Long before Meet Me @ The Altar formed in 2015, the trio found inspiration from women who were doing exactly what they are now — breaking the mold for women in rock. So when it came time to name their debut album, there was a title no more fitting than Past // Present // Future.
"We're always going back to the music that inspired us in our childhood growing up and finding ways to make something modern out of that," bassist Téa Campbell tells GRAMMY.com.
While they initially bonded over Paramore — after Campbell and drummer Ada Juarez met on YouTube, they held auditions for a singer, and Edith Victoria won them over with a rendition of Paramore's "All I Wanted" — Meet Me @ The Altar had a separate set of influences in mind while creating their first LP: Demi Lovato, P!nk, Alanis Morissette, and Kelly Clarkson.
All of those artists' impacts are felt across Past // Present // Future, but Meet Me @ The Altar bring a youthful energy that makes the music feel less copycat and more well-informed. There's no denying they were kids of the pop-punk era, as apparent in the racing guitar melody of "Try" and their fearless shots at online trolls on lead single "Say It (To My Face)." Across the album's 11 tracks, it's clear that the MM@TA girls are simply having fun paying homage to the music they grew up on — but ultimately, making it their own.
Just before the album was released on March 10, Meet Me @ The Altar kicked off their first-ever headlining tour. Despite only being six shows in by the time they caught up with GRAMMY.com, the trio had already noticed that they're making a similar impact on fans that their heroes had on them. And with all three members being BIPOC and two queer, the band is serving the next generation in an even bigger way.
"We grew up not seeing people like us on stage — none that we directly saw ourselves reflected in — and we are that for a lot of people now," Campbell says. "That's something that we don't take lightly."
Below, hear from Campbell, Juarez and Victoria on how Demi Lovato, P!nk, Alanis Morissette, and Kelly Clarkson inspired Meet Me @ The Altar's debut LP.
Victoria: She's such a fantastic vocalist. She can sing literally anything — she can sing over a pop instrumental or over a rock Instrumental and she'll still sound fabulous.
Campbell: Demi was always a freakin' rock star. I just remember being like, 7, 8 years old, turning on the TV in my playroom. They would play the music videos in between the shows and stuff, and it was always so inspiring to see someone just, like, rocking out. Disney Channel doesn't get enough credit — they really made [everyone] look like rock stars. It was so iconic.
Victoria: The album that did it for me when I was really young was Don't Forget, with "Get Back" and all of that. I loved that record so much, because it was a fuse of pop and rock, and her badass voice over it was just amazing.
Campbell: Especially instrumentally, Demi's older stuff was a huge influence on this record. [On] "La La Land," the songwriting is really good. That's something I was really focused on with this album, having really good songwriting, because we really care about creating quality work.
"Here We Go Again" was also a main vibe that we wanted to go for, because it's a perfect amount of nostalgia. That's something that we wanted to emulate too.
For all of these artists, it's more vibes versus [trying] to copy their song, you know? We just really loved the energy that all these artists put out, and Demi's songs were just so solid and such good pop-rock songs. And we wanted to have that kind of iconic-ness about ours.
Juarez: Demi's music, since the beginning, has been really rock-based, and that's obviously something that we took into account with what we were doing with this album. We also worked with John Fields, who has produced some of Demi's albums.
We definitely wanted to sound, quality-wise, just like how she sounded in those albums. Those albums are so good.
Campbell: [John] had a bunch of photos and videos [of Demi] from that time when we were recording and stuff, so it was so crazy — especially thinking back to our 7/8/9-year-old selves. They would be freaking out!
Victoria: The melody for "Need Me" [on our album] reminds me a lot of that era. The "yeah, yeah"s were inspired by Demi because she loved her "yeah, yeah"s back in the day. The cadence reminds me of her a lot as well, and that Don't Forget period.
Campbell: "TMI" gives the most, like, Camp Rock-y kind of vibe. I can imagine Edith singing it by a lake, just looking out at the water.
Juarez: Also, just to say: As a person, Demi is amazing — how far they've come, where they are today and where they came from. Demi is definitely someone that I've looked up to for a very long time, to get to where they are today.
Victoria: All these people [inspire me] on a vocal scale, because they're so versatile and they kind of can sing anything, but my favorite parts of them was when they were singing over a rock instrumental. That really influenced me, and it made me realize I can have a more colorful voice than the basic pop-punk dude voice and still be able to sing over rock. Pink's poppier stuff is just as good as her rockier stuff, and I think it's really important to be able to be versatile in your voice like she is.
Juarez: The immediate thing that comes to mind is that P!nk is the best person in the entire f—ing world. She's so unapologetically herself, and always has been. Even how she raises her children today — P!nk is just, like, an angel.
