Courtesy of Run for Cover Records

March 8, 2018

TEST SPIN | Camp Cope — How to Socialise and Make Friends

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Camp Cope’s sophomore release — How to Socialise & Make Friends — is a session beer of an album: best enjoyed in one sitting. In 2016, the Melbourne-based trio blew up with a self-titled debut that introduced listeners to their jangly strain of indie-rock. The band then jam-packed the ensuing two years with performances, tours and new music. They released a split with Philly trio Cayetana, toured with emo luminaries Against Me! and Modern Baseball and reached a larger audience with performances on Audiotree Live and triple j. “I feel like I’ve lived 10 lifetimes in the time that I’ve been in this band,” drummer Sarah Thompson told Stereogum in a February interview.

Stylistically, How to Socialise & Make Friends doesn’t deviate much from Camp Cope. Bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich kicks off the album’s opening track — aptly named “The Opener” — with an ostinato that continues until the build-up to the first chorus. Hellmrich’s bass lines often propel Camp Cope’s songs, but the trio’s sparse arrangements make every band member sound like they’re on equal ground.

Most of the tracks on How to Socialise & Make Friends have an irresistible jangle, thanks largely to drummer Sarah Thompson’s animated beats and singer/guitarist Georgia Maq’s distortion-free strumming. On the final track, “I’ve Got You,” the jangle disappears and Maq plays solo and acoustic. She sings about illness, death and childhood. The switch in tone is palpable and jarring.

Throughout their career, Camp Cope have been lauded — sometimes against their wishes — as feminist foils to the antagonism of music industry sexism. “I wish we could just play music and not have to talk about these things, but we have to talk about them,” Maq stated at the beginning of the Stereogum interview. “We’re doing something that’s beyond ourselves,” Hellmrich later commented, “It stands for something, especially in an industry that’s been doing things wrong for a long time.”

Camp Cope became a flashpoint in conversations about the industry’s sexism after their New Year’s Day performance at the Falls Festival. In the middle of the band’s performance of “The Opener,” Maq called out the festival’s skewed gender representation. Playing off the song’s lyrics, Maq sang, “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up a tent / It’s another fucking festival booking only nine women.” The Falls Festival organizers followed up with a shoddy response, implying that if female performers were unsatisfied with festivals, they should just go make their own.

“The Opener” is, in fact, likely a play on words, referring both to the fact that the track opens the album and the relegation of female bands to opening slots. Throughout the song, Maq skewers sexist slights and discrepancies in music. “All my success has got nothing to do with me / Yeah, tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene,” Maq sings, picking apart fellow industry members’ dismissal of women’s achievements. The song concludes with a sarcastically snarled line that Maq screams like a battle cry: “Yeah, just get a female opener, that’ll fill the quota.”

How to Socialise & Make Friends’ third track is, at least for me, its most affecting. In contrast to the album’s first two upbeat tracks, “The Face Of God” opens with a barely audible bass line, followed Maq’s quiet strumming and, after almost a minute, a sluggish but determined drum beat. The song feels like it grows slower and slower as it progresses, miring the listener in its arresting discussion of sexual coercion.

Maq starts the song with a simple lyric that stops the listener in their tracks: “I had to leave because I had to say ‘No’ and ‘Stop’ / More than once, way too many times.” Maq shows the listener the excruciating process of trying to rationalize what happened to her. The song climaxes with the excruciating image of Maq seeing god and being shamed by him. “He turned himself away from me / And said I did something wrong,” Maq sings, “That somehow what happened to me was my fault.”

The main of strength of How to Socialise & Make Friends is its consistency. Although Camp Cope did release two tracks as singles — “The Opener” and the album’s title track — all of the songs have near-perfect melodies and terrific lyrics. “Sagan-Indiana,” “Animal & Real” and “UFO Lighter” do, however, stand out as especially compelling tracks.

Overall, How to Socialise & Make Friends is not an album to listen to once and forget about; I know that I’ll be replaying it constantly for months, at least.

I’m tempted to declare that Camp Cope deserve a spot in the indie canon. Stick them up there with Pavement, Fugazi and Neutral Milk Hotel. But if I’ve learned anything from listening to Camp Cope and reading their interviews, it’s that prestige, legacy and status are exclusive —  and just plain boring — lenses through which to view music.

Camp Cope’s songs aren’t about the rock star lifestyle, but rather accessibility and equity. The New York Times only recognized the vast number of incredible female rock artists last fall. A coalition of music festivals committed to booking gender-balanced lineups… by 2022. Given the state of the music industry, Camp Cope’s music isn’t just beautiful and emotionally charged, it’s also utterly necessary.
Shay Collins is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at scollins@cornellsun.com.