Q&A with Bethany Cosentino of BEST COAST – Talks New Album California Nights and More!
Posted On 26 Sep 2015
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BEST COAST is an American rock duo formed in Los Angeles in 2009. The band consists of songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. Cosentino, a former child actress, began writing music as a teenager and was formerly a member of the experimentalist drone group Pocahaunted. After a brief tenure at college in New York City, Cosentino returned to the West Coast and began recording lo-fi demos with Bruno, whom she met in the Los Angeles music scene.
After a string of 7-inch and cassette only singles, the band signed to Mexican Summer, who issued the band’s debut, Crazy for You, in 2010. Crazy for You became an unexpected commercial success following Internet buzz surrounding the duo. Best Coast’s sophomore effort, The Only Place, was released in 2012. In 2013, the duo released an EP, Fade Away, and their third studio album, California Nights, was released on May 4, 2015.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa got to catch up with leading lady, Bethany between gigs. Enjoy their chat below!
Hi Bethany! How are you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
Hi! It’s Saturday, I’m just hardcore chilling drinking my favorite beverage, La Croix. So I’m basically living the dream today.
So, first things first…the last time I caught up with you guys was at First City Festival in Monterey and you have been nonstop ever since it seems like. How’s the tour going so far?
We luckily had some time off before the record came out- and it’s been pretty hectic and busy since then. It’s been really great though. We just finished a US tour with Bully and that was rad. It’s been great to get back out there and play new songs and I feel like we are just all around a better, stronger, more confident band.
We head to Australia in like a week, then Japan and then another US tour and then back to Europe. It’s a pretty wild year as far as touring goes- but we are having fun for sure.
For those living under a rock and that are not familiar with you and your music, how did you get your start? Who or what was the catalyst for you to want to live the life of a musical gypsy?
I’ve been singing since I was old enough to talk. My dad is a musician so I was always around music and concerts and instruments and shit. When I turned 13 I got my first guitar and then I started taking guitar lessons and then I started writing songs. I was in a few bands as a teenager and into my early 20s, and then I moved to New York to go to school for creative writing. I decided that wasn’t what I really wanted to do so I dropped out and moved back to LA, where I was born and raised and I decided to start a band.
How did you and Bobb meet?
Bobb was a friend of mine who I knew through the LA music scene and I just hit him up and asked him if he wanted to play on some songs I was gonna start writing. So I sent him some demos and he was super into them and then we just kept playing music and recording together.
So it wasn’t too long before things really got going for you guys, huh?
Best Coast kind of took off really quickly and before we knew it we were like a legit band with a record deal and we were touring. I always knew that I would pursue music seriously at one point or another but I had no idea Best Coast would be the band that allowed me this life. It’s pretty great though. I won’t lie, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be on tour all the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else so I’m blessed to get to sing songs about my life as my job.
How did you know you wanted to start a band with one another?
Bobb and I have known each other for 10 years. When we met, we bonded over being really into like classic pop music, and stuff from the 60’s like The Beach Boys and The Beatles.
I was playing in this weird drone band called Pocahaunted, and I wasn’t a fan of the music we were making. Bobb was kind of the invisible third member of that band, he produced and recorded almost all of our releases and he played live with us sometimes, so that was really the first experience I had in working with him musically.
So you guys were basically destined to start Best Coast together…
He’s like one of the chillest dudes I know- he just loves playing music and eating food and drinking whiskey- he’s so easy to get along with, and he knows SO much about music, like of all genres. So when I started writing songs as Best Coast and I knew I needed a partner to help me flesh those songs out, Bobb was the one and only person I thought to ask.
Who have been your musical inspirations growing up?
I was really into punk and pop punk when I was a teenager. Like Green Day, NOFX, Blink 182, The Get Up Kids.
“I just kind of was like a weird awkward teenager growing up in an area a little outside of LA where everyone played water polo and shit, so I got into music instead.”
That was the kind of music that inspired me to start writing my own songs- and then when I got a little older I got really into like female fronted bands/artists like Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield, Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley. The stuff that Bobb and I were both into growing up that heavily influenced the band was like The Beach Boys and The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac- the music our parents listened to.
What did you learn between albums, collaborations and playing live, that you felt you wanted to infuse into your latest release, California Nights?
I think we learned that it was important not to rush things. When we made Crazy For You, it took us two weeks and like, we had an idea of what we wanted to do, but we had never made a record before, so we kind of just did it really quickly and didn’t think too much about it. Once that record became successful and we toured for like, forever- it came time to make our second record, which was definitely rushed. Not the actual recording process- but like the formation of the songs and stuff.
