Although Greta Simone Kline’s songs are often hyper-specific to her city, her friends and her family, she’s always had a way of making you feel as if you’re in on her secrets. Dig into any one of her forty online LPs, and you’ll find bubble bursts of songs filled with observations so astute that they somehow become universal. “I’m the kind of girl buses splash with rain,” she sings, tongue in cheek. Aren’t we all?
Seven years ago, Greta began recording songs in her bedroom, sharing them on Bandcamp through a variety of monikers. Once she became Frankie Cosmos, her private musical universe started to take definite shape and welcome other people in. Out of a songwriting career that’s now hundreds of songs deep, earlier this year the 22-year-old native New Yorker released the album Next Thing, which opens up years worth of work to a brand new, eager audience, and has sent listeners on detective- like spirals through Greta’s extensive online discography. Surely a world of strangers rooting through your recorded adolescent thoughts could feel a bit intrusive?
“Yeah, they are kind of secret, and part of me feels like they’re just for me. I mean, I definitely thought at first, ‘Oh shit. I never thought anyone would hear that,” Greta laughs. “But I never really felt tempted to take anything down. I like that it’s there as an archive? You can watch a teenager learn how to write, over time, in real time. Which is kind of cool. So I’m down for people to hear it.
“But I also definitely don’t care if people haven’t heard most of it,” she insists, and you can almost hear her shrugging down the phone line. If you do choose to dive in, you’ll find a world of tiny, weird pop songs like POV of toothbrush, a surprisingly devastating bathroom ballad. Fall on any record within this archive, from Greta’s first as Frankie, much ado about fucking, or fan favourite im sorry im hi lets go, and you’ll find her obvious, poetic ability to touch upon internal secrets and capture the pulse of transient anxieties and sky-high joys. In-jokes between songs become building blocks for a self-contained world, and Greta intends for them to stay that way. “If you look really hard, you can find the first time I wrote some idea, and then hear the finished song on the new studio album,” she enthuses. “I’ll often reuse an idea or a theme or whatever, and I hope to always do that.”
By necessity, this process of re-visitation sees Greta re-explore adolescent memories. It’s a brave task by anyone’s standards. “Yeah, I don’t know if anyone wants to revisit their teenage experiences. But my experience has been that, as I age and mature, I’ve been looking back and kind of changing my perspective, or having new feelings about the past.
“I think everyone probably does that,” she continues. “But also I know it’s really weird, because, in a way, it’s almost like Blink-182?” She bursts out laughing. “I know I am an adult, and it’s almost creepy to be singing from the perspective of a teenager. I mean, I definitely don’t feel like an adult, so that’s part of it. Also, I’ve been meeting a lot of teenagers who are listening to my music, and every time I meet someone who’s sixteen I think about myself at sixteen, from a new perspective, and it’s had a really weird effect on me.” I tell Greta that I feel similarly about reading Tavi Gevinson’s trailblazing teen-focused website Rookie, and she jumps on it.
“Oh my god, same! It makes you freak out, because you’re so happy that teenagers have that. It’s like, what the fuck. Why did I not have this resource?”
“Through my discography, you can watch a teenager learn how to write, over time, in real time”
The great thing about Greta’s enthusiasm for Rookie’s home-baked life advice and confessional, supportive community is that, for many, the world of Frankie Cosmos holds the same special powers. After embarking on a Reddit Q&A it became clear that Greta has some of the most compassionate, thoughtful fans on the internet. “I thought I was gonna get trolled,” she admits. “But there were so many questions that were really thought out. People had listened to a lot of music, and had really specific, interesting questions that I’d never had in an interview. I was so surprised. It was really special.”
Our conversation takes place on the eve of Frankie Cosmos’ first ever UK show. The recent success of Next Thing has seen Greta thrown into international tours and festival schedules, now performing as a band with David Maine on bass, Lauren Martin on keyboard and Luke Pyenson on drums. As a result, her quiet, observational writing style has undergone some shake-ups. “Yeah, so, a lot of the writing is now about tour,” she deadpans. “It’s a really weird emotional thing that many people can’t relate to, so that will be, uh, different. I’ll be writing on my phone, when everyone’s asleep.”
Luckily, Frankie Cosmos’ ability to connect with people, to find that universal spark within a story so specific, clearly doesn’t depend upon its subject matter. And, best of all, tour has converted online friendships into IRL connections. “I’ve got to meet some really amazing people who listen to my music and get it and relate to it. A lot of times people feel like they already know me,” she muses, “and so I feel like I already know them.”