Best Coast interview: “Kind of living the dream.”

02.08.10

To loosely paraphrase BEST COAST’s Bethany Cosentino, what is it about summer that brings out such heart-on-sleeve honesty? Maybe it’s because there are no dark clouds to hide behind, no cold snap to wrap yourself away from. Or maybe it’s just chemical. More vitamin D = more relaxed humans. Whatever, right now all you need to know is that Bethany and music partner Bobb Bruno have a weakness for simple, heartfelt, jangly Pop songs and their debut album ‘Crazy For You’ on Wichita Recordings is packed full of ‘em. (Download lead single Boyfriend above.) Tripping from daydream whimsy to Riot Grrrl indignance, Bethany sings about life, love and stuff with such wit it’s hard not to fall a little bit for this LA native. A little while ago I rang her in LA for a quick chat.

So, is it lunch time where you are?

Yeah, it’s noon. I haven’t really gotten up yet because I have a really bad hangover so I’m laying in bed and my friend is supposed to be bringing me a smoothie soon so I’m waiting for him to get here. [Laughs.]

What is he bringing you?

A smoothie…

Oh, perfect hangover food.

Yeah, it’s the only thing that sounds good. Bobb and I DJ, we have a night at this bar up the street from where we live. The bar’s called The Black Boar and we DJ there every once in a while and we drank a little too much last night so I’m recovering from that right now.

It’s got to be done sometimes, it’s summer.

Yeah, exactly. Summer’s not summer without a real hangover. It’s hopefully my worst hangover of the summer.

I hear that. What kind of music do you play at your night?

We actually play everything from Steely Dan to, like, Beyonce. Bobb and I both listen to a lot of random music, and so the cool thing about our DJ night is that we literally play every kind of music. A lot of bars don’t want you to play contemporary music, they want you to play cool music or whatever. We just play whatever, our friends come and everyone gets drunk so when we put on Single Ladies by Beyonce, everyone gets really excited. It’s fun.

I love that about music today, that all those songs that people used to be snobby about, everyone is just so more open to.

Yeah, I think it’s that there’s a lot of cool stuff happening in mainstream Pop music. There’s a lot of really bad stuff happening too, but I’m just a fan of music so I don’t really have a problem admitting to…I don’t ever really have ‘guilty pleasures’. If I like something, I’ll just say I like it, I don’t need to feel weird about liking it.

Yes, completely agree. Music is mood, so it’s whatever you’re feeling at that time. Which brings me to your album, ‘Crazy For You’, which I love.

Thank you.

I actually don’t really know a lot about how you got into making music so it would be great to get a bit of background. How did it all happen?

Um, well, my dad is a musician so I grew up around music. I’ve been playing music since I was a little girl, all throughout high school and I was in bands when I was younger and I was in choir at high school. I have basically always been involved in music in one way or another. And then I started writing music when I was about 15. I had an acoustic kind of style, a singer/songwriter thing going on. Then I took a break from music for a while, then I was in a band called Pocahaunted which was really weird psychedelic drone…really different from anything I’d played before and from the music I listened to. It was a band I did with a friend of mine for a while. We opened for Sonic Youth.

Wow.

It got a lot bigger than we ever imagined it to. Then I moved to New York to go to school and I stopped playing music, then I dropped out of college and moved back to LA. I started writing songs as Best Coast last year. I guess I’ve been a musical person for my whole life.

What kind of musician is your dad?

My dad is a percussionist, drummer, singer – he’s a multi-instrumentalist, he plays everything. He’s really like a session musician kind of guy, he goes on tour with bands like, for example, Badfinger and The Hollies recently. He tours with bands that reunite to go on tour but only have one or two original members or something. He toured with the band War for a few years. He writes his own original music and he plays in bands, he just does everything. My dad is really cool, he’s been doing music since he was a teenager as well and he’s just never quit. It’s all he does, he’ll do anything if it involves music. He’s in a Monkees/Beatles cover band too.

Brilliant!

They do tours and play concerts in the park and stuff like that. I grew up watching my dad play music so it was kind of inevitable that I would end up doing it as well.

That must be so inspiring. There are so many kids whose parents are like ‘okay, you want to do music but you need to have something to fall back on’.

My parents are both really supportive and I think it’s because it wasn’t like I randomly one day said I was going to start a band, ‘I’m going to drop out of college and start a band’. My parents were like, ‘we’ve seen you play music since you were four years old, so do whatever you want’. They always wanted me to play music and so they’re both really excited about what I’m doing. It’s definitely special to have that support from my family. It would definitely suck if I dropped out of college and tried to do music and they yelled at me. [Laughs.]

Opening from Sonic Youth, that’s amazing. It’s quite a switch from that to the music you’re doing now. Was it a big conscious thing or was it a very natural progression?

