Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos on “Close It Quietly” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos on “Close It Quietly”

Expansion of the Cosmos

Sep 24, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Greta Kline is noticeably excited about her band’s new album and she should be. The bright tone in her voice belongs to someone who’s just received some really good news and wants to share it with you.

“This is the first interview I’ve done about the new album, so sorry if I’m gushing. I’m very excited about it…. That’s why I can’t shut up!”

Kline’s giddiness comes through like a sun ray over the phone and may have something to do with a new Frankie Cosmos album that strikes of a band truly coming into its own. The teamwork approach to songwriting is pronounced through Close It Quietly, the fourth Frankie Cosmos full-length and furthest progression from the early stages that showcased Kline’s singular talents.

Getting into a new Frankie Cosmos album for the first time is like opening a lunchbox prepared with love, filled with thoughtful treats. This is a big part of why Kline’s band has built up such an adoring following. A trust has been established between fans who turn to them for support in the form of perky pop tunes. As the voice of Frankie Cosmos, Kline is the kind of songwriter who embodies the spirit of that person you gravitate to at a new job or in a new town; someone who gets you, revealed in a willingness to share her secrets.

In this regard, nothing has changed with Close It Quietly. And musically, the warm, sentimental guitar chords that channel heart-on-the-sleeve classic guitar pop are reliably present—that’s what’s always made Frankie Cosmos so approachable. But there’s also allusion to depths behind a pleasant countenance, running parallel to the notion that you can change while staying the same. Kline along with drummer Luke Pyenson, keyboardist Lauren Martin, and bassist/guitarist Alex Bailey have walked barefoot into pastures of different grasses, without getting lost.

“Luke said something during the making of this record, which is that my songwriting voice is the constant,” says Kline speaking to this point. “That’s the thing that’s very Frankie Cosmos and so we can mess around, but underneath, it will always be a Frankie Cosmos song…. I feel like that was an encouragement that I needed [to change] on this album.”

The ideas came from all directions, even incorporating unexpected instrumental input from interns and engineers befriended at Figure 8 studios in Brooklyn where the album was recorded. You will regularly hear claims of bands expanding individual roles from one album to the next but in this case Kline offered full anecdotes on how far she and her mates have come in this respect; a progression that called for her to bend a bit.

“On this album we put a lot of work into trying everyone’s ideas even when they were difficult to get across…. I’ve always wanted the band to feel collaborative and have everyone’s input but on this record in particular, I opened up more to changing my own parts. I used to be a little bit more hard-headed; when I came in with a song, my vocal and guitar parts were finished… A new thing I got used to was that my job’s not done when I write the song.”

The subtle expansions of style on Close It Quietly appear in sweet and warm, steady bass lines recalling late ‘90s and early 2000s indie grooves. Those bass lines carry you through purely gratifying songs like “So Blue,” “Actin’ Weird,” “Windows,” and “This Swirling,” clutching the sensibility of groups like early Broken Social Scene and American Analog Set—where bass lines had emotions and anima. The most infectious of these comes from Kline herself on “So Blue.” It’s a track that reflects the band’s new versatility from a position of confidence.

“Actually, Alex plays guitar on ‘So Blue’ and I play bass!” Kline chirps when mention is made of its winsome bass line. “It’s funny because I wrote that song years ago and it was just one note on the guitar. So we decided that if we were going to revamp it, I would play the bass and let Alex go crazy on the guitar. It makes it such a different sound. I have no idea how to do that kind of guitar playing, [where you’re] playing a different melody than the vocal melody. So it was really cool.”

There are a number of songs this go around with a different sound than you’ve come to know from Frankie Cosmos, almost to the point where you forget who you’re listening to and are then pleasantly reminded when Kline’s soothing voice drops in. There has never been a darker Frankie Cosmos song than “I’m It,” and “Never Would” is a sort of a slow desert-psych departure into Mazzy Star/Widowspeak territory. One notable change that certainly impacted some of the new sound was bringing in producer, Gabe Wax.

