Band leader Greta Kline tries out some new tricks...
A lot has changed for New York native Greta Kline since she progressed from prolific Bandcamp musician to critically acclaimed star with her band, Frankie Cosmos. The group's third album ‘Vessel’ is their biggest deal yet, released on legendary label Sub Pop. But then, Greta Kline has become accustomed to handling big deals.
“I got to skip over having any added pressure because the record was almost done when we signed to Sup Pop,” she explains. It’s easy to see why the label fell in love with her band. The first two Frankie Cosmos albums, 2014’s 'Zentropy' and 2016’s excellent ‘Next Thing’, were beautifully considered and moving indie-pop vignettes chocked full with melody and smart turns of phrase.
This time, Greta and the band wanted to make something to deal with added expectation, but do it their way. “The only added pressure is feeling that each release is a little more precious and has more people behind it every time. There’s more effort going into each release as opposed to just putting out music whenever I want. I’ve been putting pressure on myself to make sure that these are songs I want to keep playing for at least a year.”
In many ways, ‘Vessel’ is the ultimate Frankie Cosmos album. It’s an affirmation of their ethos and attitude and a questioning realism about life and being in a band that are going places. “A concept that I think relates to a lot of stuff on the record is the idea of a vessel,” begins Greta. “Something that you can put something into or take something out of when it’s full or empty."
The vessel in question is Frankie Cosmos, and the transition from homemade Bandcamp creator to working full-time musician is at the heart of the album. "It’s about just being a musician with other people and those kinds of relationship,” elaborates Greta. “Depending on people and trusting people, the positive and negative and fears and benefits that go along with having close relationships.”
The more things change though; the more they stay the same. As ever the songs on the 18 track long collection are mostly short and sweet but filled with musical intricacies. There is one strange little quirk, however, in that the longest recorded Frankie Cosmos songs are first and last on the record and are exactly the same length, clocking in at an epic 3 min 28 seconds. “I didn’t even realise that,” laughs Greta. “That’s pretty wild!”
No longer able to just throw things out online like the 40+ homemade records that Greta has previously put out, the goals for Frankie Cosmos have changed slightly. "My biggest goal was to not play the songs live until the record comes out. I’m excited to go out touring playing this all-new material,” exclaims Greta. Used to no longer just working on her own the band are flourishing: “Everybody’s skill is incredible. It’s really fun to make music with people who are such good writers.”
Despite their success, the ever-modest Greta plays down how far Frankie Cosmos have come. “I have a hard time thinking about it as achieving something. The band is growing constantly, and we’ve achieved a certain amount of success which is amazing. We get to tour, and that’s the way I relate to my own music. I’m always making the song that I want to make.”
‘Vessel’ might be an album about the realities of life in a working band but outside of the band music provides a lesser role in Greta’s life. Perhaps that’s what helps keep Frankie Cosmos sounding so fresh. “I’m messing around with visual art,” she says “I don’t actually listen to a lot of music, I really like TV. It’s funny how people often don’t spend a lot of time fixating on the thing that’s their career. I’d imagine that people working on a movie set are listening to music in between takes rather than watching movies. When I’m in between tours, I’m watching TV.”
Her interest in pop culture, particularly comedy naturally bleeds into Frankie Cosmos’ music and the wry humour that makes her songs so engaging. “Everything that we take in affects our writing,” she concludes. “I’ve been reading a lot of autobiographies of comedians recently. I really like humour, and that makes it into my songwriting. I have a lot of inside jokes with myself in my songs.”
Taken from the April issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. Frankie Cosmos's album 'Vessel' is out now.