Concert preview: Frankie Cosmos whittles down to tackle big ideas

Joel Oliphint

For years Greta Kline, the creative force behind Frankie Cosmos, carried a backpack stuffed with just-in-case sundries: sweater, notebook, books, Ziploc bag full of markers. When managing her own tour, she'd also bring along her computer.

"I realized my computer was on my back for the entire tour. I could never put it down somewhere," Kline said by phone recently. "When you bring stuff you don't need, and you're lugging it around for a month, you regret it so much. I remember there was a tour where our bandmate brought 'Settlers of Catan,' and it just sat in the car for five weeks, and we were all so annoyed by it. Literally, that box was how much less space we had."

Recently, Kline started lightening her load. She usually ditches the backpack for a smaller bag. A smartphone takes the place of a computer. And after a friend's notebook with five years' worth of writing was stolen, Kline realized she didn't want all her ideas with her at all times.

That tendency to discard anything extraneous carries over to Kline's music. A Frankie Cosmos song often lasts two minutes or less. The band's most recent album,Next Thing, covers 15 songs in less than 30 minutes, and 2014's 10-song LPZentropy clocks in at 18 minutes. But the length of these indie-pop gems is secondary to Kline's casually incisive songwriting, which filters out every superfluous word or phrase until only the golden nugget of an idea remains.

"I'll be messing around with the same idea for a long time. Figuring out how to express something takes a lot of tries," said Kline, who'll visit Ace of Cups with her three bandmates on Thursday, Aug. 4. "I have a lot of excess stuff to get through to figure out what I want to say or how to say it. Editing is really important for me. Now I'm doing it privately, but when I was younger and just uploading everything I made to my website, I was publicly doing that - messing with the same themes until I get it right."

Kline, 22, began writing songs as a New York teen and posting them on Bandcamp under various names (Ingrid Superstar, Zebu Fur) before settling on Frankie Cosmos.Zentropy, her first studio album, brought Kline's music to a wider audience and was namedNew York magazine's No. 1 pop album of 2014. OnNext Thing and last year'sFit Me In EP, Kline wrote and recorded new songs while also applying fresh, full-band arrangements to some of her older material.

Though Kline no longer lugs a big notebook, she's constantly writing down observations and ideas in small, 30-page Muji notebooks. She's a true poet, using quotidian aspects of everyday life as vehicles for larger concepts of belonging, control and the messiness of relationships. And also her dog.

Kline's family dog since first grade, Joe Joe, died a few years ago and ended up on the cover ofZentropy. That album's closing track, "Sad 2," is a gut punch for anyone who's ever had to say goodbye to a furry friend. "I just want my dog back/ Is that so much to ask?" she sings. "I wish that I could kiss his paws."

"I have tried to convince my parents to get another dog," said Kline, the daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. "But I still love Joe Joe and think about him all the time. It's not as intense as it was right after it happened when I wrote a million songs about it. But it's such a crazy thing [to have to put a dog down]. It's so horrifying, and it's scarring. You can't unsee it. … And there's so much guilt and terrible feelings around it, but you only do that because it's better for the animal.If I'd done this interview two years ago, I'd probably be crying right now."

In conversation, Kline comes across as bright and chipper - so much so that people sometimes don't see past her chatty, cordial persona. "My soul is not a waterpark/ It's big but surprisingly dark," she sings on "Sinister."

"That line is about surprising someone else about being dark," Kline said. "It's about someone saying to me that they think my soul is like a waterpark - like it's big and sunny and kind and fun. It's like, well, there's this darkness that you don't know about."

Despite the darkness, Kline continually tries to connect with the world in deeper ways. "Someday, in bravery, I'll embody all the grace and lightness," she sings on "Embody."

"Embodying the grace and lightness is the way I feel when I'm onstage - when I'm not thinking about anything else except connecting with my bandmates and these people in the room," Kline said. "It's this beautiful thing. I don't know if I have that yet in other places in my life. It's about wanting to feel that all the time."

Ace of Cups

7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4

2619 N. High St.,

Old North