How soon after were you being asked to put out more music?
I had been on tour for like 2 years and then I got home and our manager at the time was like “You need to make another record” so I was like, “oh shit, I have to WRITE another record” and I wrote a bunch of songs really fast and then we went into the studio and made the record. I was also really stressed out and in a weird place when we made The Only Place- I just didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, but I had to make a record so I had no choice.
How was the writing process this time around?
After we did that I decided I wanted to release something new, but I wasn’t ready to make another full length- so we did an EP called Fade Away that I self released. That was the first thing we did where I really thought about stuff and tried to take my time and explore other influences outside of the whole 60’s California surf pop vibe. When it came time to make another record, we just decided that we were going to take our time and not rush it and also explore influences that we never had before. We were like, “let’s not box ourselves in- let’s reach to ANYTHING and any genre that influences us” so whether it was The Stone Roses, Oasis, Sugar Ray, Gwen Stefani, Janes Addiction, The Primitives- it didn’t matter how different the shit was, we just knew we were going to go track by track and reach to any influence that spoke to us.
And how do you think performing live has helped with the new album?
I think also that like performing live for almost 3 years as a 3 piece- we knew we wanted to add a 4th member and make it a bit of a more fleshed out band. Now we play as a 5 piece and I’m not playing guitar on a handful of songs so it’s really cool for me to just be a singer and a front woman for parts of the set. We also just got really comfortable with performing live since we had done it SO much, and I think now we are just a lot more confident people and players- it’s very obvious to me that we’ve changed and grown a lot, especially me, in terms of confidence on stage.
Because we were a band that kind of launched to a level of success we weren’t prepared for very, very quickly- we never really had the time to figure out who we were and what we wanted to do.
“I think the place we are at now as a band feels really comfortable and I’m glad we did things the way we did in the beginning because it allowed us to figure out what we needed to change when we made California Nights.”
Since your latest album is called California Nights, it only seems fitting that I ask, what is your idea of a perfect California night?
We are both total homebodies- so we both really like to just chill at our houses and watch movies and TV and stuff. I like to exercise, make dinner or go out to a nice dinner, drink wine and chill out on my couch. I have this rad patio and a balcony with a beautiful view of palm trees and the mountains and stuff, so it’s nice to just go chill on my patio or balcony and have a drink and relax.
Did you help come up with the treatment for the California Nights video as well?
I have been involved in everything as far as art and creative direction goes for this record. I was never really involved on our last records with music videos and even album art- I kind of just would spout out ideas and then let the label or our manager at the time come to me with options and then I would pick something.
I felt a very desert-y vibe on this record, so I knew I wanted the video for California Nights to showcase a lot of beautiful scenery of the desert at sunset, and all the cactus and succulents and awesome rock formations that are out there. And then I wanted to blend that footage with footage of Bobb and I just chilling out and doing our thing, being the people that we very much are.
Our friend Adam Harding made the video, and he actually just made these incredible visuals for us at our LA show at The Wiltern. He has a really great vision and whenever I tell him what I’m picturing, he almost always makes it look exactly the way I pictured it.
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
I’ve been really into Tame Impala lately. I had never actually even heard them, but I knew the name, and then we played this festival in Atlanta called Shaky Knees that they headlined, so I watched their set and basically became obsessed. I bought all the releases and just got super into them. I’m stoked for their new album.
I’m also really into the new Meek Mill record and I love the Drake mixtape that came out earlier in the year and also Nicki Minaj The Pinkprint. I’ve also been listening to a ton of The Jesus And Mary Chain lately, mostly Darklands.
My music taste is incredibly bi polar- I just kind of listen to a million different things at once- but those are the things I’ve been listening to heavily lately.
What’s on tap next for you? What are you most excited about for this year?
Pretty much a ton of touring. We leave for Australia soon to play Spendour in the Grass, and then we go to Japan for Summer Sonic and then we do another US tour with our friends Lovely Bad Things, and then back to Europe.
I’m just excited to travel with my band mates and crew who are basically like my best friends and family at this point, and I’m starting to feel ready to start writing some new music in between tours and stuff so I’m looking forward to starting that whenever I get the time to do it.
We are stoked to play Life Is Beautiful in September- we love Vegas, we always have a wild time when we play there so we definitely can’t wait to come back and play the festival and hang in the city and lose a bunch of money on roulette!
To learn more about BEST COAST , including upcoming tour dates, visit them HERE