The buzz cycle is funny. No matter how good the music is, backlash is inevitable. And it's not even like Best Coast has faced that much scrutiny: the band's debut, Crazy For You, is bound to be on everyone's end-of-year lists. But the fact remains that Bethany Cosentino (lead vocalist) and Bobb Bruno (bass) did blow up pretty fast. And, whether related or not, people have begun to take potshots: everything from the simplicity of BC's surf pop to Bethany's cat obsession and relationship with Wavves weed demon Nathan Williams to her endorsements with Converse, Target, and Taco Bell have been in the crosshairs recently. Regardless, she lives this rock shit and there's nothing anyone can do about it. We talked with her about the past year, working with Weezer, sharing blunts with Kid Cudi, and everything else that matters...
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
Complex: Where are you right now?
Bethany Cosentino: I'm in a van, on tour, driving towards Salt Lake City.
Complex: Always on the road. Does it ever become a chore for you? A job?
Bethany Cosentino: I mean, it is a job, so it's like half and half. It's not a chore, and now that we've been touring for so long, I'm more used to it, but in the beginning, I would freak out and be like, "I'm not ready!" But it's still definitely work. You're spending a lot of time in the car and around the same people and it's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's better than working a 9-to-5 job or something.
Complex: Although you worked in New York for a bit as an intern for The Fader, you're so California. What did you think of the East Coast?
Bethany Cosentino: I really like New York a lot, but I like it more as a place to visit. It was really difficult for me to live there. As a person from California, I'm still very neurotic and anxious, but in a more laid-back way. I was out there going to school and I wasn't really sure of what I was doing and I'd never experienced a real winter before and as soon as winter came I was really depressed and lonely and homesick. I just wanted to be back in California and as soon as I got back everything flipped and I was creative again and I just felt like I was back where I belonged.
Complex: When do you think you'll get in another space like that? Are you constantly creating on the road, or do you focus just on playing shows and maybe in a couple months you'll start creating new music?
Bethany Cosentino: I'm working all the time. When I'm home I try to split my time evenly between resting and preparing for another tour, and writing stuff. I've been writing a lot lately, but I don't really write very much on the road. I really like writing on my own. I've found my comfort zone for that and it's at my house, in my bedroom. I come up with ideas and stuff on tour, and record them on my phone or write them down or something.
Complex: Is there anything on the way that will surprise people, or are you sticking to the sound you're comfortable with?
Bethany Cosentino: I don't really think about stuff like that. With Best Coast, It all happens very organically. We've never tried to force anything to sound a specific way. If you overthink things, it shows.
Complex: How did all of the songs on Crazy For You come about so naturally? It's a very cohesive album.
Bethany Cosentino: I was going through up and down emotions about relationships and dwelling on stuff from my past. It's a personal record, but it's not all about me. I think people assume it's a girl singing about a boy so everything has to be about that girl. I wanted to make a record that was really relate-able to people. Most people can relate to love and longing and missing someone and mixed emotions and bad communication. I don't ever sit down and say, "Okay, today I'm gonna write four songs about a guy who broke my heart." I write a song and it is what it is. That's the way I've always worked.
Complex: Positive reception and increased popularity doesn't affect the process?
Bethany Cosentino: I don't think so. I try really hard not to pay attention to stuff like that. Obviously, we went from being a band that was recording songs in my bandmate's bedroom to a band that's doing extensive touring and had a record on the Billboard charts and everything happened insanely fast, but it's not something that I sought out. It just happened. I don't read reviews or anything. I don't feel a lot of pressure to make a second record that's better than the first record. I appreciate press and I appreciate what people say, but I try really hard not to allow it to fuck up my perception of everything.
Complex: Ali, formerly of Vivian Girls, recently joined the band on drums. How does her addition shift the group dynamic?
Bethany Cosentino: Having Ali in the band is rad. We all get along really well and we have fun on stage. It's nice to have another female in the band and on tour. It makes things easier.
Complex: How do you feel about being a woman in rock music?
Bethany Cosentino: I'm really proud to be a woman making music. Nothing makes me happier than when other women approach me at shows and say, "You've inspired me to start writing music," or, "I feel like we could be best friends." Music is a male-dominated business, so it's nice to see bands with girls in them, and not just a bunch of dudes with beards in flannel shirts.
Complex: Your cat Snacks is basically famous now. What's something most people don't know him?
Bethany Cosentino: This is probably gonna be a bummer, but Snacks has feline epilepsy. He's totally fine, but he has seizures every once in a while. I've taken him to the vet and they say he's fine. He doesn't feel any pain when he has them. The first time I ever saw him have one, we were in San Diego playing one of our first shows. I started freaking out and crying and said I had to cancel the show. It's seriously, seriously heartbreaking, but I think it just makes him all the more special.
Complex: How was working with Weezer?
