On Growing Up and Being Vulnerable with Frankie Cosmos
A chat with Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos about moving on and experimenting with new sounds for “Close It Quietly”.
Words by Ghina Sabrina
Ever since the debut album “Zentropy”, which garnered a ‘best pop album’ praise by the NYTimes, Frankie Cosmos has been making music that could be seen as empathetic indie-pop. Led by Greta Kline, her whimsical yet honest songwriting style has remained consistent throughout her career. From her early days of uploading songs on Bandcamp to finally releasing under Frankie Cosmos, it has always felt effortless when she talks about love, heartache, and all the emotions she wanted to put out on the record. With “Close It Quietly” marking as the group’s fourth album, we’re invited to experience their progression not only because it was made with more equipment than the band was used to, but also due to each member’s input in its creation. We got the chance to have a chat with Greta ahead of their show for Joyland Festival to talk about their growth as a band, the realities of touring, and their newest album.
Ever since “Zentropy”, you’ve upped the tracklist on each album, with “Close It Quietly” reaching 21 songs. What plays into the decision making process in regards to the number of tracks you’re going to put out in an album?
I didn’t even realise that I was doing that, that it was getting more and more. We cut songs out every time, but I think I’m still adjusting to putting out songs less frequently. I have a lot of songs to choose from, so there just keeps on being more to choose from and more that we want to put on. So it ends up being more. Just a lot of songs. You know we still cut some out, we want it to be like a listenable chunk of time. It’s still pretty short since the songs are short, I think 21 songs is a total of 40 minutes.
Imagine if your songs are like 4 minute long and with that amount of tracks it’ll be like hours of tracks in an album.
Yeah it’ll be crazy. It’ll be like a triple LP or something if it was normal length songs.
Your first album “Zentropy” was named best pop album by the NYTimes, how did that affect you? Was it a blessing or a curse?
Yeah it didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t make any sense to me. But I don’t know if it actually had affected me, and I don’t know how much I’m affected to it. It’s hard to say what has affected me and what doesn’t. But I do think starting to get press and stuff was scary to me. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It definitely brought the band – the fact that we get to play in Jakarta, this would never be happening if we hadn’t gotten any kind of recognition. But at the same time, it definitely is a scary thing as an artist to suddenly have your thing that is supposed to be a release for you and suddenly is your job. It feels different. So I put a lot of effort into having it not feel different.
Was it a scary process for you to be making a second album then?
To get to make any music at all is beautiful.
I didn’t even really think of it like that. I’m always more excited about whatever new thing I’m making, so I don’t really care because I assume that everyone’s going to agree with me like, “‘Closing Quietly’ is the best album I ever made!” But it doesn’t really matter to me if they don’t agree. I think that’s part of what is nice about making tons of music is how everyone’s going to connect to a different thing. I think if you make a hundred songs, maybe one person might like one of them and that’s great. So to get to make any music at all is beautiful. I try not to care too much about reviews.
Many of the songs on “Close It Quietly” was written at different periods in your life. How do you personally relate to these songs? And has it become some sort of learning process for you?
Yeah, I think that this album might be the vaguest in terms of timeline for me. I can’t necessarily place a finger on exactly what I was going through and what had happened when I think of a single song on the album. Some of it has those kinds of feelings for me, but it’s actually one of the easiest albums for me to sort of project any feelings onto. It’s all over the place emotionally. There’s a lot of love and also a lot of heartache. It’s a complicated feeling. So it’s easy to sort of pick whichever thing I want to feel and feel it that night when I’m singing it. For some songs, like older songs, sometimes I’ll have a weirder time finding a way to connect to it like I’ll change a lyric here and there.
As you’ve become more vulnerable with opening yourself to the audience, how does it feel to be singing the songs that you’ve written long ago?
It’s super weird, I think it doesn’t even really matter so much that there’s an audience there, it feels more vulnerable just because it’s revisiting a time in my life personally. So I think it would maybe feel just as weird if I was sitting at home playing an old song. It’s just like going and reading an old diary – both cringey and sad, but also beautiful and complicated. I think it’s good to have any kind of past to look back on even if it’s painful, it’s cool that it happened. Better to have loved than lost.
At least now you’re ready to put it forward and move on.
Yeah, I think playing songs is a good way to go through an emotion and to process stuff.
What’s different sonically on “Close It Quietly” compared to your previous albums? How was the recording process different?
In a few ways. I think the big difference is the band, we have a new bassist since “Vessel” so I think that the band – and he’s not new anymore, it’s been two and a half years so we’re all really at a good place of communicating as a band and I think he brings a very different sound to the whole band. The album is more hi-fi, we have nicer equipment, studio, and we all have gotten new guitars. After working in the studio, I can’t play my old guitar anymore as it doesn’t match the album at all, doesn’t match the sound, so I got a new guitar. I think there’s a new sound to the album. It’s very minor but I feel it. It’s always hard to tell the difference, a lot of people are going to listen on their computer speakers and it might sound the same to them, but to me it sounds different. There’s just more stuff going on.
