Camp Cope interview: we discuss the band's new album, their involvement with #TimesUp, getting matching band tattoos and more
Tomorrow arrives the second album from Australian threesome Camp Cope, How To Socialise & Make Friends. It’s an album that is as fearless as any in recent memory, tackling social injustices on the one hand and being boldly personal on the other. Through it all the three members’ playing is interwoven in a way that could only have come about through an instant natural chemistry, which is exactly what bassist Kelly told us when we had the opportunity to chat to her. We picked her brain about the band’s formation, their presence in the #MeToo campaign, matching tattoos and their ambitions for the new album. Read our discussion below.
You've been sitting on this album for a while now, but you must be feeling that there's a lot of excitement around it already, before it's already out?
Yeah! I'm excited for the album to come out. It's looming. I think it was finished... I can't even remember. It was definitely finished before Christmas, so we've been holding on to it for a long time. I mean I keep just showing people anyway, and it's kind of cool to talk to people who have listened to it to get their feedback, because I've been like "I hope people like it" [mimics crying]
You must be getting positive feedback from people who have heard it.
Yeah, it's all been really positive. I'm excited to see what it'll be like when it goes public, what people will think.
You've recorded both of your albums really quickly, there must have been instant chemistry. You were recording inside of a year of being a band, right?
Yeah, we hadn't been together for a year before we started recording. We just kind of like had everything we needed to get the music that we wanted, the sound that we wanted. We're very low-key, we're not really pedantic about everything being super tight and everything being super produced and everything being absolutely perfect. We're very like "these are the songs that we wrote and this is what they sound like so let's record them and put them out there so people can listen."
As you say, your sound isn't that polished, but it makes it sound kind of unique. Who were the kinds of bands you were thinking of when you started playing together?
I think we definitely had inspirations from Hop Along and Cayetana definitely, they're the records we gave our engineer before we did it. But then we don't get our recording style, or the way that we make the record in itself, inspired by anyone else, it's just like our own sort of take on what we feel like we want to put out there. We're very at peace with not being perfect, and I think our music doesn't need to be perfect. Honestly if there's a mistake in there we're just like "eh, we played it through like three times and we've got this recording, so if there's a mistake in there then there's probably going to be a mistake live. So it's fine." [Laughs]
You personally have a pretty big part in this band as the bassist, you play so melodically, was that your natural way of playing?
Yeah it's definitely just like completely natural, I'm not trained in any way and I don't have musical theory or knowledge; I didn't sit down and think "this is the type of bass player I want to be." When I started playing bass, it was just what would come into my head; I would listen to a song and then the bass line would come into my head and then that's how it is. Also I have really small hands, so I feel really comfortable quite high up on the bass. So it's a bit of a physical thing and it's a bit that it's just what comes into my head. I didn't think it was that weird until people told me it was weird, so it's been interesting. [Laughs].
Do you remember what inspired you to pick up the bass in the first place? Any particular bass player or band?
I really love Peter Hook from Joy Division, and I love Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 - I actually love his bass parts, and obviously growing up I was influenced by Blink-182 as were a lot of people at that age who picked up a guitar. But I actually think he's actually got some really interesting bass lines like in 'Carousel' and in songs like that that were a bit different to what people were doing at the time. I really love those two bass players.
Tell me about the front cover of the new album How To Socialise & Make Friends, was it spontaneous or posed or…?
It's interesting, the back cover photo of us is a polaroid of us taken in New York, and that was originally going to be the front cover because it was really sentimental to us. It was our first show overseas and it was in New York and it was just incredible. So we decided that we would take some more polaroids to put in the album as little pictures. So we were just taking lots of random polaroid photos, and that was one of the ones, the cover one of us in the car was one that was taken, and we just fell in love with it. We were just like "this is such an accurate portrayal of us as a band"; like my dog is driving the car, you can't really see him, but he's in the front seat. And we loved that photo so much that it became the front cover. We weren't being like "oh we'll pose for this and this is what we want the front cover to look like." It was pretty spontaneous and I’m so happy with it, I can't imagine it being any other photo now.
That's sweet. What kind of dog do you have and what is her or her name?
His name is Neptune, but no one calls him Neptune, everyone calls him Tune. I don't know if you guys would understand, do you guys go like "tune!!" if you hear a good song?
