Interview: No-holds-barred: meet Camp Cope

No-holds-barred: meet Camp Cope

Since releasing their debut, Melbourne trio Camp Cope have risen almost entirely via word-of-mouth. They speak to Ryan De Freitas about their first work and encouraging safe spaces at shows.

Pairing gentle indie-punk with no-holds-barred lyricism, Camp Cope’s debut self-titled record has been a highlight, even in a year as musically outstanding as 2016. And considering they’ve not even left their homeland of Australia for a show this year, that’s no small feat.

Instead of the usual cycle (tour, release some music, tour, tour, and tour some more) their rise has been perpetuated almost entirely by word of mouth down under. Whether it’s bands like Modern Baseball, PUP and Jeff Rosenstock waxing lyrical about the band after touring with them; or gushing 140-character album reviews by people picking up on the record, the hype around the Melbourne trio has been entirely organic. That’s a rare thing for sure, but then it’s rare to find a band with the sheer songwriting ability and integrity of Camp Cope.

And being that they’re such a rare prospect, and since the album really is brilliant, we thought we’d better check in with vocalist Georgia Maq to find out more about them.

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Camp Cope has only been around for fifteen months. How has everything come together so quickly in such a short space of time?

So Thommo, who plays drums, is ten years older than me and she knows what she’s doing. She’s been in the ‘music industry’ for ages. I met her just from going to shows around Melbourne, then one day she had her drum kit shipped to here and we jammed. Then, I met Kelly (bass) in a kitchen where I was getting tattooed. Really hygienic and professional, I know. She mentioned that she played an instrument and I ended up interrogating her a little bit. I found out she played bass and I was like, ‘Ahh, interesting…’ But I was too embarrassed to ask if she wanted to jam with us. In the end I had to ask my friend to ask her. It was all super awkward.

I was playing solo for about two years before Camp Cope and had a little bit of a following – I guess you’d call it – and so for a little while Camp Cope was just ‘oh, that’s Georgia Maq’s band’ but thankfully after a while it grew. Now, instead of just being Georgia Maq, I’m in Camp Cope and I like it so much more.

How did that indie-emo scene end up getting over to you guys in Australia?

Thank god for the internet and independent record stores. It’s a pretty small thing and it’s definitely not in the mainstream, but there’s a music community in Australia that’s taken those bands in. It’s not that big, but it’s really special.

Your lyrics certainly are honest. How did you get so comfortable writing that way?

I hate metaphors. Well, I don’t hate metaphors, but I just can’t do them. I was talking to someone I’d started a new relationship with about the relationship and ended up coming out with, ‘It’s like Zack & Miri Make A Porno, but we didn’t make a porno’. That was the best I could do as an analogy or metaphor whatever. I’m just naturally awful at them.

Also someone will meet me and I’ll blurt things out like ‘so hey, I was on my period today…’ I just don’t have very much of a filter and that comes across in my writing.

Your lyrics speak directly about things like catcalling and police harassment, too. Have you always wanted Camp Cope to make those statements and stand for something?

Absolutely. I’ve stood for things my whole life. It’s hard to not make a stand when you’ve got a large audience. When you’ve got a reach and you can speak about stuff, it seems like a waste to not stand for something. We’ve got a platform and we want to use it for good.

“There’s a huge underground of bands with girls, transgender and non-binary musicians.”

Georgia Maq

Speaking of which, you have the #ItTakesOne campaign against sexual harassment, violence and general dickheadery at shows going on. How’s that been going?

It got shared heaps and it’s good that people are talking about [the issue behind the campaign]. We want to continue that conversation and stamp out hyper-masculinity. I remember when I used to go to shows and go in the mosh pit or whatever, I’d love it but I’d leave hurt. Or I’d leave and someone would’ve touched my boob or something without my consent. When that happens, you just feel this fucking horrible feeling. I want people to be able to leave shows happy.

There have been shows where I’ve spent more time protecting myself than I did enjoying the music. We try to make sure that Camp Cope shows aren’t like that.

What do you do at the shows to ensure that?

I actually think that because we’re so vocal about our opinions, people just know already where we stand and what’s acceptable behaviour. If you like our band, you can’t not know what we stand for because it’s in the lyrics, it’s in opinionated Instagram posts, it’s in video campaigns… And if it does happen, people in our audience aren’t afraid to call it out. You’d hope that our music wouldn’t attract those people, but you’d be surprised. There’s dickheads in every walk of life.

If you see our video for ‘Done’, you’ll see that there’s a part where I point out these guys. They were at the show just trying to enjoy themselves or whatever, but they were making women feel unsafe. Me calling it out on stage lead to those people being removed from the venue. Now they know that they can’t behave like that at shows.


How has the reaction to that been?

Awesome. My friend’s girlfriend said that she went to a Camp Cope show and it’s the safest she’s ever felt at a show. That’s so good. I love that. People seem to really respect each other in the audience and no one’s jumping on people’s heads or anything. That shit doesn’t fly with me.

Nor should it. What else doesn’t fly with you?

The imbalance in gender representation. I’d go to all these shows where the lineup was four dudes, another four dudes and a headlining band of four dudes. That was all I saw. You don’t realise that that’s not normal until you actually notice that there’s no women on the bill – and then you can’t not see it and feel let down by the lack of equal representation. It’s the same as it is in parliament and it’s the same as it is with the wage gap. Just because it’s punk music, doesn’t mean it’s exempt from these standards. And we should be there by now. We should be past the idea that if you have a show with all genders equally represented that it’s specifically ‘an equal billed show’ and this tokenised thing. It’s like when people call my band a ‘girl band’. I hate that.

I used to excuse it when people would say that they just can’t find bands with girls in but there are heaps of them! We just played Sad Girls Fest, which was an entire fucking day of all women and non-binary people. So people can fuck off with those excuses. There’s a huge underground of bands with girls, transgender and non-binary musicians.

I always admired watching women play. I loved The Runaways, because I’d never seen an all girl band before them, and The Dixy Chicks. They were three girls who all shredded and had amazing voices and wrote these awesome songs. Sometimes they were furious, sometimes they were sad, and sometimes they were really funny. There’s that song ‘Goodbye Earl’ which is about a survivor of domestic violence where they go and kill the guy being violent… it’s so sick. They were definitely my dad’s influence.

You mention your dad… There’s a recent video of you two playing ‘Androgynous’ by The Replacements. Why that song and how important was your dad to your music upbringing?

That song is so awesome. It’s from the 80s, but still The Replacements were singing about gender issues. They were so ahead on all of that. My dad is with me on the idea that gender has fucked everything. Girls toys, boys toys… they’ve fucked it. It makes me so cross. We talk about it all the time, so we wanted to play that song. Also, it’s inter-generational, it’s a parent and a child and I wanted to make that video because my dad is really sick and I want to have as many records of us doing what we love together as possible.

He gave me my first guitar and taught me some basic chords. Enough to play the Green Day songs I wanted to learn. I learned to play ‘Good Riddance’ by them when I was ten and played it in front of my whole school. That was because of him.

Photo: Matt Warrell.

Camp Cope’s self-titled debut album is out now via Bandcamp.