Meet Me At the Altar is a thrilling product of a generation beyond all that: youngsters who grew up conversing on the internet, with one another and with the world, and who could eventually say, “Let’s start a band,” and do it.
The internet may seem to get less innocent with each passing hour, yet there is still much to be said for what a young person may find on it. Here is a trio of young individuals who utilized the internet to its highest adventurous potential, and met one another — and then flourished, indulging in an incomplete but fluorescent version of themselves.
First they posted covers on YouTube. Then they ventured to the road on minor tours. It helped that they had the support of their parents, with each member coming from a musical household. Campbell’s parents met, she recalls, when her father, a producer, heard a CD of her mother, a singer, and fell in love.
Johnson’s family has origins in gospel music, and Juarez’s father is a drummer from El Salvador; when she was little and beginning to play, he was the one to publish recordings on YouTube. “He only wanted to send them to my family back home,” she recalls. “He didn’t understand the whole of the internet could see them.”
The females began assembling in Florida, playing gigs at Soundbar in Orlando, where there was enough of a scene for the group to find its bearings, and begin to build a murmur of enthusiasm. That hum became a deafening buzz in June 2020, when Dan Campbell of the band the Wonder Years tweeted about the song “Garden,” sparking a domino effect.
Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low also endorsed the band, as did the vocalist Halsey. At the time, this incarnation of the band’s lineup had just two self-released EPs to its name. But more and more people were receiving a first taste of M.M.A.T.A.’s trademark experience — the soaring and addictive chorus — and by the end of the month, labels were sending offers.
There was just one label the group had its eye on: Fueled by Ramen, the home of bands, like Paramore, that M.M.A.T.A. idolized. “That was always the goal, the final goal,” Campbell added. “That is what we would have been striving toward, to get on Fueled by Ramen. And everything occurred so fast that I feel like we didn’t really genuinely have time to understand, ‘Damn, we’ve been thinking about this since we were 14 years old, and it’s literally happening right now.’”
When news of the band’s signing hit, in October 2020, there was tangible excitement. But much of the debate was about the band’s racial makeup’s being different from that of practically every other group previously pursued by the label. Pop-punk has an image that doesn’t necessarily fit with its fan base: The fans, often enough, are young Black people or people of color, or are not male, and yet the face of the genre remains primarily white, largely male.
This opens the door to a number of less-than-desirable consequences, from tiny things (exhausting repetition of the same lyrical themes) to huge ones (guys taking advantage of their influence over young followers) (men taking advantage of their influence over young fans). Of the numerous reasons people were thrilled about M.M.A.T.A., there was also the thought that they may indicate a change, a corrective.
M.M.A.T.A. are a band of young women of color who have their horror stories about the ways they’ve occasionally been treated – by peers, by fans, by men working the door. Now these young women of color were being called their genre’s saviors, and the predictability of the American imagination was on full show. There are some who are most at peace, most in awe, when the flaws in a sector of American culture are battled by those already most impacted by them.
It reinforces a fiction that underprivileged people are behaving out of charity, not necessity. M.M.A.T.A. were suddenly expected to save a scene – as opposed to developing a newer, more generous one.
“White guilt is something, isn’t it?” Johnson replied, beaming wickedly, a crescent of pizza dough gripped by her iridescent nails. “If I’m being absolutely honest, that’s what it was. People were like, ‘Oh, here are all these bands of color!’ And we got to be at the forefront of that. And then, also being women —” She stopped for a single second, just long enough to snap back to a needed clarity. “And,” she replied, “we’re also good.”