Two days after turning 22, and still recovering from playing seven shows in three days at South by Southwest, Greta Kline was securing the barrettes parting her hair sloppily down the middle. It was a new look for her. “I look too nice with bangs,” she said, with a laugh. “I want to look a little meaner.”
Hairstyle’s hardly been the only change lately for Kline, who, for the last four years or so, was better known as Frankie Cosmos, the name she’s released over 200 songs under since she was 17. Now, though, “I kind of want to shed that,” Kline said – not because she’s moving on from her musical alias, but because the name has grown to encompass something much bigger. What was once simply Kline’s home recordings – with a little help from her longtime boyfriend and musical partner in crime, Porches singer Aaron Maine – is now a four-piece band, whose first official studio album comes out on Friday.
It’s surprising, then, that its title, Next Thing, was actually somewhat of a fluke. “It’s just what I called the demos in my iTunes, because it was the next thing I was working on,” Kline explained. “But I feel like it came to represent something else, too.” It was the first album, for example, she recorded knowing it was going to be a “real release.” (Her studio debut, Zentropy, came out on the small Brooklyn label Double Double Whammy in 2014, but Kline had no idea of the reception it would go on to receive – including a nod as the year’s number one pop album from New York magazine.)
More importantly to Kline, though, it was her first time collaborating with a band. A self-described “control freak,” she’s used to doing all her recordings by herself, including the drums and three-part harmonies – a feat that’s all the more impressive given the exhaustive size of her early catalog. Now, even with the full band, she’s still writing all of the lyrics, melodies, and guitar parts, but says she’s “reached this point where the song’s not ‘finished’ until I’ve brought it to them.” Plus, she only brings in one song for every 20 or so she writes, whereas in the past she would have released them all on Bandcamp or Tumblr, which is how she first got her start booking shows.
Kline grew up in Manhattan with musical instruments at hand – she started violin at age four, and in between 10 years of classical piano, she picked up guitar and even drums for a punk band in high school. All her “dabbling,” she says, is thanks to her parents, who, by the way, are the actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. Greta even took a few early turns onscreen, too, in films directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Anniversary). (That’s long in the past, though: when asked if she'd ever return to acting, she said "no," and then repeated the word seven more times for emphasis.)
Other than her mother’s advice on how to deal with persistent fans, her parents are the typical – and, it follows, occasionally embarrassing – variety of supportive: They lend the band their car, feed them after practice, and most definitely make it to their shows. “My mom always buys way too many tickets – she’s like, ‘Just in case it sells out, I got 10!’" Kline said. "And I’m like, ‘Mom, I don’t even have 10 friends!’”
The first time one of her shows got written up, she was irritated to find that the first comment asked how much her father had paid for the post. Now, though, she finds it “comical,” noting that her parents definitely have no connection to indie music, and phrases like Pitchfork, Captured Tracks, and Brooklyn Vegan might as well be farm-to-table restaurants to them. “But there have just been times where I’m like, 'Damn, it sucks that my parents’ names are in every article and my bandmates’ names aren’t, because those are the people who are working really hard for our band,'” she added, referring to David Maine, Luke Pyenson, Lauren Martin, and Gabrielle Smith, who also plays in Eskimeaux.
Once Kline graduated high school in 2012, she started playing in Porches, with Maine, and enrolled in Gallatin, at NYU. She didn't last long there. “I kind of felt like I was living a double life,” she said with a laugh. “I was always running to play a show every weekend, so I didn’t make any college friends.”
Since Zentropy came out to so much fanfare, she hasn't returned to her classes. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, now I’m a musician suddenly?’” Kline said of the glowing reviews. Her stage name is a reference to one of her favorite poets, Frank O’Hara, and like his poems, she is charmingly unassuming, even now that she’s shed her usual bangs and pigtail braids. Her lyrics, too, are hardly pretentious: They’re often either candidly sad (“I drink bad coffee, hope that you’ll call me,” she sings on Next Thing) or openly childish, playing around with the mysterious alter egos that she and Maine have for each other, like Frankie and Ronnie.
Kline does impose her status as a frontwoman though, when it comes to how she's treated as a female musician: “I’ve played Frankie Cosmos shows where the promoter or whoever sees that I’m the lead singer, and then they go up to David, the bassist, and are like, ‘So, do we pay you?’ And he’s like, ‘No, you pay her, she’s the boss,’” she said, with a laugh. “Those are moments where I’m just like, 'I’m clearly in charge.' It’s actually almost worse when it’s in Frankie Cosmos [as opposed to Porches] because I do everything in the band, so it’s kind of funny to have that be overlooked because I’m a woman.”
As both Frankie Cosmos and Porches have grown in status, Kline and Maine have had to withdraw from each other’s bands due to their demanding tour schedules. They are, however, doing a “little tour” together in the U.K., and now, post-SXSW, Kline is kicking off another U.S. tour with three small, sold-out New York shows at Brooklyn’s beloved DIY venue Shea Stadium and Manhattan’s tiny record store, Other Music.
At this point, Kline could – and did – sell out bigger venues like the Bowery Ballroom, but it’s the more DIY spaces that have the most meaning to her. “It’s almost like, you know when you’re a high school freshman and the seniors seem really old?” she asked. “When I was small, those venues and those bands seemed really big, and it’s so fun to get to almost relive what my 14- or 15-year-old dream was of being a rock star, to get to play at those same spots. I know it’s not Madison Square Garden, but it feels like that to me because I was so small when I went there.” And now, they're singing along to her.