Camp Cope’s debut album is a melancholy yet visceral experience, tackling heavy societal issues and billboard charts at the same time. The all-female, punk-inspired indie band explores the social protest and critical evaluation of the feminist movement, through brutally honest personal experience.
Singer Georgia Maq stands out throughout the eclectically arranged 8 tracks on the album, bringing a distinctly emotional overture to the small-room garage band sound crafted by Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson. The singer-songwriter has long made a name in the Melbourne music scene with intermittent releases such as Footscray Station and What Do You Mean (The Bank’s Out of Money), so it is unsurprising to see her full-length debut met with overwhelming critical acclaim.
Opening at #2 on the Independent Music Charts behind Flume and #36 on the ARIA charts, Camp Cope became a “big deal”, and surrounded by other best hits it is not hard to see why. Critics quickly drew the link to Beyonce’s Lemonade (also released that week) with its messages of self-definition and feminist empowerment, but this has a more homely, distinctly Australian atmosphere. This homeliness is reinforced by tongue-in-cheek naming of songs like Lost (Season One) and Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams, and quirky lyrics about ticket inspectors and Tinder with hints of existentialism. “I find it difficult to express my thoughts and feelings to others, and that’s where these songs come into play” says Georgia Maq.
Kelly-Dawn Helmrich’s bass takes the lead in these songs, bringing a folk-like sound to the album reminiscent of Melbourne sweetheart Courtney Barnett. Emphatic vocals really sell the comparison as Georgia Maq’s lyrics make no apology for her own experiences. Lost (Season One) captures the angst of separated relationships “it’s just me staring at couples across the street, oh they look so clean and happy. But I don’t wanna end up like that.” There is no shortage of self-examination here. Inversely Stove Lighter examines how we define family and how our relationships change around them. “Sitting ’round the kitchen table” and trying to see what changed.
The songs that stayed with me were Done, which demonstrates Georgia’s vocal talent and diversity with supremely melancholy lyrics layered on excellent drum and guitar lines, that track the swells and dips of the vocals perfectly. And Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams, which I feel under-qualified to write about. A fist-in-the-air feminist anthem, all three pieces of the band come together to shout lines like “Hearing catcalls from police cars, and they say “What you gonna do about it dressed the way you are?”” loud enough that there is no option but to question the masculine narrative.
“They say the only thing that stops a bad man with a gun, is a good man with a gun. The lies they use to control you.” – Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams
This genuine exploration of misogyny and social injustices is a refreshing change from the often-lauded songs that only mention the same problems, and to explore it in the context of conspiracy theories is simultaneously genius and sobering. An energy runs through the whole drum track tying this exploration into an upbeat
Unsurprisingly this has become one of their most popular songs at their live shows (and online – nearly 40,000 views on Youtube) across the country, which have been commended for excellent atmosphere and engagement from Camp Cope and their litany of supporting acts. While I haven’t been able to see one of their shows yet, Liz Ansley wrote a great article about the band ensuring a safe space for all in the face of overly aggressive fans, which only bodes well.
Speaking of supporting acts, Camp Cope has quickly integrated itself with other indie bands making a name in Australia such as The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock, Foxtrot and Modern Baseball.
“And all this time it made sense to me why life was so unfair, because the universe don’t know and the universe don’t care.” – Stove Lighter
Shoutout to Flesh & Electricity, which details Georgia’s time as a nurse, and really every other song on the album. There is genuinely something for everyone here, as long as you enjoy clever indie music. If you have followed Georgia Maq’s solo project there are even some remasters of her acoustic songs that are better for it. While the execution is occasionally a little muddled, Camp Cope acknowledges its insecurities and is carried through by consistently excellent songwriting.
The band has only been together for less than a year, but all three members are clearly familiar with the sound they want to deliver. The album has a driving rhythym and sound, consitent across the upbeat and more pensive tracks. It’s “a cathartic reflection of our lives over the last ten months we have been together,” says Georgia Maq. “I don’t think I’d be as happy or feeling as content or fulfilled in my life if it wasn’t for Kelly and Thomo and the music we create together.”
Even the album cover is drawn from personal experience: “I spent some time in Greece when I was a little kid,” says Georgia. “I saw my sister carry around a giant glass bottle, so I decided to carry an even bigger one and run with it. I tripped and it smashed and the pieces all went in to me. So my parents wrapped me in a t-shirt and took me to hospital and the doctor put Betadine in my wounds. We were on a tiny Greek island and the doctor couldn’t deal with it. So we went on a fishing boat to the next island and a surgeon sewed me up as my dad held me down because they had no anesthetic.”
“You go through all this shit, but humans are still resilient and find joy.”
With resilience Camp Cope can go a long way themselves, and a long way to seriously inspiring change. Surounded by fellow musicians in West Melbourne they have the talent and a lot to say, and if Georgia Maq has been a sleeper hit until now, Camp Cope is a sleeper hit no more.
Camp Cope can be purchased online or in select record stores. Album published by Poison City Records