March 23, 2012


Fuse Friday Q&A: Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino

david black
david black

Over the past two years, Los Angeles surf-pop outfit Best Coast have transformed from a tiny blog-buzz band recording lo-fi demos in frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's bedroom to bona fide breakout indie stars. The group has headlined festivals, collaborated with Drew Barrymore on music videos and just finished their much-anticipated second album, The Only Place, with producer Jon Brion. It's been a wild, wild ride, and it's taken its toll on Cosentino, who is channeling what she calls her "quarter-life crisis" into her band's new LP, out May 15 via Mexican Summer.

Cosentino rang us up recently, just before she returns to the road; a place, Cosentino explains, that has taken and given her so much.

What’s crackin’, Bethany!?! So. One of the big differences I immediately notice between Best Coast's debut Crazy for You and the new LP, The Only Place, are the lyrics. They’re much more personal and confessional.

These songs are about my reaction to how my life changed and how chaotic it became when Best Cost found success. I was on tour and not sleeping, not taking care of myself. It made me realize that I’m not happy with a lot of the things that I do. That’s the theme that runs through the record, like, questioning yourself. At least I can see these problems head on and challenge them. I want to be a better person and grow up. I want to change these things about myself. This record is about my evolution and trying to grow up and become a woman. It’s like the Britney Spears song, "I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." 

Ah, growing pains...

Crazy for You was more of a younger girl trying to figure love and relationships out. I’m glad that I didn't go that route again because I’m sick of talking about my past relationships. I prefer to just be honest. I experienced a lot of anxiety and depression [on tour over the past two years], so I just want people to hear my story. I know it sounds cheesy, like a Public Service Announcement, but I do want people to hear this record and be like, "Wow. If she can admit that she had a problem that she needs to work on, I can do it too." So hopefully this can be an anthem for the quarter-life crisis people like me.

That sounds especially evident on “Last Year,” one of my favorite tracks.

Yeah. I wrote it last year at the peak of the craziness of Best Coast. We toured for two years straight and had very limited time off. We’d come home for two or three days, and then fly to another country or state. The chorus is “What a year this day has been / What a day this year has been.” To me the year sometimes felt like it lasted a day, and the day seemed like it lasted years. I just didn’t have any perception of time. I would wake up in L.A. and fall asleep in Australia. That song is a reflection on the last year of my life. That’s one of the heavier songs on the record. It has this awesome guitar part. It’s so f**king fun to play live and it’s [guitarist] Bobb’s [Bruno] favorite song on the record. He gets really into it. When we play it I get to headbang.

After that whirlwind two years, do you have negative feelings about touring?

Not at all. The only thing about touring that really gets me down is missing home, missing my family, missing my friends. I miss my own surroundings, like, waking up and showering in my own shower, making my own dinner and doing things for myself in a place I’m familiar with. This time I’m a lot more prepared. I have a better grasp on my anxiety and what happens to me when I tour. I’ll be better at realizing that sometimes you wake up in a different country and you don’t have to freak out about it. I’m just hoping this time around I can enjoy it more as opposed to being so lost in my own thoughts.

Does that play into the album title at all?

Totally. L.A. is the only place that I feel 100 percent myself or 100 percent happy. It’s where I feel the most creative and inspired. So this record is very much about being away from your home and being homesick and out on the road. It’s about going through these ups and downs, and then when I’d get home I’d write these songs. I’d get three days off to lay around and do my work from home. And it’s the only place that I think of as, like, my safe place, as my happy place. It’s like the Beach Boys song “In My Room.”  [Sings] “There’s a world I can go and tell my secrets to / In my room.”

Since the lyrics on the album are so personal, do you ever feel like you’re giving too much of yourself away?

I feel like that sometimes. But I do write about it, so it’s something that I have to expect. I just write about what’s happening in my life and sometimes, yeah, I feel like I’m giving too much of myself away. At the same time, people relate to songwriters that are honest and are giving away bits of their life. When you listen to songs that are metaphorical, you have no idea what they’re talking about. So you might like the song but you can’t connect to it. I want people to connect and relate, and if that means that sometimes I have to answer questions that are personal or I have to deal with people being like, “I love your cat!” then… whatever.

 Has a fan ever given you cat food or another gift for that cat of yours, Snacks?

Not cat food. But people definitely bring presents for Snacks and me and Bobb. A lot of it has to do with Twitter, which allows people to think they know someone on a personal level, especially when you’re writing personal songs. I only follow friends, so I’ll talk on Twitter like I’m talking to my friends. I forget how many people follow me sometimes. That’s the cool thing about Twitter, though; I could be like, “Guys, I’m out of cat food,” and someone would bring it to me [laughs].  

