Back in October 2022, the three members of Meet Me @ The Altar received a handwritten note in their dressing room at the When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas. As one of the biggest stages the young band had ever played, the note could’ve been from anyone — a fan, a hater, a festival organizer, or someone in between. Instead, the message came from Hayley Williams.
“[Williams’ note] said we’re making it possible for everyone from any walk of life to make punk music,” vocalist Edith Victoria recalls to SPIN via Zoom. “I think everyone can see themselves in us in some type of way. We represent so many different experiences and types of people. I feel like just us being here is a good way to let people know that anyone can do anything. It doesn’t matter how you look, who you like, or how you identify.”
At the time, Victoria thought the note from Ms. Paramore herself might be a prank from a crewmate. After all, why would one of the biggest stars in the genre take the time to send a personal message to a band that hadn’t even put out their first album yet.
And that’s just part of what makes Meet Me @ The Altar different.
Williams’ statement is truly the embodiment of the band. They’ve taken the negativity they’ve faced as women of color in the music scene and created an environment for everyone to feel safe. “Say It (To My Face),” the opening track on their debut album, Past // Present // Future (out March 10 via Fueled by Ramen), pokes at the band’s critics with lyrics like “I’m a bitch and my band is an industry plant — at least that’s what it says on the internet.”
But just a handful of years ago on a cold January night in New Jersey, the three girls in Meet Me @ The Altar played as a newly-formed band for the first time. Excited but nervous, the trio of online friends performed for an audience of their parents, friends, bands and bartenders at a local bar. At the time, they had no idea how quickly they’d be ditching the empty bars and small venues for three-day festivals alongside the emo and pop-punk bands they idolized – again, all before even releasing their debut album.
If your life was an early-2000s teen movie, Past // Present // Future would be the soundtrack. Meet Me @ The Altar’s first album has enough memorable lyrics and infectious jams that even Josie and the Pussycats would have to take notice. The catchiness makes sense, considering that guitarist Tea Campbell says that most of their influence came from rocking women like Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Pink.
“We always found ourselves being drawn back to that time period,” Campbell says. “That’s what really helped shape the sound for this album. But at the same time, we wanted to keep it really modern, because we’re influenced by so many different things — not just bands in the scene. I feel like you can really hear the mix of everything going on, and that mix is what you don’t hear in albums today.”
Past // Present // Future has a bit of something for everyone. There are lyrics to scream along with while dancing around your room on songs like “Try” or “Kool,” while others face the painfully relatable truths of dealing with anxieties and self-image issues in “TMI.” Then there’s the rainy-day breakup ballad “A Few Tomorrows” when things get sad. It’s a nostalgic blast from the past with modern pop sensibilities, and a slew of emotions for whatever you’re feeling in that moment.
“We’re just lovers of music, so a little bit of everything is in there,” Campbell says. “Each song has something different about it. That’s something that we wanted to focus on — making something cohesive without every song sounding the same.”
Originally formed in 2015 via YouTube when Campbell discovered a drum cover of one of her favorite pop-punk artists by Ada Juarez, the two teens realized they had more than their music taste in common and decided they’d like to start a band online. They put out an advertisement on YouTube looking for their vocalist, which immediately caught the eye of Victoria. These days, the singer can laugh and joke about her persistence in her attempts to catch Juarez and Campbell’s attention.
“I felt very connected to them, even though I didn’t really know them,” Victoria says. “It was the first band I saw who weren’t just all white dudes, and I think that’s why I felt so connected.”
Two years later, Victoria officially became a member of the band and the three started Meet Me @ The Altar — despite all living in different states.
“People don’t have to be in the same room anymore to do so many musical and creative things,” Juarez says. With aspiring eyes and a wide smile, she’s just thankful to be in a time period where musicians can live in different states and still cohesively work together.
“You cut off a lot of your options when you limit yourself to only being in a band with people that are close to you,” Victoria adds. “There could be an amazing drummer in one state and an amazing singer in a different state. Now you don’t have to limit yourself because technology is so advanced. I think it’s really good for music, and especially for bands.”
For a band that only started playing live together in 2017 (and missed nearly two years of potential touring due to the pandemic), Meet Me @ The Altar’s onstage talent has already been recognized. Without much music even released to the world yet, the group spent last year playing at major festivals like Riot Fest, Lollapalooza and the aforementioned When We Were Young.
“We grew up with the dream of being in a band and performing since we were 14, and it was crazy to finally do it — especially with the lineup Lollapalooza had last year,” Campbell shares, her face gleaming. “Our childhood selves were living!”
“I remember When We Were Young specifically,” Victoria adds. “The artists’ village was like my whole Instagram page and Tumblr from when I was younger. It was so weird!”