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After crossing paths online, Meet Me @ The Altar are the determined three-piece ready to take over the alternative scene. The visionary band, now signed to Fueled By Ramen, met on the internet in 2015 and have since become pioneers in reclaiming what pop-punk stands for. Ada Juarez, 22, who’s a native to New Jersey, recalls how it all fell together. “Téa came across one of my drum covers on YouTube. She contacted me and asked to be friends and immediately decided to just start a band after a couple of days,” the drummer recalls. After hosting auditions through YouTube, it wasn’t long until the band’s vocalist Edith Johnson was recruited to join the crew. With Edith hailing from Atlanta and Téa from Florida, Meet Me @ The Altar was undoubtedly an all-American firestarter band. “I tried out and ended up joining so the internet brought us together, which is crazy!” Edith exclaims, laughing.

The trio, packed together on a couch over Zoom, are unquestionably close. As GAY TIMES gets to know them better, it’s hard to miss their buoyant energy and seamless riffing off of each other’s ideas and thoughts. Even with their unconventional start-up, Téa admits the band remained self-assured of their adaptive methods: “It definitely felt like we’re doing something a lot bigger than we originally thought,” she confirms. “We started something new that a lot of other people weren’t doing and we were used to that type of normal.” And this is exactly the strong-willed ethos that props up Meet Me @ The Altar. The band are ready to see a reformation when it comes to the gutsy fast-paced pop-punk genre.

After grounding their sound in the peak 2000s radio and alt icons Pink, Avril Lavigne, and pre-pop Demi Lovato, the band began to etch out their identity as a “melting pot” of genres. In fact, the band playfully tac together key terms to summarise their sound: “Nostalgic Disneycore,” Téa calls out to which Edith and Ada laugh and agree. While throwing around buzzwords strike a humourous chord, for lead singer Edith, there’s more to the music than punchy rhythm and catchy lines. “We love positive songs as a pop-punk band because it’s not done very often. We are really tired of sobby whiteboy pop-punk where they’re just complaining about whatever,” she explains. “We are a really positive band, we want to carry that on. So, it’s about being down but knowing that things can get better in the future, and keeping your head up.”

Leading back to finding inspiration from Aretha Franklin to One Direction (“One of the songs on the EP is actually inspired by Kesha!,” Téa chimes in), the band realised their biggest creative hook was channelling a feeling of pop-punk nostalgia. “We’re very throwback sounding, but also sound super new and that’s what we like about it so much,” Edith reflects. Guitarist Téa nods, agreeing, describing how Meet Me @ The Altar wanted to shift the gear of typical alternative music. “It’s definitely time to introduce new topics into the genre and change up a little bit. People keep writing the same song over and over but they’re just by different bands,” she explains. For Meet Me @ The Altar, the 20-year-old wants to “add perspective” to the scene: “It’s not all just sad. Pop-punk doesn’t have to be that.” For Edith, however, the inspiration of nostalgia stemmed from lockdown; a feeling she says the band tried to capture in their new single Brighter Days. “When we were in lockdown, everyone had nostalgia for life pre-lockdown. People wanted to feel a familiarity with their lives and it would be awesome for people to feel that way because of our music.”

As a young aspiring band, Meet Me @ The Altar has already ticked off some incredible achievements. From landing a deal with Fueled By Ramen (who have signed acts from Chloe Moriondo, Paramore, All Time Low) to receiving Halsey’s stamp of approval as recipients of the Black Creators Fund, the trio have centred their sound (and themselves) in being as authentic as possible. Take a glance around the pop-punk scene and you’ll notice there are very few diverse bands made up of Black, Brown or Latin voices. Meet Me @ The Altar mark a wave of change as an unapologetic band opening up about the unbalance in the alternative industry. “As those people, why would we not talk about it?” Edith questions. “We have the platform opportunity to talk about our struggles and our people’s struggles. We’d be idiots if we didn’t!”