Tell me about working with producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West).

He really helped us achieve the record we wanted to make. The production and instrumentation on the record, in general, is entirely different [from Crazy for You]. If we had made this record with someone else, it wouldn’t sound the way it sounds. Jon plays a lot on it and he had so many ideas and opinions. Bobb and I both really look up to him. He’s so incredible, and he made us very confident about making it, too.

How did y’all meet?

Bobb actually worked for Jon for a few years. He was Jon's assistant. Bob told me Jon was a Best Coast fan and that was awesome. Then Jon played keyboard at one of our shows in L.A. After that it was like, "It would be awesome if Jon made our record!" But he’s so busy and probably doesn’t want to. Then we were in Europe and landed at LAX and got an email from our manager saying Jon wants to do the record. It happened very naturally and so has a lot of stuff for Best Coast. We just put good vibes out into the universe and they come back to us. It’s probably because I was raised very new age. If you want something to happen badly enough it will happen.

Do you have a favorite song on The Only Place?

“No One Like You.” I got to sing my heart out on this record, and with that song specifically I really got into the zone when I recorded it. I remember being in the booth recording. I had my eyes closed and my voice was almost trembling because I was so passionate and into it. When I hear it I’m very proud of myself for what the vocals sound like. I finally gained some confidence when it comes to singing. I’d like to thank my own record for giving me the confidence to believe that I’m actually a decent singer.

You have this clothing line in the works with Urban Outfitters. So now you’re among Jay-Z, Puffy and many other hip hop figures, which is… gangster.

[Laughs] I feel like Beyoncé! I love music—music is first and foremost. Always. Songwriting is definitely the most important thing. But I like to be creative in other ways and being asked to do my own clothing line is an amazing opportunity. It’s cool to work with company like Urban Outfitters, too. They’re worldwide and I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who hasn’t heard of Urban Outfitters. It’s insane. Until I see the clothing on people or in a store I still won’t believe it’s actually happening. If you told the 15-year-old Bethany that one day she was going to sing onstage with Weezer, she’d be like, “Shut the f**k up. No I’m not.” Then you tell her that she’s going to have her own clothing line, she’d be like, “You’re insane.” There are these moments in my life where I’m very lucky. So this clothing line is very special to me. It’s my baby.

Why do you think that doing a clothing line is the norm in hip hop, but perhaps even looked down upon in indie music? 

I don’t know.  Someone like P Diddy can do whatever he wants. He can make vodka and clothes, whatever. Dre can make headphones. They have so many resources, so much money. I’m sure there are tons of other girls that play in indie rock bands that would want to do a clothing line, but they don’t have the resources. I don’t know why Urban Outfitters picked me. I’m honored that they did. Maybe now that I’m doing it, other people will too. Beyoncé comes out with a line of velour sweatsuits. It looks like something any girl would wear, but it costs hundreds of dollars. My clothing line is very reflective of me and what I wear. It looks like stuff that you would pull out of my suitcase. I mean, I think it would be weird if I was in a restaurant and a girl walks in wearing a dress I designed. But, you know, I guess I do feel like I’m on some hip hop level now. I could walk up to people wearing my clothes and be like, “Bethany Cosentino for Urban Outfitters. Whats up!?!?!?!”

So how are you enjoying your precious time at home before returning to the road?

Relaxing. When I’m home I write as much I can so that I have a bulk of songs to set aside for whenever we need to record something. This is the most amount of time I’ve spent at home in the past two years. I’m really into this exercise class called Cardio Barre. I got really into it. It’s this ballet meets cardio thing and its awesome. One of my favorite things to do is exercise. It helps keep me in shape, gives me a clear mind and makes me feel good. I like cooking a lot. I cook myself dinner pretty much every night.

What’s your favorite dish to make?

I made lasagna for Valentine’s Day. I’d never made a lasagna in my life, but it was so good. I ate probably 15 slices. I don’t eat meat, so I put fake meat in it. My specialty is baked salmon with spinach, garlic, tomatoes sautéed. You put the salmon on top. I’m really into styling the food, too. I watch the Food Network all the time, so I just take tips I learn from Barefoot Contessa and add them to my real life.

The salmon sounds really good.

Yeah. It’s delicious. I have lots of pictures of it on my phone. [Laughs] I’m such a loser.