Camp Cope: “I really wanted to make something that I would like enjoy listening to”

Camp Cope. Credit: Nick Mckk
(Image credit: Nick Mckk)

Cutting her teeth as a busker playing heartrending emo slow-burners on a weathered acoustic guitar, it was magical to see Georgia Maq blossom into the headstrong bandleader she was destined to become with Camp Cope. Their self-titled debut was a solid introduction, beefing up Maq’s lowkey crooners with bold, scene-stealing basslines (courtesy of Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich) and punchy drums (via Sarah ‘Thomo’ Thompson). Its follow-up, 2018’s How To Socialise And Make Friends, galvanised the group as a force to be reckoned with, melding their venomous riot grrrl ethos with searing indie-rock motifs.

Though the band have kept quiet over the last four years, their artistry’s only continued to grow. Hellmrich launched her own project, Kelso, exploring a different corner of the indie bubble with her 2019 EP Always A Godmother, Never A God. That same year, Maq broke out into bubblegum pop with her shimmery, synth-driven solo record Pleaser. That experience, making such a startling detour from the style she’d spent over half her years establishing, led the frontwoman to wildly reconsider what’s possible with Camp Cope.

So, on the group’s long-awaited third album, Running With The Hurricane, she and her two ride-or-dies have . Named for Redgum’s 1986 classic – just one of its nods to that band’s late frontman and Maq’s father, Hugh McDonald – it’s a truly moving listen, tighter and more accessible yet somehow legions more scopic than their first two records combined. As Maq tells Australian Guitar, the new LP is much more than just Camp Cope’s third full-length effort, it’s the first step on an exciting – and ambitious – new journey for the group.

How would you say this record takes Camp Cope to the next level? 
Kelly and Thomo just did what they normally do, which is be amazing at their instruments, and then I just kind of lost my mind with the process. I really wanted to make something that I would like enjoy listening to. Because I feel like the last two records aren’t really background music – you listen to them and you get really deep into it – whereas this one, I think, is more listenable. It’s more accessible to people. And that was very intentional, because I love pop music. I love folk music and I love country music – that’s all I listen to, so I was very influenced by that. And I knew how to get across the sounds that I wanted to get across. 

It’s still not perfect. There’s still things I would change, but I do feel like this is the first step in, hopefully, a new direction. Because I feel like when I was younger, I’d listen to bands just because it was cool to listen to bands, and it was cool to be into bands. But I never really liked bands. I’m the biggest Taylor Swift fan in the world. And I think I was in denial of that for a long time because I was like, “This isn’t cool! It’s not indie! Everyone knows Taylor Swift, so therefore she can’t be cool.” But really, I just f***ing love pop music. 

Taylor Swift is like the greatest f***ing artist of our generation. I think I took a lot of influence from her because in lockdown, that’s when I was, like, really getting into Taylor Swift. I was listening to a lot of Florence And The Machine and Jason Isbell, too.

So you guys have welcomed in a new guitarist for the live set, Jennifer Aslett. Did you write these songs knowing you’d have that extra set of hands in the fold? 
No, actually, Jenny didn’t join the band until after we made the record. There’s two guitars on every song – every song has acoustic on it, because I’m really good at acoustic guitar, and I wanted to show that. And there’s piano, too, which I couldn’t have done if we didn’t have someone else playing the other parts. And Jenny is just so f***ing good. I love her. She just makes everything so enjoyable, and she’s such an amazing presence – we all have so much chemistry with her.

Do you feel more confident as an artist on this record? 
I think my writing skills, and my arrangement and production skills, are really shown off on this record. Because it’s like, I like have all these amazing f***ing symphonies in my head, and I’ve always just struggled with getting them out. But now, after making a little pop record, I know what I’m doing a little more. 

After making Pleaser, in lockdown in 2020, I made a solo pop record that no-one’s ever gonna hear, and I did it all myself – I produced it, engineered it, recorded it... Everything, myself. And I think I took a lot of influence from that into Camp Cope, because I was like, “F***, there’s so much more that we can do with this!” I also just wanted to challenge myself, with all the piano and the harmonies, and the vocal parts and stuff.

How did your change in headspace come across in the record’s thematic slant? 
I feel like I’m in a completely different place. I feel like I was very angry for a while, and that anger didn’t serve me. It just made me ugly. And I know that a lot of people loved that, but I didn’t. I think this record is a lot more authentic – it feels quite revealing, because there’s a big theme of desperation in there. It’s me just expressing how much I want love, and how much I want to be okay, and how much I want to be powerful.

I still love female rage. I think it’s incredible, because no, we’re not here to serve men and smile in photos with them. I love female rage. But it’s exhausting. I’m at a point in my life where… It’s not that I don’t care as much, but I’m exhausted by rage, and I just want to lead a f***ing happy, easy life, y’know? I just want to serve my community, I want to be a good person, I want to live my life for others, and I want love.

What was it like working with [producer] Anna Laverty at Sing Sing Studios? 
Sing Sing is just such a lux studio. The space is really nice, and they have two grand pianos there. I think [Anna and the studio] just added a whole lot more to the vibe. And I, like, demanded from Thomo that we have more time. I was like, “We are not doing two days. It’s stressful, we’re gonna make a shit record…” Y’know, I chuck a hissy fit, and then I get what I want – I’m big baby [laughs]. 

So we ended up getting six days. We did three days, and then we waited two weeks – because in that two weeks, I wanted to listen back to everything and hear things, and hear how I wanted things to be – and then we did another three days. And so I think this record ended up better because we had the luxury of time, and we had access to more instruments and better equipment. 

As a guitarist, were there any new techniques you were keen to explore? 
I guess just... Less. I wanted to play a bit less. I was also experimenting with a chorus pedal and a fuzz pedal in certain parts, and really trying to learn how to open up my sound. I also have a beautiful acoustic guitar, and I wanted to play that on every single song because it just sounds f***ing gorgeous. And, when an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar are put together, it really thickens out the sound a bit – I think that’s what Camp Cope really needed. I also used a different electric guitar this time; I used to the Jazzmaster really hard, and now I play a Gibson Les Paul Jr. It’s a little smaller, and I just love the way it sounds. I love my guitar.

When did you get that? 
Before we went to the UK – three years ago? I just bought it off some dude on Marketplace for $1,200. I think it’s a 2012 model? It’s beautiful.

And the acoustic? 
It’s a Martin. I don’t know what model it is, but it’s from 1974 and it was my dad’s. That’s what I played for ’I’ve Got You’ on How To Socialise And Make Friends. There’s always a little bit of something from my dad [in the mix] – it’s my way of keeping him alive, and keeping our connection strong.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…

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