The trio heading to Reading & Leeds to reinvent the genre for a new generation
When Téa Campbell, Ada Juarez and Edith Victoria began playing together in 2018, they knew that making it in pop punk as women of colour would be an uphill battle. But although the trio have received their fair share of social media hate – as well as the inevitable ‘industry plant’ accusations on TikTok, a rite of passage for successful bands on the platform – they’ve also found a passionate fanbase.
Now, fresh off their first headline home tour in the US, they’re preparing to come over for Reading & Leeds. And whilst they’re excited to see how their energetic debut, Past // Present // Future, has landed over here, the big performances are still a nerve wracking prospect.
“I actually had a stress dream about that two nights ago,” laughs Campbell. “I had a dream that we were trying to play our set and all of our gear was messing up, nothing was going right. I went to cue the song and then we ended up playing one of State Champs’ songs instead. Things like that tend to happen to us a lot. There’s just always something. But it’s okay. We always figure it out.”
“Yeah,” agrees Juarez. “We always prevail.”
Ahead of their set at this year’s Reading & Leeds festival, we spoke to the group about the process of creating their debut album, and how they’re navigating a genre dominated by white men.
How did you guys meet?
AJ: We met on YouTube, funnily enough. Back in the day. I used to do YouTube videos and Téa came across one of my videos. We became friends immediately and started the band after like two days. And then we held auditions online and Edith found us. And then we didn’t choose Edith… oops. Not until two or three years later.
So how did Edith find her way into the band?
EV: I annoyed my way into the band, and that’s not even a joke. Literally, three years ago I tried out and I was 14, and then I joined when I was 17. I was just super consistent, bothering them and asking them if they needed a new singer for years. And eventually they’re like, “Yeah, we need a new singer, let’s try some things out.” And then, ya know, we’re here.
What was it about this group that made you so determined to join?
EV: Definitely that we’re all around the same age, and we all love this similar type of music, and then just being woman of colour. That was super important to me because I would prefer to play music with people that I have things in common with. I never really wanted to be in a band with a bunch of dudes – that seemed very unappealing to me. I think the fact that I wasn’t seeing many women of colour in the pop punk space specifically made me feel really connected to the group really early on.
Do you still find that people look at you guys as a bit of a unicorn in this space, because it is so obviously dominated by white men?
EV: For sure, and I think that’s a big reason why we are starting to have like this big following, because when people see it, it’s not something they’ve seen before, so they get super excited about it. And so definitely, I think we’re still a little bit of a unicorn.
Why were you guys drawn to pop punk as a genre?
TC: I think honestly, the whole Warped Tour culture was something that we really wanted to be a part of just because it looked so fun. Everyone was there to share their love over the same kind of music and just have fun. Crowd surfing and moshing and all that… we wanted to get that same kind of response from a crowd. I think that’s partially what drew us towards pop punk, because if you watch any Neck Deep set, or The Story So Far, everyone’s going off. That was honestly our dream, to have people going off like that for us.
Pop punk definitely has a very passionate fan base, but there’s also a history online of pop punk artists facing a lot of hate and criticism. Is that something you guys have dealt with at all?
TC: Oh for sure. We wrote a song about it called ‘Say It (To My Face)’, actually.
I wanted to ask you guys about that song, because in it you talk about being accused of being an industry plant. That’s something that a lot of artists coming up on TikTok have thrown at them, but I haven’t heard many address it head on in their music.
EV: A lot of people don’t get pop punk. But still, if you’re a straight white dude in pop punk band you get so much less hate than a woman or a woman of colour would in that space. So we definitely have to deal with a lot of stupid comments. That all gets worse when you’re put in front of a bigger audience, because people think they can dish out their opinion louder when there’s more people looking. The industry plant comment is something we get all the time but you know, dude bands don’t get that.
Was that why you wanted to make ‘Say It (To My Face)’ the lead single off the album?
TC: Yeah, actually.
