• Katie Pilbeam

Camp Cope and the Struggle for Equality

In my weekly scour of the internet to find a packed playlist of new music for each week’s High Fidelity radio show I come across lots of new bands and artists that I’ve never heard of before. Some are terrible and don’t make the cut, some sound just the same as the band I listened to before them, but some have a little (or large) something about them that stop me, make me listen harder and compel me to add them to that week’s playlist. Either way, after researching them and playing them on my show, the name of every band or artist I’ve given time to on my show will stay floating around somewhere in my mind until I listen to them again.

So when I saw Aussie indie-folk singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin recently voicing her support on Facebook for fellow Australian band called Camp Cope, I knew I recognised this band from playing them on my show previously. “Having so few women on the line up matters”, wrote Jacklin, “whether or not we realise it at the time, that lack of representation chips away at our belief that we can do this and it chips away at the audience’s belief that we can too”. “Am I a novelty?” she asks later in the post, before continuing, “Yes sure we can go start our own festivals but imagine if we could just exist and be valued in the industry as it stands!”

Jacklin’s ‘Camp Cope Appreciation Post’ came in light of the band’s appearance at Falls Festival down under just five days in to the new year. The year, might I remind us all, is 2018. During their set, Camp Cope changed lyrics in their song ‘The Opener’ to “It’s another fucking festival booking only nine women!”. For a festival in 2018 to be booking a lesser number of women than I have fingers on my hands is simply not okay. Furthermore, none of these female artists played the Falls main stage.

I played ‘The Opener’ on High Fidelity show 7, and it was the track’s lo-fi emo rock guitar tone that initially caught my attention, reminiscent of her labelmates on Run For Cover Records, on this side of the world home to Pinegrove, Basement, Citizen, (Sandy) Alex G, Modern Baseball, Turnover and loads more, and Camp Cope’s sound sits them really nicely in this circle of alt-rock that I love. But it was as I listened closer to the lyrics of ‘The Opener’ that I knew I had to play it on my show: ‘Its another man telling us we can’t fill up the room’, ‘Its another man telling us to book a smaller venue’, ‘YEAH JUST GET ANOTHER FEMALE OPENER THAT’LL FILL THE QUOTA!’ sings frontwoman Georgia MacDonald. The more I listen to the song, the more the rasp in MacDonald’s voice gets under my skin as she sings those lyrics; her voice is sincere and full of the weight of the problem she’s trying to tackle.

Some of the biggest artists in the world are women, Beyoncé, Adele, Rhianna, Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Katy Perry the list is endless. We see these women filling stadiums and headlining festivals. Maybe the pop industry is more forward thinking, and supportive of women and it’s ‘rock’ music that’s left dragging its heels behind. So why, when women aren’t huge pop artists covered in glitter and makeup and half-clothed (which is absolutely fine, by the way) and aren’t catering to a man’s idea of the role they should be filling in their industry, are they not taken seriously? Women like Camp Cope who play guitars, an instrument shaped to fit a man’s body, aren’t given the platforms they need and deserve to become successful. We only need to look at the controversy surrounding Reading and Leeds’ 2015 line up to see that this is true.

And it’s not the case that women aren’t making alternative / guitar music, artists like St. Vincent, PJ Harvey, Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen, Laura Marling, Haim, Wolf Alice, Alvvays, Mitski, Julien Baker (THE LIST IS ENDLESS) could all fit perfectly very near the top of an alternative festival bill. So why, do Falls Festival and Reading and Leeds not feel they can?

Furthermore, this whole discussion, which brings us back round again to men, is dominating and overlooking the music Camp Cope and these women are making. So here, once and for all, it’s time to sort this. It’s time, in 2018, to see huge steps being taken to ensure all environments are safe and accessible for all musicians. At the end of last year, a fantastic independent blog called Gold Flake Paint tweeted something that I felt was extremely poignant: “Ones To Watch 2018 Tip: Support and celebrate whatever and whoever you like regardless of its ability to succeed within an industry dominated by greed and patriarchal tunnel vision”. It is by giving women, trans artists, POC, literally ANY artist you want, as much support as much as we give cis white men that they will thrive. Be vocal about these artists, give them your time and attention. There is no question whether non-male artists ‘should’ be playing main stages, whether they’re ‘good enough’, whether people will ‘want to see them’. They SHOULD, they ARE and they WILL.

This article will feature in the High Fidelity Zine 2, coming soon. Catch High Fidelity back on the Livewire airwaves at the end of the month!


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