We’re in the middle of a cultural awakening (and reckoning) and this Melbourne-based band has its finger on the pulse. Though they’d likely be the first to tell you they’re just as in tune with it as any woman you know, Camp Cope writes bold, unapologetic rock anthems for people tired of male, cis-hetero bullies.
How To Socialize & Make Friends, the band’s second full-length album, begins with a blistering track, “The Opener,” which holds up a mirror to the men in the music industry. The reflection presented isn’t pretty. Guitarist and singer Georgia “Maq” MacDonald spends the entire song espousing lines no doubt heard by every woman who’s ever tried to make it or even just exist in the music world from men attempting to diminish women’s accomplishments, offer unsolicited advice or who exude a general, unearned confidence.
Sexism has been an unwelcome yet inherent part of rock scenes for decades. Camp Cope tackles it head on, demanding reflection, awareness, and change. “The Opener” calls to mind Corin Tucker’s (of Sleater-Kinney) Hey Soundguy zine, in which Tucker photographed and documented each macho, condescending sound technician on tour. She encountered the same cast of characters Camp Cope is dealing with 20 years later. The three women of Camp Cope are sick of it, and they’re ready to lend their voices to fighting for things to get better.
Maq is able to balance hyper-specific personal experiences with high-minded musings within the span of a few lines.
During a recent appearance at the Falls Festival in Australia, the band took the festival to task for the lack of women performers on the bill. Maq prefaced “The Opener” by proclaiming, “It’s not about filling a quota … It’s about the type of world we want to see in music. We want an equal and inclusive and diverse music community because that’s what it is. It’s just not represented properly on festival lineups or on big shows.”
The band has also been vocal about ending sexual assault — especially with all the stories of coercion and abuse of power that have come to light in rock music scenes of late. Maq contemplates a harrowing personal experience in “The Face of God.” “I had to leave,” she sings, “because I had to say ‘no’ and ‘stop’ more than once — way too many times. You just kept trying to change my mind.” Her vocal performance fluctuating between tender and tortured, laboring over an all too common experience, Maq wonders what she did wrong. As she comes to grips with her experience, she hears from others that her abuser doesn’t “seem like that kind of guy.”
Much like fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, Maq writes with a conversational and personal tone. As tracks like “The Omen” highlight, she’s able to balance hyper-specific personal experiences — “I’ve been driving way too much, I’m too lazy to ride my bike” — with high-minded musings — “To need a promise of heaven to do good deeds, it seems inherently wrong” — within the span of a few lines. She pushes her voice to gentle and coarse extremes like Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan, using it as a tool for emotional evocation.
The vocals aren’t tied down by the music. Rather, all the individual parts navigate around each other, never indebted to the other, just complementary. Camp Cope is a shining example of a band’s members’ individual contributions acting in the service of the music rather than merely as a supporting act for one shining star.
How to Socialize & Make Friends is filled with vulnerable and empowering moments throughout, whether they deal with finding strength in the face of grief and loss or feeling dejected but determined in a world set on remaining inhospitable. More than any other lyric, this one from “The Face of God” stayed with me: “I bet you didn’t even think about what you did.” This is the type of album that can alter a person’s worldview, and I hope it reaches everyone who could stand to hear it. I hope it makes you think.
Photo: Camp Hope. Credit: Naomi Beveridge.