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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino tells all

  • Photo by David Black

"Boyfriend" mp3

It’s been quite a year for Bethany Cosentino. Upon leaving the recently-defunct experimental drone group Pocahaunted, she ventured out last summer to start Best Coast. After recruiting bandmate Bobb Bruno, the two sporadically released single after single of their warm 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.

But the recent hype surrounding Best Coast has come 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 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 Fri., Sept. 10, Bethany Cosentino took time out to talk about her debut album, the demise of Pocahaunted, Twitter and her obsession with Beach House.

Max Blau: Crazy For You came out during the last week of July. How are you feeling about the album a month after its release?

Bethany Cosentino: I’m very proud of the record and 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 crazy and everything’s happened very fast for us as band in general. I recorded the album in January so for me it feels like it 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.

So moving on from Pocahaunted was the right move?

I was never into experimental music or drone. I was friends with Amanda [Brown] and wanted to be playing music again, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do, 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 feels like your public image has grown as much as your musical reputation since you started Best Coast last year. How has your life changed in that regard? ..and how weird is it that people talk about you like they know you?

It’s really weird that people talk about my private life or talk about me apart from the 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 say that. But it is 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 cares that I’m drunk. Everybody gets drunk.

How did you meet Bobb and end up playing 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 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 get to know 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 he recorded and played with us live. We 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 shit.’ Bobb listens to all sorts of music, but the reason that I always appreciated him 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 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,” the first song I wrote, and he loved it. We talk about 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 girlie and likes to wear cute vintage dresses. Then there’s Bobb who’s got hair down to his belly button and he's wearing a Misfits T-shirt. We don’t really make sense aesthetically, but we do all get along and have similar tastes so it works out very well.

Why didn't you include your first wave of songs from 2009-2010, “When I’m With You,” “Sun Was High” and “Something In The Way” on Crazy For You?

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, and 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 I was 100% against doing it. We’ve only been a band for a little over a year and I think we grew and our sound changed a little bit. Production-wise things changed a lot. I didn’t want to go in and change something that already existed.

We included “When I’m With You” as a bonus track because that song is the biggest song we have. I didn’t want to include it on our record at all, but the label wanted it and while I was against it, I swallowed my pride and did it. But I didn’t want to do a record of something I had already done. I wanted to do something different.

How have things changed since you added former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler to the lineup?

We met Ali through Vivian Girls when we toured with them in February. We didn’t have a drummer—it was just Bobb and I and we used pre-programmed drum samples — basically playing to a backing track. I was very uncomfortable doing that and Ali offered to learn the songs and play drums for us on that tour. We asked her to fill in on an East Coast tour 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 and 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 am 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. 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 they’re making incredible music and they’re really awesome people. I hope one day we can play a show together.

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