Camp Cope: ‘We changed the music industry because it didn’t suit us’

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Camp Cope: ‘We changed the music industry because it didn’t suit us’

Camp Cope
Words by Bryget Chrisfield

For our interview, Camp Cope’s bassist and new mum Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich Zooms in from her home in Western Sydney. Singer-guitarist Georgia Maq joins the chat from Melbourne and points out her pappous (Greek term for grandfather), who is pottering around in the background.

We’re told this cover shoot was actually the first time Maq and Camp Cope’s drummer Sarah ‘Thomo’ Thompson met their bandmate’s baby, Coda, who, you’ve gotta admit, is an absolute natural in front of the camera. 

There’s footage of Hellmrich playing bass on stage while six months pregnant in the music video for the title track from their latest, Australian Music Prize-shortlisted record, Running With The Hurricane, and we can’t help but wonder whether Coda perks up whenever Camp Cope songs are played, having regularly heard them in the womb. Hellmrich confirms he most definitely does, adding that another track on this album, Sing Your Heart Out, is actually her son’s personal fave. But since the majority of this song is a piano ballad and his mum’s bass contributions don’t kick in ‘til around the song’s final quarter, Hellmrich jokes, “I’m not even in it that long! So I’m a bit sour about that.”

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Throughout her “whole pregnancy”, Hellmrich tells us she used to sing It’ll All Work Out by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and has also noticed Coda “hyperfocuses” whenever he hears that particular song: “I sing it every time he is upset now and, yeah, he recognises it. Babies are so cool!”

Scenes from the hospital, when Coda was actually born, feature in the music video for Sing Your Heart Out. It interpolates live Camp Cope footage from some of their highlight performances over the years from home movies (Veebs, Thomo’s cat of 18 years, and her new kitten Jennifer also make appearances).

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Coda actually went on the road with Camp Cope when they travelled to New Zealand for a couple of shows – which ended up being cancelled due to floods – earlier this year. Hellmrich recalls: “We were there right up until the show was about to start and he was really good during load-in, soundcheck and everything… I’ve been really blessed with a very chill baby as well, so he made it very easy.” 

When asked whether seeing other muso mums making it work inspired her to have a child of her own, Hellmrich reveals, “I always wanted kids, but I thought I could never do it. But our tour manager Lani [Purkis] was in this band in New Zealand called Elemeno P. So I was talking to her – she’s got two sons – and I said one night, ‘I wish I had kids, but I’ve chosen to play music, so…’ And she was like, ‘I did it. I brought my son to Texas, New York, Paris, Big Day Out – you just do it… So she kind of put that idea into my head.

“But then I saw Hannah [Joy] from Middle Kids playing pregnant – and that’s singing and playing, which I can’t even imagine; playing bass was hard enough. And Isabella Manfredi as well: she was playing pregnant and looking absolutely gorgeous doing it, too. I dunno how she looked so amazing, when I was pregnant I felt like – you know the scene where the girl eats the blueberry in Willy Wonka [& The Chocolate Factory]? That’s how I felt,” she shares, laughing. “And when I was a kid, I saw Yumi Stynes. She was hosting Channel V and I remember she was at the Big Day Out or the ARIAs or something, interviewing artists, and she was in a crop top and pregnant. And that image is still in my brain from when I was really little.”

Maq contributes, “I remember when we were in LA and Anna Lunoe was there, and she was pregnant and it was just beautiful. And I was like, ‘Go you, you’re so cool!’” 

“I think it’s really cool, but it also depends on the pregnancy as well,” Hellmrich cautions. “The first half of my pregnancy I really struggled to, like, even get out of bed. So I wanna promote that you can do anything when you’re pregnant but also some people can’t, as well. It should be normalised, but also I don’t want women to feel the pressure that you have to do everything you did before [you got pregnant].

“I’ve made the whole pregnancy journey, and the birth and being a mum, part of my image on social media, ‘cause it’s like: this is me now. None of us have ever tried to pretend to be something that we’re not in our everyday lives.” 

Prior to conceiving Coda, Hellmrich had a miscarriage and was still dealing with the associated physical and emotional trauma while doing promo for Running With The Hurricane. She shared the devastating news of her miscarriage on social media and explains, “I wanted people to know; I didn’t want to have to go through and message everybody individually. I wanted to help reduce the stigma of suffering in silence and then also to honour that baby as well. I felt like I wanted people to know – it was a girl – that she existed. So it was a way of honouring her. I wanted people to know about her, because she was a part of my life, too. So I’m really glad that I did that. It was one of the best things I ever did, to be honest.  

“And it helped me. It was hundreds and hundreds of messages I got from people who had gone through the same thing. I’m so glad that I shared it; I wasn’t sure whether to, but I’m so glad I did.” 

Maq says that Camp Cope “constantly talked about” Hellmrich’s plans to start a family. Hellmrich remembers, smiling, “I said that when I’m 30 I’m having a baby and I’m gonna bring them on tour. And then I literally had him when I was 30! I manifested it.”

“You manifested it, yeah,” Maq concurs. “I love Coda so much. He’s so cute. He makes touring so much better. I just wanted to hold him all the time and she wouldn’t let me! She wouldn’t let me wear the baby carrier. I was so sad. I’d just stare at him while he was asleep, like a fucking psycho [laughs]. He’s just so cute it’s fucked! But Camp Cope has just always made things work. We changed the music industry because it didn’t suit us.

“I feel like we’ve always just been a very realistic band. We’ve never looked too flashy, all our film clips are just kind of like live performances or us playing and, you know, that was quite intentional because we always just wanted to show who we really are and how you don’t have to look a certain way to play in a band or behave a certain way or fit into someone else’s idea of what a woman in music should be. We just made our own path.”

“But men are allowed, they just get up there in their jeans and their T-shirt,” Hellmrich observes. Maq: “They just do whatever they want.”

“We’ve got friends in the industry that were being told – this was, like, a decade ago – that they had to grow their hair out and wear dresses if they wanted to make music as women and that stuff was done in secret,” Hellmrich recalls. “But it’s still very much done: you have to look a certain way if you’re gonna appeal to a certain audience and I feel like, yeah, being a mother, that doesn’t fit that image that they wanna sell. But we’re artists, we’re not looking to sell an image that people can eat up.” 

“Yeah, people forget that musicians aren’t models,” Maq agrees. 

Camp Cope have since announced they’re breaking up, a mysterious decision they resist delving into at this stage, and will perform their farewell shows as part of the upcoming Brunswick Festival. Hellmrich actually lived in Brunswick for a couple of years, which she remembers fondly: “It’s one of the favourite places I’ve lived.”

“I think Brunswick’s quite cool because we wrote Running With The Hurricane there,” Maq shares, before Hellmrich confirms, “Yeah, in the rehearsal space.” 

After Hellmrich admits, “I can’t wait to see the cover. I haven’t seen it yet!” Maq excitedly fills her pappous in on the fact that Camp Cope are gracing the cover of Beat’s March print edition. Then Hellmrich’s partner passes Coda into her arms and Maq beams, “Oh, exciting!” before trying to attract the baby’s attention: “Coda, Coda, look at me! Hi, hello. Oh my god, he’s so perfect. He’s so huge now!” Hellmrich acknowledges, wistfully, “I know.”

Camp Cope are playing two shows at Estonian House on March 11 for Brunswick Music Festival.

Beat is an official media partner of Brunswick Music Festival.