To say that Meet Me At The Altar are 21st-century trailblazers is not hyperbolic.
They just are.
In a genre dominated by angry white men, this all-female trio of POC, 20-something pop-punk divas — with their brash attitude, ferocious guitar riffs, earworm burrowing pop melodies, and innate badassery — are blazing trails through a new frontier, creating space for women and people of color.
“And we’ve got LGBTQ representation,” Ada Juarez said enthusiastically. “We are like everything.”
The band will take their Pink Couch Tour to the 191 Toole stage in Tucson on Tuesday.
In step with hard rock act Fanny — who in 1969, became one of the first all-female rock bands to sign with a major label — Meet Me At The Altar have focused the spotlight on musicianship, rejecting the presumptions placed on women in the music industry.
After forming in 2015, the three members of MM@TA — vocalist Edith Victoria Johnson, guitarist Téa Campbell, and Juarez behind the drum kit — all hailing from different states (Georgia, Florida and New Jersey, respectively), began fleshing out songs remotely via the Internet.
The band embarked on their first tour in 2018.
During the tumultuous summer of 2020 — as the nation reeled following the televised murder of George Floyd — MM@TA were recipients of The Black Creators Funding Initiative (a fund created by electropop rebel Halsey to help black creators amplify their voices, their art and perspectives).
Subsequently, MM@TA went viral.
Meet Me At The Altar signed with Fueled by Ramen (a record label owned by Warner Music Group) in 2020.
“That was when it was go time,” Juarez recalled. “That moment really shaped our lives.”
After several high-profile gigs — including a stint opening for pop-punk stars Green Day and a coveted slot at the Lollapalooza music festival — MM@TA teased their forthcoming debut album with a fans-only preview at the Kiss Chapel (inside the Rio Hotel & Casino) in Las Vegas during the When We Were Young Festival in October 2022.
Performing their breakout hit single “Say It (To My Face),” MM@TA made their television debut (January 2023) on The Stephen Colbert Show.
Masterfully capturing the sounds and aesthetics of the early aughts, Meet Me At The Altar released their debut album “Past // Present // Future” — a record produced by John Fields (Pink, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato) — in March.
Enlisting Fields to twirl the knob on the mixing console was no coincidence.
“We needed someone to understand our vision,” Campbell said.
“This album pays homage to the music we loved growing up while reflecting our modern-day lives, sounds, and experiences.”
Since its release, life for MM@TA has been a whirlwind.
* * *
In advance of their Tucson performance on Tuesday, June 6, at 191 Toole, the young women of Meet Me At The Altar recounted how it all came together.
As a teenager living in New Jersey, Juarez began recording drum cover videos in her bedroom and posting them on YouTube in the early 2010s (amassing a significant following in the process).
Juarez’ videos proved to be instrumental in the formation of Meet Me At The Altar, drawing Campbell’s attention first.
The two became fast friends.
Their moniker stems from a bonding moment between Juarez and Campbell via text.
“I was like ‘marry me!’” Campbell said. “And she typed, ‘meet me @ the altar.’”
“So, we kind of became a band before any of that started. We called ourselves a band, but we weren’t doing any band things,” Juarez recalled with a laugh. “We were like 14 and 16, on YouTube.”
“We put up covers for a few years. We were kind of doing the music thing, just not physically,” Campbell added. “We weren’t playing shows yet.”
“We grew up on the internet. We had our own recording equipment and software,” Juarez said. “File sharing is something that we are accustomed to.”
Eventually, Juarez and Campbell went in search of a vocalist, they told the Tucson Sentinel in an interview.
“Me and Téa held auditions (online),” Juarez said. “That’s how we met Edith.”
Submitting a rendition of Paramore’s “All I Wanted,” Johnson found common ground with Juarez and Campbell, one to build a foundation upon.
Despite distance, song sketches began to bounce back and forth.
“Edith joined the band a couple of months after that.”
For the fiery young singer it came as no surprise.
“I have sang all of my life. I’ve performed in choruses and ensembles,” Johnson said. “Music is in my family. It was an unspoken thing… But I always knew that this was what I was going to end up doing.”
* * *
Despite growing up in different parts of the country, when Juarez, Campbell, and Johnson began attending shows they felt a similar void: Lack of representation for women, POC, and LGBTQ artists.
“When I started going to pop-punk concerts, I wasn’t seeing any black or brown people on stage,” Johnson mused. “I didn’t see very many women on stage either.”
Despite her passion for music, she grew frustrated not seeing a reflection of herself on stage.
“Where I grew up in Georgia, I was always the only black kid anywhere I went; the only black kid in school, the only black kid in my neighborhood,” Johnson reflected. “During middle school, when I attended school in Atlanta, it was a little more diverse. That is when I realized a lot about myself and the importance of diversity.”
“That was something all of us experienced growing up in our respective hometowns,” Juarez added. “Going to shows, being the only woman there and also happening to be the only person that was not white, the majority of the time.”
“I think that is another reason that we were so drawn to each other when we started the band. That’s why we kept going with it for so long and continue to do so,” Juarez stated passionately. “Because it is so powerful. It’s important.”
“One day it won’t be as important. That’s the point.”
* * *
As doors continue to open for the band, it is evident that change is taking place, in ways previously unimagined.
“We’ve had so many different opportunities,” Juarez said enthusiastically. “Like Taco Bell. Taco Bell is the one of the most mainstream platforms you can gain.”
The band’s hook-laden song “Say It (To My Face)” appeared in a 30-second advertisement, airing over the Christmas holiday, for the multinational fast-food giant, opening new horizons.
“So there are so many different kinds of people, from all walks of life, who come to our shows,” Juarez said excitedly. “The faces that we see that mean the most to us are of little kids. Parents will bring their kids to our shows; often it will be their first concerts. That is something that we don’t take lightly.”
“That may be a core memory for those kids. Our show may be what makes them realize that they want to be in a band,” Juarez said pensively. “That is what happened to us going to shows.”
“Music is what brings all of us together,” Juarez expanded. “And to be in a space where everyone feels safe, where there is not predominantly any one thing, I think really helps us to connect with our fans.”
* * *
During a time of volatility, when the rights of women, LGBTQ, and people of color are once again being challenged, Meet Me At The Altar are grateful to have a rostrum on which to stand upon.
“When we were first signed, it was during the thick of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Campbell said. “Being on tour, I’d think… ‘Stuff is really messed up.’”
“Very, very honestly, I am happy that we exist when we exist,” Juarez said. “Because a lot of young girls and girls of color they need to see us.”
“I like to bring it out this way… For artists of color and bands of color, I think that it’s more than words,” Johnson affirmed. “Just taking up space, letting people know that we exist in this industry is way more important than actually speaking sometimes.”
* * *
For the young women of Meet Me At The Altar “Brighter Days” lie ahead.
“We started out so young,” Campbell said. “I feel that we set ourselves up to where we can go anywhere and continue to make the kind of music that we are into at the time.”
“Hopefully, our career won’t end until we are a household name,” Juarez said resolutely. “We’re doing everything we can right now to make sure that we get to that point.”
“We are going to have a lot of hits, like Pink.” Campbell said, putting will to power.