving end of sexist, racist, homophobic abuse. “Being women of colour and some of us being gay, people just say the most unnecessary and ridiculous things,” explains Edith. They tackle it head-on on ‘Past // Present // Future’’s spunky lead single ‘Say It (To My Face)’.

“I’m a bitch, and my band is an industry plant, least that’s what it says on the internet,” sings Edith with a knowing smirk before telling the anonymous troll to “run home” to their mom. “Really wish I could stay, gotta fly to LA, play a show at The Wiltern,” Edith adds.

“It’s very in your face, and I think it’ll piss people off, which is great,” Edith explains. She believes it’ll also make people fall in love with the band “because we’re unapologetic about everything. It’s definitely a head turner, and we wanted to turn heads,” especially because the band hadn’t released any new music since ‘Model Citizen’. “And it was after that record that we really started getting all those shitty Facebook comments and whatever,” adds Téa. “It was cool to be like, ‘we saw what you were posting, we’re going to address it, and now we’re moving on – here’s the album’.”

“It’s so funny when people talk crap in the comments on that video, because that’s literally what the song is about,” adds Edith with a smile. “Do you not see the irony?”

Edith says the band are at the “beginning of learning how to navigate” the hate. “Every artist that is growing and getting bigger is going to have to go through something similar,” she adds. “The more hate you get, the more people you’re clearly reaching.” It’s why the band are so determined that their music comes with a healthy dollop of positivity.

“There are going to be so many bands that come after us, and they’re sadly going to have to go through the same thing. Only good things can come from putting out a song that says, ‘yeah, you might experience this, but you can tell them to fuck off. It’s okay to be unapologetic’.”

Around the release of Model Citizen, Meet Me @ The Altar spoke at length about their experiences of being women of Colour in the rock scene but they want ‘Past // Present // Future’ to “prove that first and foremost, we are musicians. All the other things come after that,” says Edith.

“It was important to talk about because there wasn’t anything like us in the scene. But you know, everyone knows that we’re women of colour who play rock music now. We’ve talked about it; now the music should speak for itself,” adds Téa.

“It doesn’t always have to be spoken about either,” says Edith. “Just making good music and looking the way that we look, that’s really powerful.”

In recent months, Meet Me @ The Altar have become a formidable live force after playing shows with the likes of Green Day, Knuckle Puck and Travis Barker protégé JXDN. They appeared at When We Were Young alongside My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, and Avril Lavigne and before their set, Paramore’s Hayley Williams handed them the ceremonial torch via a note that said: “You are making it possible for so many young people from whatever walk of life to make punk music.”

Like Paramore, though, Meet Me @ The Altar aren’t interested in sticking to pop-punk’s rigid rules. “Some bands just transcend genre. We have huge ambitions that break out of the scene,” says Téa. “It’s cool that we’re starting to become more mainstream.”

“We’ve never really been a part of the scene either,” says Téa, who questions if the pop-punk resurgence is still a thing now the old guard have returned to their roots. “We’ve been floating in and out of it, but we can go anywhere, really.”

Proof of that is Meet Me @ The Altar’s recent tour supporting emotional pop band MUNA across North America. “That run of shows really opened our eyes to the fact you don’t have to have breakdowns in every song for people to feel the energy,” says Téa. “We grew up going to shows by The Story So Far, Neck Deep and Knuckle Puck where moshing is the thing. MUNA taught us that you don’t need that for the crowds to still go crazy for you. They gave us so much inspiration to keep doing what we’re doing, but we definitely wrote softer songs after that tour.”

That tour, alongside appearing at Lollapalooza, helped the band understand they could outgrow the pop-punk bubble. “That’s the goal, just to break out bigger and bigger,” says Edith.

That starts with debut album ‘Past // Present // Future’. The trio buckled down and started writing last January. “It was rough at first because we didn’t really know what sound we wanted to go for,” says Téa with a series of co-writes also frustrating the band. It wasn’t long before the group hit a groove, though, and found a team of people they vibed with, eager to help Meet Me @ The Altar take things to the next level.

And what a record it is. Driven by a buoyant excitement and an urgency to make the most of its 30-minute run time, it never lets up. Influenced by all that time on the road, every moment hits hard.

Inspired by the “radio rock” that the band grew up listening to, there are nods to P!nk, Demi Lovato, The Jonas Brothers and Avril Lavigne across the record. “Anytime we’re in the van, that’s the music we’ll turn on. That’s the stuff that gets us hyped,” says Téa. “It still holds up as well, because it’s just really strong songwriting.”

