“If The Replacements Made Pop With The Veronicas”: Georgia Maq On Her Surprise Solo Album

"It's me, but it just sounds a bit different."

Camp Cope's Georgia Maq on debut solo album 'Pleaser'

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Georgia Maq calls me three days out from the surprise release of Pleaser, her debut solo album, and doubles our allocated time. She’s bursting for a chat.

“It’s been a real struggle to not tell people,” she says. “Well, I’ve been telling everyone. I’ve been like, ‘don’t tell anyone, but I recorded a secret solo album.’ [But] I didn’t tell anyone who I couldn’t trust with that information!”

She judged well. Before it arrives, there are no leaks or murmurs online that Camp Cope’s lead singer is going solo (don’t worry, she’s not leaving the band). She’s happy it stayed mum — for her, it’s part of the album’s appeal.

“It’s nice to be able to finally speak about it to speak about it, [but the surprise]  was very intentional,” she says. “I wanted the narrative to be like, ‘what the fuck? Georgia Maq made a pop album?’.”

Pleaser is a tight, moody eight tracks, written and recorded from mid-June up till Camp Cope went on their UK tour mid-September. For those who know every word to the band’s massive 2018 album How To Socialise & Make Friends, it’ll be a shock.

Guitar only appears on one track, for starters, largely replaced with hazy late-night synths. But the biggest change isn’t necessarily sonic: where Camp Cope are best known for political punk anthems, Maq calls Pleaser a love (and heartbreak) album.

“The album, to me, goes around in a circle, a journey of love and heartbreak and self discovery and self acceptance,” she says. “But then I come back around again. So it’s kind of a bit inconclusive — it contradicts itself.”

“It starts with ‘I’m walking away’ and then ends with ‘If you want to, come back’. [It’s] me being indecisive and can’t really figure out like what I want.”

Maq is quick to point out she’s not referring to one person, or any person in particular. Like Carly Rae Jepsen and Robyn, two influences on Pleaser she mentions, she’s writing about affect, rather than context. Trying to describe it in a sentence, Maq describes Pleaser “as if The Replacements made a pop album with The Veronicas”.

“It’s me,” she promises. “But it just sounds a bit different.”

The Accidental Pleaser

Pleaser came together quickly but “not intentionally”, Maq says. It began when she and producer Darcy Baylis, who she’s known since high school, finally acted on long-standing talk to make music together. Album opener ‘Away From Love’ was where they landed, a break-up ballad that makes the most of Baylis’ emo-trap leanings: it’s a somber retreat.

The two worked on another Pleaser track, ‘Like A Shadow’, but Baylis was busy on his own (excellent) album, A House Breaking, to commit to more. Maq turned to an old housemate from her first shitty Footscray share-house, bedroom-pop darling Katie Dey. She says they were instantly on the same wavelength, even if they fought like sisters.

“I’d say, ‘I want something drone-y and dark underneath this’, and she’d be like, ‘I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” she says. “And then it would be exactly what I had in mind.”

After their first session, Maq’s mind was set: she was going to make a solo album, and Dey had to produce the rest of it. Writing proved distinct from Camp Cope — much more instinctual, and leaving meaning intentionally murky. Feeling becomes the focus, with room left for interpretation as needed.

“The best songs are the ones that you can transfer your own life and your own lived experience [onto],” she says. “That’s my hope for this — that like people can find something in a reflect their own experiences and feel less alone by knowing someone else’s felt that too.”

“Even though when I feel shitty and I listen to a song that’s about feeling shitty, I don’t feel any less shitty or less alone,” she laughs.

Pleaser‘s title-track anchors the album: no matter the situation, Maq feels doomed to show love through devotion. “It’s like, you feel so strongly that you’d help them fucking bury a body, you know what I mean?”, Maq says. “But then, it’s fucked, because it’s to your own detriment that you would put yourself on the line for somebody else, or please someone when it doesn’t make you happy.”

“That’s my hope for this — that like people can find something in a reflect their own experiences and feel less alone by knowing someone else’s felt that too.”

Which is why Pleaser oscillates between frustration and excitement, resentment and open-arms; they all stem from the same place. Feelings shift, but across the album, driving remains a constant, whether Maq’s singing about car crashes or late-night drives. When I ask her about it as a motif, Maq says she’d noticed it pops up a lot, but hadn’t quite worked out why. We circle: first, Maq talks about being “completely obsessed” with her ’80s Volvo Sedan, though that gives in, like the album, to the feeling of it.

“I feel like it’s kind a lonely kind thing, cause I’m always just driving myself somewhere,” she says. “[And] if you’re just driving around because you got nothing but nothing to do, you’re just doing it to move…. I like driving because it has given me so much freedom. I could drive to fucking Western Australia — not that I want to — but I could do it. And that is such a freeing feeling.”

Even if for 45 minutes, mobility is freedom: a late-night drive offers a lot of space, and the reminder you can leave where you are. I tell Maq it reminds me of the ‘fuck-off fund’, an idea popularised by writer Paulette Herach that women need to have a savings buffer to escape bad situations, whether that be a shitty relationship, job, or something else.

“That’s been my mentality since was I was like 18,” she says. “[I’ve] gotta have money and I gotta be able to escape. It’s just modern survival, I guess, as a woman… The idea of being [trapped] makes me so scared.  And I think that’s why I’ve learned to be so independent and self-reliant.”

But when you’re a pleaser, it’s a difficult line to draw. On opener ‘Away From Love’, Maq walks off; on closer ‘Big Embarrassing Heart’, she waits with open arms. Is it romance, self-sabotage, or something in-between?

“This song is just me being like, ‘I’m alone. I’m by myself. Once we had something and now we don’t but if you want to come back, I’m going to be here. I’ll always be here. I’m not going anywhere and I’m open to you and your time’. I’ll fucking do whatever. I’m a pleaser.”

Georgia Maq’s Pleaser is out now via Poison City Records/Run For Cover.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. He is on Twitter.