Q&A with Frankie Cosmos

Greta Kline once said that somebody compared her music to the sound of catchy commercial jingles. Kline, otherwise known as Frankie Cosmos, took this as a compliment and cited her improvement. “Now, I think more about craft. I’ll have like ten of those jingles and I’ll work on compiling them in an intricate way.” Since her early years as a teenager, she’s been recording and uploading songs to Bandcamp, and now has released her second LP (the first under Bayonet Records). Kline takes the smaller factors of life, morphs them into compelling symbolism, and fits them into short tunes that pack a punch. Songs like “Korean Food,” “Fireman” and “Outside with the Cuties” are quick and to the point, but leave a lasting impression. Allow me to unabashedly cite a YouTube comment in my overall impression of Kline’s music, “you have to have a really deep soul to appreciate this amazing song.” I was fortunate enough to speak with her for a bit and got to ask her a few questions.

Christian T: So you just came off a tour in Europe, how did that go?

Greta Kline: It was great; it was really cool. I went to a lot of really faraway places. It was wild.

Marco Dimaculangan // http://www.marcodimacs.com
Frankie Cosmos at Webster Hall in NYC.

CT: Did you have a favorite venue or favorite city that you visited?

GK: There are so many really cool places. My favorite was probably Utrecht, just because it was so beautiful, and we got to spend a morning there and played a show with some really good friends of mine that I hadn’t seen in awhile. It was a special time.

CT: That’s great. I was interested in going back to the start of your music career. Your initial name was Ingrid Superstar, but I’ve never really understood what the meaning behind that name was. Could you tell me a bit more about it?

GK: Honestly, there was no meaning, it was just a made up character (laughs). No more meaning than any other band name.

CT: Since that time, you’ve gone from recording sick in your bedroom, and now you’re playing in more professional studios and venues. You’ve noted that with the release of Zentropy, that there was no real anticipation for what its impact was going to be, but with your last album, there was more of a preparation, and a realization that this is a real record from a real band. In your eyes, how do you think the approach and reception to your latest album has differed from that of Zentropy?

GK: When I was recording Zentropy, I didn’t even know that it was going to have a physical release or that it would be on a label. I wasn’t imagining anybody else listening to it. So with Next Thing, we knew we were going to put it out with Bayonet and on a bunch of platforms, like vinyl. I’d also already gone through the experience of having people write about my music which is a totally new thing for me. So while we were making Next Thing, I was slightly more aware of all this, although I was also simultaneously trying to remind myself not to expect anybody would care about it. But knowing that it would be heard by at least somebody made me take it a bit more seriously, and I had a sort of vision for it. I knew what kind of sounds I wanted and I also had more experience and could explain these sort of things in the studio, so that was a new experience for me all around, and it was also the first time I had been touring with the songs before recording them, so there was a lot more time put into completing the arrangements. It was really different.

Marco Dimaculangan // http://www.marcodimacs.com
Marco Dimaculangan // http://www.marcodimacs.com

CT: In his review of your last album, Kevin Lozano from Pitchfork wrote that most lyric sheets are utilitarian, but your lyrics read like a book of poetry. I was wondering if your lyrics come to you as poems initially, or do you do the instrumentation before, or is there no real order to it?

GK: There’s no regular order. It goes both ways, sometimes I write a bunch of lyrics first and then work on the melody after. But sometimes I’m writing lyrics to a form of a song that I already have. I just do it a bunch of different ways. I usually would never consider something a poem and then also use that same thing as lyrics, I feel like those two things are really different. I did really appreciate Kevin writing that, and I thought it was really cool, but if I were going to do a poetry reading I probably wouldn’t read any lyrics to a song. Things I would write to be read as poetry would be pretty different.

CT: Speaking of poetry, as seen in your band name, Frank O’Hara is a large inspiration of yours. You’ve also spoken of K Records and Michael Hurley as some of your favorite musicians. What other poets or artists have influenced your work?

GK: There are so many, and I think about this a lot. Everything that you take in kind of influences you, whether or not you want it to. Especially in this last year, I’ve been listening to a lot of music more than I have in the past and I feel like all of that is having some sort of effect on me. But yeah, I read and listen to music, and I watch TV a lot (laughs). All of that has an effect on my writing.

CT: Anything in particular?

GK: I feel like every time that I say an actual specific thing it takes on a much larger meaning. Frank O’Hara hasn’t influenced me much more than some band that I’ve gotten into in the last year. I don’t want to raise his influence above anybody else’s, because I feel like they are all equal. I feel weird saying the name of a specific thing. It’s hard to explain. I just try to take in a lot of stuff. I feel wrong trying to pinpoint one figure.

CT: In what may be one of my favorite music videos of all time, you recorded “Outside with the Cuties” for Pitchfork with director Garrett Weinholtz. How did the idea for the video come about, and what was the recording process like?

GK: It’s funny, everybody calls that a music video and in my head it doesn’t really count as one. Pitchfork was doing this collaboration with GoPro and they had this idea fully formed and asked, “Do you want to go to this really beautiful, weird place and make this video?” So they sent me an Uber (laughs) and I went out to New Jersey with an amp and my guitar and they just had a really nice team of people. We recorded at Northland, and I played the song a couple of times, but we couldn’t get the amp to fit in the actual set, so even though I did play the song on set, I also had to record it.

CT: I saw you in concert at Webster Hall alongside Eskimeaux, All Dogs, and Florist. You’ve also listed Gabrielle of Eskimeaux on the artist credits for Next Thing. How did you start working with Gabrielle and the rest of The Epoch project?

GK: I was up at Bard, I was there because Aaron, my boyfriend, was playing a solo show, and I can’t remember if Gabby was playing or if it was her friends, but we ended up hanging out. She had her dog with her and we just started talking and formed this friendship. She hadn’t heard my music until a little after that. She moved to Chicago and her friend showed her my Bandcamp and she was really into it. She told me that if I ever needed someone else to collaborate with, she’d want to play in my band. When she moved back to New York, she came in to fill in for my bassist, David Maine, he was in school and he couldn’t do tours so Gabby was originally filling in for him during a tour. Once David finished school, we were wondering how we could keep Gabby in the band, so we added keyboard (laughs). She’s great.

CT: Finally, I was wondering if you have any new recommendations. Any up and coming bands or projects you’d like more people to know about.

GK: Ooo… yeah! I really like the Warehouse album Superlow that’s coming out soon, that’s gonna be amazing. I also recently got into this album RESPECT by Squarehead from Ireland who we played with when we were over there, they’re a great band. I’ve listened to both these albums a lot recently.

Be sure to check out Frankie Cosmos at the Middle East in Boston on November 12th, 2016!

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