The small Manhattan apartment that Greta Kline and Aaron Maine share is covered with paintings, photographs, and drawings. The aesthetic is bright, the space jampacked with homemade decorations, pastel guitars, and embroidered portraits of the live-in couple, making it a tiny sanctuary of comfort and love. I’m surprised that the two musicians ever leave.
When I meet them there on a Saturday, I arrive at noon, but the pair are still in their pajamas, discussing their new favorite hobby, chess. The two recount an incident to me where they became so involved in a chess game that they forget that they had company over, and given that this isn’t my first time among Maine and Kline, the story feels familiar. They seem extraterrestrially bound.
But I’m not there on this particular occasion to study the nuances of young love. I’m here to talk with Kline about the world of Frankie Cosmos, the moniker under which she performs sweet, earnest pop music, and through which she has released over forty albums on Bandcamp. Kline and I do eventually leave the blissful apartment, only to stumble upon a trail of dog poop left in the lobby, a poignant omen.
Our original plan for the day was to visit the Museum of Natural History, Kline's favorite museum, but we both have obligations in the evening and decide to stay closer to home. Instead, we sit eating bagel sandwiches at the Washington Square dog park, discussing grief—the animal kind. Kline lost her first dog and best friend, Joejoe, two years ago, and we agree that losing a dog is like losing a close family member. It is a difficult loss to recover from.
She recorded the six-track Losing EP the day after Joejoe passed, and half of those songs have found their way onto Zentropy, her first official full-length.
“You have to marinate in the sadness before you can write about something,” Kline tells me.
One of her foremost talents is that she is able to quickly access feelings that most would try to bury. And Losing is one of Frankie Cosmos’s most touching releases.
We visit several Asian food stores, stocking up on candy and mochi while avoiding the temptation to spend our money on tiny erasers. It is exciting to interview a woman my own age, although we haven’t technically sat down for a formal interview yet. It ends up feeling much more like a conversation between friends.
We walk aimlessly around the city, discussing feminism and the importance of Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, until we find ourselves at Bluestockings, a radical bookstore in the Lower East Side.
“It's so easy to be pigeonholed as a female musician,” says Kline. “But I feel so lucky that as my music gets played more, and as I play more shows and meet more people, I get to meet more women who are doing things that are really, really smart and interesting. Everyone I know is so active! Gabby [Smith] is in my band and she also makes music as Eskimeaux, Florist; Elaiza [Santos of Whatever, Dad]; Baby Mollusk; Palehound. It is so empowering and feels so good! It's so inspiring to be around all these people, not just girls, but it's really nice to feel part of a group that is super supportive. Pigeonhole me away! I'm so proud to be able to play with people like that.”
Our hearts brimming with love for our female allies, we dive back out into the cold.
The world of Frankie Cosmos has its own folklore and cast of recurring characters: Frankie. The Cosmos. The Emptiness. Ingrid Superstar. Ronnie Mystery. Ronnie Ronaldo. Joejoe. Leonie. Elaiza. A glossary might be helpful for beginners, but Kline is quiet, reticent to reveal too much.
The guitarist has been making music since her early teens, but began to utilize it as a more serious outlet following teenage heartbreak (Kline says, “I had a lot of feelings, as sixteen-year-olds do.”) Bandcamp is a safe space for wary musicians to release music—you don't even have to have played a show to have a band profile. It's easy to hide on the internet, and Kline admits to having had terrible stage fright in the past. She seems comfortable on stage these days; each Frankie Cosmos show I’ve attended includes wonderfully terrible jokes and ends with Kline rocking out on the floor. The change in persona might be driven by Kline’s experimenting with her approach.
The release of Zentropy marks a serious step away from the cozy home-recorded tracks of her past to a professional, studio-recorded full-length. For the first time, Kline emerged from the bedroom, and was joined by Maine, who fronts Porches, and producer Hunter Davidsohn at Business District Recording.
“It was really hard for me to go from having these very intimate recordings that were just me and that l have full control over and then going to a studio and Frankie wasn't really part of it. Everything was just happening and I had to accept that I wasn't the best musician there or something. So I had to step back and be like, 'I have to let these guys make my album good.'”
Kline credits Maine’s early work, which she listened to in high school, as influencing her as a musician. She says, “It's funny to have loved that album [Harmonica] when I was younger, and then meet Aaron, and now at this point in my life, I consider Aaron to be my high school sweetheart because I started dating him when I was 17. So I'm making all this music about him.” Kline describes Maine’s early songs as “super beautiful and really pure” which is not far off from how most would describe her music.
Despite her rooted connection to Maine, Kline is clear that her sound is her own.
“Just do you,” she tells me while we wander.
The afternoon adventure concludes with Kline revealing rare glimpses into the world that she shares with Maine, that blithely spinning universe.
“Aaron made up Frankie Cosmos, and it's weird because the name is so deeply embedded with our love for each other, there is so much about our relationship that is in that name. I showed Aaron the poet Frank O'Hara, and he was really into it and started calling me Frank or Frankie. The Cosmos is this infinite mystery that Aaron was writing about a lot when I met him. It's really funny to think how much of our relationship is in that name, like I always am thinking am I still going to be Frankie Cosmos if we ever break up? Would I have to change the name? It's so pertinent to Aaron and him making it up.”
The irony in the name, according to Kline, is that the act of letting her boyfriend choose her moniker seems almost patriarchal. It is an exception she is willing to make because it comes from a place of love.
“I still feel so much like an ant in the cosmos,” says Kline, and easily, she speaks for us all.
Frankie Cosmos's Zentropy is out now on Double Double Whammy.