Greta Kline never expected to be here. In 2009, at age 15, Kline began writing and recording music in her bedroom as catharsis, just another way to pass the time following otherwise dreary school days. But five years and more than 40 Bandcamp releases later, the indie DIY singer/songwriter has gone from recording her adolescence online via indie-pop/anti-folk snippets to wrapping up Zentropy, her first studio album, under the Frankie Cosmos moniker. Looking back on the path to her studio debut, Kline seems just fine attributing some part of her musicianship to happenstance.
“I went to an all-girl private school for a year,” Kline explains. “I didn’t hate it, I mean I actually really liked it for some time. But then I went away for the summer before 10th grade and started making music. I was writing a lot, I really felt like I was learning a lot just on my own and I was thinking to myself, ‘maybe I could find a way to, well, never go back to school.’”
Kline and some of her friends found private school uninteresting and ultimately agreed to leave school after her first year. Kline opted for home schooling and quickly discovered that those angsty, awkward school experiences also happened to bear the most fruit for this newfound process. Those same experiences were at the forefront of her mind when she sifted through her entire catalog last year and handpicked the 10 songs that most deserved her first professional studio treatment.
“With Zentropy, I treated all my previous work as demos,” she says. “I still pretty much just made music whenever I got the chance. Before, once I had a good collection of songs I’d say ‘this is an album’ and just put it out there on the Internet. I think some people had it in their head that I was purposefully doing it once a month, but it just turned out that way.”
Kline is a rapid-fire writer of her songs, few of which stretch to the two-minute mark. She suggests this habit comes from her complete contentedness to forgo the standard verse/chorus/verse structure. If a catchy indie song can leave a listener agonizing for a few more precious seconds, mission accomplished. Zentropy’s de facto single “Birthday Song” best showcases how infectious melodies can so satisfyingly blend with the singer’s acerbic assessments of city life, all usually in the span of 70 seconds.
“I don’t purposefully make them short,” she explains. “I think the more stuff life puts on your plate, the less time you have to reflect and think about what you’re taking in. That’s why I love short stories. I actually did manage to read [Saul Bellow’s] Seize the Day, which was really good. But it’s hard when you’re busy. Everything I do, whether it’s reading or thinking of music, I have to base off of how much time I’ll be spending in a car or on a subway.”
The 19-year-old Manhattan native has maintained her prolific pace by releasing new material immediately upon completion, without any desire to make second guesses. Nearly everything she records, she says, will end up online. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that her first studio album’s 10 tracks clock in at a lean 17 minutes, comfortably fitting onto one side of a 12-inch record. And although 17 fast minutes could give listeners the impression that they’re listening to an EP, Kline is confident her collection of lean tracks offers audiences a comprehensive experience.
“I still consider it a full album,” she says. “There are 10 songs, but we wanted it to fit onto one side of a 12-inch. So with our first pressing, we were able to get all 10 songs on the first side, and we did individual screen-printed artwork on the other side of each vinyl. I’m happy with the album length, and the first pressing will be a really cool rarity.”
So what’s in store for Frankie Cosmos beyond Zentropy? Kline’s true aspirations are in the recording studio, but she makes a special note on the importance of preserving her lo-fi demos along the way.
“I really love the idea of archiving everything I make. It’s like a journal for me, so I’m not going to omit anything. I guess I’m kind of embarrassed at [some of my earliest work], but I would never take it down out of shame because I really think it’s cool to see the process of how I’ve changed. It’s something I’d like everybody else to see, too.”
Kline is happiest when talking about how far she’s come from those bedroom days, reveling in the stories of her past with a streak of playful self-deprecation.
“I used to have super bad stage fright,” she says. “I only started performing live two years ago. I remember one time I talked for 10 minutes and I only had a 15 minute set. I didn’t know what I was doing, and at one point I said out loud to the audience, ‘So, what should I do next?’
“The anticipation of starting to play a song that might be really personal can still be a little scary, but once you do it you’re totally in the zone. I believe in the zone, it’s totally a real thing.”
Zentropy, the debut album from Frankie Cosmos, was released on March 4 on Double Double Whammy.