by Sophie Potrykus
Camp Cope is a three-piece band out of Melbourne, Australia made up of guitarist Georgia McDonald, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and drummer Sarah Thompson. Formed in 2015, they released their debut, self-titled album that year as well. Camp Cope established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in a community that tends to root against them. Their sophomore album, How to Socialize & Make Friends, offers a tongue-in-cheek title for an album that is unapologetically loud, personal-political, and a perfect example of the art of vulnerable rock.
Georgia McDonald’s raw vocals switch from lyrical melodies to a rough shout and back again seamlessly, dipping into the vibe of the “riot-grrrl” days. Bassist, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, moves away from the traditional bass role by creating distinctive melodies of her own through playing contrapuntal to the vocals and creating a new and interesting layer to the music. Drummer Sarah Thompson, whose DIY sound is recognizable out of any speaker, and driving rhythm unifies the band to drive their messages further into the heart of the listener. Together, they create a unique sound that the music scene today has been yearning for, one that is particularly special for a new era of feminism.
The record begins with “The Opener,” a biting track filled with frustrations against the misogyny in the music industry: “You worked so hard but we were just lucky. To ride those coattails into infinity. And 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,” McDonald’s distinctive Aussie accent sings and drips with sarcasm. A poet first, McDonald’s lyrics are a characteristic the band holds at the core of their music by using an unfiltered rhetoric in their art. On the album, subjects of self-discovery, feeling alone, misogyny, death, sexual assault, and many others are explored throughout creating a vast emotional range.
Camp Cope is one prominent band at the forefront of a movement consisting of women refusing to be made small by an industry that is built to do exactly that. McDonald said that the #MeToo movement inspired her to record “The Face of God,” a song accounting sexual assault within the music scene. She sings, her voice intertwining with anger and empathy: “And I saw it, the face of God. And he turned himself away from me. And said I did something wrong. That somehow what happened to me was my fault.” Here, the band encapsulates an experience that sadly, many women have come to know. This particular feeling of hopelessness is overbearing in “The Face of God,” and exactly how the band intended it to be: heart-wrenching, unembellished, and real.
The album closes with “I’ve Got You,” a no-frills, stripped back song recounting the death of Georgia McDonald’s father in 2016. She walks us through a devastatingly vulnerable slideshow of memories, remembering her father’s fight with cancer. She sings, “I’m so proud that half of me grew from you. All the broken parts too. I’ve got you.” Recorded in only one take, the raw, minimalistic track perfectly ends an album filled with an expansive range of emotion and power.
Camp Cope’s sound has a touch of 90’s alt but feels like what is needed right now. From the start, they established themselves as a band that refuses to be short-listed and are now making their mark with a twist on the normal indie rock band as both influential musicians and activists. Between their first and second album, the band plays tighter together but the production stays minimalist. Camp Cope’s How to Socialize and Make Friends is a piece of art that is meant to be used as a catalyst to show everything that the band epitomizes. Whether it be a political standpoint or a personal situation of loss, Camp Cope offers up an album that is unapologetic and forces you to connect with them on some level.