words by mel reeve
photo by naomi beveridge
Camp Cope formed in 2015 and released their debut, self-titled album within a year. It brought them critical acclaim and support slots with artists including Modern Baseball and Against Me! Their sound is distinctive, with vocalist and guitarist Georgia Maq’s voice capable of slipping from sweet melodies to a heartfelt shout and back again with ease, and their songs tackle a range of topics from the personal to the political (frequently both at the same time).
How To Make Socialise & Make Friends is just as strong as their first album, exploring joy and pain in equal measures – the delight of personal independence and finding your identity and support and friendship in other women, and the pain of facing misogyny and losing those you love. The record opens with the album’s first single, “The Opener,” a rousing expression of frustration against misogyny in personal relationships and the music industry; “all my successes got nothing to do with me, yeh, tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene”, Maq sings in her distinctive Aussie accent and signature tone of wry, weary irony.
Camp Cope have a knack for writing lyrics that hit you right in the chest – just as you’re enjoying the skills of drummer Sarah Thompson and bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich a line or phrase will leap out that makes you stop in your tracks. Maq’s melismatic vocals are enchanting, almost slipping into a scream at times but always melodious and powerful – shivering with vibrato, but never quite breaking. The album ends with a stripped-back, moving, ode to her later father and his fight with cancer, “I’m so proud half of me grew from you, all the broken parts too…I will always hear your voice when I speak, and I will always see your voice in me”. This deeply personal track feels a fitting close for an album so filled with emotion and power.
Camp Cope tackle growing up, moving away from home, discovering yourself and the challenges that can bring on “The Omen,” all over beautiful lullaby-like guitar, “we’ve all made our mother cry, it’s a habit that I’ve finally broken in my life” which rises as Maq delivers more lyrics that stick with you long after the song has finished, “to need a promise of heaven to do good deeds always seemed inherently wrong, so I wrote you this song”. “UFO Lighter” is a fast-paced track with the signature Camp Cope driving, melancholy bass line and touches of self-referential humour “I’m sorry about that line, I only write it because it rhymed…”.
“The Face of God” is an exploration of victim blaming, and how hard that can be to deal with after an experience of sexual assault. The image of god turning his back “he turned himself away from me and said I did something wrong, that somehow what happened to me was my fault” is simple yet devastating, it encapsulates a particular feeling of hopelessness that is difficult to express. Maq speaking the words of those excusing abuse captures the impact those around you can have in a situation like and how damaging those words can be, “you don’t seem like that kind of guy. Not you…you’ve got that one song that I like. They said, ‘he’s got that one song that I like”. There’s another of those perfect, heart-breaking lines that Camp Cope are so good at, as Maq asks a question so many survivors of this kind of trauma are left struggling with; “what would have happened if I’d done one thing different?”. It’s not an easy track to listen to, and it probably shouldn’t be. This song is a rare space to explore and feel those specific, complex feelings, and hopefully for some listeners will help them know they are not alone in feeling them.
I hope this album, and particularly tracks like “The Opener” and” The Face of God” are too close to the bone to enjoy for all those men who have been a part of this silencing and institutional sexism that Camp Cope are addressing. It would be the worst hypocrisy for such a raw exploration of this frustration to be appropriated by those that have done the wrong to prove their ‘feminist’ credentials. This is not a record for them, it is for those of who have lived those experiences; the survivors, women in bands, women anywhere who have been silenced and told they’re not quite enough. It is the sad fact of our lives that our voices will be appropriated by those that have hurt us as part of their defence, but I hope that this record at the very least makes them uncomfortable.
It isn’t easy to make music about the topics Camp Cope are tackling without it feeling preachy or performative, but they tread the line perfectly, making something genuine, thought-provoking, and meaningful that will make people with specific experiences of oppression and abuse feel seen. This is representation may well be seen as good-timing by cynics – but anyone suggesting that probably hasn’t listened to Camp Cope’s debut album which handles similar topics with the same lyrical talent and raw honesty.
There is something that touches me deeply about hearing someone I can relate to making music about how hard it can be to get through these things, through the exhausting weight of constant sexism and misogyny in a world that seems not to care. There will be a distinction in those listening to this album; for some people it will be a Political, Feminist Record and for others this will be a record that speaks of their day-to-day lives and I think the difference there shows who this music is really for.
How To Make Socialise & Make Friends is out March 2 via Run for Cover
Pre-order it here