Q+A: Greta Kline From the Band, Frankie Cosmos
Greta Kline spent her younger years writing songs and thinking nobody online would value them. "Nobody" turned out to be a huge fanbase of people who followed her back when she went by the name of Ingrid Superstar. What's bigger than a superstar? Our universe. The cosmos. Kline's new popularity is right at home with her bigger, badder band name as Pitchfork's "Best New Music" of 2016.
What would you say is the most challenging part about being a musician in the times of your art being given away practically for free? Really, many artists I know get paid $0.001 per stream by Spotify, far below the company's claimed average. 1 million streams by that pays $1,000, hardly enough to cover one month's rent in NYC or LA! And no matter what our parents have done, they all want us to make it and earn livings from it.
I think the most challenging part about being a musician today is that for indie artists, making a living from music means constantly touring. Live music and physical merchandise are the only parts of music that most people are willing to pay for (as opposed to listening to it, since streaming is common practice at this point in America). So being a musician really means being on the road, which can be a pretty isolating and weird lifestyle.
With everyone on YouTube and streaming services, how do you try to stand out from the masses of people all releasing material?
I think it's awesome that so many musicians are able to make their work accessible for listeners. I don't really think about trying to stand out from the other people on the internet, but I think I've gotten a lot better at having an internet presence that makes it easier for people who like the music to follow us and find out more about the project.
When did your friends and family believe in your music and see it as not just a cute hobby? And you? When did you see yourself as a real musician?
I think they started believing in it about the same time that I did. I always viewed it as a hobby until I started developing a fan base and deciding to play shows and go on tour. It's still hard for me to believe that I get to do this!
Do you feel as someone in her early 20's that your material is viewed any differently than if a male artist or more mature musician wrote it? Is this ever working in your benefit or is it frustrating?
Yea, I'm sure it affects some people's view on the material. Probably in a frustrating way-- sometimes from the way people talk about music, it seems like they think there is only room to like one female-fronted band at a time. People often compare any music that is made by women, like it's a genre.
When have women in music supported you when you didn't think they cared? Is industry feminism real at all or something people talk about like fiction?
I have been really lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive amazing women! Instead of viewing music or success as a competition, I feel like my friends are all in this together. We play shows together or take each other on tour, work on each other's albums, give advice or lend an ear, etc.
The really nice thing about you is you don't have the big Top 40 hit label type executives pushing you out of your comfort zone with your appearance or musical territory. And you're gaining new fans, hopefully more every year, because I as a girl want to think we're a little tired of being sold plastic life like all these young women who happen to be famous, all hanging out as best friends and calling the paparazzi on themselves, or the fake beefs people do for publicity! It's like none of them enjoy music anymore. At the same time, growing without anyone guiding you means mistakes. What mistakes have worked for you? Which ones haven't?
I definitely would rather control my own image and songwriting than be more successful on someone else's terms. Being a touring musician is pretty grueling, as you spend a lot of time away from home and it can take a huge toll on your relationships. So I wouldn't want to be doing this if I didn't get to play music that I care about a lot and that is rewarding for me in an emotional way. You're right though, it's pretty difficult to navigate everything without a manager-- I have definitely ended up in some uncomfortable situations, which were probably due to mistakes or just not knowing exactly how to handle things. But I feel like I'm constantly learning and mistakes are part of that process. I also have some people I really trust who I know I can always ask for help with managerial stuff (and that list of people has only grown!).
You have released many handfuls of albums. Beyoncé is probably the only person close to this in how she records 50-100 songs and doesn't use all of them for her albums. Do you ever feel like you shouldn't have released something or want to redo a song? Would you ever see yourself cutting back on released material and weeding out what is in your view the strongest work?
I have recently started being a lot more picky about what songs are going to be released. We are releasing music a lot less frequently now, because I want everything to be really good now. I don't regret having put all those demos online as a teen, but I probably won't release music soflippantly in the future, I just care more about it at this point, and I put more work into the songs. We do also sometimes go back and re-work old material-- on our new record that we are working on now, there are 3 songs that have previously been released as demos.
Do you feel like you create your best work when you're stressed out and go take a walk and do something weird or lazy, or when you are fully focused on working on a song with scheduled times for writing?
I think some of the best ideas come to me at random times when I'm walking around or something, but I never end up with a complete song that I'm happy with until I sit down and really focus on fine-tuning those ideas.
You've been honored by Pitchfork with the "Best New Music" crown of 2016. Beyond the expected happiness from this, how did it affect your music and nerves going into work knowing people now notice your music?
This time it didn't really change anything for me-- I was much more affected by the first round of criticism/praise that Frankie Cosmos received, after the release of Zentropy. It just took some getting used to that something I made could be heard or reviewed, but now I don't really take it too much to heart.
Speaking of the amazingly nice staff over there, and I must thank them for connecting us, you're appearing at this year's Pitchfork Festival. What are you looking forward to most about it? What other fun career moves and news do you have going on this and next year?
It's gonna be a huge show for us! I'm also just really excited to get to hang out there and see some of the amazing artists performing. In other news, we also just announced that we signed to Sub Pop, so we are going to finish our new album and release it soon!