Lending courage to her listeners, the sentiment of the music of Frankie Cosmos, the alternative identity of 19-year-old Greta Kline, is that everyone can relate to uneasiness. Constantly piecing together the worries, obsessions, and pleasures of her personal journal, Frankie Cosmos’ has demos upon demos of earnest tracks. Most listeners recognize Frankie Cosmos’ music by the intimate bedroom recorded songs of her Bandcamp page, but on tour she takes a whole band with her to make for a fuller sound, but just as dear of an experience.
Fortunately, we had the pleasure catching up with Kline and her band, including her boyfriend Aaron Maine, Aaron’s brother David Maine, and Kline’s good friend Gabrielle Smith, before they shared a bill with Krill and Mutual Benefit at Great Scott in Allston.
FCS: You always seem to talk about the suburbs within your songs. Are you originally from New York City?
Kline: I am, I’m from Manhattan. I just love the suburbs a lot. Aaron is from Pleasantville and that’s why I write about the suburbs also, because I am in love with Aaron.
FCS: Who is Frankie Cosmos for you?
Kline: It’s basically me with my window, or separation between me and the audience to bare all.
FCS: How did the band get together under Frankie Cosmos?
Kline: Aaron and I started playing just guitar and drums. Originally, when I started playing shows I needed drums because I don’t like to be alone on stage and then we David on the bass this summer and Gabby learned the bass for a tour because David is in school. Then we realized that we couldn’t survive without Gabby singing harmonies and so she’s just here to sing and might learn to play other instruments soon too. The band is in constant reformation.
FCS: How did Gabby come into the mix?
Smith: We met at an Aaron Maine show at Bard (College). Then, I asked Greta to take care of my dog, Frankie, the next day.
Kline: I had also heard Gabby’s music when I was 15 because Gabby has a band called, Eskimeaux, that’s amazing and I was like ‘O my gosh you’re Eskimeaux?’ and she gave me the keys to her house the next day, and I took care of her dog, Frankie, for five hours.
FCS: Is this where the name Frankie or Frankie Cosmos came from?
Kline: No, it was actually just a coincidence. We were at Bard at her friend’s house and she and her friends were just being friends with each other and I heard them saying “Frankie”, so I asked, “Are you guys talking about me? Is that the dog’s name? That’s my name!”. It was just immediate friendship.
Smith: I has played a bunch of shows with Aaron, but I always had to leave after my set and Aaron always played after me. Then, I finally got to see his set at Bard and all of the magic happened!
FCS: You are frequently writing music and releasing groups of about 12 songs at a time. What is your approach to songwriting?
Kline: I have a notebook filled with ideas, but it’s a little different every time. Some of my favorite songs like, ‘Cow Meeting’ came from taking my notebook and writing my favorite things from it on a big piece of paper, and then circling the ideas that I want to be in one song, so the song is really about nothing. It’s about ten different things and me sitting down to put them all together. Whenever I have 12 or so songs, I just release them, because why not.
FCS: Most of your material includes specific names of people and places. What is the advantage of writing specific things into the songs?
Kline: I guess it’s more journaly, I’m keeping an archive of my life. It’s just like a journal, just telling everything about my life to everyone. I started, assuming no one’s going to listen to it. I put it on Bandcamp, where I had two friends and my mom who listened to everything. No one sent it to anyone or anything, so I figured why not put names in and everything.
FCS: Is the new album, Zentropy, going to include new and old material?
Kline: Pretty much all of the songs have been released as demos, but they are new recordings that sound way more true to how the band sounds live.
FCS: Everything on your Bandcamp has an organic feel and in some of the songs you can even hear an outside siren…
Kline: Oh ya, we have lots of that! We live right next to a fire station.
FSC: When you went into the studio for Zentropy, did it take away from this organic nature of the songs?
Kline: It was just totally different, but actually super organic also. Aaron came in with me, he played drums and I played guitar at the same time for the basic track, and then we just went in adding more stuff. It’s just having more access to having it sound good. I don’t think it was constraining in any way.
FCS: Why the title, Zentropy?
Kline: Funny you should ask! I have this book in my backpack [pulls out Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings]. This is where the band name came from and where my obsession with Zen came from. I made up the album title up in the studio, but let me read the story about “The Emptiness”: “You have not spoken of emptiness. We have not heard emptiness. This is the true emptiness”. This is why I call the band “The Emptiness” and this is why I never say the band name. These guys are like “The Emptiness” [laughs].
Zentropy is me learning how to record in a studio, getting used to being Zen about being told that the take isn’t perfect; having someone else to say ‘O, you’re not singing it perfectly. We’re going to have to do it ten more times’, or whatever because that’s how a studio recording works. It’s so worth it, but you have to take on a really Zen attitude. It’s my decent into letting them commandeer experience.
Frankie Cosmos’ first LP, Zentropy, is set for a March 4th release on Double Double Whammy Records, including 18 minutes on one side and visual art by Gabrielle Smith and Susannah Cutler, screen-printed on the other.