Taking a stand against the white-washed image of the scene isn’t unfamiliar territory for the women. In fact, they expected it. “This isn’t a new concept for us. When the band formed in 2015, we were very aware that there was no one else in the scene who looks like us and I didn’t understand why,” Téa explains. As the band rose through the ranks, the then teenagers expected to find artists like them. “We were kind of waiting for something like us to come along and in 2018 nothing still, 2019 nothing still, 2020 we get signed by Fueled By Ramen, and nothing still! It wasn’t a shock to us at all. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew this was something that we would have to talk about, which we’re more than happy to do because someone has to. If we don’t, who will?”

Having fleshed out their sound, landed a label, and continued to wheel out press interviews for their forthcoming EP, Meet Me @ The Altar have embraced the changes and responsibilities that have come their way as new rising stars. The pop-punk scene, to no surprise, has long been dominated by angsty white men in shorts and questionable graphic tees. Now, these Gen Z stars are shaking up the scene to be the icons they never saw growing up. “When we first formed, we became a pop-punk band because everyone was having a blast. It just seemed like such a cool community that we really wanted to be a part of,” Téa recalls. Emulating the same animated spirit, bandmate Ada jumps in also agreeing. “There was something about pop-punk and how it just dominated the scene from 2012 to 2015 — it was the place to be. If you weren’t listening to pop-punk, what were you listening to?”.

And the band are right, 2013-2015 saw the rise of hitmakers Neck Deep, The Story So Far and their guitar-laden records, but little did they know the next few years would be transformative to the front of punk. Now, the alternative scene has dipped into the mainstream with the likes of Maggie Lindemann, Olivia Rodrigo and Willow Smith tugging the new image of pop-punk into the limelight. Although the band don’t directly align themselves with the popularised mainstream version of the genre, they hope Meet Me @ The Altar can benefit from the renewed interest around what Téa calls the “pop-punk resurgence”. “The mainstream is starting to listen to the Blink 182-style revival of pop-punk, so we hope it’ll get people listening to our music which is a bit more technical and deep.”

Speaking of new music, Meet Me @ The Altar’s upcoming EP, Model Citizen, will soon be out to stream. The trio, who have been shaped by Paramore, Linkin Park and more, are keen to show what they can really do. In this bold collection of songs, the women face the anxieties of growing up, moving on, and accepting lessons as they come and go. “The EP is about struggling with growing up and entering adulthood and trying to find your place in the world,” Téa explains. “We didn’t necessarily know that that was going to end up being the theme when we started writing the songs for this EP.” However, once the band all moved in together, the trio found themselves faced with a new wave of self-discovery. “We tried to put that into the songs. The EP kind of describes that whole process of acknowledging that you’re not really where you want to be mentally, and then trying to figure out what you can do to better yourself.”

As Meet Me @ The Altar set their sights on bigger horizons, the group acknowledges how much they’ve grown in the last few years. For them, Model Citizen has been a learning curve that they’ll continue to take with them. “We can never worry about what other people think. Everyone has a different opinion and you can’t please everyone,” Téa replies, in a steadfast tone. “What’s most important is that we never lose sight of what we love in the music that we love. We should always just make the music that we like because we would never put out something that we wouldn’t listen to ourselves. The bigger we get, there’s going to be more pressure on us to appeal to a larger group of people, but we never want to lose that insight. Our opinion is what matters the most.”

Unwavering in their resolute stance, the young band has shone through thanks to their talent and the upcoming EP is a testament to how they’ll drive change in the industry. But, for now, the trio is focusing on nurturing each other’s talent and getting the band to where they want to be — the biggest act in the world. “We’re trying to have fun and trust ourselves because we know we’re talented,” Edith says, and Ada agrees. The band’s DIY roots have prepared them for the rough and ready, and now they’re unstoppable: “If you really want something, you can get it. Do everything that you can do to get what you want. We didn’t know how to book tours or shows and a lot of other things. We looked it up and we figured out how to do it. We just did everything ourselves and you gotta work for it.”