The Four Seasons of Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino

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bestycoasty The Four Seasons of Best Coasts Bethany CosentinoLos Angeles: Sunny, polluted, and dangerous. The cornerstone of American pop, where talent oozes from every crack and crevice, only to shrivel up and make way for the next in line. But, we don’t see that all too often. Our eyes fixate on the beauty; on the blondes and Ferraris, the smiles and Gucci suits. We buy into the facade, we truly believe in stars. Paparazzi delivers the goods, we lick it up, and the cycle continues day in and day out. Because of this, the bite-size celebrities carry the keys to the world.

But there’s a rich underbelly to this chaos. A place where true beings dwell; or disappear, if they were to borrow a page from Bret Easton Ellis. They’re involved with the flowers and pizzazz, but they’re less impressed. They subscribe to an alternative life, one that skips the headlines, and instead finds shelter on page 11. These fortunates live in Los Angeles, but it’s a far more compelling version than the one we’ve come to recognize.

Singer-songwriter Bethany Cosentino, 23, understands this subculture. She enjoys it. So much so that she’s written over a dozen songs set there. After ditching experimental drone unit Pocahaunted, the LA native put together a delectable trio, consisting of multi-instrumentalist Bob Bruno and former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler, and called it simply, Best Coast. What started with three brilliant EPs now culminates in their recent LP debut, Crazy for You12 timeless summer anthems that ooze of pop euphoria and greasy fuzz. It’s the quintessential summer album, drawing comparisons to early Beach Boys and, yes, even the likes of Billie Holiday, and it’s worked. Entering the Billboard Top 40 at number 36, Crazy for You has certainly been a crowd favorite as of late. But, even though sweater season approaches us and we’ve all washed our beach towels and put ’em away, don’t expect this band to close up shop for the season. No, they’re about to get started, hitting the road again for one hell of an autumn tour, featuring similar lo-fi favorites like Male Bonding and Sonny and the Sunsets. Summer’s gone, but Cosentino couldn’t be more excited.

best coast2 The Four Seasons of Best Coasts Bethany Cosentino“I don’t have any issues with fall,” Cosentino says. “When I lived in NY, and I lived there during the fall, it seemed really short when I was there, but it was really beautiful. I think it’s really awesome how the leaves change and all that. We experience our own type of fall in LA, where it gets a lot cooler at night.”

Cosentino digresses on her seasonal moods a bit. While it’s no secret that she admires the warm weather and beach-ridden days, she admits it’s sort of a drag sometimes. “I love summer but I have a tendency to get irritated,” she explains. “We have a song on the record called “Summer Mood”, and it’s really about how I get really angsty and moody during the summer sometimes, just because of the heat. In LA, it can get extremely hot, and I don’t have air conditioning in my house, and I don’t have air conditioning in my car, so it’s like there’s no escape from the heat sometimes.”

But regardless of how bad the heat can get, Cosentino refuses to submit to winter, as she aims to avoid snow altogether. When she circles back to fall again, she sheds light to some luxuries and exciting things to anticipate. For one, she won’t have to wear tanktops and skirts everyday; instead, she’ll be able to use some “nicer outfits” she hasn’t been able to wear in the scorching summer. But the real treat to the upcoming season arrives on October 31st, on Halloween; naturally, she has her costume hammered out.

“I’m planning on being Snooki from the Jersey Shore,” Cosentino says, with a laugh. “I really like her. I’m thinking a lot of people will be Jersey Shore-related people for Halloween this year. But I’m pretty short like she is, so I thought I could pull it off, just wear some kind of club outfit and do my hair in a weird poof and wear a lot of fake tan or something. I dunno. We’re all trying to come up with some ridiculous costumes to wear for Halloween this year.”

As with most rising acts these days, Best Coast has quite the tour itinerary. For the next three months, they’ll be spending the majority of their time across the States, hitting up every major market from Los Angeles to Boston, MA. Then they’ll be completing a brief stint in Europe, where they’ll bring their summer melodies to the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, and few other countries. It’s been an exhaustive year for the group, and it’s here where Cosentino starts to sound tired and unenthused.

“It sucks touring sometimes,” Cosentino says. “You go to such cool places, but you don’t ever get to see anything. Especially in Europe. We were in Rome, and we had a day off, and we got to hang out in the city and we had the promoter have some of his friends take us around, and we ate amazing food, and we drank amazing prosecco and wine.

“It’s really awesome when you have, like, a day off to really explore the city. But it doesn’t happen that often. As far as the states go, I feel like I’ve kind of been everywhere. In America, when we have time off, I’m kind of like, ‘Okay, I wanna just go somewhere and sleep.’ Or go to a thrift store, or a record store, or a really good restaurant or something. I can’t really off the top of my head think of places that I’d like to go back to, but I have always appreciated time off on tour – even if it means I’m sleeping in a hotel all day. I still appreciate it.”

There’s another thing to touring that bothers Cosentino. She can’t write. She explains that Best Coast doesn’t operate like most bands, who can jam together and write songs while on tour. They don’t work that way. Instead, Cosentino creates within her “comfort zone”, which happens to be her home. As a result, touring brings about some anxieties – especially as friends and fans continue to ask her when they can expect the next EP or LP.