Yeah, so his name is Tune, and he's a border collie crossed with a huntaway, which is like a New Zealand sheep dog. So he's just kind of like a farm dog mix. I think there's a picture of him inside the album too.
Tell me about the writing process, is it always the case the Georgia brings the songs and you add to them?
Yeah, so Georgia writes the songs, and usually what happens is usually we get a really crappy phone recording of it and she'll be like "what do you think of this song?" And then we'll bring it into the room and work it out as a band. What I really like about writing music with someone like Georgia is that it's not a grating process, it's not like we have to sit down and work out each different part and say "that doesn't work, that doesn't work." It would really only take us less than an hour to figure out a song and what it needs to sound like, it kind of happens automatically, and then it's just us tightening it up for the next hour. Georgia will bring us a song and we kind of know what needs to be done to make it work, and it's always been like that since we started the band.
Georgia sends us the recording, and then I listen to it quite meticulously before we get to the rehearsal space, but I never sit down with my bass and work it out. I mostly just listen to the song while I'm on the bus or the train, and then I'm listening for what I think the bass part will be. I'd rather just make it up in my head and then when we get together we just play it. And I think [Camp Cope drummer] Thomo is the same, we just go off the feel from each other.
Does Georgia tell you the kinds of things she's writing about in advance or are you always surprised when you hear them?
Of course she tells us, but I think she's surprised sometimes by what comes out. I don't know if she always sits down with the intention to write a song about something, I think it's a very cathartic thing for her. I often get a message at 1AM saying "I just wrote this song about this. I don't know, it just happened." There are other times when she'll show us a song and she'll be like "what do you think it's about?", to try and gauge what people's reactions are going to be, which I think is really interesting.
What's been really cool is before we did the first album all of the songs Georgia had written before I knew her, that she had from her solo stuff. Then the next lot of songs have been songs that she's written in the time that I've known her, which has been really interesting because I can start to see what the songs are about and the little bits of personal experiences from all of us, from things that we've experienced together.
So do you remember the first time you heard some of these statement songs like 'The Opener' and 'The Face Of God'; do you remember what your reaction was?
Yeah I remember when she showed me 'The Opener'. She said "I wrote this song, I don't know if it's too intense," and she sent it to the band thread, and I remember Thomo sent back flame emojis like a million times. I was cooking in my kitchen with my housemates and I was listening to it with headphones, and I was like "Oh my god, you guys have to hear this song," and I played the version through the speakers in my kitchen and I explained what each part was. I was like "that's when this person said that, and this is when that person said this." That song is all things that personally happened to us, it's all like direct quotes, the last bit of the song.
And then when she sent 'The Face Of God' she was really apprehensive about it, she wasn't sure about it, and I think me and Thomo really supported her in being like "you should do this, there's nothing wrong with this song, people will find something to connect with it." We kind of play off each other in that way, if we're not sure about something we'll bring it to the band and we know we'll get support there that will direct it in the right way. So, yeah, it was sort of two different reactions to those two different songs.
You've already started to be connected with the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, how do you feel about that?
I feel very good about that. We've all shared things about it on our personal pages and things like that, and been involved in discussions about it. I think even before the campaign or the movement we were really passionate about this stuff anyway, and outspoken about it too, so it felt really natural to be involved in it, and it definitely hit home for us too. We wrote 'The Face Of God' before the #MeToo movement happened, and we were recording it before it all came to light on social media. That just gave us so much more confidence, now more than ever, for 'The Opener' and 'The Face Of God' because we feel like we have support around us from all these people. It felt more relevant and less lonely than ever to be sharing these sentiments. We're really happy that it's all happening in that way. It felt really right. It sounds really strange, but we're not really like spiritual people, but the timing just seemed so right, there was something about it.
Were you at all tempted to release one of either of those songs at that time to capitalise on the movement?
We didn't really think about that. It was more like now we're less stressed and less alone in what we're putting in our music, because we feel like it really hits home looking at all the people that these things resonate with. Even outside our songs, just what we've been saying as a band and what we've been feeling as people, it gave us that confidence because we knew that we weren't alone in a lot of this stuff.
I really hope that these more political songs don't overshadow the sweetness and the love that's in a lot of the other songs like 'Anna' and 'Sagan, Indiana'.
