Camp Cope’s ‘How To Socialise & Make Friends’ Is The Album 2018 Desperately Needs
On Camp Cope's excellent new album, the personal is very much political.
In early January, Camp Cope were halfway through their afternoon set at Byron Bay’s Falls Festival when singer Georgia Maq decided to change up the lyrics in their song ‘The Opener’.
In the chorus, where usually she would sing “It’s another man telling us to book a smaller venue”, Maq belted out “It’s another fucking festival booking only nine women” — a reference to the lack of female representation on the 2018 Falls line-up.
It was an incredibly gutsy move, one that didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd, the media, or the Falls organisers themselves — who released a statement to address the subsequent furore. But instead of mitigating the outrage, the statement only served to further inflame tensions as Falls organisers had seemed to adopt an “if you don’t like it, go and do it yourself” stance.
“We have seen other bands who are passionate about this topic go out and started their own events where they have total control of the line-up, with great success and we applauded their initiative,” Falls co-producer Jessica Ducrou wrote. “Taking control yourself is a great way to effect change.” She added that while Falls has “a very conscious and strong agenda to book female talent, it isn’t always available to us at that headline level.”
A number of artists leapt to Camp Cope’s defence and openly criticised the statement, and the following weekend Maq once again addressed the organisers on stage.
“It’s not about filling a quota, it’s not about all that fucking rubbish,” Maq said during their set in Fremantle. “It’s about the type of world we want to see in music, we want an equal, diverse and inclusive music community, because that’s what it is. It’s not represented properly on festival line-ups or in big shows, it’s bullshit and we’ve had enough of it.”
All of this went down before the new year was even two weeks old, and it made something abundantly clear: Camp Cope weren’t going to take shit lying down in 2018.
‘How To Socialise & Make Friends’
A month before that all went down, Camp Cope announced they’d release their second album in the first half of the year. The announcement was accompanied by ‘The Opener‘, the incendiary first single that would go on to cause so much trouble.
The Falls incident only served to pull the album and the intention behind it into sharper focus: this was going to be a record for the #MeToo era, for the people who were sick of the constant bullshit pulled by the men in charge, for the people who wanted to be heard.
The full album, which officially landed today, is all of those things and so much more. At a tight but gut wrenching 38-minutes, the record unravels stories of assault and heartbreak and death — to say it’s emotional taxing is an understatement. Ultimately, it hinges on an intense feeling of frustration at a world that is not only stacked against non-men and people of colour, but actively seeks to oppress them.
There are the expected searing missives on the music industry and it’s inherent sexism (‘The Opener’), and harrowing stories of sexual assault and victim blaming (‘The Face of God’) — but there are also tender tributes to female friendship (‘Anna’, ‘Sagan-Indiana’), which serve as a salve for the album’s more confronting tracks.
Maq has greatly matured as a songwriter since Camp Cope, and she handles the tough subjects with the care and deftness that they require while never sacrificing their important message. Some people will undoubtedly point out that her vocals can swing wildly out of key — and they definitely do — but this critique is missing the point: Maq is sending us dispatches from the shittiest of abysses, who the fuck cares if she hits a wrong note?
Like fellow Melburnian Courtney Barnett (or the great Paul Kelly, for that matter) Maq can skilfully sum-up an entire relationships in a single line, like this from the title track: “He left a key in the back door but I never showed up/There was something sleazy about him that made me want to rob the place and run.”
Even more powerful is this, from the standout ‘The Face of God’: “You don’t seem like that kind of guy… You’ve got me questioning everything I did/ What would’ve happened if I’d done one thing different?”
It’s so familiar that it shouldn’t feel revolutionary — but it does.
Camp Cope save the biggest gut punch for closing ‘I’ve Got You’, where Maq addresses the recent death of her father: “I’m so proud that half of me grew from you/All the broken parts too.”
Passing Of The Baton
At one point during ‘Anna’, Maq throws caution to the wind and just screams “Get it all out” over and over again. In a way it’s a nice tagline for the whole of How to Socialise & Make Friends, which feels like 38-minute cathartic roar.
But overwhelmingly, the feeling you come away with after spinning it couple of times is hope — hope that somehow, one day, the world won’t be run for the sort of men who are in power now. And if you don’t relate to this sentiment, that’s okay — this album probably isn’t for you.
In the ’90s, Riot Grrl bands brought girls to the front and told them they have a place in music. In 2018, Camp Cope are fighting tooth and nail to keep them there.
Jules LeFevre is Staff Writer at Music Junkee and inthemix. She is on Twitter.