Camp Cope Forge Their Own Bold Path on 'How to Socialize & Make Friends'

 Photo by  Michelle Grace Hunder

Photo by  Michelle Grace Hunder

Melbourne-based trio Camp Cope released their self-titled album via DIY label Poison City Records in 2016, a collection of songs that profoundly touched on societal shortcomings and the discomfort of growing up. The band became an integral part of the Melbourne music scene, and have actively worked to make it a more safe, inclusive space, especially for those who aren’t straight cis men.

Since then, the band was signed to Boston-based Run for Cover Records, and the outcome is the band’s equally bold yet matured follow up, How To Socialize & Make Friends. Camp Cope command their voice on this album as they poignantly reflect on their experiences with misogyny within the music industry. This is not the sole focus of the album, as the band examines grief, self-worth, friendship, and the act of letting go on these nine songs– the album is multidimensional, much like the complexity of feminine experiences.

Camp Cope possess their own distinct sound. The band has never been one to follow traditional song structures, as most songs on How to socialize... are made up of solely verses, sometimes accompanied by a chorus, outro, or bridge, which allows vocalist and guitarist Georgia Maq’s lyrics and voice to be at the forefront of their music. Maq’s voice varies between songs, at times a scream that almost cracks but never loses its power when she holds the tail end of a word for too long (“Sagan-Indiana”) and at other times an equally-powerful hushed tone that urges the listener to zero in on the lyrics (“I’ve Got You”); in both scenarios and everywhere in between, Maq fully enunciates every phrase so the lyrics linger even after they’ve passed.

However, bass player Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, drummer Sarah Thompson, and Maq’s guitar work aren’t merely support for Maq’s voice– the trio is a true unit who were meant to play together, each member contributing their own unique expression to their music that sounds like no one else’s but Camp Cope’s. Take “Sagan-Indiana”, an alt-country charged track that illustrates the band’s skill in matching the intensity of their music with the emotion of Maq’s voice. In the song’s verses, Hellmrich provides a looping bass line that stands on it’s own; the music is controlled until right before the chorus, when Thompson’s drumming quickly picks up to create a moment of pressure before Maq belts the song’s title in the chorus’s release.

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In the previously released single, “The Opener”, the band challenges the misogyny they’ve experienced as women in music, denouncing the men who preached their own watered-down versions of equality while simultaneously telling the band they wouldn’t be able to fill a venue. The song’s message actualized at the start of this year, during their performance of “The Opener”, when the band called out Falls Festival for booking only nine women on the festival, in addition to not placing any acts with women on the main stage.

Exploring their experiences in a patriarchal music industry is a thread that runs throughout the album, specifically on “The Face of God”, in which Maq bravely recounts her own experience of sexual assault by a fellow artist, as a cathartic means of understanding what she survived. Within the song she questions herself, but ultimately asserts that the actions of artists and their art can’t be separated as she sings, “Could it be true?/You couldn’t do that to someone...They said your music is too good”.

On the album’s title track, Maq accepts independence over the comfort of a flawed relationship as she yells with certainty, “I can see myself living without you and being fine/For the rest of my life/It’s just me on my bike/Yeah and I wave to you as I ride by”. This is also apparent on “UFO Lighter”, in which Maq opens up with the lyric, “It’s a question that I never learned to ask/How far I’d follow you into the dark”. Death Cab for Cutie references aside, the song has Maq again second guessing the amount of energy spent on relationships with others who don’t reciprocate the same energy. Hellmrich’s complementary bass lines weave in and out of Maq’s relaxed yet weighty voice, while Thompson provides the steady, rapid drumbeat that pushes the song forward on the album’s most musically interesting track.

The closing track, “I’ve Got You”, is the album’s only acoustic song, and perhaps the most heartrending, yet hopeful. In this previously released song, Maq grieves over the loss of her father as a cathartic testament to anyone who’s lost someone important to them. Maq also ruminates on the careless cycle of life and death as she sings, “And a cop shot the wrong guy again/And they tore down a childhood home again/Oh, nobody seemed to blink an eye”. As was the case on their self-titled, and throughout all of How To Socialize..., Maq reflects on her own stories while also creating a larger discussion around societal issues.

As the band has expressed, their goal is not to be seen as an “activist band”– the personal is political here, as they instead are both artists and activists bringing light to power imbalances that inhibit them and other women, both inside and outside of the music industry. Outspoken and earnest, weighty yet hopeful, How To Socialize & Make Friends finds Camp Cope forging their own bold path of resilience, one song at a time.

How To Socialize & Make Friends is out now on Run For Cover in the United States and Poison City Records in Australia.

-Niki Bodemann