Her music has always been really good. She's done many genres, and honestly, nailed them all. She's just one of those artists that, growing up, I always looked up to. There's never been a point in time where I didn't know that P!nk existed. I've always been like Wow, I want to be as influential as she is.
Campbell: P!nk has always been really inspiring in terms of just taking up space and having a voice. It's her way or the highway — she doesn't take anyone's crap. That mentality has really helped us navigate this whole thing, being young women in a scene that's very older male-dominated. It's hard to navigate sometimes, but having that inside of you, like, I'm just gonna do me and worry about what I got going on — that's something that I really took from P!nk. She's a badass, and that's how we want to be.
If you think about songs as a formula, she's got it down. That's something that we paid attention to. Her song structures are just perfect. It's that mix of that powerhouse voice with the real rock instrumentals. We also focused on more of a driving chorus for most of these songs — that's something that she did a lot and that was something that we really liked.
Juarez: She also has a lot of fun in her songs, and I feel like we get some of that from her. You don't have to take the song too seriously, you can still put your little spin on things.
Campbell: "Thx 4 Nothin" was heavily P!nk inspired.
Victoria: That was one where we were like, "We should write something that is very reminiscent of P!nk." We decided that before we went to the studio that day.
Edith: She's so unconventional and odd. I remember my mom used to play her all the time when I was growing up, and my mom was telling me that when Jagged Little Pill came out, people were so freaked out by her — they were like, "She's the devil" and all this stuff, just because she was a rock star and she sang a lot differently than what any other woman was doing at the time.
I love how unconventional she was and how unapologetic she was. I think that she carried all of that negativity and dealt with it with such grace, and she still just did what she had to do for her fans.
Juarez: I wasn't too familiar with Alanis Morissette for a really long time. But as I've gotten older and learned more about her, I've realized that she's always had her place in the rock scene — like, she played Woodstock '99! Taylor Hawkins was her drummer for the longest time. She's always had a name for herself, and that's something that we strive to do always in a male-centric genre.
Victoria: We cover "You Oughta Know" live, actually. It's one of my favorite songs ever — that whole album is one of my favorite albums ever, Jagged Little Pill. Her song "Thank You" is one of my favorites too.
"Kool" is a song that I wanted to be very kind of weird. That chorus melody is very Alanis-inspired with the way I'm moving my voice, because she moved her voice in a lot of odd ways too.
Victoria: I didn't recognize how much Kelly influenced me, because I was so young listening to all her hits on the radio that I didn't process who it was, I just knew I liked the song and the singer. "Miss Independent" and "Breakaway" — that whole album, I had it on CD, and I used to play it, like, every single day, but I didn't know who the heck Kelly Clarkson was!
When we started this album, and then I went back and I realized, "Oh my gosh, all of these songs are Kelly Clarkson. And they're all so good!"
She is one of my favorite vocalists ever. She's so versatile and her voice is so powerful. She's just amazing.
Campbell: Kelly Clarkson was one of the first people who made me realize how powerful music can be in the context of movies. The Princess Diaries — I think that might have been the first time I ever heard Kelly Clarkson. It made me feel so much.
It's just so cool what music can do. I think that's something that all of these artists opened our eyes to. Especially nowadays, we always find ourselves going back to that time period, because music today just does not feel the same.
All of these artists were songwriters too, and you could tell that their truth was in these songs, and it made you feel something. That's something that is super inspiring, and Kelly is so great at that.
Juarez: Kelly Clarkson — in particular, it was "Breakaway," but honestly that whole album, and even like "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes" — that was one of the first times I felt that nostalgia emotion. Specifically "Breakaway" — I was like 4 or something — like, it would play at the YMCA, that's where I remember hearing it. It always stuck out to me.
Victoria: The melody for "Same Language," but specifically the post-chorus, reminds me so much of her. It's super high, it's super open. It's like a slap in your face in the best way. I can hear singing that part of the chorus so easily.
Campbell: I feel like a lot of our songs, vocally, have the same kind of vibe as "My Life Would Suck Without You." It's just up there and it's just like, goin'.
Juarez: I love that the music we make gives me the same feeling that "Breakaway" gave me when I first listened to it. It's, like, a vibe thing. And also Kelly Clarkson is like, the best person in the world. I think she can do no wrong.
Victoria: She's a ray of sunshine. I'm so happy we're able to be on her show, because that was very full-circle for all of us.
Juarez: We didn't get to meet her though, it was all pre-recorded. One day!
Victoria: I want to get all these people to know who we are so bad. I think they would really like us!
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