Guitarist Téa Campbell of Orlando, Florida-based pop-punk band Meet Me @ The Altar was only 14 when she discovered New Jerseyan drummer Ada Juarez while searching YouTube for covers of the Twenty One Pilots song Holding On to You.
“It was a really good cover, and I really liked seeing someone around my age, who was a girl, playing the music I was into,” Campbell says. She connected with Juarez in hopes of collaborating on a cover song.
Five years later, the band they formed with singer Edith Johnson signed with Fueled by Ramen – the label home of Twenty One Pilots as well as Paramore, whose hit Misery Business Campbell covered in her high school talent show.
Campbell and Juarez made the jump from playing covers to writing original music quickly by collaborating on songs over text and email through programs like Logic.
That’s also how Campbell produced the band’s early recordings, which attracted fans and label interest. Juarez would record drums and export the WAV files for Campbell, who added guitar and bass tracks using amp plugins. Johnson, who lived in Georgia, tracked vocals the same way.
“I would come up with a guitar idea and send it in our group chat and be like, ‘Do you like this?’” she says. “And we would build the song off of that.” Campbell gravitated to the instrument early and got her first guitar, a First Act, when she was seven.
“Guitar has always been in my life because my dad and grandfather both played.” Still, she mostly taught herself by listening to songs and figuring out the basic notes on her own. “I didn’t know tutorials were a thing,” she says, “so I literally watched music videos to see what chords they were making on the guitars.”
The furious riffing and lightning-fast rhythm changes on Meet Me @ The Altar songs Garden and May the Odds Be in Your Favor – standalone singles recorded with her Reverend Charger HB on a tour break in March 2020 as the world began to shut down in response to COVID-19 – show how far she’s come since those days.
Now, it takes touring guitarist Kaylie Sang and bassist El Xiques to help her recreate the layered guitar melodies and basslines she crafts in the studio for live performances. But it beats using backing tracks, which she had to do on the band’s earliest gigs. “I’m so glad we don’t have to do that anymore,” she laughs.