In December, Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq released her solo pop album, Pleaser, as a continuing act of being unabashedly herself.
In the latter half of the past decade, Melbourne-based singer and guitarist Georgia Maq amassed a large following fronting Camp Cope. With the three-piece punk band, she writes blunt, confessional songs that tackle complex emotions, from experiencing sexual harassment to mental health struggles. But Maq’s debut solo album, Pleaser, takes her music in a completely different direction, showcasing another side of herself.
“People think my music is who I am, so that’s how they base their opinion of me—I wanted to break them out of me,” says Maq about listeners’ expectations. “To everyone who thinks they know me, [Pleaser says] ‘Nah, here’s a pop album about being rejected!'”
Maq appropriately pulled a Beyoncé move by surprise-releasing her pop debut in early December. But that wasn’t the only shocker—she intentionally made the opening track, “Away From Love,” to be the only song on Pleaser with guitar, sounding slyly akin to her previous work. “I wanted that to be a guitar song, because I knew from the beginning that I wanted to freak people out and confuse them,” she says. “So, if someone’s picking up the album for the first time, and listening to it, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, it’s just gonna be like an acoustic Camp Cope album,’ but then it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s so not that.'”
Maq made the album with Run For Cover labelmate and former roommate Katie Dey, but the LP emerged with the encouragement of producer and longtime friend Darcy Baylis. She had visited Baylis this past June for a jam session, when they began writing music together for the first time and where “Away From Love” originated from. “I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is the direction I want to go in,'” says Maq. “So I hit up Katie Dey, and we just started making some songs together until I was like, ‘Bitch, I want you to produce an album for me.'”
Pleaser took form during visits to Dey’s house, where they’d experiment with sound. It took Maq to new territory, with songs like the album’s title track and “Like I Do” taking on moody, synth-heavy beats, and “You’ll Be Singing My Name” becoming a lively piano ballad. Maq had written part of the anthemic, defiant song about rejection before teaming up with Dey, and she jokingly refers to “You’ll Be Singing My Name” as her “Lorde song,” evoking the empowerment of Melodrama‘s “Writer in the Dark” with a sound reminiscent to “Green Light.”
“That was the hardest song to fucking write, oh my god,” says Maq. “I had the first verse written for like, three years-ish—I wrote that in America, after a kind of one-off romantic encounter.” Maq kept a phone recording of the verse played on acoustic guitar, but didn’t know what direction to take with the rest of the song. That is, until playing it on the piano with Dey, where it took on new life: “I could never place it anywhere until me and Katie morphed it into a pop song.”
The theme of the album—love and heartbreak—feels different from the more politically attuned topics Maq has been known for tackling with Camp Cope, but there’s still some of that punk attitude in this record, particularly in its title track.
“I feel like people see me as the opposite of a pleaser,” says Maq. “I’m just this loud-mouthed bitch who doesn’t care what anybody thinks, but then… Do you know what a switch is? [It’s] someone who can be a top and a bottom. I feel like I’m a bit of a switch. When I like someone, I’m like, ‘I’ll do literally anything for you,’ but with other shit, I’m like, ‘Eh, I don’t care.’
Maq mentions that writing Pleaser was “as close as I’ve ever gotten to express a very deep part of me.” It not only challenges perceptions about her, but exposes her innermost insecurities, inviting listeners to identify with her experiences: “It’s me at my most vulnerable, when my emotions are out of my own hands. That’s something I’m trying to work on. We’ve all got shit to work on. And mine’s like, ‘Okay, maybe you shouldn’t care what this dumb idiot man thinks, or care whether he likes you or not.'”
That’s not to say that Maq hasn’t exposed her vulnerabilities in Camp Cope, but the lyrical style feels vastly different. “It’s more safe, and not really real, whereas with Camp Cope, it’s very tangible—like riding a bike, or addressing sexism,” she says. “[Pleaser] is like, ‘I’m floating on a cloud and I’m in love,’ or whatever. I always want people to be able to relate, and it’s a relatable album because heartbreak and rejection are something people experience.”
Making a pop album might seem completely unexpected for some fans, but before delving into punk, Maq wanted to emulate her childhood pop icons, P!nk and Christina Aguilera. She points out that pop stars are awarded with a certain freedom to explore sensuality as part of their personas—and Maq, who has embodied a social media presence on Instagram that recalls a punk version of the Kardashians and “Dirrty” era Xtina, wanted to embrace that essence as part of her music, too. “I feel like all women think, ‘I myself am the most sexual, horny person in the entire world,’ and nearly every woman feels that way because it’s so suppressed,” she says. “I just wanted to embrace a bit of that with pop, [which] really allows me to do that.”
Looking back, Maq notes that there weren’t many women in pop she could identify with: “When I was younger, I needed to see myself in more women. [At] 13, I saw myself in Amanda Palmer because she didn’t shave her legs or anything. But from then on, I didn’t see myself represented, really, in a pop kind of arena.” That’s something she wants to change for new generations with Pleaser, as evident on the album cover.
Pleaser‘s artwork features a nude close-up of Maq that emulates early 2000s pop album cover portraits. But this one celebrates Maq’s facial hair, turning traits that women are often told are flaws into something beautiful and powerful. “I’m a bitch with a mustache and chin hair, and it’s just the way I am,” she says. “I used to feel really ashamed of it, and now I’m not. I hope that will inspire other people to stop conforming to Western beauty standards. It’s your body, your choice, everybody should do what they want; this is just my personal journey that I’m on.”
Maq mentions that she wanted the album cover to be perfectly imperfect, featuring her hair in an unkempt ponytail and proudly making her facial hair and scar on her lip front and center. “It was very intentional to do a very hot looking album cover but still make it punk.”
Since becoming one of Australia’s most prominent DIY punk figures in the past decade, and now dipping her feet into pop, Maq isn’t rushing into the next project. She confesses that she toys with the idea of moving to Greece, working at a bar, and starting from scratch, putting her life in Melbourne on pause. But that doesn’t mean she wants to give up expressing herself artistically: “I want to make a country album, I want to keep putting my art into the world—but at the same time, I want to take a break from the scene.”