It’s been quite a year for Bethany Cosentino. Upon leaving the recently-defunct experimental drone group Pocahaunted, Cosentino ventured out last summer and started Best Coast. After recruiting bandmate Bobb Bruno, the two sporadically released singles after single of their warm summer-laced musical vision. What emerged was not just a collection of laidback summer anthems, but a group standing near the top of the recent resurgence of lo-fi melodic pop acts.
The hype around Best Coast has stood as both a blessing and a curse for Cosentino. On one hand, Best Coast released their first album Crazy For You in July to resounding acclaim. However, Cosentino’s meteoric rise through the indie-rock world has forced a private person to adapt a public persona more quickly than she would have preferred. As Best Coast gears for a lengthy fall tour, including a stop in Atlanta at the Drunken Unicorn on September 10th, Bethany Cosentino spoke with us about her debut album, the recent breakup of her former band Pocahaunted, Twitter and her obsession with Beach House.
Your debut album Crazy For You came out during the last week of July. It’s been about a month now—how do you feel about the album one month after its release?
I’m very proud of the record; I’m very excited it’s doing well and that people are enjoying it. I’m very excited to get out on the road and play the record for people. It’s been very crazy and everything’s happened very fast for us as band in general. I recorded the record in January so for me it feels like this record should have been out a million years ago. I’m very very proud of the record and it’s really the first time I can honestly say that I have made a piece of music or a product as a musician or a songwriter that I’ve been 100% proud of. I’ve been playing music forever, but I’ve never really done anything that I’m extremely proud of and that I can I stand up and really say…“I did a good job with this,” and that’s the way I feel about this record. It’s very rewarding to feel that way about some piece of art that you’ve made.
So I take it that moving on from your former band Pocahaunted was the right move, especially after their recent break up.
I was never into experimental music or drone; I was friends with Amanda [Brown]. I wanted to be playing music again and I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to be doing, and she was like “we should just start a band together.” We didn’t have any preconceived idea of what the band would be like—we just sat in a room together and started a band—and that’s what it sounded like. Obviously, after I left the band, their sound changed completely. I did hear that they recently broke up and I got millions of tweets and emails [saying], “F*** you Bethany, it’s your fault that they broke up.” That has nothing to do with me, I’m obviously doing something completely different now, and I think what I’m doing now is more true to who I am than Pocahaunted ever was. Pocahaunted was something I guess I did just as a hobby and Best Coast is something that I’m actually passionate about.
From weed to your cat to your lyrics, it often seems like your public image has grown just as much as your musical reputation since you started Best Coast last year. How different has your life changed in that regard—and do you find it weird for people to act as if they know you, without actually knowing you?
I think that it’s really weird for me that people talk about my private life or talk about me separate from my music. Obviously, I’m very open about my life. I talk about the fact that I smoke weed, I talk about my cat. I am a private person, but I do feel like I am who I am and I’m not afraid to voice that and say that. But it is very difficult for me to deal with the fact that my privacy has been exposed and that people talk about me in ways that I never imagined people would ever [do]…That’s one thing that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. I am smart enough now that I don’t read things about myself on the internet. I don’t Google myself—I don’t search for myself on Twitter. I don’t do that kind of stuff, just because it’s not worth it to me…If anything, it’s just that my life has changed in the sense that I’ll get drunk and someone takes a picture of it and it ends up on a blog. I don’t know why anybody f*****’ cares that I’m drunk. Everybody gets drunk.
At first glance, you and Bobb Bruno appear to be an unlikely combination. How did you two meet and eventually end up play together?
I met Bobb when I was a teenager; I think I was maybe 17. I met him at a party, and he was just this guy that everybody talked about. He recorded a bunch of bands, played in a bunch of bands and toured in a bunch of bands. I saw him and I was intimidated by him because he’s got really long hair and wears Metal t-shirts and doesn’t really talk very much. When you actually get to know him and talk to him, he’s a really silly and weird, kind of sensitive guy in real life.
When I had the idea to start Best Coast, I knew that Bobb was a huge pop fan because when I was in Pocahaunted, Bobb recorded us and played with us live. Bobb and I would sit around and talk about The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The other people that we would work with in Pocahaunted would say ‘that music sucks, we only listen to weird experimental s***.’ Bobb listens to every sort of music, but the reason that I always appreciated Bobb was because we could speak out about Pet Sounds, or we could talk about how great of a song “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is without feeling like total dorks, because we both understood it.
He’s also just an extremely talented musician and he plays almost every instrument. So I thought “I want to write these songs, but I obviously don’t have the ability to record them myself or to play a bunch of different instruments on them.” I just wrote to Bobb and said that I was starting this band and [asked] if he wanted to be in it with me…I sent him “Sun Was High”—which was the first song I wrote—and he [loved it].
We talk about all the time how we’re the weirdest looking band in America—because we got me, your average whatever girl—and then there’s Ali [Koehler] who is real girly and likes to wear cute vintage dresses. Then there’s Bobb who’s got hair down to his belly button with a Misfits shirt on. We don’t really make sense aesthetically, but do all get along very well and we all have similar tastes so it works out very well.
After sporadically releasing your first wave of songs in late 2009 and early 2010, I was initially surprised by the fact that many of the songs that first introduced you to your audience—including “When I’m With You,” “Sun Was High” and “Something In The Way”—were not found on Crazy For You’s tracklist. Why did you choose to not include those on your debut album?
I didn’t want to have a record that was a compilation of a bunch of songs that I had already put out. I wanted to have something completely different. The songs were already released, they meant something to the people that heard them, they meant something to the people that bought them. They mean something to me as well, and I didn’t want to go in and re-record them and change the way that they sounded. Some people say that was a stupid decision, but it was a decision that I was 100% against doing…We’ve only been a band for a little over a year, and I think as a band we grew and our sound changed a little bit, [while] production-wise things changed a lot. I didn’t want to go in and change something that already existed to people and me.
The reason why we included “When I’m With You” as a bonus track is because that song is the biggest song we have. I didn’t want to include it on our record at all…The label really wanted that and while I was against it, I swallowed my pride and just did it. But I didn’t want to do a record of something I had already done—I wanted to do something different.
You have recently added former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler. How have things been with the lineup change? Has there been any resentment by the Vivian Girls over their drummer joining Best Coast?
We met Ali through Vivian Girls [when] we toured with Vivian Girls in February of this year. We didn’t have a drummer—it was just Bobb and I and we would use preprogrammed drum samples, basically playing to a backing track. I was very uncomfortable doing that. Ali offered to learn the songs and play drums for us on that tour. We asked Ali to fill in on an East Coast tour that we did and she came to Europe with us. The Vivian Girls then decided they were going to take time off and Ali made the decision that playing with Best Coast was a better fit for her. There’s no resentment, there’s no beef between bands. We’re all still friends, there’s no sort of weird tension. We didn’t steal their drummer—it was a decision that she made on her own.
Name one artist or album that you can’t get enough of in 2010
I’m completely, 100% obsessed with Beach House—I love them so much. We got the chance to meet them and hang out with them at Pitchfork [Music Festival]. Victoria [Legrand] is a really awesome girl and Alex [Scally] is really awesome as well. Their record Teen Dream is amazing and I recently got their iTunes session EP with a new song called “White Moon” that I think is really amazing. I think that they’re making incredible music and think that they’re really awesome people. I hope one day we can play a show together.