L–R: keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Martin, drummer Luke Pyenson, bandleader Greta Kline, bassist/vocalist David Maine
Frankie Cosmos songwriter and leader talks self growth and what it means for the project
Earlier this year, Frankie Cosmos released their third album Vessel, which could also be considered the project's 52nd release if you go by their vast internet archive on Bandcamp. Greta Kline, the project's songwriter and leader, creates music full of observations on life, permeated with raw emotions which sound with the immediacy of having been experienced moments before being committed to record. Her music first came to the attention of a larger audience with 2014's Zentropy, which managed to present a completely lived experience through a smart summation of school experiences, mournful odes to a childhood dog and universal relationship worries. Since then, the project has gone from strength to strength as their sound has been refined and pushed over two more albums and a host of collaborations.
Greta spoke to us over the phone from her New York home in the middle of packing for her upcoming EU/UK festival tour, which includes a stop at Stirlingshire's Doune the Rabbit Hole, before returning to the USA for a run of their own shows. She expressed her avoidance of festivals in the USA, which she sees as either industry get-togethers or for people who only want to party. However, the band's experience of festivals in the UK has been completely different – 'whenever I play the UK it feels a lot more special, like the festivals are more focused for their audiences and people are paying more attention'.
Songwriting has always been part of Greta's life and has evolved organically from writing music as a ten year-old, to forming her first band at twelve, and then performing later in her teens, only to turn around one day and say 'oh, so this is what I am doing…all the time now?'. The DIY scene in New York nurtured Greta's talent, as she was able to start going to lots of shows at the age of 14, 'and within two years I was booking shows and working at venues' she tells us. At the same time, Greta began amassing a huge library of music online as Frankie Cosmos, and although she was not performing it live, it started to give her confidence – 'I think having all these recordings legitimised my position as a musician, to myself at least'. Sharing these online archives with friends got her booked at her first shows; low pressure environments where she was able to push herself out of her comfort zone to see what she could handle as a live performer.
Since then, Frankie Cosmos' music has changed, and although still young (currently 24), Greta recognises that her growth as a person is reflected in the lyrics. Such as the title track of her new record, which ruminates on what it means to be a 'vessel' – a vessel for new life as a woman, a vessel for her art, and the band as a greater vessel for the live experience. 'The feelings that I am feeling are getting bigger and harder to capture,' she says 'and as a result the songs maybe end up getting vaguer or more metaphorical'. Although Greta is still the primary songwriter, the band has become even more of a presence, and changes in the line-up over the years have affected the records, with everyone in the current roster bringing their own contributions to the songs. For instance, she credits drummer Luke Pyenson with bringing a new found intensity to their sound, one which she sees as adding to their performances. 'I think this album is a lot rockier than [previous album] The Next Thing … it's a lot of fun to play live!'.
Frankie Cosmos play Doune the Rabbit Hole on Sun 15 Jul.