If you were at Frankie Cosmos’ Bowery Ballroom show in New York City earlier this month, you may not have spotted Greta Kline (a.k.a. Frankie) bobbing up and down in the sweaty audience during Warehouse’s opening set, tears streaming from her eyes.
“I was just like, ‘Someone’s gonna see me, but I just don’t care,’” Kline tells me on a bench at The Cloisters museum at the northernmost tip of Manhattan. Even though she grew up a few miles away, she's only ever been to the Middle Ages art museum once before. After dropping off our backpacks at coat check, we rest our bums on the cool concrete, meant to replicate the material of a medieval mansion. As we gaze into a courtyard of ancient greens, we talk about both the intense and very dull moments of going on tour, which includes fangirling for her friends’ bands and making even more buds. She’s traveled around with her friends Eskimeaux, her boyfriend’s band Porches, and, most recently, Warehouse, her gritty, punk-rock Bayonet Records labelmates. "They’re so good,” Kline says with wide eyes and extra emphasis on the “so.”
After the April release of her critically acclaimed Next Thing—an album that prunes Kline’s everyday ponderings into a bouquet of songs about dogs, kissing and friendship—Frankie Cosmos has been hitting the road hard, kicking off a second round of shows in July and exploring Europe until mid-September. Kline's Bowery show is the last U.S. gig before she heads overseas, and understandably, she is stressed; as we walk around The Cloisters, she lists all the errands she needs to run, including getting an overseas phone plan and calling her bank.
“I was just having an anxiety attack, but it was fine,” she says about crying in the Warehouse crowd a few weeks ago, brushing off the breakdown. In Kline’s world, she flushes out her emotions in tornado speed and doesn’t hold back. It’s just her nature.
It’s no surprise that we were able to connect so quickly—after listening to Frankie Cosmos call herself out in her own lo-fi, confessional songs, you already feel like you're old friends. That might be a blessing, and it might be a curse. On her song “Embody,” she sings, “Everybody understands me, but I wish nobody understood me.”
Yet take a quick visit to her Bandcamp account, where Kline used to fire off new tunes more often than some people brush their teeth, and you’ll see the immediate bond she makes with her listeners. One comment by someone named Los Simon reads, “The first song I heard by Frankie was ‘Outside with the Cuties,’ and it made me cry. I'm not really sure why, but I stopped what I was doing to listen to the whole album.”
Her music is a matchmaker for like-minded people, inviting fans who feel the same way she does. After shows, she meets those folks, and some of them become friends. Others, she refers to as “intense strangers.”
“It depends,” she says. “With some people, I’m really excited to talk to them, and then other people, I wish they would go away. You know, like normal people you talk to in your life.”
At one show, her friend handed her a letter from a teenager. Kline read the note, “weeping,” and demanded to meet the girl.
“After the show, we talked for an hour,” Kline says. “I literally felt like I was talking to myself. I think it was just like, I needed to go through this thing of saying something to myself as a teenager, and so I was using her for that. ... I had written this one song that had reminded her of her relationship, and [she thought] it was such a good love song. I was like, ‘That’s not a love song. That’s really bad. Your relationship is bad.’ But now she’s my penpal.”
Although she claims that she’s introverted, the people she cherishes are central to her being. On “Embody,” she drops her friends’ first names, as if just singing directly from her diary:
“Sarah is a lightbeam / From the picture Jonah sent me / It makes me so happy / She embodies all the grace and lightness / It's Sunday night and my friends are friends with my friends / It shows me they embody all the grace and lightness / Florist signs are everywhere, Emily is in the air / On tour with Gabby / We embody all the grace and lightness"
(Kline also sings about her friend’s cat, but unfortunately, she and Momo—from “Interlude”—have drifted: “He’s living with my friend’s ex-boyfriend’s parents now, so I’ll never see Momo again, probably.”)
When it comes to her native New York friendships, Kline’s not so confident about being able to keep in touch. Kline makes sure her tours are booked tightly together so she doesn’t get restless, but this takes a toll on her relationship skills.
“I think touring makes you a worse friend,” she says. “I just feel like I’m making things worse. Every time I come home, I’m like, ‘Eh, I have less friends now.’
“I’m such a bad friend to everyone," she continues, self-deprecatingly, shaking her head with a smile. "I’m trying to be a good texting friend, like when I’m bored in the car, like, ‘How are you? I miss you.’ It’s like the only kind of friendship I can maintain in this point in my life."
However, after our hangout, I checked in with some of the people Kline name-checks in “Embody,” and they seem to think the opposite.
“Greta is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I have ever met,” Jonah Furman of the late band Krill said in an email.
Gabby Smith of Eskimeaux said she also struggles with maintaining meaningful correspondence on tour, but that’s never come between their friendship.
“Greta and I have a high energy, but low-key friendship,” Smith said. “I feel like mostly all we need is an occasional, ‘Hey, love and miss you!’ until we next see each other, because we, very gracefully, pick up wherever we left off.”
Smith has played on Kline’s albums, and at The Cloisters, Kline says that she plans on bringing even more pals in for her next album, a project that already has nine songs arranged and might very well be a 40-track double album if she gets her way.
“I want some friends to come and play a crazy guitar thing over the song or sing a backup vocal or something,” she says. “Or maybe a string section. I have a friend who’s really into that orchestral arranging. I want to get him to do some crazy strings on a couple songs. Although it might not end up on the record; it might be for something else.”
Until then, Kline will be circling around Europe. Maybe you’ll see tears; maybe you’ll see eyeballs painted on her eyelids, like she did when she played the farewell show for the now-extinct record store Other Music. During the American shows, her 16-year-old cousin introduced her to the eye-shadowed theatrics of The 1975’s Matt Healy, which sparked a slight interest in face-painting. She’s going to try to amp up the stage play, she teases, so she’s trying things out, like putting a Frankie Cosmos original painting of a cat at the base of her microphone.
“It was just for me,” she laughs about her show prop. “I’m just toying with—it sounds so dumb to say that it was inspired by The 1975 because it was just a tiny, ugly scale version of really cool things. It was weirdly set up by that.”
After stopping on the bench, we pick up our backpacks (Greta’s was a monogrammed one that her mom gifted her) and head out of the museum and into the gardens, brainstorming ideas for her next music video. We’re thinking big-budget, and she says she wants a skit at the beginning. I suggest something like Justin Bieber’s “One Time” video, and she's immediately down. After all, she dedicated her “Art School” visual to him.
Then, we get on the A train, speculating about Karlie Kloss’ role in Taylor Swift’s squad until we part ways, and Kline is off to pack for tour. There’s no doubt she’ll continue to add to her own squad while traveling, gaining penpals and meant-to-be connections along the way. And despite what she thinks about losing her New York friends, when she returns back to her apartment in the Village, they'll be there.
Check out more photos from our day with Frankie Cosmos: