THERE’S a song on Camp Cope’s latest record that frontwoman Georgia Maq believed she could never reveal to the world.
It was too deeply personal. Too vulnerable. Even for a young songwriter who has attracted critical acclaim, for articulating her vulnerability so profoundly.
Face Of God is the emotional centre piece of the Melbourne folk-punk band’s highly-anticipated second album How To Socialise & Make Friends, released on Friday.
It details Maq’s personal experience of a sexual assault and the self-loathing and guilt she felt in the aftermath.
“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,” Maq sings.
The track was recorded along with the rest of the album across two days last October at Holes and Corners studio in South Melbourne with producer Sam Johnson.
“The song was all in one take, it was the first one we did,” Maq tells Weekender while lounging in bed on a bitterly hot Melbourne afternoon.
“I did it once and then I didn’t want to do it anymore. I don’t like playing it live, but I feel like I want it out in the world.
“The Face Of God, I’d never played that in front of anybody except [Camp Cope bassist] Kelly-Dawn [Hellmrich] and [drummer Sarah Thompson] Thommo, so when we were recording with Sam [Johnson] it was kind of scary.”
Maq never intended to perform the song on Camp Cope’s upcoming tour, but the snowball effect of the #MeToo movement, in response to the alleged behaviour of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and others, has encouraged the 22-year-old to share her experience.
“That’s why I felt more comfortable playing it,” she says. “After the whole #MeToo thing happened I felt like, OK here’s the extra strength I needed to be able to play it in front of other people.”
Maq’s vulnerability in her voice and lyrics often leaves an emotional impact on her audience.
This writer witnessed that first hand at her solo Newcastle show in January. Maq says the relationship with her fans is reciprocal.
“I feel it and then I get off the stage and I have to cry somewhere,” she says. “I’m the very emotional one of the three.
“Thommo is just like a boss bitch, nobody f--ks with her and then Kelly is always like ‘why, what’s your intention? Why are you saying that.’
“I’m just a big ball of emotion that just cries at every chance.”
In two short years Camp Cope have become one of the most polarising bands on the Australian independent music scene.
Their self-titled debut album released in 2016 topped many music critics’ polls through its blend of melodic and driving folk-punk and Maq’s poetic social commentary, that ranges from tenderness to rage.
Camp Cope are unapologetically outspoken about gender politics, and the three-piece made headlines over the summer when they criticised The Falls Festival on their own Byron Bay stage for only booking nine female musicians out of 100 artists.
Camp Cope received strong support for their stance from fellow female artists Stella Donnelly, Julia Jacklin and Ecca Vandal, plus from male acts like Dune Rats, DZ Deathrays and The Thundamentals.
Two weeks after the protest, Maq performed a solo set at the Hamilton Station Hotel where she told the sell-out crowd she initially feared the Falls Festival incident would derail Camp Cope’s career, but she has since felt empowered by the support.
“I feel like there’s an army behind us,” she says. “There’s like an army of people who want to see a change so it’s kind of unstoppable now.
“The Falls thing was just the tip of the iceberg.”
That support is predicted to increase with the release of How To Socialise & Make Friends. The album’s lead single The Opener, an aggressive middle-finger to male music promoters, polled 58th in Triple J’s Hottest 100.
Expectations are high Maq, Hellmrich and Thompson will improve on their celebrated debut.
“I feel like it’s a more matured version of the first album or a more evolved version of the first album,” she says. “I mean, it’s still us. It’s even more stripped back.”
Besides sexual assault and gender inequality, the album also covers life, loss and growth (How To Socialise & Make Friends), non-romantic love (Anna) and I Got You deals with the loss of Maq’s father, former Redgum leader Hugh McDonald, who died from cancer in November 2016.
Unfortunately for Hunter fans, Camp Cope have avoided Newcastle on their upcoming tour. While Maq is a fan of the city, she admits Thompson isn’t keen to return after their 2016 show was marred by crowd violence.
“Last time we played in Newcastle somebody threw up in the crowd,” Maq says. “It was a bit gross.
“Then we played a secret house show in Newcastle and it was really nice. I reckon we’ll be back.”