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Camp Cope emerges reflective from pandemic with new album

MILES PARKS, HOST:

Another group of people trying to figure out how to make up for lost time during the pandemic are musicians. Take the Australian Power emo trio Camp Cope. They were set to record their third album here in the U.S. back in 2020, when the coronavirus put the world and their musical career on hold. Almost three years later, that pause has resulted in a new album that's also a clear shift for the band. Previously known for raw, unvarnished indie rock, this album is a tender, soulful record called "Running With The Hurricane."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUNNING WITH THE HURRICANE")

CAMP COPE: (Singing) I can stretch my legs and run. I'm taking my place, running with the hurricane. Breaking these chains, running with the hurricane.

PARKS: Georgia McDonald, also known as Georgia Maq, is the band's lead singer and guitarist. And she joins me now from Melbourne, Australia to tell us more about it. Georgia Maq, welcome.

GEORGIA MAQ: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

PARKS: Thanks for being here. And congratulations on the new album.

MAQ: Thank you. Thanks for all the nice things that you said. Also, love that you described us as power emo, a genre that I made up.

PARKS: I think that's pretty apt, right?

MAQ: Yeah. It's just a genre that I made up.

PARKS: Oh, did you? I was going to say, I think, like, I grabbed from the Wikipedia. And so I feel like that's - somebody in your circle probably even wrote it.

MAQ: Oh, no. That was me.

(LAUGHTER)

PARKS: I love it. Am I right that you're about to head out to work as a nurse?

MAQ: Not today. Tomorrow, though.

PARKS: Tomorrow. Oh, well, so tell me a little bit about that. You started working as a nurse during the pandemic?

MAQ: Yeah. So when everything was put on pause, I decided to finally use my nursing qualification, which I got seven years ago, before the band even started. And, yeah, it just felt like the right thing to do. And I, like, I love it. It's very hard work, but I get so much out of it.

PARKS: Tell me a little bit more about what you've been doing. You've been helping with the vaccination effort or, like, I guess - what have you - How have you spent the last two years other than making this album?

MAQ: So I worked in vaccination for about eight months, and now I just work in a hospital, on the wards. And yeah, I love it.

PARKS: I want to talk a little bit about the pandemic, which obviously had a huge effect on this record and, you know, considering your nursing career has had a huge effect on you over the last couple of years. One of the lyrics that stuck out to me the most from the album that I've gotten goosebumps pretty much every time I've listened to it is, in the last minute of the album, you say you're not the years you spent inside. You can change, and so can I. And I wonder about that. How do you feel like the pandemic has changed you as a person?

MAQ: I think it's made me a lot more, like, reflective and calm and accepting of when life is just uncontrollable chaos, the hurricane, if you will. And none of us could have predicted what has happened. And in Australia, we've had - like, before the pandemic we had the bushfires which devastated, like, hundreds of thousands of people. And recently we've had flooding. And you just - you can't control that. And I think I've become more calm and at peace. And rather than getting swept up in my emotions, I use that to be like - I use it, like, constructively.

PARKS: Well, let's jump into a couple songs now because you're right, this album does feel different also than a lot of what Camp Cope, the music that you all had produced before. And I feel like we pulled a song that really highlights that. It's called "One Wink At A Time." Let's hear a little bit of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE WINK AT A TIME")

CAMP COPE: (Singing) Broke my heart until it opened. I let the whole world inside. I'm open to attention, open to affection. Just one wink at a time. Been standing in the dark. Been watching from afar. Been staring at you for a while.

PARKS: There's like an intimacy and a sort of - I want to say gentleness here that, I wonder, was that intentional or was that a result of kind of, like, changes like you were mentioning in your personality from the pandemic or was this kind of a concerted effort to shift the band's sound a little bit?

