Even in the best of times in the pre-pandemic world, breaking out as the next big pop punk band to watch was doing the impossible. Having your art heard in the midst of chaos in a world and music industry gone still? Someone should make sure there’s no snow in hell. It was exactly in the worst of times that the energetic and uplifting pop punk tunes of Meet Me @ The Altar were heard loud and clear.
Having the world take notice of what you’re creating is exciting and validating, but getting noticed as the world crumbles around you can be a complicated pill to swallow. Drummer Ada Juarez explains that Meet Me @ The Altar swallowed that pill as gracefully as possible.
“It was very bittersweet,” Juarez says. “It almost felt like we weren’t allowed to be happy for what was going on with us because at the same time with what was going on with the George Floyd murder. That was one of the things that really pushed us forward in the media because people were looking for Black art and Black musicians and bands that look like us.”
Despite the circumstances that led to their name being pushed to the forefront of music blogs, Juarez says that her and her bandmates, vocalist Edith Johnson and guitarist Tea Campbell, still had to push forward on the opportunity they were given: “We knew that it was bound to happen eventually that we were going to reach our point of people actually seeing us and hearing us, so we kind of ran with it in the best way possible and at the same time we’re still pushing up people who are around us.”
That opportunity looked like a significant influx of new listeners, getting signed to Fueled By Ramen, and tour slots with bands like All Time Low and The Used. While all of these changes were happening, the music world was still mostly living in a digital space.
“We couldn’t see our growth through our own eyes,” Juarez describes. “We had to see it through numbers just going up and there’s only so much you can process by looking at numbers going up. The more that people started talking to us and coming to us, and DMing us and stuff like that, the more we started to realize like, ‘wow, this is really happening’.”
Amongst the plethora of milestones that the band keep hurtling past is the release of their upcoming EP Model Citizen. The first taste listeners got of what’s to come was with the first single “Feel A Thing.” Moving away from the more positive and uplifting tone of the band’s previously released “Garden,” “Feel A Thing” discusses navigating your way through a dark and numb place, and shows a more vulnerable side of the band. Juarez says this darker tone can be found through much of Model Citizen.
“It’s very much a story of finding yourself and realizing that you’re not fully there, you’re not really okay, and that’s okay,” Juarez expresses. “It’s the cycle of life and that’s kind of the irony of Model Citizen.”
Juarez says that giving the EP the name of Model Citizen was a thoughtful and meaningful choice that meant something different to each member.
“The main theme that fits through all three of us is how the term model citizen in itself is ironic because there is no model citizen,” Juarez explains. “We create our own model citizens in our own minds of who we want to be the model citizens for ourselves, and it’s a very vulnerable thing to accept, I guess.”
But according to Juarez, the Model Citizen that exists now only happened after a rush of inspiration from her bandmates. After releasing their track “Hit Like a Girl”, the band felt driven to take the easycore sound they embraced on the song and encompass more of those elements into their upcoming music. This meant going back to square one.
“[‘Hit Like a Girl’] at the time was a little bit different from what we were already writing, and we were like, ‘we need to keep this going, this more like heavier sound with more breakdowns and getting people really amped up, we need to keep doing that’, and we re-wrote the EP,” Juarez says.
While changing up the sonic direction of the album was certainly a risk, Juarez says it was a risk worth taking: “We were really busy that entire week just doing that, but it was so much fun it was worth it because now Model Citizen is 100 percent the best thing that we’ve ever written in that time period.”
With the hype train following closely behind them and with Model Citizen coming up on the horizon, Meet Me @ The Altar are bringing exciting new things to the alternative scene including some much-needed representation. As a pop punk band made up entirely of WOC, the trio are showing the world that punk is and must be for everyone.
“We were like kind of told that we shouldn’t do this sometimes because we don’t look like the other people, because we aren’t those white men that have already been doing it for years, but we want to be the new people and we want to keep transcending the music and making it better and breaking new barriers,” Juarez expresses. “That’s the thing that really means a lot to us. I feel like we’re creating those stepping-stones for other people to also go up with us.”
Watch the video for “Feel A Thing” here:
For more from Meet Me @ The Altar, check out their official website.
Photos courtesy of Meet Me @ The Altar and Jimmy Fontaine.