“I’m 20, washed up already,” Greta Kline sings on a track midway through her band Frankie Cosmos’ second official studio album, Next Thing. It’s a short, tongue-in-cheek song simply titled “I’m 20,” one of the many barely-a-minute- long tracks on the record, but it neatly juxtaposes the enormity of Kline’s teenaged output with her more recent, streamlined studio records. Initially, she would upload fresh demos to Bandcamp without a second thought, reveling in the ability to claim each tiny poignancy for herself in song form. But after recording her first studio album Zentropy—at Business District Recording with Hunter Davidson—her perspective shifted.
“I’m always going to record demos because it provides this instant gratification of making something, feeling like I wrote a song and it’s finished,” Kline said. “But right now I’m into the studio thing. I’m excited to go back and do more of that and to take myself seriously.”
On Next Thing, Kline and Frankie Cosmos are taking themselves seriously as a band without faltering into solemnity. Unfinished diary-like snippets are dexterously expanded, candid lyrics and unassuming melodies have been refined, coaxed into modest ebullience. This record was also recorded with Davidson, but instead of coming out on Double Double Whammy—the label who put out Zentropy—it will be released by one of Brooklyn’s finest boutique labels, Bayonet Records. It follows up last fall’s tender EP teaser Fit Me In as her second release for the label. Kline spoke with us by phone from the road about songwriting in New York City, the connection between EP and album, and and feeling sinister.
What is the connection between the Fit Me In EP and Next Thing? Do those two projects feel like an extension of one another?
When I signed to Bayonet, I planned on only doing Next Thing with them. In the background and on the side, me and Aaron [Maine, of Porches and her boyfriend] were working on Fit Me In just as a joke and for fun. I never really thought about it coming out or having people hear it. It was so different from Frankie Cosmos! But we showed it to Katie and Dustin [of Bayonet] and they were like ‘This is awesome. Let’s put it out as an EP to have in the meantime.’ So it happened really fast. Me and Aaron had been working on it for maybe two years. It was just only four songs, but we would do it whenever we had free time. It was really just an experiment, and we play those songs live now with the band, but in terms of the recordings, it’s so different from the album. I also thought it would be funny to put it out and have people think I’m going in some weird direction.To me, the songs are the same project but the sounds are really different.
What I loved about “Sinister,” the lead single for the full-length record, is the tension. You’re talking about feeling sinister but the music is still very light-hearted and sweet. Was that tension part of why you chose to introduce the album with this song?
That tension is a very intricate thing about the song that I worked hard on. I chose that as the single because it’s honestly funny. That song, for me, encompasses the theme of the record, which is looking at the past through a more mature lense. Not only is it about the past, it’s about writing about the past, and the tension is about that too. I wanted it to show the complicatedness of my feelings towards specific things that I’m talking about, wanting to express the sinister stuff but also putting a positive spin on everything because that’s who I am now. A lot of the themes on the record are about being unsure of your past and in hindsight making new versions of the stories that happened to you.
Your songwriting focuses a lot on nostalgia and love, but it also contextualizes things specifically in New York City. Can you talk about the way the city influences your songwriting?
I have a specific my New York, which I think a lot of people have even if they don’t live here. Since I’m from here, it’s kind of all I know in terms of places to live, but I always have trouble saying what I like about it. There’s a lot of recurring locations and places that come up in my songs. The first thing I’m thinking of is I have a song about being at Death By Audio and watching my friends band play, hearing their lyrics and having it have a weird effect on me. When I write a song and I mention Death By Audio, one person is going to be like, what the fuck is that? Another person will remember a time they had at that venue, but no one will ever have my own memory. That’s what I like about New York. Everyone has weird attachments to places for different reasons and uses them so differently. That’s what’s cool and scary about trying to communicate anything: everyone has these different meanings that they’re going to attach to stuff. New York is a big, blank canvas for you to project your own shit onto. ♦