Greta Kline, also known by her stage name Frankie Cosmos, started releasing music online at the age of 15. In an eerily similar way to Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, Kline went from posting bedroom recordings on Bandcamp.com to touring with an acclaimed band signed to a major indie label. Now, in some ways, she’s coming full circle.
Kline is playing at MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst in Portland on Sunday, Aug. 27, along with one of her idols, Beck. She cites his 1994 album “One Foot in the Grave” as one of the reasons she started playing music. Although she is excited to share a stage with him, she’s not as excited about drinking some Pabst Blue Ribbon as other festival-goers might be.
“I don’t drink, so it feels really funny to be playing a beer-themed thing,” Kline said. “I’m just going to drink some water there — drink lots of water.”
Kline developed her sound in New York City and Westchester County’s DIY scene. She recently signed to Seattle’s iconic Sub Pop Records for her next album after 2016’s “Next Thing.”
On Frankie Cosmos’s 2016 album, “Next Thing,” Kline sings in a quiet monotonous tone — her voice floating just above wry lyrics about being in love, being in your early 20s and the feelings that come with change. “Some day in bravery / I’ll embody all grace and lightness,” she sings on “Embody.” “Everybody understands me / but I wish nobody understood me.”
A former English and creative writing major at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Kline writes poetry in addition to her music. Though her lyrics are full of wordplay and simple imagery, the artist keeps her literary pursuits separate from her songwriting. Kline has a poet’s demeanor — both internally motivated, and interested in the way the world works at the same time.
Kline has tried to turn poems into songs and songs into poems, but said it feels weird to do so. She noted that her lyrics are influenced by certain chords and that she writes the words with music in mind. With poetry, she thinks about how the poem will sound when read aloud with nothing else behind it.
“Performing is such an outward thing, but for me, the writing part, which is the most vital part for me, is very introspective,” she said. “I think a lot about the fact that you can never really communicate fully anything that you write.”
One of Kline’s favorite poets is Elizabeth Bishop. The Massachusetts-born Pulitzer Prize winner is known for her descriptions of the natural world and exploration of grief in her work. Kline likes Bishop’s work because she can read Bishop’s poems many times and never lose interest. “That’s always a feat,” she said.
In concert, Kline finds herself feeling vulnerable while trying to connect with an audience. Recent festival gigs have provoked some stage fright in her. “I feel like I remember every show so well. It’s funny — it always carries a lot of weight with me,” Kline said.
Although her band is growing more popular by the day, Kline’s favorite performances are still the small, cramped house shows that kickstarted her career. Her audience’s rapid growth may make it hard for her to play house shows as much, but she still aims to play at least two per year.
“To just be on the floor, with no stage, feels good,” she said.
Though she’ll only be drinking water at the festival, Kline is excited to connect with an audience, even if it may be a larger one than she’s used to. “We just have fun and try to make everybody enjoy themselves,” Kline said. “If they don’t, they don’t. If they do, they do.”
Frankie Cosmos plays MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst on Aug. 27 from 2:20 to 3 p.m. at the Captain Pabst stage. The festival runs Aug. 26 and 27 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. For more information and tickets, check out the festival’s website at portland.projectpabst.com.
Check out Frankie Cosmos’s “Outside With The Cuties” below:
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