CAMP COPE (PHOTO: Naomi Beveridge)

Talking with Camp Cope, the Australian band rallying for gender equality in music

Bridie Chetwin-Kelly talks to Sarah Thompson of the Melbourne-based band Camp Cope, who have called out festivals for male-dominated line-ups and led a campaign against sexual misconduct at concerts.

Trying to calm my inner fangirl and act cool, I jumped on a call with Sarah Thompson, also known as ‘Thomo’ the drummer of the Melbourne-based trio Camp Cope. She and her bandmates, Georgia “Maq” McDonald and Kelly-Dawn “Kel” Hellmrich, are heading to New Zealand for three shows this weekend.

Thompson’s old friend Lani Purkis (Elemeno P, Foamy Ed) insisted that if they were coming over for a holiday they should play a couple of shows too in support of their new album, How To Make Friends & Socialise, so we have Purkis to thank. Hot off the announcement of a US tour with Petal and a special show at Sydney’s Opera House, Thompson talks me through the last few years and how How To Make Friends came to fruition.  

CAMP COPE (PHOTO: Naomi Beveridge)

Firstly, congratulations on your new album, it’s truly amazing.

Thanks so much!

What’s the reaction been like since the release of the album?

It’s been really good. We went into this with very very little expectations. We put the first one out and didn’t think anyone would listen to it but it went okay. But that is just the way the world works though, isn’t it? Whatever we do, some people are going to hate it so we just did whatever we wanted to do and if people like it, that’s great. But yeah people do seem to like it which we are pretty happy with.

It seems pretty timely considering the MeToo movement and all the information that’s coming out.

Yeah, we didn’t know that was going to happen before so the time is good for that. The record was written before the movement mostly and it was always going to come out but after the MeToo thing it made us feel better about how people would perceive the album. I mean it was coming out anyway but we felt better knowing that people would listen to it differently.

Compared to your last one, the new album is quite emotionally raw. Was it a release to write songs like this, about such serious and important issues?

Georgia is really brutally honest in a lyrical sense. Everything you need to know is already in the lyrics. Even sometimes when she says stuff to us we’re like ‘Jeez, that’s a bit brutal isn’t it?’ A lot of things have happened in the last couple of years. We wrote the first record after being together for three months. This one is just everything that has happened in the last two years and the bullshit we have to deal with and people’s different reactions to just doing what we do. It’s kind of good to have it out there and it’s a very honest way to tell people what’s going on.

Does Georgia write all the music?

Georgia will sort of send us a rough phone recording or something and then we will all bring it together and figure out how we want to change it. We are lucky because it has always been easy to work together and we all have certain ways which we do things and were all used to it. Sometimes things come out of left field. Like ‘UFO Lighter’ we had for the first record but we couldn’t figure it out and then it was the last thing we did on our new record. Me and Georgia recorded our parts and Kelly couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do so she literally went and sat in a cupboard and tried all these different bass lines and then she was like yes this is the one! That song was a real thinker.

What are your personal favourite songs off the album?

I think ‘The Face of God’ is one, it’s such an important song and we really enjoyed putting that together and it’s a song that needs to put into the world. Obviously ‘The Opener’ is very cathartic for us to play. Every single time we play it it’s like telling a whole bunch of people to fuck off, which is really nice. It changes day-to-day. When we play a show it can change depending on how we’re feeling.

I know you’ve been asked this a million times but I have been dying to ask, how was it negotiating the music industry after the Falls Festival call out?

It’s been good, it’s very funny that people think we do these things on purpose but actually, we are just frustrated and we don’t like to be jeered at by the general public. It’s been okay though, there are portions of the music industry that are behind us but there are still people who want to dig their heels in and keep things the way they are. The more it’s spoken about the more people understand though. People almost need to be trained to think that it’s not strange to have diversity in the music industry, which is the point of it all, someone has to cop the flack and we’re happy to do it.

I follow you on Twitter and you are pretty bold with what you put out there.

Yeah, I have to be like to the publicist, ‘I promise I won’t start any fights today’ but I always end up having to apologise. It’s all out of frustration, people want you to be silent and I feel like that’s what the music industry does to people, it’s all about straight white men. Trans people, women, women of colour or anyone else just have to sit back and be grateful for what they’re given and that they are even be allowed to do what white men are doing. It’s 2018 and it’s frustrating that it’s still happening and it’s like, you know what fuck you. We’re just going to annoy you until you listen.

A lot of people would consider you a social activist band, how do you take that title?

It’s very strange. From the time we started, we were automatically called that. We were three women playing this kind of music. It wasn’t intentional, we are just opinionated and we can’t not speak out. It’s all a knee-jerk reaction to things that happen to us. We don’t choose it, it personally affects us. It’s nice to know people look to us to change things. We didn’t set out to do it, we’re just angry.

Any other plans while you’re over here?

We’re very excited to come over. Kelly and Georgia have never been here. Kelly has a New Zealand Huntaway dog and she is looking forward to meeting some of them if people want to bring dogs to the show they should. I really need someone to take me to the Outrageous Fortune house. I used to go over to New Zealand a couple of times a year and I have never seen it.

Camp Cope on tour:

27 April: Whammy Barr, Auckland

28 April: Caroline, Wellington

29 April: Early show, venue TBA


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