Frankie Cosmos – Interview 2017

Frankie CosmosFrankie Cosmos are the band of songwriter Greta Kline. After getting significant attention through her releases on Bandcamp, Frankie Cosmos have started to evolve into an extremely beloved group. Greta’s songwriting is very lo-fi, raw and sweet. Her songs ooze with charm. The group have recently signed to Sub-Pop Records and with a new album lurking in the distance, we had a chat with Greta before her Brighton show to talk about the band and her development as a songwriter.

You’ve had two studio albums so far. I see Zentropy as a coming together of the previous work on Bandcamp and Next Thing felt like a more band orientated album. Has there been any change of approach for the new record?
I feel like my writing is always changing. Every record I have a handful of new songs and I also go back and pick a handful of old songs so there’s always that contrast. But I think this record is written pretty differently to the other two studio releases.

How do you approach going back and reworking old material?
I’m always having different songs that I’m drawn to. Even recently I just picked a song from Zentropy that we hadn’t played live in years and I wanted to start playing it live again. It just depends on where I’m at and what songs I want to play and work on. There’s three songs that have been released on Bandcamp that are going to be on the new record that are full band versions. It just came about naturally, one of them someone requested at a show and I played it by myself and the band were like, “that’s a really good song, we should make a band version of that”. I go through phases of thinking older songs maybe deserve a bit more of a chance.

You were last in Brighton for TGE last year, was that your first visit to the city? Did you get to see much of Brighton?
It was definitely really crazy when we went, it reminded me a lot of SXSW in America. I’m definitely excited to come and do a real show of ours there. I feel like being part of a big festival it’s easy to get lost or it feels like the audience is less interested, they’re not there to see you necessarily. I’m excited to have the real club experience.

I feel like you’re often viewed as the ‘Bandcamp Artist’ and to some people you almost represent the format, what is it that drew you to Bandcamp in the first place and kept you using the platform for so long?
It was just an easy system to figure out, Bandcamp was just this new thing and it was free and easy to run. It makes it look professional even though I’m just making everything at home. It’s very user friendly and that’s what drew me to it.

Were there any particular artists/records/shows that inspired you to start recording your own music?
There’s a handful of artists in New York who were doing things themselves that made me think I could do that too. There was a lot of young people making things around me and it felt like this wasn’t necessarily your standard music. It felt like you didn’t have follow basic song formulas and that was the stuff that really inspired me to try and do it too.

Do you feel growing up in Westchester was quite an accommodating place for an emerging artist?
I grew up in the city, but I felt like the scene in Westchester was more tightknit. Every show was a house show; I feel like in New York there’s so many real venues it’s a little bit harder to navigate. I wasn’t part of the Westchester scene but it just seemed like a place where really friendly cool young people congregated. My first show I ever played was in Westchester.

You studied English and poetry I believe. What poets inspired you? Was reading poetry something that naturally led you to start writing lyrics?
There were two poets that really influenced my songwriting, Elizabeth Bishop and Frank O’Hara. Elizabeth Bishop more the poems themselves and the formats and Frank O’Hara more the subject matter. I don’t actually know that many poets, I just took a few classes on poetry writing.

You’ve performed and recorded under a few monikers in the past. Whilst Frankie Cosmos feels like very much your project, is there a reason you distance yourself personally from it as opposed to recording under your name?
I think even not using my real name people are still going to take every Frankie Cosmos song and associate it with my personal experience no matter what and make it about me. It already feels like the distance is so small. Personally, for my own vulnerability and emotional experience, it’s definitely better to have a barrier there.

A lot of your songs people assume are personal experiences, but you’ve said they’re all fictional. Do you feel it’s maybe the sound of your music? It comes across as very humble and the way you sing sounds almost shy so it seems like an incredibly personal thing.
I’ve never thought about it but it definitely makes a lot of sense. I feel like especially the older songs, which were super heat of the moment and recording them right away, it sounds like it’s come straight out of my brain. I can see why people would think it’s just come out of my brain instead of an art piece which I’ve worked really hard on. The younger I was, I was more inclined to write about my personal experience and as I’ve got older I’m trying to understand the bigger ideas surrounding my personal experience so it’s not so much about me. The subjects have gotten a bit broader and the recordings have gotten less personal because it’s with a band instead of in my room diary style stuff.

Chris Middleton