“Every day I learn something new about myself,” muses Greta Kline, also known by her stage name Frankie Cosmos, backstage at End of the Road, burrito in hand, pre-set. As noise from the Tipi Stage drifts in and out of the backstage area, Greta takes a second to reflect on how things have changed following the release of her group's critically-acclaimed second record, Next Thing. “This past year has been my first year touring without my boyfriend in my band, so it was my year figuring out who I was by myself and away from home and all those everyday comforts that we get used to.” An intermittently rainy Larmatree Gardens must seem a world away from the everyday comforts of Kline’s home of New York City, New York but it’s the strength of her songwriting that’s brought her and her band – completed by Lauren Martin on keys, David Maine on bass and Luke Pyenson on drums – to our shores and to audiences packed into venues all across the globe.
The tempered, powerful songwriting of Frankie Cosmos is present all across this year’s Next Thing, a wonderful 28 minutes of astute observation, joy and sorrow contained within the group’s best songs yet and bolstered with beautiful melody and a sense of playfulness. Next Thing has been a huge success with fans and critics alike, earning the elusive Best New Music label from the notoriously difficult tastemakers at Pitchfork and winning the hearts of new listeners as well as reigniting the spark with existing fans. “I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t have any specific expectations for the album,” Greta tells me. “I was trying not to think about the reception of the album – trying very hard, in fact”. After the quiet success of Zentropy – an album that Greta “didn’t even expect to be heard by other people” – building expectations for a sequel was the last thing on Kline’s mind. “I didn’t want to go into recording the album with any hopes for it. I just want to keep making music that I want to listen to and what I want to make and that’s how I want to make music at the moment. That and I wanted to capture how our band sound live.”
Recorded at Business District Recording in New York, Next Thing feels like a direct portal into the pages of Kline’s notebook; honest, funny and entirely idiosyncratic. This has created a powerful and unique relationship and dialogue between Frankie Cosmos and the fans. “The connection we have with people is really amazing and still slightly shocking to me,” enthuses Greta. “It’s strange but beautiful and it always blows my mind when I meet people who are emotionally invested in my music.” Whether talking about art school, longing for a family pet, kinship or the nature of her soul (“not like a waterpark”, according to 'Sinister') Greta’s lyrics are insightful and incredibly personal in their nature which is one of the key factors in the connection between songwriter and audience. “I really enjoy it when other people put out super personal music; and a reason for that is that when you’re writing something really personal it’s not too much the details that’s coming out in the writing – even if you are giving details – but it’s the emotion that shines through,” she explains. “I could listen to someone’s personal music about an event or experience that I have no relation to but if there’s an emotion or feeling that I can sense I’ll find it moving. That’s how I feel as a listener.” Through piecing together thoughts from her notebook – “I’m always writing stuff down in my notebook and I’m constantly writing in it and picking parts out of it” – making them tangible and pairing them with her unique approach to songwriting, Greta has shaped Frankie Cosmos' second record into one of 2016’s best-loved listens.
Next Thing and this subsequent tour also represent the first solid line-up of Frankie Cosmos as a band, which has been a huge confidence boost for the whole group. "I love it; it’s so nice to have my band be one continuous thing now. For a while the band was changing members depending on the show and now we’re a solid group and we all love each other a lot.” This shared love between the band is clearly evident from their performance as they crack jokes, lift stuffed animals aloft and bring a beautiful intimacy to End of the Road’s Tipi Stage (the band have also been known to display their synchronicity via choreographed dance moves, as those who caught their earlier tour with Porches will be able to attest to). Frankie Cosmos sound absolutely brilliant live too, conveying all the character and warmth of their recorded material and inspiring those in attendance to also show their love; many members of the crowd have their arms wrapped around someone close to them as the Tipi Stage fizzes with a shared and kind kinship.
When Frankie Cosmos finish their set, the audience dash to stage left to meet the band, take photos with them and buy merchandise (including some fantastically stylin' Frankie Cosmos-branded dad caps) – some arrived to the Tipi Stage as fans, some as strangers and everyone has left enriched and ready to face some intermittent downpour and make their way to the ale tent. Highlights from Zentropy and Next Thing alongside a preview of tracks from the group’s upcoming third album prove one of End of the Road’s finest sets and there’s a warm feeling throughout the tent at-odds with the rainiest day of the weekend. There isn’t much time for Frankie Cosmos to celebrate however; Greta rues being unable to stay to watch Joanna Newsom’s Sunday set (“she’s my favourite songwriter” she tells me) as they have to fly to the Ireland to play some more shows and then record album number three. When asked about what she hopes the future brings for Frankie Cosmos, Greta’s answer perfectly suits an outfit that’s continuing to grow: “I don’t know what’s next and don’t want to plan ahead that far – I’ll hopefully keep learning new things."
Words by Joseph Fuller
Image courtesy of Landon Spears