Camp Cope's Georgia Maq on Giving People Vaccines, Frightened Rabbit, and Why She Doesn't Like Her Solo Album

Camp Cope's Georgia Maq on Giving People Vaccines, Frightened Rabbit, and Why She Doesn't Like Her Solo Album
Georgia Maq by Jo Duck

I really like Georgia Maq's songwriting, both as Camp Cope and through her solo music. When she hopped on Zoom with me a few days ago, she'd pretty much gotten straight out of bed and managed to conduct an entire interview while feeding both of her cats, cooking herself breakfast, and eating said breakfast—all on camera, all while getting ready for work. Needless to say, we all have a lot to live up to when it comes to that kind of productivity.

Your publicist mentioned that you're working as part of the vaccine rollout in Australia.

Yeah! I'm a nurse. I got my nursing qualification when I was 20, but because I was playing in a band I didn't want to do it straight away, so I put it off for years. Then the pandemic happened, and I was like, "Fuck. I got this set of skills that is really needed right now. If I don't use it, that's kind of shit." There's a different course you have to do to give vaccinations, so I did a course and got that set of skills and knowledge.

Now I work in community health. We're in charge of getting the vaccines to places where they're needed a lot—marginalized communities, people living in public housing, people experiencing homelessness, alcohol and drug users. That's what I do every day! I'm the lead nurse, which is weird for me. Isn't that weird? I'm such a loser.

I think it's really cool, actually!

It's pretty cool. Sometimes we have to set up new clinics in the public housing commission areas, and we just watch people come in, vaccinate them, and educate them.

I saw on your Instagram that you were testing people for COVID at the beginning of the pandemic.

That fucking sucked. I fucking hate COVID testing, only because—I don't know how they do it in the U.S., I assume it's the same, but they stick that fucking thing so far into your nose. It's so brutal. Being COVID tested is horrible, and I hated having to do that on people. You have to wear the most hectic PPE—gown, gloves, hairnet, those fucking things that go over your shoes, face shield, a really hectic face-sucking mask. It's so brutal.

What's your perspective as to how the Australian government's handled the pandemic?

Oh, mate—I fucking hate the government. Not just because of this, but because they're the most fucked cunts on earth. It's like, "Let's put a bunch of white men who are also sociopaths, who don't care about other people, who don't care about helping the world, in charge and let them make all the decisions for everyone." It's FUCKED! It's so fucked.

Australia had such a good chance of not getting COVID at all because we're isolated at the bottom of the Earth. COVID came over on a cruise ship called the Ruby Princess—a luxury fucking cruise ship full of fucking rich people. What did they do? They didn't get them to quarantine or isolate, and they didn't test them for fucking COVID. They let COVID into the country! And when it did get here, we had the lockdowns and shit, and that was really effective, and then the vaccine rollout has just been so slow.

There's so much hesitancy around the vaccine. In theory, it works to do it in stages—let's vaccine the essential workers, the elderly and immunocompromised because they have the highest chance of death. But if it isn't mandatory or encouraged by the government, then all they do is put out scare campaigns, which is not effective at all. And they let misinformation run free on our version of Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch—same fucking cunt.

They let misinformation out there. The vaccine rollout has just been a shitshow. I got people asking me, "What if it makes me magnetic? What if it affects my unborn child?" Well, there's all this evidence actually saying it doesn't, and it's actually beneficial. Here it is! But they'd rather listen to someone on fucking Facebook about it.

Is Australia doing another lockdown right now? I'm kind of confused as to where you guys are at with the general social climate.

I'm in Melbourne, and it's how it's been all along. We're open if you're rich, and if you're poor and you need to get back to Australia or come here for refuge, you can fuck off. That's been Australia's attitude, and it's so fucked up. I fucking hate Australia.

Yeah, in the U.S. it's been similar. The government just mostly doesn't help people the way they should.

Fucking Mitch McConnell refusing to give people $1300 or whatever! We were really fortunate here last year that the government implemented—our basic welfare amount is below the poverty line, but last year they lifted it above the poverty line, so. [Rueful laugh] Even with inflation and shit, Australia's welfare weekly amount hasn't changed since the '90s. It's like, if you're poor, have fun starving!

What's the mutual aid situation been like?

Last year, the Victorian government here in Melbourne, there was an outbreak at a high rise at the commission flats I work at. They locked the whole thing down and didn't let people leave when they were needing methodone and culturally appropriate meals and shit. So the community really came out to help. There was lots of support for that. I was volunteering at this youth center across the road and we were sorting out heaps of food and nappies and Panadol for people living in the high rises.

It's been really beautiful. Whenever lockdown happens, on some people's (Instagram) Stories I'll be like, "Hey, if you need financial assistance, let me know." A lot of casual workers didn't qualify for payments, and this year there's been no meaningful government assistance, which is why this lockdown has hit so hard for so many people. It's fucked. Shit's fucked up, breh.

How has life been like for you personally?

It's been okay. I've been pretty isolated because I live alone, and did so throughout all of lockdown. That was fine, but there were some days where I really wanted company and didn't have it. But I got two cats, I'm happy. I've still been writing music and, I dunno, on Tinder. It's fine.

You mentioned to me earlier as an aside that Australia's Wi-Fi really sucks. Does that make it harder to keep in touch with other people during times of isolation?

It's not massively bad, it's just really slow and shit. When you try to watch something on Netflix, it keeps pausing. Fuck the government. I remember at the start of the pandemic people were using Houseparty, and that was fun. I've had lots of nights on Zoom with people where I'd connect with them more. You FaceTime and have phone calls. It's really nice, but it's also terrible when you can't see your friends and have a hug.

You put out Pleaser right before the pandemic really started. What was it like to gear up for a promo push only to have a pandemic happen?

It was kind of fine. I'm not very confident performing my solo stuff because it's kind of scary to me, and also I don't really like the record all that much.

Why not?

I don't know. It was just rushed and dumb, and a lot of it was done on GarageBand. [Laughs] Katie Dey and Darcy Baylis produced the songs on it, because I was the backseat driver being like, "I want this there! This is how I want it!" They're amazing. But in terms of the general bones of the songs that I'm responsible for, I'm not really a big fan of. I tend to not get that hung up on stuff because I'm like, "There's bigger shit at play." Who cares if I can't play a show? People are dying. There's bigger things to worry about. We've had so many shows cancelled, and I'm just like, it happens.

What are your listening habits like in terms of the stuff that inspires you and works its way into your own writing?

I love pop music. All I want to do is write pop songs. Last year, when we were in month seven of lockdown, I wrote an album by myself. I learned how to use Ableton and I made another pop record. I love pop music structures and I love how they make me feel. I don't really listen to a lot of bands. I listen to Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande and the Weeknd and shit.

Are you a Lil Peep fan?

Yeah! Rest in peace.

I heard a little bit of Peep in your solo album.

Some of the songs I was definitely drawing influence from Soundcloud rap. Whatever I'm listening to at the moment, that's what I tend to emulate. I've been listening to heaps of Mac Miller, and I really want to start writing songs like that, because I love him. Rest in peace, that beautiful fucking man. I love him.

It really bums me out how we keep losing lots of young artists who make a huge impact in a short time, and then they're gone. I feel bad for younger listeners too because this process of having to grieve your idols' deaths seems constant now.

Do you like the band Frightened Rabbit?

I do.

I will never get over Scott's death. That shattered my heart into a million pieces. I commissioned a portrait of him on my wall [tilts the camera to show the portrait]. I have so many Frightened Rabbit tattoos. He had such a big impact on me. If I think about it too much, I'll cry. I loved him. I loved him so much. I never met him. I know he heard the first Camp Cope album and really liked it. That also made me cry, of course. I listen to a lot of Frightened Rabbit.

What is it about Scott's songwriting that touches you? It seems like a lot of people who were really impacted by his music as a whole, which I only became aware of after he passed.

Frightened Rabbit were one of those bands that were so emotive. You wouldn't put it on at a party. You put it on when you were listening to it by yourself. You either connect with them on a really deep level or you just don't understand, which is a really weird and rare thing. The emotions that he sung about were so universal and dark. He was such an amazing songwriter. I love his songs and his lyrics. I can't put my finger on it, and that's why he is so special. You can't listen to Frightened Rabbit and not feel something.

When you write music for your solo work and for Camp Cope, do the processes bleed into each other at this point?

I write a song and know that it's gonna be a Camp Cope or solo pop song, because all the pop songs I write are made as they're being recorded. I just go on Ableton, find some samples, start writing the music, and then write the lyrics. Camp Cope is kind of like, I have the lyrics and melody in my head, I get it out on guitar, and I can hear how I want the production and harmonies. It's a different way of writing, because one's on a computer and the other is acoustic.

We've talked a lot about how shit has been terrible pretty much everywhere for the entirety of time, but I'm curious to hear you talk about what gives you hope when it comes to your own personal experiences and within communities.

It's when people who aren't millionaires go out of their way to help people less fortunate than them. It's when their community comes together to help out, like when there was a lockdown at commission flats and they surrounded it with police and wouldn't let anyone out, and people were putting signs in their windows and saying "Help," and the community turned out to get food and medicine in there. People really cared.

I feel like my purpose in life is to help others. That's why I'm not fazed about the music stuff anymore. I really enjoy being a nurse. You see a lot of people who have nothing to gain helping other people, and I think it's the most beautiful thing in the world. What is life without other people? Bearing witness to that is just so meaningful, and it gives me back a bit of hope. Also, the kids! Kids are fucking amazing—how they're fighting for climate justice and their future. They're incredible.

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Jamie Larson