Frankie Cosmos on The Things You Can Only Express Through Writing Songs
By: Kristy Guilbault
Photo credit: Angel Ceballos
For the past decade, Greta Kline – under various aliases, most notably with the alias Frankie Cosmos – has spit out two-minute Bandcamp anecdotes on topics ranging from Korean food to the brevity of youth. Kline takes ordinary occurrences and coats them with a mesmerizing indie pop sheen, transforming the mundane to extraordinary. But while her songs have felt intimate, Kline, admittedly, hasn’t been in touch with her emotions, using the songwriting process to uncover situations in hindsight.
“I feel like everytime that I write something it changes meaning, and it becomes more apparent to me what it means as time goes by,” Kline says. “These songs are interesting to me, because a lot of them are from a time when I really wasn’t in touch with how I was feeling, and the only way that I could express it was through song. Hearing them now, I can hear all of that, and it’s really intense.”
Kline’s third studio album, Vessel, candidly addresses the disconnect between herself and her body. The 17 tracks, which clock in at just over half an hour, gracefully give listeners a peek behind the curtain via unguarded moments such as the alien-like synth on “Duet,” or the uncontrived laughter at the ending of “This Stuff.” It’s a blunt examination of the emotional turmoil that Kline has endured since the genesis of Frankie Cosmos.
“That’s part of what’s making me want to be more in touch with myself as a person,” Kline says. “I don’t want to make another album like this. Not that I don’t want to make another album like this, but I don’t want to feel the way that I felt when I was writing this stuff ever again.”
Vessel doesn’t entirely scrap the alternate universe that Kline has built for herself, though. Tracks, such as “Being Alive” – which was originally released as a demo in 2014 – directly draw from the early days of her moniker but with updated elements, such as faster tempos or more extreme dynamics. Common threads throughout Kline’s discography are due in part to her long-standing musical relationship with producer Hunter Davidsohn, who’s contributed to every Frankie Cosmos studio album. This environment of trust allowed for Vessel to be recorded within a collective span of six days, capturing the band’s newfound sense of transparency and urgency. And at the core of this lies “Accommodate,” the track which resonates most with Kline.
“Part of me feels like the reason that one is so meaningful to me is that it’s stuff that I feel like I can’t express outside of writing a song,” Kline says. “That’s part of why I had to write it. But, I guess just in a really general way, it’s just about trying to figure out how to be what’s accommodating in the world, and how to be more assertive. A lot of that song is kind of angry towards the way that society is created to keep women as objects, and how you’re supposed to accept how you’re going to be treated. There’s a lot of stuff going on in it.”
The idea of projection is heavily represented throughout Vessel, even down to the album’s cover. Kline had originally envisioned drafting a standard poodle – a dog breed that’s often misread as haughty and spoiled – for the artwork in order to convey how she feels about the persona that she’s created, or rather that’s been created for her.
“I think it needs to be balanced with allowing myself to be a person outside of Frankie Cosmos,” Kline says. “I also can’t imagine what my life would be like without music, so I don’t know what that even looks like. Vessel is partly about your body being just a shell for you, or it’s about your body being expected to be a vessel for something else. Like, I go out into the world, and I put out music and do interviews and have people think that they know me. It’s almost like I become less of a real person. Like my real self is completely pushed to the side, and it’s only for me.”
Throughout her collective 12 years of creating music – from her bedroom to studios – the weight of Frankie Cosmos has shifted. It’s a pseudonym that has become more than simply a name for Kline to create music under; it’s become a vessel for touring, performance and connecting to an audience. Frankie Cosmos’ public persona has rendered Kline’s private persona invisible, allowing fans to project their emotions onto her soundscapes. Vessel relieves Kline of this burden, by taking stock of her emotions and addressing the issue of projection head on.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to learn how to balance those two sides of who I am. And trying to figure out which one is the real me. Is it who you think I am or is it who I think I am?” Kline asks.
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