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“Sometimes I get really freaked out and go, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to write another record,'” Cosentino digresses. “Or I’ll think, ‘How am I ever going to write a record that people like as much as they like this one.’ But I try not to let my insecurities, or weird anxieties bother me. I just write when I know I can write, that when a time comes and there’s time available, we’ll go and record something.”

She loves the studio, though. “Personally, I’m just a fan of recording,” she says. “I love to record music. I would honestly rather record music, rather than tour all the time.”

Until this past July, Best Coast could only offer EPs or 7″ singles, all available through different obscure labels and outlets – similar to artists in the ’50s and ’60s. However, despite the successful medium, which seems rampant these days in the hours of iTunes and Rhapsody, Cosentino still prefers an LP. She enjoys the process, insisting that “there’s a lot more thought put into it.”

“[Crazy for You] was recorded in less than two weeks, so it’s still a very quick process,” Cosentinos says. “But it was more of a focused thing, and we went in with a very strategic idea of what we wanted and what we were doing, as opposed to the singles, where we were always like, ‘Okay, here’s a song I wrote, let’s record this really quickly.'”

Before the album’s release, Cosentino had gone on record saying it was “about weed and [her] cat and smoking a lot.” Of course, that isn’t the case. Songs like new single, “Boyfriend”,  may play on the quintessential female pop stereotype that girls are lying around all day dreaming about boys, but there’s grit to it. Some realism. It feels dreamy, but authentic, if you will. On the ’60s doo-wop-esque “Our Deal”, Cosentino yelps out, “When you leave me, you take away everything,” but it’s not just her heart, it’s her money and weed. It’s simple on the outside, but the sound’s inordinately clever. At its core, Crazy for You acts as a wormhole to Cosentino’s subconscious.

“I’m a very nostalgic person,” Cosentino starts. “I’m very much in my head. I think all of the time, which is part of the reason I smoke weed, because it makes me not think about stuff. I wrote a lot of the songs because of the way I was feeling, but also because I was inspired by girl groups and The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and early pop music that talks about love and all that sort of stuff.

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“For whatever reason, I don’t really think about my lyrics. I just kind of let them come out of me, and for whatever reason, my lyrics just tend to be a little bit more on the darker side than writing a song that’s like, ‘Oh I’m so happy, everything’s so great.’ I did that with one song on the record and Bob and I were both like, ‘This song sucks.'”

Things are a little different now, though.

Consentino explains, “The stuff I’m writing now definitely has the same type of sound, but the content is a little more like, ‘When am I gonna get home’, ‘I miss home,’ and still about missing shit, but not about boys anymore, but where I feel like I belong.”

More nostalgia, but she’s not alone. Several acts these days pull from their childhood. Surfer Blood wrote a song about watching Twin Peaks in Syracuse, NY, while similar act Wavves, which Cosentino has ties to (her boyfriend happens to be Nathan Williams), feature songs like “Mickey Mouse” and “Supersoaker” on their latest effort, King of the Beach. Call it Peter Pan syndrome, but Cosentino’s not the only one looking back to yesteryear.

“I think that a lot of people in their early 20s to their mid 20s go through that period, where they’re like, ‘Oh wait, I’m not really a kid anymore,'” Cosentino digresses. “Sometimes I wish I could go back and be the 15-year-old, but then I think about it, and how that would really suck, because being 15 in theory is cool, but it wasn’t really that cool. My teenage years were really up and down.

“I’m not stuck in the past, longing for those years back, but I definitely do reflect on them a lot and think about them. Most of the people I’m friends with, that I’m friends with now, I’ve known for years. So we always sit around and go, ‘Remember that time, when we were 19 and we went to that party and got real drunk, and you know, whatever.’ So, I don’t know, yeah. That’s always the kind of person that I’ve always been. I’m sure I’ll always be like that.”

But really, youth is such a prominent feature of Best Coast. So much of the band’s sound and aesthetic hearkens back to that teenage mentality of obsession, daydreams, and ideal love. Even the video for their breakthrough single “When I’m With You” sees Cosentino galavanting around town with Ronald McDonald; the two hold hands, ride bikes, drive around, and share a burger or two. Bruno’s even wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. When the video’s brought up, Cosentino tells an amusing anecdote about her clown co-star:

“His name is Phil,” she says. “I think he was a friend of the director, Pete [Ohs]. It’s actually funny. We got to the house where we started the video, and he already had his face painted. So I had no idea what he looked like, and I hung out with him all day. So we had to hold hands and we had to act like we were dating. But I had no fucking clue what this guy looked like. Then he added me on Facebook and he actually turned out to be, like, beautiful. He looked like a male model, or something. So I wrote to him and was like, ‘Whoa dude. You clean up pretty well, Ronald McDonald.’ He’s just a dude that lives in L.A..”

Oh Los Angeles! You city of mystery, you!

Feature photo by Meghan Brosnan; additional photography by Heather Kaplan.

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