Not that ‘Past // Present // Future’ is another throwback pop-punk album. “We don’t want to get caught up in being a nostalgic band,” says Téa. Sure, some chord progressions will naturally invoke that feeling of nostalgia but Meet Me @ The Altar are “a band of today. We’ve blended so many different genres on this record that we don’t even think of it as a pop-punk album. It’s a rock record that has influences from pop, country and R&B.”

Despite that, there’s no trap-inspired second verse on any of the songs, nor do the band ever awkwardly pivot to drum & bass as so many rock bands do in an attempt to sound current. “That’s my biggest pet peeve,” says Edith, as Téa explains that it was “super important for us to keep everything guitar and instrument based. We are a band, and we want our music to reflect that.”

Lyrically, ‘Past // Present // Future’ also sees the trio expanding on things. There are still a few classic Meet Me @ The Altar songs about positivity, like the resilient ‘Rocket Science’ but, as the band explains, “we wanted to show a more well-rounded range of emotions and not hide anything that we were feeling, even if that’s something negative,” says Téa. “Everyone experiences those things anyway, so it’s important for people to hear that, to know they’re not alone. Life isn’t always going to be positive, but you can still get something good out of something bad.”

“We really sing about everything on this record,” Edith adds. “Every single emotion you can feel as a human being is on there. We talk about breakups, insecurities and having obstacles in your life. There are also songs about not letting those obstacles stop you or saying goodbye to someone. We covered a lot of ground.”

Téa goes on to say that she wants people to “take whatever they need to take from the album. At the end of the day, music is here to help people and make them feel less alone. If we can accomplish that, then we did something right.”

Everything about ‘Past // Present // Future’ feels fearless, but that suits Meet Me @ The Altar just fine, who aren’t worried about being precious over what they’ve already created.

“The way I view it, the majority of our fan base doesn’t know we exist yet,” says Téa, another grand statement before razor-sharp self-awareness. “We are a relatively small band. We’ve gotten huge opportunities, but as far as streaming and all that stuff, we’re a small band, so this is the time for us to take risks.”

She’s confident existing fans will love the album, but “something we’ve always talked about throughout our years together as a band is that we can’t make music for other people. We have to make music for ourselves, and if we like it, that’s what the world gets.”

It’s different to what’s come before “in every single shape and angle,” says Ada. “In my humble opinion, no one but Meet Me @ The Altar could have made ‘Model Citizen’. No one else could have made this album, either.” While ‘Model Citizen’ was strictly easycore, ‘Past // Present // Future’ is far more expansive. “We don’t want to get trapped in a box,” says Téa. “We really tried to give ourselves more room to play on this record because we’ll want to expand our sound in the future. That’s how bands create longevity. Look at Paramore, they are the perfect example of a band who created something different, but it was still Paramore. We want that for us.”

“After people hear this record, I don’t think they’re going to be surprised by whatever way we decide to go for our next release,” says Edith. “Whatever we write next will make sense,” because of the foundations laid out in ‘Past // Present // Future’.

“And that’s the future aspect of our album title,” continues Téa. “We’re pulling from our past influences, and that’s always going to be part of us, but we’re also helping set up whatever comes next.

According to Meet Me @ The Altar, world domination “always felt achievable”.

“But it’s definitely a lot clearer now,” says Téa. “Before, we had this idea of wanting to be the biggest band in the world, but now we’re actually setting ourselves up for that to be a reality. When the album comes out, I feel that’s really going to change everything for us.” No wonder they’re itching to get it out.

“This is the first time I feel like I have a really well-drawn picture of what Meet Me @ The Altar is, says Edith. “I know who we are now, and I feel really confident in that. I think we’ve made the perfect album for where we are right now, and it’s going to catapult us pretty far, so I’m even more excited for album two.”

Let’s not get carried away, though. The band have “no idea” what album two will sound like, hence the excitement. “We’re not going to know until we sit down to write it because we’re not pre-planning our sound,” says Téa, who’d rather create around what’s inspiring her at that moment in time. “We’re just going to ride the wave and see where it takes us.”

Instead, 2023 will see the band once again hit the road and try to be as present as possible. “The journey is the fun part. We never wanted to skip any part of being a band, because we wanted to be a band to be a band. We’re not in this for the money or the fame; we do it because we love it,” says Téa. “As long as we keep doing us and don’t worry about what anyone has to say, we’re going to be doing the cool shit.”

“It’s just going to keep getting bigger,” adds Ada. “We’re going to keep taking those steps to reach world domination.”

Taken from the March 2023 edition of Upset. Order a copy below. Meet Me @ The Altar’s debut album ‘Past // Present // Future’ is out 10th March.