We’ll take “Buzz Bands” for $50, Alex: Bethany Cosentino meditates on their trajectory to date and to come. (Best Coast is currently on a U.S. tour which includes a stop at BLURT’s sister business Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC, on June 1; the group will be unveiling material from a new EP that’s due out soon on the tour.)
BY MAX BLAU
In 2010, California indie rockers Best Coast released Crazy For You—their highly anticipated debut album featuring the breakout hit “Boyfriend.” The duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno became one of the year’s breakout acts, displaying an impressive collection of reverb-drenched pop songs on relationships, getting high and a love of their home state. As infectious as the record sounded, however, much of their emergence occurred because of Cosentino’s persona.
Between her cat Snacks and her openness regarding her personal weed consumption, it
wasn’t always clear if the music or musician should be the main attraction.
But on their sophomore record The Only Place (released last year on Mexican Summer), Cosentino and Bruno took their sound in a new direction, drawing on classic country artists along with an abiding love for Fleetwood Mac (the Mac’s Tusk track, “Storms,” appeared on a limited-to-3000-copies-for-indie-stores 7″ single, and the band contributed their version of “Rhiannon” to last year’s Just Tell Me That You Want Me F.M. tribute album). They were
also recording in a proper studio for the first time, producer Jon Brion helping them craft a record fully showcasing their talents. With the new release, the band’s music stood alone in the spotlight, minus Cosentino’s feline fandom or marijuana PSAs.
We spoke with Best Coast’s frontlady about how the group moved away from lo-fi recordings, working with corporate brands and being featured as an answer (about “Buzz Bands”) on Jeopardy.
BLURT: During the time between Crazy For You and this record, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned?
COSENTINO: I was super stressed and anxious and I think this time around I know how to handle that stress in a better way. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is like my new motto.
Two years later, how you have learned to balance your public and private life? Have you gotten used to it? Has it become manageable or is it something you still
I’ve just learned that you don’t always have to tell people every little thing you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, [you] know? If I’m out partying I don’t need to tweet “you guys I’m soooo drunk!” It’s not really any of the world’s business what I do in my private life – and since my songs are so personal, I figure everyone already knows too much about me anyways…
On the flip side, what was it like being on Jeopardy? Did you know beforehand you’d be featured or did you just see that randomly one day?
I had no idea! I was in Hawaii and someone tweeted it at me, and then a second later my mom text messaged me about it and I was like, “ok, what the fuck?” It was definitely surreal and one of those moments where I just realized, “shit man, my life is fucking awesome.”
What kind of music inspired the country elements on your new record? Who would you credit as influential on this record?
For me, it was Patsy Cline, Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Patron, Connie Francis, Loretta Lynn. Bobb credits X as being his biggest influence on the record, and we both were hugely
influenced by The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. Always.
When did you write these new songs? Did they all follow Crazy For You or were they earlier ones? In terms of subject matter, what were you trying to write about?
A few of the songs were written pre-Crazy For You. About three of the songs are earlier recordings that we thought were beautiful enough that they deserved a chance to be recorded in a big studio with proper production. The rest were all written on my downtime during the Crazy For You touring schedule. I’d be home for a few days every few months, so I’d lock myself into my bedroom and write a bunch of songs about how I was feeling, and most of those feeling were deep emotions about being homesick or confused about what my life was turning into.
These songs are about feeling all over the place and not really understanding life. It’s more of an existential album, more about things I think about and don’t have answers to.
You’ve talked about how your bedroom, your home and California are safe places where you feel the most comfortable. Have you come to grips with being on the road and feeling the opposite of how you are at home?
I definitely hadn’t back then, but I think I have now. Like I said, I’ve changed a lot and I think part of that change has just been learning how to deal with stress and learning how to be OK with things when they aren’t exactly the way you want them to be. I’m actually
really fucking stoked to go back out on tour–I miss it at this point. I feel like I’ve been home long enough, and I have a better grasp now on what touring is like, so I think it’s going to be a whole new experience for me once we get back out there.
The Only Place is a cleaner record in terms of production. Musically, is this the sound you and Bobb envisioned from the beginning? Is this sound ‘the sound’ for Best Coast?
In the beginning, I wanted to songs to sound DIY and I wanted to cover everything in distortion, but it was mostly because I was afraid of people hearing my voice and what I was saying. I think as soon as I grew confident, I knew I wanted to make a record that reflected that confidence. I love lo-fi recordings, I think they work for some bands, but I think that for us, we know now that this is a sound we want to stick with.
We’ve become so close it’s insane. He’s like my brother. We share a brain. We just know each other so well, and we know the music so well, and we both have each other’s backs. It’s kinda cute how close we are now. When the band first started Bobb was a friend, but now Bobb is like my best friend, he’s seen me during my high and lows, and we understand each other incredibly well. It’s scary to hand over your art to someone and say, “here finish this,” but I’m not scared of doing that with Bobb. I trust him and I trust his taste, and he always ends up playing exactly what I envisioned him to play on a Best Coast song. We are really lucky to get along so well.
You’ve partnered up with several brands in various capacities over the past couple
years (Converse, Gilt, Urban Outfitters). I think there’s a default position for emerging (indie) acts to be adverse when it comes to working with brands. What’s your take on that? It seems that you’re not opposed—how come?
I’m not opposed because it gets my band’s name out to people who may not have heard of it. I’m not one of those people whose like, “I can’t work with brands because I’m punk.” I don’t care about that shit. If someone [that] likes Converse recognizes my art and thinks it’s good and wants to help me grow as an artist, I’m going to take that opportunity. After all, this is my job and I want as many people as possible to hear about Best Coast so that I can keep doing this for as long as possible, because I can’t imagine doing anything else.