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Frankie Cosmos’ Next Thing (2016) is another testament to Greta Kline’s striking ability to pull from the past, and produce a fun yet emotional series of poetic pop songs. Kline grants her listeners more than a glimpse into some of her most quintessentially “teenage” moments in Next Thing, with retrospective whispers of young love and hurt underpinned by universally endearing melodies. Prior to their show at Moon last Friday, Salient talked to Greta about the new album, among other things.
Salient: So you’re promoting Next Thing that came out almost a year ago now. Are you enjoying touring?
S: Where have you been so far?
G: In the last year? We toured in America quite a few times, and in Europe a couple times. We went to maybe eleven countries in Europe. We just went to Australia, and now we’re here, next we’re going to Japan!
S: I’ve noticed your album is quite retrospective, I guess of your teenage years, would you say you draw on your past a lot when writing?
G: It’s kind of a mix. I feel like I’m best at writing about the past, more than the current stuff. Because I feel the more I’ve processed something and thought about it over and over again, the better I can distil it into something I can write about. So it takes some time to get to the point where I’m writing what I want to about whatever experience.
S: Some of your songs sound like poems, especially the end of “Young” from Fit Me In. Do you start out with little poems, then go from there?
G: Yeah often it starts as a poem. The ending of “Young” — I actually remember writing it as a poem first. I think it was part of another poem. I remember where I was when I was writing it. Then, later, I was like “I’m gonna use these as a weird tail-ending for a song.” But overall, it depends. I think usually when I’m writing a poem, it’s like “this is a poem,” then when I’m writing lyrics, it’s like “these are going to be lyrics.” Sometimes I end up mixing them.
S: Next Thing seems an ode to teenhood. Do you feel nostalgic for your teen years?
G: I definitely feel I’m still in my teen years, even though I know that I’m not. But I’m definitely, constantly, brought back to those feelings, and feeling very new in the world. I feel I’m still going through a lot of firsts. But I sometimes get nostalgic for the purity, and the openness that I had as a teenager, that I don’t really have now. Sometimes I feel myself getting more closed off, and I try and hold on to the part of me that wants to express every feeling, and the part of me that wants to give love really fully, and not really worry about repercussions.
S: Your song “I’m 20” — I listened to it over and over on my birthday.
G: Oh really? Haha! Cool!
S: It felt pretty relevant with the lyrics “I’m 20, washed up already.” Kind of felt like those words were cementing the end of your teenhood, and I really got that feeling too.
G: Yeah! It’s definitely about a fear y’know — you don’t wanna get old, you don’t wanna get jaded. Getting old is fine as long as you’re getting wiser or something. But I got a little bit scared about watching this band unravel into a business. It’s about worrying your motives about things change, and wanting to hold onto your real motives behind everything.
S: Your lyrics in songs – they’re fun but, from what you’ve said, they’re deep as well. Is that something you strive for? What kind of vibe do you want the band to have?
G: I definitely like it to be fun! I have a lot of fun performing, but I also have a lot of fun crying. I like big emotional experiences. I’m all for the audience having fun, and feeling included. I want them to also, whether or not they’re having fun, be able to share in the emotional experience of it too. Often what I’m trying to express is maybe… not like a lesson that I’ve learnt or something, but wherever I’m at about a feeling — I’m always trying to express that. So whether it’s something I’m saying or something in the song, I want them to, whether or not they know it, walk away with that. Though I don’t know if that’s really a possible thing. That’s my dream for someone to even accidentally learn something about themselves or the world from hearing about someone else’s experience.
S: That’s really nice.
G: In saying that, people can experience it however they want and that’s cool too!
S: Would you say from when you were a teenager to now your views on the kind of things you’ve been through have changed a lot? Do you think from this album you’ve looked at them through wiser eyes?
G: Totally! Even since writing this album I feel I still have different views on the stuff I was writing about. They’re constantly changing. The older I get, the more I understand other people’s perspectives. Whether it means forgiving or apologising for them, like based on knowing that they’re also a person, like having empathy, that side of me is always growing. Next Thing is pretty angry a lot of times. The new songs I’m writing are maybe more vague? Or they’re more general because they’re less about like me being mad… I don’t know, I’m always changing my views. I mean I’m still learning how to be, even outside of music, like how to be a friend, or how to wake up and feed myself — just basic human stuff. So yeah it’s always changing.
S: Friendship is a prominent aspect in a lot of your songs. You talk about your friends a great deal. Would you say they have influenced you and this album, or the writing?
G: Yeah! I have a lot of good friends who are also artists, and their music or art always affects me no matter what. I’m always inspired by the people that I surround myself with. So yeah, I can see the ways that I was influenced by my friends’ art. But also even my friends who are my band mates, they bring so much of their personal style to this band so you can definitely see how friendship forms a song. And also I think a really beautiful thing about friendship is that you’re your own person and that’s amazing and then when you’re with your friend you have such a special bond, you become another person.
G: You like who you are when you’re together, and I feel in the same way that’s what having a band is. Everyone has got their own music ideas, and then you come together and its such a different thing when you’re working together.
S: You take parts from each other, and then even when you’re by yourself those parts are still there.
G: Yeah totally.
S: Out of all your projects which has been the most fun? I know you were in Porches, and you had the Ingrid Superstar stuff.