MAQ: "One Wink At A Time" reminds me of "Flesh And Electricity" from our first album. And I think that if the pandemic didn't happen, it probably would have sounded more like that. But with this song, I really wanted to utilize my voice as an instrument. And so that's why you'll hear all these, like, oohs (ph) and backing vocals. And I recorded the trumpet at the end because I just, I heard this line, and I wanted a trumpet to play out. And yeah, I'm super proud of this song. I think it's very, like, calm. And it's about, like, kind of the transition between one romance to the next I think. Also, "One Wink At A Time" is like a very obvious Replacements reference.

PARKS: Which I respect a lot.

MAQ: I love The Replacements.

PARKS: I mean, there's so much on this record and this new use of backup vocals. I want to play a little bit of "Blue," which also has a little bit of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE")

MAQ: (Singing) Phone in my hand, still checking if you called. I'm double texting. No, I've never been cool. And I'll burn that bridge when I get to it. Yeah, I'm on fire. It's all blue. You know I feel it and I bet you do. And that's on you. If you want to...

PARKS: So I want to note that this song has one of two references to double texting on this album, which I feel like is simultaneously hilarious, but it's also such an amazing way to get at this very specific sense of powerlessness in a relationship. How would you describe the relationships that you're drawn to writing about and the relationships that ended up on this album?

MAQ: I feel like all my songs when I write about romance, there's always like a kind of darkness about them, I guess, because it's like - to me, it feels like I feel like I'm not being genuine if I write about something just being good and easy. Which is, like, it's funny because the people that I've ended up dating, like, properly are always like the most beautiful people in the entire world. And then the people I end up having crushes on or like little flings with always are a bit indifferent about me, I guess (laughter). And I feel like there was like a time where I was very much drawn to that because it meant that I didn't have to, like, commit to anything, I guess.

PARKS: Yeah. That's fascinating. But the album and the title single, "Running With The Hurricane," which we played at the top of the interview, is also a song by the band Redgum, which your late dad, Hugh McDonald, was a part of, which also has an amazing flute solo, I should mention.

MAQ: (Laughter).

PARKS: What made you want to use that title for this album?

MAQ: When I heard that - not the song, but when I heard the title of the song, it just - it meant something so different to me than when I, like, actually listened to the song and learned what that was about. It just felt like two completely separate things, and I just wanted to steal it, I guess.

PARKS: Talk a little bit about that. I don't know exactly what your dad's song was about. Can you unpack that a little bit?

MAQ: Look. I've got no idea what it's about. There's a line about, like, fire in the Ukraine. And there's like a film clip to it. And it's a family, like, watching, like, a war happen on TV and looking kind of indifferent about that. And I think it's about that attitude towards the evils in the world, I guess a feeling of maybe like helplessness that you can't do anything so you don't do anything. But I'm not sure. I'm not sure what it's about because songs are very much, like, open to interpretation. And it's - yeah, it's quite different from my song because when I heard "Running With The Hurricane," I thought that felt to me like a very - it felt like a metaphor for my life, really.

PARKS: Did your father have any influence on your musical career?

MAQ: Yeah, absolutely. So, like, when I wanted to learn guitar when I was 10, like, he taught me how to play guitar. And he was always like encouraging me to sing and to play. And he bought a piano when I was like 14. And so I taught myself how to play the piano. And yeah, he was extremely encouraging. And he was so proud of Camp Comp and what we all did. Like, it wasn't just about me. He was proud of Kelly and Thomo as well. It was really beautiful.

PARKS: Yeah. Well, before I let you go, I do - I just want to give you a chance to, if you had to pick a song off the record to kind of play us out on, what would you pick?

MAQ: I'm going to pick - oh, there's so many. There's 10 of them. But I'm going to pick "The Screaming Planet."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SCREAMING PLANET")

CAMP COPE: (Singing) Sat and watched the freeway for a hundred thousand years.

MAQ: And that's the song that I thought of first. That's what first came to my mind, because I really like this song. I think it came out really beautifully. And I'm really proud of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SCREAMING PLANET")

CAMP COPE: (Singing) Somewhere I go to be alone.

PARKS: That was Georgia Maq, lead singer and guitarist Camp Cope. Their new album, "Running With The Hurricane," is out now. Georgia Maq, thank you so much for being with us.

MAQ: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.