EV: We hadn’t released any music in a while… I think it was a really big statement to kind of put a diss track out for our first song back. It’s like, yeah, we’ve experienced so many new things since being signed. So we’re going to tell you what we saw, let you know that we saw everything, and release a good song about it.
Tell me about the process of creating the rest of the album.
TC: The second half of the process was fun. The first half was not. We lost our minds for a little bit. Because we were definitely feeling the pressure of having to create our debut record, especially with our debut being on such a big label. And we didn’t know what direction we wanted to go. This was our first time co writing with other writers, which is kind of like speed dating at first, because you talk to them for an hour, try to catch a vibe, and then write a song. But there were so many sessions in the early days where we were just not gelling well with the people we were writing with. So the songs were turning out like sh*t, and we hated them. There’s so many songs that will never see the light of day just because they don’t feel like us.
But it took those bad sessions for us to have to sit down and be like, “Well, what do we want to sound like?” And we found ourselves gravitating towards the music that we were influenced by growing up. Like P!nk, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, all that pop rock we have always been in love with. But we wanted to make something modern out of it and not just create something straight from past.
There’s a lot of Disney influences in there too, which I know you guys have addressed before, because it’s something that’s been thrown at you guys weirdly both as praise and criticism.
TC: Right? We see it as praise though.
Do you guys have a favorite from the album?
EV: My favorite album was ‘Kool’. But I have a feeling once we play ‘It’s Over For Me’ live, that’ll be my favorite one because I know it’s gonna sound so good live.
AJ: Literally, that’s what I was gonna say. I feel like my answer is changing because of us playing some of the songs live. Because ‘King Of Everything’ has always been my favorite song – shout out ‘King Of Everything’, best song in my humble opinion. But ‘Rocket Science’, b*tch… ‘Rocket Science’ goes so hard live and the energy just transcends and whenever I listen to it now, it’s just like, the energy is still there.
TC: For me it’s between ‘Try’ just because it’s like the perfect upbeat song, and ‘A Few Tomorrow’ which was influenced by The Script – that was one of my favorite bands growing up.
I heard that your band name came from a text conversation. Is that true?
AJ: You know how I said we formed after like, two days of knowing each other? This was like a day after that. We were like, “Okay, we need a band name now.” And Téa was obviously taking this very seriously and looking at band name generators and all these different things to try to find the right band name. And I was taking the more lenient route and just naming stuff around me. I started naming Mortal Kombat characters. I said Sub Zero. And may I just say, I still think to this day that a band called Sub Zero would go so hard… But I said, “That’s my favorite Mortal Kombat character.” Téa said, “No way, me too. Marry me.” I said, “Meet me @ the altar”. With the “at “@” sign. Perfect. We saw it and it was like a record scratch. Everything stopped. It was the easiest decision ever. And we just stuck with it all these years.
If you never started Meet Me @ The Altar – or you never agreed on a band name – what do you think you’d be doing?
EV: I probably would be doing something in music. I was still gonna go to music school so maybe I’d want to find another band.
TC: I think I would have gone down the acting route because that was something that I was really interested in as a kid, or the writing route. Writing was always my best subject in school. Oh my god, that just brought back a memory of being in third grade and having to write a story. I wrote a story about a peanut with superpowers.
AJ: Super Peanut?
TC: I think that might have been the name.
AJ: That’s really cute, actually. When is the book releasing, Téa?
AJ: For me, I have no idea. I also was going to college for music. Maybe I would have stuck with that. Maybe I would have just done drum covers for the rest of my life. Or maybe I would have started dabbling in something else, like photography or something, because I know no matter what it would have to be in the arts. I’m not good at academics so would have to be something that is judged differently.
What can fans expect from you guys over the next few years?
AJ: Oh, my God, everything. We are always planning on touring more and leaving the United States and touring overseas. That’s always a plan that will happen at some point. And we are planning on world domination.