Interview by Rebecca Blandón
I met Frankie Cosmos before she called herself Frankie Cosmos. Back then, she went by Greta. In middle school, we bonded over scribbling on Converse, mispronouncing French words in Madame Proto’s class, and playing Pretty Pretty Princess during sleepovers. We ate at the same lunch table almost every weekday and laughed about the most absurd teenage drama stories that frequented our recess-time conversations. We were at the most awkward periods of our lives, sporting the common pimple or mouth retainer, having the least worries of what would come next and never expecting to grow up.
Half a decade later and Greta’s done a whole lot of growing up, making a new name for herself as a talented and successful woman in the DIY music scene of New York City and beyond. Based on family, school, pets, and lovers, her official debut, Zentropy (via Double Double Whammy), put her in line as one of the top indie-pop stars in the past year. Covered by a slew of hip music magazines, her album was named one of the best pop albums of 2014 by Vulture.
In her latest EP, Fit Me In (via Bayonet Records), Greta continues to poetize her life from the streets of New York City to the roads she’s traveled on tour – only this time she unexpectedly does so with a retro-electronic flair.
With Fit Me In (EP), where are you trying to fit into?
I was just curious if I could fit into electronic or pop context; it’s my kind of joke I was making. We only finished it in April but Aaron and I have been working on it for a long time. He was working on the recordings and kind of helped me arrange the songs. The new Porches album that will come out is more that vein – his new stuff that’s come out in the past couple years have been electronic. He knows how to do it. I was just dabbling into his world I guess.
Do you think you’re going to try out other genres in the future?
I don’t know. I think it was kind of a one off thing, but it was definitely really fun. And when we’re playing the songs live at shows - we’ve been playing the whole EP live, we started last night, and it’s so fun. It’s definitely really weird to try to play it with your rock band. We play this rock set and then at the end, we’re like, so we’re going to play these keyboard songs with no guitar…it gets really quite [in the audience]. I definitely want to try. We make some jokes about dabbling in other genres but we never really take it there. Some of the newer songs are a little bit louder, and what I feel is like a punk song; three chords really loud. That’ll be what the next album sounds like. I don’t know if it’s really dabbling in another genre. It’s just a weird thing; it’s not a part of a larger concept.
Will your second full album following the EP be as autobiographical as your past stuff?
The third one is already done and a lot of it is about it is about touring, which is a funny thing to be writing about. A lot of it is about being on the road. I’m starting to notice how many musicians write about that; every Simon & Garfunkel song is about being on tour. It’s all about wanting to go home. I definitely had my moment writing some of those songs. I’m currently writing stuff for the third full album and they’re a little bit more vague and less autobiographical. More about concepts – I can’t really speak to it much. It’s literally just an inkling.
So where’s home?
I guess I consider home to be just Manhattan, but I live near NYU with Aaron. Not sure how much longer, but it’s really nice. My parents’ home is home to me. I’m there all the time – weekly family dinner. My friend just moved to New York and she came and met me on the Upper East Side and we were walking around and I was giving her a tour- I was realizing how small it was. It was just a little suburban neighborhood to me. That was my whole radius till I was 13 or 14. I pretty much stayed in this really small zone in Manhattan for 14 years and I got really excited once I got to take the subway in 8th grade. I definitely expanded my headquarters then.
I feel like I don’t really think about home until I’m away. I think home is just where your family is, in concept. I don’t think I’m going to be missing home when I’m in Chicago on this tour because my mom is going to be in Chicago. So, home is where my mom is, in the moment (Chuckles).
What about the new people that you’ve met on tour?
It’s nice to build a little home every night. It’s really special to get to a place, unroll a sleeping bag, set it up, get comfortable and hang out with people you wouldn’t get a chance to otherwise. I think that’s nice – to make fast friends and then leave them the next day. It’s definitely a different kind of friendship. You don’t get to pass much surface stuff unless you go back to spend time with the same person multiple times on tours, which is really fun because then you get to build a friendship over time. It’s different everywhere. It’s a really interesting thing to do. I love getting away from NY. My favorite thing about leaving is being in another place where no one knows you and feeling like you can just explore who you are without any context of your home or your family. You could wear something crazy you’d never wear otherwise – you could be a different person almost, learning a lot about yourself. That’s my favorite thing about meeting different people in such a short period of time.