We've kind of described the album jokingly as a celebration of the women in our lives who we really loved, and then also a call out of the men in our lives that have hurt us, and moving on from that. I hope people do see that, that in the anger and in the sadness of some situations there's a real celebration of love. So I'm glad you said that, because I feel that too.
'I've Got You' is the last track, is it kind of like a sequel to 'Song For Charlie' on the end of the previous album? Both being acoustic songs about Georgia’s father…
Yeah, I think it was really important the album being a dedication to Georgia's dad. It was always gonna be on there, and ending in that way. I think we really liked the way that the first album had all the band songs and then ended with that acoustic song to close the book in that sense. That's how I see it, the last acoustic song is a way to be calm, reflect and then shut the book. And I feel like it ends hopefully on this album too, just like 'Song For Charlie' ends hopefully - it's sad, but it's hopeful in the end, and I think that's what number two feels like too.
You three all have tattoos, have you considered getting matching tattoos to celebrate releasing an album or being in a band?
So, funny story, the other two have matching tattoos and I refused [laughs]. I've got real bad tattoos, I hate them, and I just refuse to get any more. I've capped it, I'm like "I hate my tattoos, I'm not getting any more." So then we went on tour with Cayetana in the US and they all got matching tattoos, and Thomo and Georgia got a Volvo tattoo as well and I just refused. I'm like "I'm not getting any more tattoos, I'm sorry. I love you all, you mean everything to me, but I'm not getting any more tattoos." So no matching tattoos in the future! [laughs]
Aha, fair enough. Did you say they got Volvos tattooed?
Yeah, they've both got a Volvo car, because Georgia drives a red Volvo.
Oh, is that the one on the front cover of the album?
Yeah, that's the one on the cover. We went to our first interstate show in the Volvo, and things like that, so it's like a part of the band, this red Volvo. It's how we get to practices, we fill up the car with a whole entire drum kit and I'm sitting in the back with a massive kick drum. It's an art of getting all of our gear into our Volvo. So they got it tattooed. I was like "I love you guys and I do love the car but I'm not doing it."
Were there any books or TV that you were all mutually loving while making the album?
I don't know, we're all so different that it's hard to find something that we all agree on. I really don't think so… You know what, as a band when we were calling out gender imbalances and things like that we all watched that movie The Battle Of The Sexes on a plane, it just inspired us so much, and we were like "yeah we need to continue being really loud, we're doing the right thing." I remember that was a real awesome moment, feeling like it had really inspired us a lot.
What about you personally, what were you reading or listening to?
I listened to a lot of hip hop and R&B because I get so sick of guitar music when I know I'm going to be spending the next couple of weeks writing or recording or playing guitar music. I know that Georgia is always really inspired by Hop Along, and she listens to them a lot and draws a lot of inspiration from that band.
Have you played any of the new songs live much yet?
Yeah we played 'The Face Of God' and 'The Opener' a bunch; we've been playing 'The Opener' pretty much since we wrote it. We've played 'How To Socialise & Make Friends' and 'Anna' a bit. But we had been playing them all in preparation for recording, but since then we haven't practiced for a while. I'm a bit nervous.
You're heading on tour from March, but when are you coming to Europe? You guys haven't been here yet, have you?
No! We haven't been to Europe. I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you but... it's gonna happen.
I mean, yeah, it has to happen. Does that excite you?
Oh it's so exciting. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm really into food [Laughs]. I've never been to the Europe, I've never been to the UK, in fact I had never been out of Australia until last year when I went to the US. So I don't see it as any sort of hard work, I'm like "oh my God I get to see all of these places that I never would have been able to see had I never been in this position." So I'm excited.
Which food would you be most excited about?
I'm a vegan, but I'm also celiac as well, so I just want to go to different places and try all their vegan food. America was really cool in some places like California and Philly, there was really cool vegan food, but then in the places in between I was living off a box of protein bars from Whole Foods because there were places where I couldn't eat. I feel like Europe will be better for that...
Hmm, I'm not so sure. I think the UK will be fine, but I heard Frankie Cosmos talking about how in Paris she had to break her veganism because she couldn't find anything!
I think in some places it'll be really frustrating, but in others it'll be the best food I've ever eaten in my life. So I'm willing to sacrifice. As long as the coffee's good.
Camp Cope’s brilliant second album How To Socialise & Make Friends is rout now.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 1st March 2018.