Foto-© Pooneh Ghana
Für viele Bands und Musiker war die Pandemie ja nicht nur Auszeit, sondern auch eine unmittelbare Existenzbedrohung, weshalb auch beim Indie-Rock-Quartett Frankie Cosmos während den letzten Jahren gar nicht klar war, ob es nach dem vierten Album Close It Quietly aus 2019 überhaupt weitergehen wird. Frontfrau Greta Kline kehrte in den Schoss ihrer Familie zurück und schrieb in den letzten Jahren über 100 Songs – als sich die vier dann nach 500 Tagen zum ersten Mal wieder trafen, entstanden aus einem zwanglosen Jam schnell die ersten Songs. Letztlich sind es 15 neue Songs auf dem just via Sub Pop erschienenem neuen Album Inner World Peace geworden, die von der Band mit Nate Mendelsohn und Katie Von Schleicher bei Figure 8 Recording in Brooklyn aufgenommen und produziert wurden. Wir sprachen mit Greta über das neue Album!
Can you start by painting a picture of what life was like for you at the time of writing Inner World Peace, set the scene a bit. What were you dreaming of in those days?
I mean, I wrote it during the first year and a half of lockdown. So it was definitely a very isolated time. I was living with my family and a lot of us were living together, so the combination of being isolated and also surrounded by people fed into the album. I used to tour like nine months out of the year, so for me, when COVID hit, there was this huge shock to my system, but also, I needed a break from it, too. It was like the forces giving me a little excuse to take a break. I think the break’s been too long for me now, it’s gone on longer than I would have liked. For me, I feel like this album is the only album that I’ve ever written without being on the road while I was writing it. Because I’ve never been home long enough to write a whole album at home.
How did the stuff that was going through your mind make it into the record?
This sudden lack of being perceived gave me a little bit of a space to examine who I am outside the context of the world? I think it gave me space to think about my gender and just who am I when I’m not out in the world. I think touring is like constantly being perceived. You’re constantly going to a new city, like walking around and seeing yourself in the context of some place that you don’t know anything about, and you’re there for 6 hours. And so I was really just like grateful to have space and time in one place and also to feel safe during that time. And I felt guilt for that, too. The album is like a place where I processed a lot of different stuff like that, and I also wasn’t playing music with my band. I didn’t get to see my band for 400 days or something. We went from being together every day to being not together for a really long time. So then when we got together to arrange the record, it felt really powerful. We were all so excited to be a band.
So, do you normally write together? I know that you write all the songs, but would it normally happen that you’d be writing a song and it would be shaped around other people?
No, I usually write the songs alone. I make a full demo alone and then bring it to the band, but we arrange everything together, so the song will change from the demo. And I think this album is particularly like that. I allowed it to change even more than I have in the past because I was so excited to have other people to bounce ideas off, you know, because it felt like such a luxury after so long.
One Year Stand might be my favourite Frankie Cosmos song – I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve listened to it probably 30 times already. The final lines that start “You don’t love me” have captured and crushed my heart, and the way the enjambment works with the melody is brilliant. Can you talk about that song specifically?
That song time travels for me a little bit. If I’m honest, it’s written over the span of many years. The demo for that song I made before COVID hit. So that’s one of the ones that stayed in the mix for years. And I think it’s just because everyone had that kind of reaction to it. Everyone really liked it. But I wrote it in December 2019 and parts of it are from a poem that I’d written maybe eight years before. It’s sort of about love in its various forms and losing love and having new love and letting yourself have that and not writing off past love because of that. But also, I think you’re so allowed to be angry when someone doesn’t love you, especially when you love them, so it’s about that a little bit too. And then of course, those last lines are about capitalism and living in a world where we’re all just trying to numb ourselves with whatever we have at our fingertips, to feel an approximation of love.
It’s an incredible thing to be able to capture all of all of those feelings in less than 3 minutes. I think that’s kind of your specialty in a way. On many of your songs, you take sort of everyday mundane details and frame them in a way that reveals a pathos. It’s just so felt, and I wonder do you write down phrases as you go about your day? Or do you sit down and write something in one go? How do you know when something is worth making into a song? And how do you go about shaping such minute details into something so felt and emotional?
Thank you. That’s such a nice question. I don’t know. I do both. For ‘One Life Stand’ I guess I wrote it in one sitting, but there is the scrap from a previous poem that I put in there, and that’s the centre of the song and then around it is all new. I think I was just sitting down and playing, you know, a lot of it’s just I’ll sit down and play and see what comes out. And it just came out. Sometimes it just all kind of comes out. Kind of tumbles out of me. But it’s a really weird song musically. Like it’s got a really weird rhythm to it. So much so that we actually had to change the time signature in order for us to be able to play it as a band. A lot of my rhythms just follow the vocals. I’ll write the whole song around the vocals and they are based on an internal rhythm that only I can feel. My dad really likes that song, too. He’s always asking me how it goes. He has it stuck in his head, but he can’t remember how it works, which is funny. I always like songs like that where it’s stuck in your head, but you can’t sing it also. That’s been one of the ones that I play bass on and sing for the live show that we’re working on. And that’s one of the hardest ones to memorize for me because the order that the notes go in just changes a lot. Actually, that’s something that gave me a lot of freedom during the last three years of writing, was not thinking about live performance and writing in such a way that I wasn’t worried about memorizing it. I thought I’d deal with that when it comes. We practiced and arranged this whole album with the chord sheets in front of us and with the lyrics in front of me. I think in the past I’ve been more afraid to make something that’s harder to play because I think, “oh, I have to play it live every night over many years”. I really shed that fear and made this weird thing where I have to count to ten in my head to sing it on the right beat still.