Well, I mean, I played that kind of music in Pocahaunted but I never listened to it. I’ve always listened to Pop music, to the kind of music I make now. It wasn’t really a natural kind of music for me to be making, it was just something I was doing because it was fun, something that I had going on at that point in my life. So when I quit that band I went back to something that was more natural to me. Because when I first started I was writing, y’know, Pop music. So even when I was playing psychedelic noise music, I was still at home listening to the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and just generic American Pop music I guess [laughs]. So Best Coast is more of a natural fit for me, it represents me better.

How does it work with your partner Bobb?

I knew Bobb because he worked with me and Amanda in Pocahaunted. He would record and play live with us and stuff. I’d worked with him and when I wanted to start this band I knew I couldn’t really do it on my own. I knew I could write the songs and I could hear what I wanted them to sound like in my head but I’m not the greatest guitar player and I can’t play drums. I can play the bass but it would be really minimal. I just thought I’d ask Bobb to do it with me. He’s a Chinese metalhead but he listens to the Beach Boys and he loves Pop music as well. Bobb understands the vibe and always understands what I want things to sound like. With Bobb, it’s just really easy. We work really quickly together. He’s one of the best people ever, he’s the chillest, relaxed dude. It’s really easy to be in a band with him because he doesn’t say much. When you’re on tour you don’t get a lot of personal time, so when you’re on tour with someone who doesn’t really talk it’s really cool. He’s great and I wouldn’t be able to do this without him.

You played Great Escape this year, and also Primavera. How were both of those?

The Great Escape was cool. We didn’t get to see the bands we wanted to because they were on at the same time as us, and it was raining really crazy. We did see Teenage Fan Club, which was amazing – and Male Bonding after them. They’re really awesome and we’re taking them on tour with us in the States.

Oh, brilliant.

Yeah, in September. And Primavera was awesome, we got to see lots of our friends and Beach House, who have been one of my favourite bands of the last year. It was a trip to play such a big festival, in front of so many people, because we’ve only been a band for a year. I was like, ‘this is really happening, I’m really in a band’. It was really fun. It was a lot of complaining and lots of homesickness, but it was also really fun.

How did you get in touch with Wichita?

Actually the way that I found out about Wichita was that Mark, who runs Wichita, would re-tweet my tweets on Twitter. I was like, ‘I don’t know who these Wichita people are’. And Ali, the drummer in Vivienne Girls who’s been playing with us recently because Vivienne Girls are taking a bit of a break, was the one who told me that Wichita is a big label in the UK, that they put out Bloc Party and Peter, Bjorn and John. I was like, ‘that’s really weird because they always tweet at me’ and she said I should follow them or whatever. So it was actually through Twitter that we found out about them. Then when we played in London at the Old Blue Last, Mark came down to the show. He came up to me and his arm was in a sling because he’d broken it. He was wearing a Run DMC shirt or some kind of 90s Hip Hop t-shirt and I was like, oh yeah, this guy rules. We smoked pot at their office and drank champagne and it was a lot of fun.

They wooed you!

Mark is really awesome, and they’re doing some great stuff. I really like Lovvers and Sky Larkin. We just wanted to work with a label that we got on with as people. It’s the same with Mexican Summer [their label in America]. There’s no point signing with someone you don’t mesh well with. And Mark’s wife is really cool as well, she’s from California or lived there for a while so we bonded over that.

You worked with Louis from Fool’s Gold, what was he like to work with?

He’s just one of the best guys ever. We did ‘When I’m With You’ with him and made this masterpiece that people love so when it came to doing the record we obviously wanted to do it with him. He’s also the nicest guy ever and he’s so talented, his opinion means a lot to Bob and I. Having him there to throw around ideas made recording the album a lot of fun. And we’re huge fans of Fool’s Gold and Foreign Born. We did the record in two weeks and hung out, watching Youtube videos of rappers in-between songs.

What’s your dream with Best Coast?

I think right now I’m kind of living the dream, I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I expected to move back from New York and be a college dropout and live at my mom’s house. Like, work a retail job or something. But I didn’t have time to do that because I started Best Coast and it very quickly became something, almost instantly we started recording and doing tours. Hopefully we can continue doing this for however long I can keep writing happy, sunny Pop songs. It’s just really exciting; we’re going to Japan and Australia next year – I didn’t even think I’d get to go to the UK and Europe – but to get to go to these places and play music for people is just really special. I guess to be able to continue doing what I’m doing now because I’m having the time of my life.

Yay! I might leave you to your hangover now. Where’s your smoothie, when’s it turning up?

Oh thank you. I don’t know! He’s hungover too so he’s probably still in bed. I’ll probably going to text message him when I get off the phone to you and find out where he is.

‘I need smoothie!’

Yeah, it’s a SMOOTHIE 911 right now.

‘Crazy For You’ by Best Coast is out now. Listen to it on Wichita Recordings’ website. Best Coast play in-store at Rough Trade East on Tuesday 3 August at 7pm.

READ ADAM’S REVIEW OF FOOL’S GOLDSURPRISE HOTELFROM LAST YEAR.