Bethany Cosentino: Rivers Cuomo tweeted at me that he was a fan of the band. I was obviously really excited because Weezer is a big influence for me. I learned how to play guitar from a lot of Weezer songs. We had a little random Twitter friendship, and then I was on tour and my manager called like, "Rivers wants you to come to the studio when you get back to L.A. and write with him. How do you feel about that?" The opportunity to write with anybody is really special and awesome, but to have your first co-writing exciting experience with a person like Rivers is a huge deal. We were asked to open a couple of the California shows for their Memories tour, but we're leaving for Europe so we're unfortunately only able to do the two L.A. shows. But L.A.'s our hometown so it's going to be awesome. We've got tons of family and friends coming.
Complex: What was the studio session like?
Bethany Cosentino: It was really relaxed and natural. I was very nervous about it because I don't really write with people. For Best Coast, I write everything on my own and I just let Bobb do what he does. We don't really sit in the same room and work on stuff together. I don't do that with anybody. So I was kind of freaked out to do that and have it be with a person like Rivers, but it was really laid back. We bounced ideas off one another and we made a song that we're both really stoked about. I'm really excited for people to hear it.
Complex: Will it be released as a joint single or what?
Bethany Cosentino: I'm not 100 percent sure, but I know that it's a Weezer song. I don't know when it's coming out or what the deal is, but I co-wrote a Weezer song with him.
Complex: Did you get the chance to smoke with them in the studio?
Bethany Cosentino: No, I don't think Rivers smokes weed. [Laughs.] He doesn't strike me as a guy who does, even though he wrote a song called "Hash Pipe."
Complex: Collab with some rappers and you can probably have a blunt session in the studio.
Bethany Cosentino: I smoked a lot of weed with Kid Cudi [when we did our "All Summer" collaboration for Converse]. He has really good blunt wrapping skills going on. And I smoked weed with Freddie Gibbs. I've smoked weed with a few rappers now. I'm pretty excited about that.
Complex: Are you and Cudi going to try to work together again?
Bethany Cosentino: I don't know. We talked about it when we were together, but I don't really know if it will end up ever happening. But it was definitely fun while it lasted.
Complex: You're a big fan of rap music. You could probably do some hooks—
Bethany Cosentino: [Laughs.] That's sort of like my ultimate dream. Just to be a hook girl.
Complex: For rappers?
Bethany Cosentino: Yeah, I just want to be on every rap song. [Laughs]
Complex: Are you conscious of how that's perceived?
Bethany Cosentino: I guess so. I think people assume that whatever kind of music you make is the music you listen to. Don't get me wrong, I listen to tons of pop music and all the music that really inspires Best Coast is very straightforward '50s and '60s pop music, but I've been listening to R&B and rap since I was a kid. I grew up in L.A. It's part of the culture. I listen to anything. I'll talk about how I like Miley Cyrus. If I think something is good, I'm going to say that I like it—and there's just something about rap that I really like. It's super-honest, and I can relate to a lot of stuff that a lot of rappers talk about even though it's on a different level. The reason I like Drake so much is because he talks about how everything kind of happened so quick for him and there's tons of people talking shit about him for it and in my own way, that's happened to me. He's super-emo, which is another thing I really appreciate about him.
Complex: What are you listening to now?
Bethany Cosentino: I've been listening to a lot of Kanye West. There's a band called No Joy. They're labelmates of ours from Montreal and they're amazing. I've been listening to Beach House since that Teen Dream record came out.
Complex: Isn't it a shame that the late '90s pop-punk stuff gets such a bad rep?
Bethany Cosentino: That's sad. People are just too embarrassed to admit to liking stuff and that's what I'm talking about. You just have to not be embarrassed to say that you think something is good. There should be no embarrassment in things that you like. Blink-182 made fucking catchy pop songs. When we get asked to go on a radio show and guest DJ or whatever, the three of us have such different taste in music. Bob's playing some metal band and Ali's playing Paramore and I'm playing Green Day and people are like, "God, they have such trouble picking music." No, we just admit to liking what we like and aren't afraid of it.
Complex: Whatever sounds good to your ears is all that matters.
Bethany Cosentino: Yeah, it shouldn't matter if you're a white girl making rock music. You should be able to listen to anything you want to listen to. Same goes for a weird noise dude. It's fun seeing people sing to Bruce Springsteen. Don't limit yourself to one thing.
Complex: Does that kind of attitude go along with why you eventually had to stop reading stuff? Because the community that a lot of your music appeals to can be very fickle or judgmental for reasons outside of how the music sounds?
Bethany Cosentino: Yeah, I just think it's really important to not let what people say fuck with your perception of who you are and what you stand for and what you're into. For the most part, I try really hard not to read it because I just want to reply to every person and say, "Go fuck yourself," but obviously I can't do that. So instead of having that feeling, I choose not to read it.
Complex: The fact that you've done stuff with Converse or Taco Bell can jar some people into feeling a certain way about your music.
Bethany Cosentino: Yeah, but it's just so stupid. People have to realize that this is my job. I'm not going to say "no" to an opportunity just because some person that's been listening to my music since the beginning decides that they don't like it anymore because it has Converse attached to it. I'm not selling my soul to these people. Taco Bell paid me $500 to do something and now we get to eat free Taco Bell. [Laughs.]