When she answers our Zoom call, Georgia Maq is taking her temperature: There was just a COVID-19 outbreak in the nursing ward where she works. She doesn’t seem too worried, but she’s on her way to take a test, too — she’d gladly take one daily, if it would help.
Maq and her Camp Cope bandmates, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah “Thomo” Thompson, have been outspoken over the course of the pandemic, advocating for vaccines and precautions in their home of Australia, and long before, too: They’ve called out the lack of female billing in festival lineups, and preface shows by stating the indigenous land on which they’re performing. As women, that’s attracted certain adjectives: brash, loud, angry. And on their first two albums, Camp Cope’s punk bend did align with some of those descriptors.
The band’s third album, Running with the Hurricane, takes a softer tack. Relaxed and romantic, it veers toward the country music Maq’s been in love with lately, but not without some fun crassness in the mix. We video chatted about nursing, the band’s burgeoning confidence and her latest crush, hampered only slightly by the buffering of Australia’s — in Maq’s own words — “bad internet.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VMP: You were just talking about your job as a nurse. I know you've been working through this pandemic: How have the last two years been?
Georgia Maq: Really hard. Hard and frustrating when people don’t get vaccinated. Stupid fucking cunts. My job is very hard and very taxing and exhausting, but I love it, and if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be doing it. I like feeling like I’ve helped people and done good things when I finish work for the day. I love my job, but it’s very, very difficult and mentally exhausting. Literally, I don’t have time for anything but work, and that’s it.
When you’re recording the album, is that a reprieve from nursing, or is it more work?
Pretty much every day around when we were recording the record, I was working. I’m a psycho and I can’t stop. I’ll never stop. But I was like: Well, I have this duty. Of course we’ve got to record the album, but I also have this duty to my community, to work and to vaccinate and stuff like that. So I was working in vaccination back then. Now I’m not, now I’m just on a ward.
Did COVID change the direction the album might have taken? I know you were working on it [in 2019] before you took a hiatus.
It gave me a lot more time to think about what I wanted and how I wanted it. I feel like I’m a much more confident person than I was, like, a few years ago.
Coming into the album, what was front of mind for you?
I was listening to a lot of Florence and the Machine, and a lot of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. I love country music. ... Me and my crush just made each other these really lame playlists — cute — and all of his are songs I’ve never heard of in my fucking life, they’re all electronic SoundCloud soft boy, fucking Midwest emo, and mine was like [higher pitched] country music!
We’re talking about crushes, and I feel like Running with the Hurricane is the most romantic Camp Cope album yet.
I think so too! Aside from the song “Jealous.” I think it’s very, like, me pathetically being like, [sings jokingly] “I have depression and I’m not afraid to say it anymore, but I won’t say to you, I’m just gonna write a song about it and, hopefully, you figure it out and it’ll be really romantic.”
Is there a reason the album veered that way?
The whole [album], it’s just me, and a lot of my life is having crushes on people. I’m a big hopeless romantic, and I romanticize things a lot. I think this album is me being unafraid to say that, because before, I was like, “Oh, there’s no power in having a crush on someone. Ugh, it’s so pathetic, so vulnerable, and I hate being vulnerable.” But also, being vulnerable is good. I was just not vulnerable in a romantic way — and I still don’t like people, like, knowing that I have romantic feelings or that I even have sex. I don’t like people knowing that, it’s weird to me. When really, love just controls my life.
I love love. I feel like I’ve always got a crush on someone. Like right now, my crush, he’s so beautiful. He’s just so basic — or, not basic, he likes Midwest emo. He’s just a guy who works in IT, and we didn’t meet over Tinder or anything. It was very organic. We met through a mutual friend. And every second of every day, I’m scared that he’s going to stop liking me, normal, but I think that that means that I like him.
I think that’s a good clue.
A good indication, because there have been some people where I feel so indifferent. I’m like, “Oh, well if you don’t like me, I literally don’t care, I’ve got nothing to lose, whatever.” For this one, I’m like, “Ah, fuck.”
