As 2020 prepares to close up shop, no one needs a reminder that it has been one hell of a year. Between COVID-19 and the election alone, it’s been a relentless beast. Bands not being able to tour or perform live was a devastating blow for musicians and fans alike, so when something good happens for these artists during such an adverse time, celebration is vital.
For pop-punk band Meet Me @ The Altar—featuring vocalist Edith Johnson, guitarist T᷾᷾֬éa Campbell and drummer Ada Juarez—the last few months have found their hard work and positive energy paying off in big ways.
First and foremost, Meet Me @ The Altar, who met online over a shared love of the pop-punk genre and bands such as Paramore and Panic! At The Disco have now become labelmates of those acts, signing in August with Fueled By Ramen. They were also recipients of Halsey’s Black Creators Fund—a financial and promotional support program for artists in need. Of course, the group are thrilled. Part of what makes them ridiculously happy about their evolution is the opportunity to use their presence to reach marginalized groups with their music, building a network of strength and support. We caught up with Meet Me @ The Altar for a chat about these recent events.
Huge congratulations on signing with Fueled By Ramen. How did that happen?
EDITH JOHNSON: Basically, I would say July is when we really started picking up momentum. People were figuring out who we were. Dan Campbell from the Wonder Years tweeted about us, and we got support from Halsey through her Black Creators Fund. We had a bunch of eyes on us, and eventually Fueled was one of those eyes. We had spoken with Johnny Minardi [VP of A&R at Elektra] a few months prior to that because our attorney is good friends with [him]. So, he suggested a FaceTime call to get to know each other. So, we did. And it wasn’t really us talking with Fueled at the time. It was more just talking to Johnny and getting to know him.
Did you feel that they were the ideal label for Meet Me @ The Altar to work with, and if so, what makes them that for you?
ADA JUAREZ: Yes. The band started because I used to do drum covers, and Téa came across one of my drum covers of a twenty one pilots song, who are with Fueled By Ramen. Then we held auditions to meet singers, and that’s how we met Edith. She auditioned with a Paramore song—another band on the label. Our love for these two bands in particular led to us being on the same label they’re on.
TÉA CAMPBELL: We fit perfectly under this label. We grew up listening to pretty much every single band on the roster. The label is the gold star of this genre, so we always dreamed of being on Fueled By Ramen. We didn’t think it would happen this soon. We still haven’t really wrapped our heads around it.
What would you cite as the force that drives your commitment to Meet Me @ The Altar, be it positive or negative?
JOHNSON: We’re all very ambitious people, and we’ve all grown up around music and are absolutely in love with it. I can speak for all of us—there is literally nothing that we’d rather be doing. We put our hearts in every single aspect of this band, whether it be music, live shows, literally everything. It’s our baby. Another thing that drives us is definitely representation and not seeing many people in the scene like us.
CAMPBELL: We know how important it is for young people especially, to see people like them doing something that they might want to do. We like being there for all the little girls that don’t really have anyone to look up to in the rock scene. We had Paramore [and] Halsey. That’s about it. We wish we had someone of color to look up to in the scene and we’re that for a lot of other people, which is so important to us. That’s one of the main reasons why we have tried hard to be successful. With Fueled, we are getting a platform to spread these messages that we feel like a lot of people would like to hear.
Are there any particular ways that you want to use your collective voice to focus on social awareness and social justice?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, definitely by getting involved with some charity organizations. I would love to be involved with the Trevor Project. I think they’re amazing. Also, with groups like Black Lives Matter. A lot of bands stay silent, but we think it is very important to speak on what you believe in. A lot of people find out about issues through their favorite artists who speak out.
That’s great, especially at such a crucial time in the world. How does Amy Coney Barrett joining the Supreme Court influence your message?
JOHNSON: It really makes us want to have our voice heard more and to be louder. We want everyone to be aware that this is happening and figure out how to recover from this.
Did you follow her confirmation hearings?
JUAREZ: We did. She didn’t know parts of the First Amendment! I was like, “Are you serious? Are you for real?” We couldn’t believe it. We did our best to learn about her and educate ourselves.
Facts and education have really taken a back seat lately, sadly. How can you, as a band, respond to that?
JOHNSON: You know, maybe just encouraging people to stay aware of what’s going on and to use their voices, whether it be making sure that these people in power know that we don’t agree with what’s going on, and things need to change.
Your video for “Garden” is energetic and straightforward, featuring the band performing the song. What made you choose this approach rather than making a more conceptual mini-movie?
JOHNSON: Originally, we wanted it to be outside. But then we were like, “Hold on, we’re in Orlando, and it’s hot. Let’s not do that.” Then we started thinking about gardens and flowers. So, we decided to get a lot of flowers to include in the video so it would look clean and bright. We booked a studio and wanted it to just be band shots. We thought that would be a good way for people to see who this band are. We’re glad we ended up changing it. We had ideas for storylines, but sometimes those can get lost in a music video if they aren’t done perfectly. We thought it would be best, it being our debut for Fueled By, to showcase our personalities. It’s like a very good first impression. We want people to feel like they can get to know us—like all [of] our supporters are family.
And why that particular song?
CAMPBELL: It was out before and was really popular when we released it. The Fueled By Ramen team felt very connected to it, as well. We love it, and we feel like it’s an important song for people to hear, especially right now with COVID and other emotional things happening. We want people to know there are people that are going to be there for you and to support you emotionally. We’ve all felt like people need to hear that we’re going to be there for you. There are people in your life who are there for you. And it’s OK to not be OK but know you have support around you.
As you move forward with Fueled By Ramen, how do you see the band evolving—in sound or otherwise?
JOHNSON: We are writing new stuff right now. It’s still very Meet Me @ The Altar, but it’s also very mature and still very energetic. It’s still very positive-sounding and very happy and maybe more melodic.
CAMPBELL: I know a lot of people will like it, whether or not they like pop punk. It just sounds like good music. That’s because our earlier songs were written when we were like 16 and 17 years old. Now we are a little older with more experience, and it shows.
Being a recipient of Halsey’s Black Creators Fund is another thing to congratulate you on. How did that come to be, and what did that result in for the band?
JOHNSON: It’s a combination of funds and exposure. We tweeted at her when we heard about it. Also, Dan Campbell is friends with her manager, and he told him about us, saying we’d be perfect for this.
That had to feel incredible, right?
JOHNSON: Yes, when she posted about it, our phones were blowing up. It was crazy. All of our social media accounts were going crazy. We’re really honored by it.
It’s hard to plan anything right now, but what do you hope for the band in a post-pandemic life?
JOHNSON: We hope to release more music. Touring, too, when that can happen. We have Riot Fest in Chicago next September of 2021, and that’s exciting. We hope that happens.
How are you staying in touch with your fans during COVID-19?
CAMPBELL: We are focusing a lot on staying engaged with our supporters, like messaging them on social media. We have a community number that we set up, so our supporters can text us and all that. We want to stay engaged as much as possible. Fans send us covers of them doing our songs. We always ask them to send in pics of them wearing their new merch so we can retweet it.
JUAREZ: Yeah, some have made things like really cool earrings and artwork.
JOHNSON: Oh, my gosh, we’ve gotten sent a few videos of little girls singing along to our songs, like elementary school age, and that means so much to us.
This is a really fantastic time for Meet Me @ The Altar. What else do you want people to know about you?
JOHNSON: We just want to make sure that we are letting everyone know that no matter who you are, if you have a dream and you work hard, you will receive the benefits from that hard work.
CAMPBELL: We know that if we can do it, anyone can. I know everyone says that, and it might sound cliché, but it is the truth.
You can read more Alternative Press digital cover story interviews here.