Frankie Cosmos – Friendship, happiness and Inner World Peace

Frankie Cosmos

This is an abridged version of the full article that will appear in MÜ8 in February 2023.

Are friendships for life a thing anymore? Does our unsettled world give us the right habitat to grow older together as friends? I’m not so sure. But maybe that’s just me. It’s the sign of a deep friendship when you can see someone after, like, forever and it’s like you’ve never been apart. 

Frankie Cosmos had already made the decision to go on a hiatus ‘from touring and the rat race’ before Covid struck, a hiatus that ended up lasting almost 500 days. The decision to get together again and start work on new music threw up a few questions: How would they feel? Would it work? Would the space afforded by the hiatus and no live shows allow new influences and ways of working to be embraced into their world?

Greta Kline, Lauren Martin, Luke Pyenson and Alex Bailey are sat together, looking relaxed and joking like a bunch of friends that are locked in for the long haul. There’s warmth, humour, openness, observation and candour from them all and a very definite excitement and pride in their excellent new record, Inner World Peace, a sparkling storybook about inner reflection, curiosity, perception, times past and times to come all delivered with alluring harmonies and joyful brevity. 

I start by asking about their individual perceptions of what this record means to them.

Greta Kline

The writing process was definitely affected by not being on tour for the first time in my adult life. I’d been on tour non-stop since I was 18 pretty much. Being able to write in a still moment where I’m in one place for a period – we didn’t have a single show booked – was really cool. It also made all of us appreciate being together and able to make music together after, like, 500 days apart. When we finally got back together and played music in a room together, I don’t know, it felt magical….

Lauren Martin

We were much more relaxed than other times when we were arranging. We were having fun together, cooking dinner and watching movies. Whereas before, we’d have to arrange three songs and then a week later, we were leaving on tour.

Alex Bailey

For me, it was more like I had a list of demos, and I’d sit there and be like, okay, I gotta make a part for this kind of a thing.

GS

How did having that headspace make you feel?

AB

We had like 500 days off, so when it finally came time to ‘Oh, my God, we’re going to be a band again, this is going to be who I am again’, it was so intoxicating from start to finish. When we started arranging to the moment we were done recording, I was just completely drunk from start to finish, but really, I was like, oh, fuck, actually who am I?

GK

I don’t wanna speak for you guys, but for me, the best part is working together on it. The harder part is the touring element that we have now had all this time and space away from. This was the most concentrated time working on new music together that we’ve ever had.

AB

And also, we have always had to carry 30 songs around with us to play live.

LP

Yeah, and the other thing is, we really had the time to dissect each song, talk about every aspect of it, talk about the lyrics, talk about the inspiration behind the lyrics, the mood that we want it to conjure, and we maybe could have given ourselves the time or made more of an effort to give ourselves the time to do in previous sessions…

LM

We considered everything a lot more.

GS

By having that time to dissect what each song means to you, do you feel like it brought you closer together even more? 

GK

Yeah, I think so. I felt that it was more inclusive in general. But I always feel like I get a little more willing to delegate and share responsibility and stuff. The fact that I allowed Luke to write a lyric is huge for me. (Tons of laughter) Normally, I go ‘No, this is the format of the songs’. And with this, almost every single song changed format.

AB

Yeah, the intros and outros. There’s a phenomenon on this record, where we literally were having so much fun and we would add space on the songs for us to just like jam, there’s a bunch of places where we would just say, ‘Okay, now there’s like an open area’ or ‘just kind of lay into it’ for our own enjoyment. 

GK

Yeah, normally I’m like, ‘no, no, no, this song’s a minute and a half’. And that’s it. It’s just the lyrics, no other parts.

AB

I find it interesting that we definitely created space for ourselves.

GS

Until now, you’ve had most of the creative input, Greta, in terms of song format, lyrics, so was this approach liberating?

GK

I think, like, after having a year and a half of just making demos where I had full control over them, I didn’t feel like it was difficult to like, go in and collaborate. That’s exciting to me. I used to be stricter with wanting the final song to be the same format as the demo. 

LM

You’re very flexible. A lot of the songs are really different from the original version. I mean, obviously, all of Greta’s lyrics and the melody are the same, but yeah, we cut things up and changed the order or stuck part of this song on the end of that song. It’s like we were all collaging.

LP

There’s only one line that someone who’s not Greta contributed, and it wasn’t even out of thin air, it’s a kind of a rephrasing of a line that occurs earlier in the song. It was more of an edit than a completely new line. So lyrically, that’s not really a place where that kind of thing happened. I am also an editor and I feel like now having worked with Greta for such a long time. I feel like I can kind of inhabit her voice a little bit. A little bit. I feel like the job of a writer and editor is to try to, well, you shouldn’t be seen or felt. You have to make sure that it’s that person coming across.