G: Frankie Cosmos is definitely the most fun! It is the best vibe ever being in this band and going on tour and stuff. We’re all like really excited about it. All the other solo projects and stuff that I did were just trying to find a name, but it’s all basically Frankie Cosmos in my head. Like Ingrid Superstar is just me writing stuff. But yeah I definitely like being the main writer, and I love being in this band.
S: Okay this is probably a difficult question for any musician, but do you think it’s more important to make the music for yourself, or something the fans will connect with?
G: Oh man! I think that it’s a good plus if people can connect with what you’re making but I think that if you try and make something for people to connect with that’s not how it works. I think if you’re true to yourself, there’s people out there that will connect with you. And some people aren’t going to, and that’s fine. I definitely think for me personally I wouldn’t want to be a working musician if it meant making music that I didn’t 110% believe in. So I have to be my favourite — I have to be my number one fan. Always. Because if I don’t like it then what’s the point busting my ass going on tour you know? So I think the audience comes later — no offence to the audience…because they are totally what keeps us alive!
S: I kind of think no matter what you write someone is going to connect with it.
G: Yeah, exactly!
S: So you grew up in New York. Did you find it gave you more opportunities breaking into the scenes or did you find it just as hard making a name for yourself since there’s so many hopefuls?
G: Yeeeah, I don’t know! I mean, just from the perspective of a really young person who’s interested in music, I think being in New York was amazing because there are so many all ages venues, or there were when I was growing up. It was just a really good place to have access to culture as a young person and learn about that. I was involved in the music scene from a young age and so in that way it was a huge benefit to me. But in terms of making a name for myself? I wasn’t really ever trying to so I never got disappointed or jaded. Some bands start off and they’re like, “we really wanna be successful!” and so if they play ten shows to zero people they get really bummed out. For me just playing a show was so exciting that it never really got to the point where I was disillusioned or bummed out, or didn’t wanna keep trying because I wasn’t trying to do anything… I just wanted to keep playing. I basically asked everyone I knew all the time, “Can I play? Can I open every show?” and it just worked somehow…
S: Speaking of New York, do you have a favourite spot that you go to and feel inspired, or just a favourite spot in general?
G: Yeah totally! It’s definitely the Natural History museum. Secretly it’s “pay what you wish” which is basically free, so you can go there every day. I really like the murals of the animals, or the dioramas of the animals. I really like dioramas.
S: Do you ever just walk round and an idea for a song will come into your head and you’ll scribble it down no matter where you are?
G: All the time! Almost every good idea I ever have is like that. Whether I’m just writing it down really quickly or sometimes I’ll just take out my phone and pretend to be on my phone and I’ll be walking down the street singing an idea into my phone’s voice memos. Those always become the best songs I think.
S: Something more light — what was your teen anthem?
G: I’m gonna say it was probably… like, oh man. I really liked local bands. I was listening to No One and Somebodies, and Fiasco, and Old Table, which were these three New York bands. If I’m being honest, the song that has the most listens on my iTunes from that age range was probably “It’s Alright” by Old Table. Really good song.
S: What’s your favourite song to play each set?
G: Ooh it depends on the room. But right now I really like, and we’ve been opening most nights with this song, “Correctly”, which is a demo that I put out. We perform it as a lead in to “Floated In” from Next Thing. I like that, it’s probably never going to be on an album so it’s fun to play it. It’s a good way to open… it feels good.
S: I really love the song “Young”. The line at the end particularly — “I just wanna be alive that’s it.” What does that mean to you?
G: I guess it’s just, for me, I can’t even think about making plans for the future or anything because all I’m thinking about is just figuring out how to be a person, everyday, just literally getting out of bed and eating three meals, y’ know. Just taking care of myself a little bit and being a good person, maybe? It’s hard enough to do the simple things, but I think for me that’s what that line is about right now — just trying to get through, just being alive, and then focus on the plan for our band, or any other bigger things to think about.
S: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the response to your music? Every time you play gigs I imagine people come up and tell you how much they resonate with your music.
G: Yeah it’s amazing. It’s still really shocking every time because we’re going to all these new places, meeting new people, and it’s unbelievable to me that people care about my songs. I just think it’s cool because I would be making them either way, but it’s definitely nice encouragement. It reminds me that I’m in the right place and doing the right thing and that’s really special.
S: What was the last album that you bought that meant a lot to you?
G: I recently bought a CD of Cherry Peel by of Montreal. It’s a really good record. I don’t buy a lot of stuff to own so I bought that to have in the car whilst on tour sometime this year. Actually it was the last CD I ever bought from my favourite record store in New York that closed.
S: So… have you got a dog yet?
G: Noooo! I really want one. But it’s so impossible as a touring musician. But my dream is to convince my parents to get a dog.
S: What kind of dog would you want?
G: Literally any dog. Preferably a rescue dog. I think that all dogs are amazing. I love them so much. I try and dog sit sometimes.
S: After you go to Japan what are you doing?
G: We’re going home for a month, and we’re going to try finish our record. Then we’re gonna go on another American tour, then another European tour, then another two American tours, all before the end of this year. Got my year cut out for me…
S: That’s intense… you do have your year planned.
G: It’s crazy to be able to see that far ahead. It’s weird.
S: Just please don’t over-work yourself okay, because we want you back here…
G: Haha I’ll try. We got some time off, we’ll be home a little bit.