Still fresh on the alt scene, in the past three years Camp Cope has gained rapid popularity in an industry unmistakably dominated by men; yet they’ve not let it deter them, nor have they settled for keeping their struggle quiet. A perfect combination of reflective and defiant, it’s no surprise that it hasn’t been particularly difficult for the trio to draw in supporters, and with only two albums behind their name it’s safe to say that Camp Cope is only getting started; bringing with them new energy into the scene and backing their message with actions designed to inspire.
Hailing from Melbourne, the fearless trio consists of singer/guitarist Georgia “Maq” McDonald, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and drummer Sarah Thompson. The three have made waves for their dedication in fighting against the injustice and inequality that has plagued music scenes for years. From starting the It Takes One campaign designed to make shows safer and stop the increasing frequency of sexual and physical assault cases at gigs, to actively supporting movements such as #MeNoMore; a branch of the #MeToo movement which emphasises the hope that the future will bring an end to harassment and discrimination that so many have had to endure, Camp Cope has been active in eliciting change and giving strength to others who have grown tired of issues which should have been addressed years ago. Although not everyone supports the idea of a band placing so much emphasis on their activism, in an interview with The Guardian Hellmrich stated that “the politics and the music definitely go hand in hand.” Maq, herself a victim of sexual assault, explained how the #MeToo movement motivated her to release a song about her assault despite fearing the consequences of doing so. Like other musicians who use music as a platform to explore deeply personal aspects of their lives, it only makes sense that Camp Cope would do the same with such issues with which they have unfortunately been so personally familiar with.
Musically, Camp Cope balances out their often-biting lyrics by being pleasantly melodic instrumentally. Their self-titled debut album which came out in mid-2016 seems filled with the many different forms in which heartache can materialise. From lost love, to casual existential crises, to dealing with the loss of a family member, Maq’s verses are pensive and exact, brought to life when coupled with the emotional complexity of her vocals; while prominent bass-lines and cool drumming from Hellmrich and Thompson further fill and colour each song with beautiful synergy.
Two years later, Camp Cope has returned with their sophomore album How to Socialise & Make Friends, released at the beginning of March this year. Although they’ve kept more or less the same sound structure as before, their talents have undoubtedly improved, thereby effortlessly avoiding the sophomore slump which has plagued so many musicians in the past. Having grown even more courageous than before, the band doesn’t shy away from their core message; opening the album with the appropriately-named song ‘The Opener,’ in which Maq seamlessly shifts from singing about a trashy ex as such that you can almost hear the eye-roll in her voice; “Treat them like queens until they disagree / And never reflect to think ‘wait, maybe the problem was me’ / Nah man, just keep smoking weed / Tell this one ‘yeah, they were all crazy, unlike you baby,'” to shouting critiques about the strong gender-bias frequently seen in the music industry – “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up the room / It’s another man telling us to book a smaller venue / ‘Nah, hey, c’mon girls, we’re only thinking about you’ / Well see how far we’ve come not listening to you.”
The song that follows reveals that the inspiration for the title came from the self-help book collection of a toxic person Maq had struggled to move on from before; “Yeah, I guess we both got our problems / And areas to improve / And I know one of mine is to go a night without sympathising with you.” ‘The Face of God‘ reveals the pain Maq faced after being sexually assaulted by another musician and follows the process of her dealing with what had happened. The instrumentals are soft and melodic to avoid covering up the important lyrics in the song. In the chorus, Maq’s voice is raw as she sings “Could it be true? / 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 one song that I like,” detailing her self-doubt and uncertainty in the face of scepticism from others. Next is self-blame, and Maq’s voice is shaky as she howls “And I saw it, the face of god / And he turned himself away from me and said I did something wrong / That somehow what happened to me was my fault.”
The rest of the album seems to be filled with a longing to care for others as Maq writes about the many people in her life who she loves or has loved in the past, often structuring it as a gentle message to them directly and combining it with nostalgic instrumentals characterised by gentle acoustic guitar riffs. In ‘Anna,’ Maq sings “And you said I’ve got a lot of problems / And one of them is always you / But I’m fine with that / Let’s just work on it” as she remembers her close friend moving away from her. Meanwhile, ‘The Omen‘ sees her looking back at herself and seeing the growth out of past mistakes; “We’ve all made our mother cry / It’s a habit that I’ve finally broken / At this point in my life / And now I’m kinda getting by,” and an old love that has somehow lingered on through the years; “Look at me, it was all for you / And it’s about time that you knew / That I’ve loved you since I was seventeen.”
The last song on the album, ‘I’ve Got You,’ is dedicated to Maq’s father who had passed away in late 2016. She gently recalls past memories with him, from when she had gotten hurt by broken glass as a child to when he first got sick when she was fifteen. Her voice goes from being steady to drifting off into a shiver of emotion as she sings “I’m so proud that half of me grew from you / All the broken parts too / I’ve got you / I will always hear your voice when I speak / I will always see your face in me,” perfectly capturing the love and respect she had for her father.
Overall, the album shows that although Camp Cope will fight ardently for what they believe in, they’re not here to be mean; they are the newest faces of the ‘do no harm, take no shit’ movement. Camp Cope doesn’t sugar-coat things, because why should they? Sugar-coatings only mask what’s already there. Why tone down the gravity of issues when they want to emphasise the importance of change, and why try to skirt around how much the people they love mean to them when everyone is temporary? These girls understand how easy it is for us to miss what’s important in life, and will make a point to teach you not to fall for it, all while having fun and being badass.