“We met four years ago because he liked the music and said if I ever wanted to work together to reach out,” recalls Kline. “At that point I was working with Hunter [Davidsohn], who had produced all of our albums before this one and as a band, we really value loyalty and like to have a consistent team. I always thought I would only work with Hunter…but as we toured more and more and were home less and less, we decided we wanted to make an album in New York City.”

Wax is based in New York City, whereas Davidsohn’s studio is upstate in Johnson City, NY.

“That was the first thought we all had,” Kline continues. “We wanted to be able to go home at night after recording…. Gabe has [also] worked on some really amazing albums that I love and the tipping point for me was when he produced the IAN SWEET album Crush Crusher. We’ve toured with [IAN SWEET lead] Jilian [Medford] a bunch of times and became really good friends. She described Gabe in a way that sounded exactly like what we wanted: someone who will push you to get the take but not deny what your vision for it is…. But there were definitely moments through the recording that he had a big effect on the sound.”

Then there’s Kline’s loveable singing. The term “couched” has never felt so appropriate in describing how Greta Kline’s thoughts and clever observations sit inside the appealing rhythms and chords of a Frankie Cosmos tune. Especially when Close It Quietly drops down into the sweeter more delicate solo acoustic guitar moments, Kline is at her vulnerable best. Quiet, solitary songs sink in as intimate offerings just for your ears. In this way “With Great Purpose” is so pretty it hurts. The honesty of simple guitar and piano melodies tender an emotional shake-up you’re not expecting, staggering you for a moment.

Whether upbeat or gently unraveled, there’s a through line in Frankie Cosmos album songs and the multitude of others Kline has now collected into a giant ball of yarn: There is always poetic reflection from growth that can be awkward, and relationships that stumble. It prompted the question if chewing these things over in songs helped Kline have healthier relationships with people.

“That’s such an interesting question. I feel like I do, or at least I’m on track to,” Kline responds. “Writing music for me is particular to understanding my relationship with myself and that sort of [impacts] all of my other relationships. If I can get closer to understanding my own needs and feelings through writing songs, that will hopefully lead me to only having healthy relationships in my life. I don’t know how happy I’d be if I didn’t have music as a place to have those discussions with myself. I think I’d be a lot less self-possessed. It’s really a place to figure out how I’m feeling and it’s that way with other people’s music as well; music can put words to how you’re feeling that you are sometimes unable to. For me, that’s what it’s about.”

This especially goes for Kline’s songs, in which little phrases carry a lot of relevance. On “Actin’ Weird” Kline sings, “Now I don’t know you at all / you’re just a name on my G-Chat bar.” Having experienced this very thing, it helps to deal with discomforts like these when you hear them referenced in a song. It just does. Other offerings bring knowing smiles like the kind that come from intimate stand-up comedy observations: “Flowers don’t grow in an organized way…why should I?,” “I want to give you all my marbles,” “The train crawls like our phone calls,” “Are you smiling at me or baring your teeth?” Writing like this breaks down compound thoughts into simpler terms, making them more manageable.

“I like to think that if my lyrics make people feel understood or just draw attention to something that they’re feeling and make them feel less alone, then that’s the coolest thing that can ever come from making music,” reveals Kline.

You can’t help wishing Frankie Cosmos had been around during adolescence to guide passage through some thickets. Another way to put it is that Kline’s music speaks to people who see themselves as not fully developed yet; still curious and capable of learning from mistakes—so all of us basically. The message is that it’s okay, and coming from an artist with a seemingly full and fascinating life, it makes you feel better that someone like her can have the same puzzled and searching thoughts that you have. It’s just way cooler when they’re wrapped up in such appealing pop music.

“Totally. That’s a huge thing for me and I hope that comes through in the lyrics—that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing,” Kline admits. “I’m just trying to figure it out, same as everyone. When I find out that other people don’t have it all figured out, it always makes me feel better. The story doesn’t have to have a moral.”

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