The DIY Universe of Frankie Cosmos' Performance Art

Greta Kline created Frankie Cosmos to deliver tranquilizing bedtime rock

Frankie Cosmos, aka Greta Kline, is the daughter of Hollywood actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, but her upbringing wasn’t that different from any of her friends that grew up in New York City in the ‘90s and ‘00s, according to her.

“I went to school and got good grades and ate food,” Kline said cheekily to me over the phone earlier this month.

However, she does appreciate having been able to grow up in an environment where exploring art galleries and random neighborhoods was readily available to her.

Bearing witness to the flourishing DIY scene during that period was especially important for Kline, and it’s rubbed off on her in the best of ways. With most of her music having been released as exclusive singles on Bandcamp under various monikers -- Ingrid Superstar, Little Bear, the Ingrates, Zebu Fur and, of course, Frankie Cosmos -- Kline has successfully utilized the full extent of the internet’s capacity to foster a DIY sensibility.

Now, after 2016’s Pitchfork-praised album was released on Beach Fossils’ Bayonet Records, she has a new album coming out on the scene-defining Sub Pop record label. And while she might be getting help from some higher-ups these days, she still retains her performative DIY mindset.

“I like creating a character. I think it has to do with separating myself from my work and not having it so much be a reflection of me,” she said, explaining her preference for stage names.

Part of this impulse might come from her parents’ acting influence, but a large part of it might also come from her fondness for poetry, which is largely an exercise in speaking in different voices.

In fact, Kline’s Frankie Cosmos nom-de-plume is a reference to prominent New York School poet Frank O’Hara.

“I really like Frank O’Hara’s poetry, and I bought a book of his … My boyfriend [Aaron Maine of the synth-pop band Porches] started calling me Frank because of it,” she said.

Nonetheless, poetry and music are somewhat compartmentalized for her.

“It’s hard to explain why it’s different [poetry vs. music], but I think that it’s pretty different. I don’t think any kid is just reading my lyric booklet apart from my music, and I would hope that they don’t. I think the music is such an integral part of what makes it work and how it was crafted,” she said.

As you listen to the tranquilizing bedtime rock of Frankie Cosmos’ “Next Thing” note the significance of each melodic lilt, every rhythmic lull. It’s as self-conscious as it is soothingly disarming -- there’s always a knowing wink in the act.

“Everything is everything,” Kline said. “All art is performance art.”

CS Presents hosts Frankie Cosmos at the Irenic on Saturday, Sept. 2. Get tickets here

Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.

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