I don’t know how that relates to the album at all, in any way. But thank you for letting me talk about my crush. This is what I do, I get obsessed with someone. I’m like, “I’m going to talk about you in an interview with Vinyl Me, Please.” Fucking psychotic.
It’s earnest and eager, and those are two words I use for myself all the time, so I get it.
From an earnest person. [Glibly] “Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.
Because this is such a romantic album, it doesn’t have the same opinions and kind of brashness of the previous ones, and I’m wondering if that was a conscious decision.
It just kind of happened. I don’t set out to intentionally write things. I don’t think I could write for a purpose other than “this is exactly what I’m feeling at this moment in my life.” The anger and stuff has passed, like on How to Socialise [& Make Friends], and I’m past that now.
You were mentioning that you’re a songwriter, but you also taught yourself to produce both for [your 2019 solo album] Pleaser and this album.
Pleaser taught me a lot to be like, “This is how I want things.” I just had a very clear vision for [Running with the Hurricane], I knew exactly what I wanted, I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound. With the trumpet line in "One Wink at a Time," I was just like, “Okay, Shauna [Boyle, of Cable Ties], can you just mirror the vocal line and play it here? And that’s where I want it.” And then with Courtney [Barnett], she just came in and I was like, “OK, you’re gonna do a little build here. I don’t know what you’re gonna do, but do a little build. And then that’s where you hit hard.” So I was just directing everything. And [my bandmates] Kelly [Dawn-Helmrich] and [Sarah “Thomo” Thompson] just sat back and let me do it. They were literally sitting there on their phones. Love them both so much, they were just like, “No, no, you do whatever. You do whatever you want.” And I was like, “OK, gonna regret this,” but I think the album turned out really well because of me feeling like I knew what I wanted.
Were any of the songs especially difficult or important to you in terms of production or creation?
I had a very strong idea for “Sing Your Heart Out.” And I feel like it almost got there. None of the songs are perfect, to me, because I still hear them differently to how they came out a little bit. But I got as close as I could, and I knew that at the end of “Sing Your Heart Out,” I wanted it to be this big explosion.
In the press materials, you say this album is about how you guys have “come out the other side,” while How to Socialise was you being in “the thick of it.” But that makes me wonder what “the thick of it” was.
For the last few years, really, we’ve been through a lot of stuff in the press, and then with Me Too stuff, and like I feel like we got through a really hard part of our life together. This is us on the other side of it, really. We all have hard times. We just went through a hard time together, and it was beautiful that we got to do it together. Friendship. I love friendship.
How have your relationships with Kelly and Sarah evolved from the time that you guys recorded the self-titled album?
We know each other a lot more and we’re a lot closer. I think that’s just from time and experience, and going through things together and touring together. That contributes to where we’re at now. You know how when you love someone, you just accept them for exactly who they are? I feel like I know exactly who Kelly and Thomo are, and you can only expect as much as you know that they can give.
So much of Running with the Hurricane hinges on understanding yourself, discovering yourself. In writing it, did you come to any conclusions about yourself?
I don’t know … I was just writing songs over the years and I just picked the best ones. I think people think that we’re very angry, combative people because that’s what the last album was, and that’s kind of what we had to be. But people don’t realize how funny and light we actually are. They kind of expect us to be a certain way because of the song content from the last album. I think that there’s definitely always a place for anger; there was definitely a place for anger in my life at that point. But I’m past that, it’s done. I felt anger, felt it, embraced it, let it go, done, onto the next phase.
Anything you want to add?
I just want people to like the album and I hope people get vaccinated. Get vaccinated so you can come see us, but also so that you can protect your community. Be safe and wear sunscreen.
Caitlin Wolper is a writer whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Vulture, Slate, MTV News, Teen Vogue, and more. Her first poetry chapbook, Ordering Coffee in Tel Aviv, was published in October by Finishing Line Press. She shares her music and poetry thoughts (with a bevy of exclamation points, and mostly lowercase) at @CaitlinWolper.