Model Citizen is the third EP and major label debut from the Florida-based pop punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar, due for release on August 13, 2021 via Fueled By Ramen. Last October the band was signed to one of the scene’s most-beloved labels after catching the attention of Elektra Music Group A&R Johnny Minardi, following supportive tweets from Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low and Dan “Soupy” Campbell of The Wonder Years (who appears on the acoustic version of “Feel a Thing”). Following the re-release of their single “Garden,” the band dropped their first new single on the label earlier this year with “Hit Like a Girl.” The band has since gained a lot of traction online, leading us to the upcoming release of Model Citizen.
I don’t exactly remember the first time I heard Meet Me @ The Altar (I believe it was on a livestream), but I do remember how happy I was when I saw Fueled announce their signing. Not just because Fueled has always been one of favorite labels that have churned out some legendary scene acts, and not because it was also my birthday that day, but more importantly because I saw faces that looked like mine. Being a black person in the alternative scene is a bit weird to say the least.
Those of y’all who know me personally or have listened to any of my DJ mixes know my musical tastes are all over the place; but whenever I write about music, it’s almost always about the alternative scene. The only shows I’ve been to so far have been rock shows, and more often than not I’m the only black person in the crowd. Growing up, when people asked about my favorite artists and I got to point where I started listing some of my favorite bands I’d get a, “you’re into that kind of music?” There’s a notion that black people don’t like or listen to rock music, despite the fact we created the genre (among many others). Rock has been considered “white music” for longer than I’ve been alive. It also doesn’t help that there wasn’t really any representation in the scene growing up either. The only act I really saw myself in was fellow Fueled act Gym Class Heroes. And although there’s a lot progressive acts and people in the scene, it still isn’t exactly as welcoming as you’d think.
While coming up, Meet Me @ The Altar weren’t exactly embraced with open arms and often felt like they had to prove themselves. The group often played with white bands who really weren’t thrilled to be sharing the same bill as them. Although never explicit or overt, the feeling of knowing you’re not wanted was enough. After reading about, and relating to their experiences talked about in interviews, it made me only happier to see all the odds they’ve beaten. Meet Me @ The Altar’s signing gave me hope. Every time I see them being labeled as the next big thing or the band to change pop punk, it gives me hope. Seeing other bands such as Magnolia Park, Action/Adventure, Pinkshift or a collective like Peach Tree Rascals getting recognition and flying onto people’s radars gives me hope. Hope that the scene will continue to diversify and we’ll see more BIPOC acts come through and get the shine they deserve with more BIPOC faces in the crowd.
“Meet Me @ The Altar’s signing gave me hope.“
The sound of Model Citizen falls under the easycore banner of pop-punk — very much in the style of bands like Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, Four Year Strong and labelmates A Day To Remember. Although I’ve never been crazy about the easycore sound, I’d be lying if I said it’s not fun to listen to. Musically, the EP sounds like it was built for live shows (remember those? I hear they’re coming back) and the energy is consistent throughout. On each of the six tracks, the guitars pack a punch, the bass is heavy and the drums are pounding. The band rocked so hard, they crashed Google Chrome as I finished listening!
I really enjoyed some of the more experimental choices on the effort as well. I loved the chiptune opening on “Feel A Thing.” There’s a mellow bridge on “Never Gonna Change” that smoothly transitions into a breakdown. On the final track “Wake Up,” the band brings out a synthesizer over the breakdown, with a Chunk! vibe so strong I thought Bert Poncet was gonna pop out with a, “Hey dudes, are you ready to?” Production wise, it’s much more polished than the band’s previous efforts, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Good production is important no matter how good the song itself is, and the production on Model Citizen matches the intensity of the songs. Aside from being a fantastic vocalist, Edith Johnson is a stellar songwriter with a clear gift for writing choruses because every single one is catchy. Lyrically the EP covers topics such as mental health (the aforementioned “Feel a Thing” and “Brighter Days”) and love (“Now or Never”), Johnson delivers the lyrics in a powerful, effective and fun way.
Even though the band is now three EPs in, on Model Citizen, Meet Me @ The Altar sound like they’re just getting started. With an amazing amount of potential showcased on the EP, it’s not at all hard to see why they’re at the forefront of the 2020s pop punk revival. Johnson’s stellar songwriting and vocal prowess, Téa Campbell’s killer riffs and Ada Juarez’s pounding drums make them a force to be reckoned with. The EP might be a short burst of energy, but it’s a barrage of vivacity that leaves you eager for more. I can’t wait to see Meet Me @ The Altar flourish, inspire others and help change this scene for the better.