I think if you listen to it as much as I do, you’ll get it.
[Laughs] I really like playing it now, and I’m proud of how it turned out.
It’s also added to the canon of recent food and cooking based lyricism in DIY indie rock, which I’ve noticed. Have you noticed this trend? I don’t know where it comes from, maybe you have some insight. Bands like Another Michael, Friendship, Rosie Tucker, Pinegrove all seem to like a culinary lyric.
It’s probably because on tour one of the only times that you can kind of feel like you’re home at all is when you’re going to cook something. And then when you’re home, it’s like the only time that you really have to work on music and to write something. Cooking is something that you really appreciate getting to do in your home. So maybe that’s why. There is the Trace Mountains song where he’s like, “I’m in my apartment cooking brussels sprouts.” That’s a really interesting trend to note. It definitely takes you to a place. So, what’s my culinary lyric? Is it “I’m a cast iron”?
And “I am going/to start letting you/put spinach in my eggs”.
Oh yeah, I think any time that you’re getting to eat a real meal as a touring artist you feel very grounded and grateful. I think that’s coming out in all our lyrics.
I love the two videos you’ve done. Are you a big dancer? Do you dance outside of music?
No, just for fun. I’ve never danced publicly other than that music video. I guess the first music video I danced in was probably the duet video a couple of years ago, which my same friend made with us who made the ‘One Life Stand’ video. My friend Eliza and I feel like I can only get that raw and vulnerable with her because we’ve been friends since we were, like, 12.
Did you make videos together when you were 12?
We did, and we made music together. She taught me how to play guitar. She’s kind of like my art God. So, it’s always really nice to make videos with her, and choreographing that dance was so fun and silly. But again, lockdown was a place where I really let myself start dancing with the feeling of not being perceived. I think I really enjoyed not being perceived. And it’s given me a new freedom to just not care. It doesn’t matter that I can’t dance. I think also in the past I’ve been rewarded for being young. And the older you get, the less charming it is for me to not be that good at something. So, it’s kind of radical to continue to do something that I don’t know that I am good at like dance. I know that I’m good at music now. I think it’s kind of fun to relive that thing of being 17 and putting out something that is like totally vulnerable. And I don’t know that music, on its own, is that for me anymore. So, to dance in a music video is like a crazy step for me.
When you were younger did you really feel that you were putting stuff out and that you might not be good?
Oh, yeah, totally. I had no idea. I mean, I also think I was sort of objectively not good at some point. I think what’s amazing about when young people make art it is like they just don’t have the self-consciousness. I’ve tried really hard to hold on to this feeling that I don’t want to understand how I fit into culture and the context of modern indie music. I don’t want to play into it at all. I’d rather just keep making this thing that’s directly coming out of me and just hope for the best. I’m not going to try and cater to the stuff that’s gotten the best reviews or whatever.
But to what extent is that possible? You must be influenced by other songs, and you must have your own opinions about what’s coming out and what you think is good.
Totally. I listen to music, and I love music. I think that obviously everything you listen to is going to affect what you make, right. But I also think I live during a time where there’s so much music that there’s actually no thread for me to even follow. I would feel completely lost if I were to try and make a statement about modern indie music because there’s no thread, like it’s all over the place. It gives me the opportunity to hear a lot of stuff that sounds really different. And of course, there’s people who will tell me that someone is influenced by my music, but I don’t even hear that, you know? A really good example of that is Clairo, who I think is doing something completely different from me and is like a popstar and is amazing. But she’s very kind to me. She’ll go around saying that she grew up listening to Frankie Cosmos, which is really nice to throw me a bone. I can’t hear that in her music. It’s a totally different genre if genre’s even thing. I think that’s what I mean when I say there’s no thread. Yes, we all grew up listening to The Strokes, but we don’t sound like The Strokes. Also, I think COVID was a time that I dug back into feeling like a 16 year old. I listened to the music that I listened to when I was 16. I was listening to music from the early 2000s and living with my parents and feeling like a teenager, it was a totally weird it felt like time travel. I did get to make this stuff wondering if anyone was ever going to hear it. I don’t know that I’m ever going to get to tour again or be with my band and make an album. I just didn’t know. That gave me some of the freedom I’ve always wanted to have making music. The fun part is making the album and the really hard part is trying to convince people to like it. Worrying about reviews or that part of it, I just totally detach because to me I’ve already done the fun part and the part I care about and I love the album. So I just have to hold on to that. It’s like having a kid or something. You just set them out into the world. I was going to say it’s really nice to hear that you’ve listened to the song 30 times because something I think about a lot is the nation of newness and the attention economy and I always think there’s no way anyone will spend as much time with this album that I spent making it. And the second you put it out, people are saying, “when are you going to put something else out?” You have to really scream through the crowd to get anyone to really notice your song. I’ve been comparing being someone who loves music to being polyamorous. There is no limit of love that you have inside you. But there’s a limit of time. There’s only so many hours in the day.
Also, if you think of love as a verb like by the bell hooks definition, and think of it as an act, you really can’t love that many because you have to dedicate time to love something.
Yeah, exactly. Anyway, that was a giant tangent.
It’s a good answer! How do you know when a song is finished?
That’s a great question. They never are. I think songs continue to change over time. Like every time you play them, they’re different, and if you play them for many years, they’re going to change in the way that you connect to them and they’re going to change in imperceptible ways or perceptible ways. I even think now that singing in the shower is making a song and it doesn’t have to become a consumable product for it to be finished. My friend Matthew and I had this conversation about it that really opened my mind to that. Being a musician is just being someone who’s got too much confidence and says, “I’m a musician”.
Thanks so much, Greta.