What about the bands that you’ve toured with, like Girlpool, recently?
Oh my god. I love them so much. We shared a car on tour so we got really close to them and that was really fun. We kind of new them and then we became really good friends. We spent every day with them – it was such a good dynamic in the car. I think touring with another band in your car is really special because you have to become their friend. And I just really love them. This tour, we’re doing shows with All Dogs but they’re in a different car – we’re only a day in but I’m curious to see if we end up spending time with them or not. They’re really nice and I’ve known Maryn for a while, so we’ll see how it goes. I love seeing the same band play every single night for two weeks because you really get a really intricate knowledge of their songs and you start to notice ever single day. Then when you get home and you have the first day when you’re not hearing that band play, you’re like…oh my god, where is All Dogs?! Where’s the music? You just feel so connected to it. I love touring with other bands; it’s probably the best thing about it.
So what does your new rock band look like? You recently took on a new drummer, Luke Pyenson formerly of Krill. What about the rest?
Gabby, our keyboard player is still in the band for now, but she has her band, Eskimeaux. They’re amazing and they’re going to be really famous so we can’t hold on to her much longer. But [my friend] Lauren has played with us and she wants to join when she graduates or maybe before because we have a tour in April. Gabby is going to play with us during the winter. The old face of Frankie Cosmos was very funny because both halves of the band looked alike – me and Gabby looked alike with the same haircut and David and Aaron were brothers, so it was a funny, creepy family band look. It seemed really funny. I feel like Luke and Lauren are very adult – Luke has a normal office job and he’s often coming from his job to play and he’ll have a nice a shirt on. And Lauren, makes all her clothes and they’re very simple and so David and I just look really young in comparison to them. I also just cut my hair, so I feel really young. So it’s going to be interesting; I’m curious to see how we look. I’m really excited to have another girl with mel it’s always nice to have an even number in the car. I don’t know how this tour will be; it’s my first time alone with the two boys in the car, so I don’t know. It keeps changing every tour.
I remember you saying that you wanted to have more girls in your band. Is that because you feel more comfortable around them or is it because you want to make a statement?
I felt like, especially when I was picking my new drummer, that Luke was the only option, but in that moment of opportunity I was thinking, There’s just so many fewer girls playing music that of course I want to get a girl. But, Luke knew all the parts and he had offered years ago so he kind of joined really fast and it was really easy. I don’t know if you have to make a political statement every time you do something, but I definitely feel a little weird that my entire backing is two, white straight men; but at the same time, what are you going to do? They’re really good at their jobs, I’m not going to not have them because they’re boys. I’m definitely excited to have another girl there to have girl talk with. Luke and David are pretty good at girl talk too but, you know, I like to have another female present otherwise I get a little crazy.
What is girl talk?
Actually, last night, Luke and David were talking and saying like, Oh, that guy is so hot…no this boy is way hotter. They’re definitely pretty good at girl talk too. That’s what I would say is girl talk: which boys are hot (Chuckles). Also, I think that being a girl in a band is really hard because people tend to not take you seriously, so having another girl to commiserate on that – who understands it – is really nice. I mean, I think Luke and David understand it because they see it often – we all have moments of feeling disrespected – but I definitely like having a girl there to be like, Oh my god, that guy hates women (Chuckles). That’s what girl talk is, being like, Oh man, don’t you feel like no one thinks we’re in the band?
What do you do when you’re not making music?
I’m really into designing crossword puzzles and I love doing puzzles. I love KenKen. I’m really into math-y puzzles. And I love drawing comics. I really want to start a comic blog with a few people – it’s not really an outlet for me, it’s just fun. I also think it’d be fun to make a zine or something.
How do you think Greta has changed in relation to Frankie Cosmos? Are they the same or not?
I think that Greta has had to become a more open person in order to pursue Frankie Cosmos. I think touring - giving up my routines and a normal life, and finishing college and all the things I had to give up to pursue it - definitely changed the path that I had seen for Greta. I think I’m definitely one with Frankie – I’ll go by both. We’re the same person. I do think I used to be kind of shy about performing and I think I was just afraid of sharing my songs. I had to open up and do stuff that I hadn’t done, and I think having a character helps you do that. [Frankie Cosmos] has helped me become more open and an outward person. I like that and I hope to continue becoming more assertive and…crazy, I don’t know (Chuckles).