Discovery: Frankie Cosmos

By
Photography Sam Clarke

Published February 12, 2014

ABOVE: GRETA KLINE, AKA FRANKIE COSMOS. PHOTO BY SAM CLARKE

Greta Kline, daughter of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, is still a teenager, but she has already released more songs than many musicians do in a lifetime. Under the name Frankie Cosmos, a pseudonym that pays homage to both Frank O’Hara and the songwriting of her boyfriend and frequent collaborator Aaron Maine (of Porches.), she’s taken to Bandcamp with upwards of 40 releases in under four years. Though these collections bear all the hallmarks of bedroom recordings (charmingly low fidelity, the constant bleed of street noise, lilting and distant instrumental takes), Kline collected catalog has become something of a beautiful thing to watch. The output is near diaristic in its personal (and prolific) nature, and these cracked, short indie pop songs are the perfect medium for distilling her post-adolescent malaise.

On March 4, Kline is set to release her first collection of studio recordings, Zentropy, which repositions a small fraction of her output as cheery indie pop, descendent equally from the variations that have sprung up on both sides of the Atlantic. Take the wheedling guitar parts from a Sarah Records release, give them the edge of a Slumberland recording, and pair them with the sense of humor and infectious enthusiasm of the K Records stable, and you might have a certain approximation of the palette that Kline is drawing from. We chatted with Kline at her apartment about her strange path into music-making and her philosophies as she straddles the line between bedroom recording and something much bigger. Check that out below, alongside the premiere of a new track from Zentropy, “My I Love You.”

AGE: 19

CURRENT CITY: New York

EARLY MUSICAL MEMORIES: My parents have both done some music stuff. My family was very artist-friendly, so that was encouraging. I took piano lessons for, like, 10 years. Every Friday night, my family had music at our house. We’d have friends over and be able to be really loud and play music. That was really encouraging. It was mostly my aunt’s boyfriend, who taught me bass and my brother would play drums and we’d just make stuff up and “rock out.” [laughs] Frankie Cosmos didn’t come from that necessarily. It was more something I figured out on my own.

DIY OR: When I was in maybe eighth grade my brother would take me to shows. His friends were in bands. I was always one of the younger people there, but we’d go to the Brooklyn house shows. It was a really good scene to be a part of. I was like “Wow, people close to my age are making really cool music!” [Frankie Cosmos] probably partially came from that realization. That and I was listening to a lot of girl musicians making music out of their bedrooms, like Eskimeaux (who’s now in my band), that was one of the first things I heard. The first DIY show I went to was amazing. Run Time Error was my brother’s friend’s band, and No One and The Somebodies are these four brothers who have been around for like 10 years. At the time, the youngest brother was like 16, and it was just this crazy family band. It was one of the most inspiring things I’d seen. They definitely changed my life. They were from Westchester, so they were how I got introduced to Aaron [Maine’s] music. A lot of very influential things in my life came from meeting those guys.

THE BIRTH OF FRANKIE: When I was 16, I really decided that music was something I wanted to do. Not even “what I want to do,” because I’m still deciding that, but making songs became something important to me. I started doing it on my own and for myself. I had a different name for it at the time, but it was essentially the same thing. Just me with a pseudonym. Frankie Cosmos started in proper when I started putting more effort in the recordings. Obviously, they’re still computer recordings, but I was trying to make finished songs. Before that, it was just little ideas. In 2009, I was totally making it up on the spot, but it was really informative for my music now. It’s really funny, that year gap [between the first and second albums] must seem really weird. I made a ton of songs in that time, I just never put them on Bandcamp. They were all really bad, or they were unfinished. I’d rerecord them and they’d be the songs I started putting out later. I actually made a bunch of albums before I started putting them up. I had maybe six EPs or albums that I put on the Internet all at once. I just made up the release dates. Someone was saying it’s like my diary Tumblr. I definitely treat it like that. I put stuff up as it happens almost. I have to keep everyone informed on what’s going on [laughs].

ON HER PROLIFICACY IN 2011: I was really heartbroken. That whole year, I was just a really emotional teenager. This was all I really liked doing. I felt like it was okay because the people that it was about would never really see it. It was a very low point romantically. I really needed a boyfriend. [laughs] So I made all these songs that were really longing. I just did that all day. The end of 2011 is when I started dating Aaron. I feel like you can hear the difference in the tone of the songs. They start being about real stuff.

#EMOREVIVAL: Those emotions that are really strong, the ones that inspire a song, you can hold onto that. You can let it marinate for years and keep writing about it even better than you did then. It’s even easier to write about the past now that I’m happy and have better stuff to write about. That’s why someone like Bob Dylan can make so many records over so long a time; it’s not like he’s been sad all this time. He’s really successful! I don’t want to say you can keep milking it because that sounds like it’s fake, but I just think about those old emotions all the time. It makes it easy to write things not from my own perspective, like a love song to myself from someone else. Emotions will always exist, so it’s like an easy gimmick.

HOME RECORDING VS. THE STUDIO: When we were working on the record, I was going to school, so I’d go up to Binghamton and try to write a paper while I was working on a record. It was really cool to go up there and plug away at five songs in three days. Binghamton is definitely is an inspiring place. It’s cool, like going up to The Shining. There’s not much up there to do but record. Recording at home is so much easier, but now that I’ve made a studio album I see all these computer recordings as demos for that album. That’s my little project and then the album is this big thing. I’m calling Zentropy my first real album, which is silly because I have all these albums. I’m still doing computer recordings every day. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so it’s less stressful. It’s really nice to do both.

FRANKIE COSMOS’ ZENTROPY IS OUT MARCH 4. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, PLEASE VISIT HER FACEBOOK PAGE.