Pop goes the Hol­ly­wood kid

Greta Kline has emerged from her ac­tor par­ents’ shad­ows to carve her own path, writes Lau­renMur­phy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - Frankie Cos­mo­splay Whe­lan’s, Dublin on August 2nd.

Greta Kline’s boyfriend has a joke he likes to tell about her.

“He says: ‘I’ll go to the bath­room and come out and you’ll have writ­ten a song,’” she says, laugh­ing down the phone line from her New York apart­ment. “Ac­tu­ally, I wrote a song just last night and I was re­ally push­ing my­self to make it better af­ter I thought it was fin­ished.” She pauses, deadly se­ri­ous. “So it ended up be­ing a mul­ti­ple-hours process.”

Fin­ish­ing a song in a mat­ter of hours might sound like an im­pres­sive feat, if not for the fact that Kline has been bang­ing out tune af­ter tune in this man­ner since she was 15. She’s still only 23, mind, but she’s al­ready got a discog­ra­phy that ex­ceeds Bob Dy­lan’s for vol­ume, with around 50 al­bums re­leased un­der var­i­ous guises, such as In­grid Su­per­star, Greta or Zebu Fur.

These days, she fronts the band that took its name from her pseu­do­nym Frankie Cos­mos, who sound like a lo-fi ver­sion of Best Coast mixed with the anti-folk scene she spent her teenage years ab­sorb­ing. Most tracks rarely clock in over two min­utes, but they’re charm­ing and damned catchy.

Mu­sic has al­ways been in Kline’s blood – her pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was an “ama­teur opera singer” – but it wasn’t the fam­ily trade. Her par­ents, ac­tors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, never pushed her into fol­low­ing in their foot­steps de­spite a small role in Noah Baum­bach’s The Squid and the Whale when she was 11.

“I was re­ally shy when I was a kid, and I was not in­ter­ested in act­ing,” she says, adding that she suf­fered badly from stage fright up un­til a few years ago. “But there was no more pres­sure on me to act than any other kid. My mom, for the last 10 years or more, has ac­tu­ally run a store” – a bou­tique called Blue Tree in Man­hat­tan – “and I spent a lot of time work­ing there – but I never felt ‘Yeah, I’m gonna work at the store for­ever’, either.”


As a child, she was your av­er­age Spice Girls-lov­ing child of the 1990s be­fore her older brother Owen be­gan shap­ing her taste.

“I re­ally liked punk mu­sic and ex­per­i­men­tal mu­sic that my brother was tak­ing me to go see in the city, when I was prob­a­bly like, 13 years old. I was see­ing a lot of teenagers mak­ing ‘weird’ mu­sic, and I think that was prob­a­bly a big part of the rea­son that I ac­tu­ally started to play my­self.”

Kline was study­ing at NYU when Frankie Cos­mos be­gan to take off. Be­fore then, she had also been play­ing bass and tour­ing in her boyfriend Aaron Maine’s band, Porches (Maine is also a for­mer mem­ber of Frankie Cos­mos). Her first “proper” re­lease on a la­bel – not­with­stand­ing that ex­ten­sive back cat­a­logue, re­leased via stream­ing site Band­camp – was 2014’s Zen­tropy; a song on last year’s ex­cel­lent fol­low-up Next Thing called If I Had a Dog ref­er­ences break­ing the news to her par­ents that she was drop­ping out to pur­sue mu­sic full-time.

“It was a re­ally long process, drop­ping out of col­lege,” she re­calls, chuck­ling. “I was there for a se­mes­ter, then I would take a se­mes­ter off and go on tour, then I would go back for a se­mes­ter. There was def­i­nitely a weird pe­riod of time where you’re sit­ting around the ta­ble at Thanks­giv­ing, or what­ever, and telling your fam­ily, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just tak­ing a se­mes­ter off, I’m gonna go back soon. Def­i­nitely.’”

She says that hav­ing fa­mous par­ents has not af­fected her ca­reer ad­versely. She re­cently re­alised that mak­ing an ef­fort to go and min­gle and talk to her fans was prob­a­bly her sub­con­scious telling her to “prove” her­self.

“I don’t know if I’ve had to fight harder, but I def­i­nitely had a chip on my shoul­der about it – whether or not that’s any­one’s fault but my own. I’m al­ways the one sit­ting at the merch ta­ble and talk­ing to ev­ery­one at the show – and I think it’s be­cause I have this deep fear that if I’m not ap­proach­able or I’m not there, people are go­ing to think I’m a brat. I re­ally ex­haust my­self so­cially on tour, just to prove to ev­ery sin­gle per­son, ‘I’m nice! I’m friendly!’ But I do so much stuff with Frankie Cos­mos – for a long time, I was book­ing our tours be­fore we got a book­ing agent – so I know that I’ve earned it. It’s still a worry that be­cause of my par­ents, people are go­ing to think that I’m some kind of spoilt Hol­ly­wood kid, or what­ever.”

Far from it: the like­able, self-ef­fac­ing Kline is the an­tithe­sis of a Hol­ly­wood brat, with a self-aware­ness you’d imag­ine is rare among the prog­eny of big stars. She re­cently signed a deal with Sub Pop and is plan­ning to re­lease the third Frankie Cos­mos al­bum with the in­de­pen­dent la­bel early next year, sug­gest­ing that the band’s sound may change and evolve on it. At the same time, there is a han­ker­ing to scale things back and re­turn to her DIY roots and “try and make an­other al­bum on my com­puter, like how I used to make them when I was younger”.

Kline’s sense of am­bi­tion is tus­sling with her de­ter­mi­na­tion not to get too far ahead of her­self, and her joy in song­writ­ing and play­ing mu­sic.

“The thing is, I feel like it would de­feat the pur­pose of be­ing a mu­si­cian if I let any kind of fear of fail­ure af­fect my song­writ­ing, or mak­ing an al­bum, or what­ever. I re­ally like the fact that I get to spend all of my time do­ing mu­sic, and man­ag­ing this band, so I wanna keep it that way. I would love to be able to do Frankie Cos­mos for­ever. And it’s amaz­ing to get to go to these places that I just never thought I’d get to play. And I want people to like it, so hope­fully that’ll keep hap­pen­ing. I’m just try­ing to keep it true to my­self. I’m try­ing not to over­think it too much.”

I have this deep fear that if I’m not ap­proach­able or I’m not there, people are go­ing to think I’m a brat. I re­ally ex­haust my­self so­cially on tour, just to prove to ev­ery sin­gle per­son, ‘I’m nice! I’m friendly!

Kline (right) with her fel­low band mem­bers Luke Pyen­son, David Mys­tery and Lau­ren Martin Frankie Cos­mos for­ever

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