This past January, Australian band Camp Cope was onstage at Falls Festival in Byron Bay, northeast of the trio’s hometown of Melbourne. They were performing on the festival’s Galaxy Stage tent, away from the mainstage where headliners Fleet Foxes, Run the Jewels and Flume performed. It’s a sight that has become all too common over the years: male artists dominating the top bills of festivals as time and time again, women are fed excuses by organizers for why their events are so disproportionate. "[Women] seem to like watching bands more than being in them," one booker told the Guardian. "Scheduling conflicts" led to the lack of women booked, another festival organizer explained to Tone Deaf. There, on that Galaxy Stage, Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq howled at the top of her lungs as she put it plainly for everyone — including Falls Festival’s organizers — to hear: “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up a tent/ it’s another f--king festival booking only nine women.” The crowd immediately erupted with applause.
It’s a slight adjustment of the actual lyrics on “The Opener,” the first track on the band's latest album, How to Socialise & Make Friends, where Maq sings, “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up the room/ it’s another man telling us to book a smaller venue.” That outspoken nature, both in the band's songs and ingrained in the bandmates' personalities, is what fuels Camp Cope.
Maq, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson's music and politics have coexisted in a space driven by guitars and a determination to change the world since they first formed Camp Cope in 2015. In that short time, they have made it known that they are not afraid to speak up and confront the music industry — and beyond — for its continued suppression of women. “We’re just not scared,” Hellmrich told Pitchfork. And that fearlessness is front and centre on How to Socialise & Make Friends.
On the album’s title track, Maq sends a kiss-off to a failed partner, chanting, “I can see myself without you.” Elsewhere, she’s relishing in her independence on “Animal and Real.” On standout track "The Face of God," Maq gives a first-person account of someone who’s been sexually assaulted by a musician. Over a simple riff that boils over four minutes, Maq tears through lines that question whether “what happened to me was my fault” — a line many victims have heard — before landing on the disappointing conclusion that the truth will be swept aside because “your music is too good.”
Camp Cope is exceptionally great at transforming minute details into giant tidal waves of universal emotion. A lot of that is at the hands of Maq, whose voice can soar at the turn of a verse. Her delivery, at times, can sound exhausted, but also fired up, a roller coaster to which many who have been marginalized can relate. It's an endless fight, and one that Camp Cope never gives up as the trio charges ahead on each track, with Hellmrich's steady bass lines and drummer Thompson's stellar rhythms.
Throughout How to Socialise & Make Friends, Camp Cope exposes a lot of ugliness in the world, but is never weighed down by any of it. Instead, each song shines through with a strength and resilience that’s cathartic and inspiring. This album was written before the #MeToo movement formed, but it is exactly the album we need right now.
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