There’s a song where there’s like two drum tracks that are overlaid, there’s just more playing around as we had more time to make it. It sounds different and it feels good to play the songs. It’s the first time in the history of Frankie Cosmos that the whole band is touring with an album that we all worked on together. Because when we put out “Vessel”, pretty soon after we put it out Alex (Alex Bailey) joined on bass, so then he was playing David’s (David Maine) bass parts. And before that it was like, we toured “Next Thing” and Lauren (Lauren Martin) joined to replace Gabby (Gabrielle Smith). So it’s like we’ve always been a little bit staggered and it’s the first time that’s we’ve actually been a band long enough, one unit, that we’re touring with some songs that we’ve worked on together so it feels like a very family unit thing.
It’s the first time in the history of Frankie Cosmos that the whole band is touring with an album that we all worked on together.
Speaking of the technicality of the album, you’re now more open to new gears, new production techniques?
Yeah, I think I’m just more open in general to any kind of collaborating. I used to be very purist, like it has to be the first vocal take or something stupid. I’d rather make it sound good. I used to not use any effects on my guitar, I didn’t like effects, and now I’m using a little tiny bit of distortion and tiny bit of delay when it comes to it. So it’s given us more room to play.
And now you’re more open to experiment in order to find new sounds.
Totally, and to take more ideas from my band mates. I used to be like, “I’m playing what I’m playing and you guys can write your own parts.” And now, I’ll change my guitar part if the drummer has an idea. It’s taken me years to get to this. It’s sort of like seeing Frankie Cosmos as bigger than me. It’s not me, it’s a different thing.
You’ve been on tour for quite a while now, how has that taken a toll on you and how has it opened you up to more opportunities?
It’s both completely changed my life for the better and the worst. I think touring has got a really crazy lifestyle, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Right now, at the end of a 3-month straight of touring I’m a little bit sick so I’m just very excited to be at home and rest for 2 months. But also touring is really cool, you meet people you’ll never meet. To get to play at a show like this, this is really cool, like holy shit we’re in Jakarta. We just played in Korea. We never would have thought that I would ever end up playing anywhere other than New York honestly. Or even any show. It never occurred to me that I get to play a show. So to be able to play a show in so many places and meet so many cool people, it’s amazing. I think that’s really cool. There’s a lot of sacrifices that go along with it, but we worked hard to manage it to make it so that we don’t feel too disconnected and miserable. We all get to go home for the holidays so it’s alright.
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Speaking of food, I stumbled upon your food insta @tan_feed, what’s that all about?
My band mates made fun of me because I eat a lot of not vegetables, a lot of tan food (tan-colored food) so I just thought it was funny. It’s pretty new, but there’s a lot of posts on there because I eat a lot of tan food. And I’m getting some good content over here, I had some good crispy tofu today that was the perfect tan meal. I’m pretty unhealthy and tour is not an easy place to eat healthy so I think it’s a nice excuse to document the disgusting habit that I take on.
I guess it’s also a way for you to cope with the tour lifestyle.
Sure. I think documenting is a good way to cope with anything. I think to make my diet into a joke makes me feel better about how unhealthy I am.
You were playing in Jakarta for the first time for Joyland Festival, what did you prepare for us?
It’s sort of like seeing Frankie Cosmos as bigger than me.
I have been walking around out there, so I met probably about 30 people and took pictures with a bunch of strangers. I was surprised and delighted by how excited everyone is and I didn’t think that people would know our band honestly. I always assumed that when we play at a festival, people are just at a festival and maybe they learned about Frankie Cosmos there. The fact that we have any fans here at all is crazy. It’s really exciting and we’re excited to play for them. I just met some people from Manila that flew here for the show. We’ve been friends on Instagram for a long time so I was excited to meet them.
We were playing sort of a sampling of the various albums, because we’ve never played here before. As much as how we always just wanted to play the new stuff, I feel like it’s nice to give someone who has never seen us before – maybe they want to hear “Leonie” and I’ll play that. We’re playing for 45 minutes so we have a setlist written and it should be fun. When we only have to play for 45 minutes we really get to play only the stuff we want to play, so it feels like it’ll be good. 45 minutes is a short set for us at this point. Which is funny because in my first show I played for 10 minutes (laughs). It’s funny to say that 45 minutes is short, but it is pretty short to play for us now.
What’s next for you?
We’re going home for a couple months. Actually we have a show the day after we get home in New York and then we’re basically off. We’re going to work on music and going to Australia in March. So, we’re hoping to get some other dates and go to Asia too and see if we can build more of a tour around it. Just touring and seeing where it’ll take us. We’ll go wherever they’ll have us (laughs). I’m very excited to have some nice at home time, eat some Eggo waffles, take some pictures, and I cannot wait to get back to Netflix.