GK

Actually, we haven’t really talked about this, but I think it feels like the most that we worked on an album, where it’s one thing. In the past, it was like, here’s three songs, arrange them, here’s another three songs, we’ll arrange them. This time, it was like they were connected.

LM

It feels more cohesive. 

AB

There’re consciously no solo songs, which is weird for an FC album. Usually, there’s a couple acoustic numbers. 

GK

I feel like I have my demos as a place that I can do that acoustic thing, and they now don’t need to be part of a Frankie Cosmos album. I also think not having shows planned allowed us to make the arrangements thicker than they normally would be. How we are going to achieve that arrangement live, that’s a problem for future us, which we’re now dealing with. When we play the show, we’ll be thinking about how we are going to get all six guitar parts to happen at the same time! 

LM

I remember distinctly with previous albums being very concerned about how we were going to play the songs live. But this one was like, well, we may never play this live. It was pretty bad. Like, when we were making this, bands hadn’t necessarily started touring again. So, we were like, we’re never gonna tour again or play a show, so it doesn’t matter. Of course, like, I never really thought that! It was just more freeing to do it without the live thing on our mind.

LP

It’s funny because it sounds like what we’re describing is actually a fairly normal process. We just didn’t used to operate like that.

LM

We’re all practical people and we don’t want to create problems for ourselves in the future. So, we’ve all been like, let’s make an album that we can play.

GS

How has the experience of knowing each other and being in Frankie Cosmos changed you as people?

LP

Well, I guess the first thing that popped into my mind is that Lauren and I got married during the process of making this record

{Loud whoops and applause from everyone}

I feel like our closeness and our shared wavelength just blossomed. We’ve been in the band together and, I don’t want to say that that influences the music necessarily. We also have very similar music tastes and influences, and we live together, so we’re listening to the same stuff for the past two and a half years! We’ve talked through everything we’ve listened to, so I feel that has definitely been a theme for us. 

LM

With each album, I feel like we all get better at making music together and closer as friends and then Luke and I got closer as partners. I think what we’ve all gotten better at and what Greta’s gotten so good at is letting go of expectations of what the song has to be. 

GK

I think the hard thing about collaborating is also the point of collaborating, someone else is going to have a different thing that they are impulsively, intuitively, drawn towards. I always say that the harmony that I write for myself is going to be so different from the harmony that Lauren or Alex writes, or the way that I hear the tempo of the song is going to be different than how Luke interprets it. And it’s like, that’s the point of collaborating. If I wanted it to just be the way that I see it, I would make it all by myself, like a lot of musicians do. But, you know, there are parts on this album where I didn’t really like how those parts were changing and didn’t really like to do them. And maybe Lauren would feel strongly about repeating this part. And I would say that I hate repeating stuff and then I would just go ‘okay, well, let’s try it. And then, hey, it would really grow on me. 

AB

I always felt like I could just play my part and you guys don’t tell me not to play! With my part, you get to do whatever you want {everyone laughs}.

GK

I mean, ideally, everyone just gets to play a part that they like to play, and nobody’s telling anyone else what to do. But of course, when it comes to like the format of song, that’s where we have conversations of who feels the strongest about it turning out this way or that way. There are moments of, you know, compromise but those can turn out to be things that you end up really liking.

AB

The person we recorded with, Nate, who was an engineer / producer, he did shape the album as well. He had opinions and would direct us and say, ‘ok we’re gonna do this now because that’s enough takes and stuff’. 

LM

Bringing ideas is all done with extreme kindness, like no one’s feelings get hurt feelings. We’re just like ‘are you sure we should do that?’ or ‘maybe we should try that’. It’s all very kind of like, fun. 

GK

There’s ‘play’ – not play like playing music, but play like fucking around and finding out, so it’s an attitude. That’s why we ended up maybe playing the song a bunch of different ways. 

GS

To me, this all shows your open mindedness to try different things, and it also shows your trust in each other. I mean one of the hardest things is if your ideas get rejected, isn’t it? 

AB

Ha, yeah! They’re all in the control room, and I’m recording by myself, and I get a little ding and they’re like ‘can you play something else?’ {everyone laughs}

GK

It’s like a vocal part that I latched on to from a demo and it was to do with this last ‘again’, in a pause. And everyone’s like, we don’t like that last ‘again’. And I was like, but it’s part of like, the pause, otherwise, it’s…. a pause. And then when we got in the mixing room, we just turned it down. And then we turned it down. And then we turned it down until it was gone. And I was fine with that. As long as I think it’s there somewhere {everyone laughs}

LP

I hear it even though it’s not there anymore {everyone laughs}

Inner World Peace out now on Sub Pop Records

https://www.frankiecosmosband.com

Photo by: Pooneh Ghana

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