photo by David Black
Written October 2011:
Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino is hanging out at home in Los Angeles doing some final writing before going into the studio to begin recording her second LP. It's only been about a year since her debut album Crazy For You was released, and two years since her lo-fi, sun drenched and fuzzed out tracks started permeating into ears. By the blog watch, two years seems like a lifetime; but in terms of palpable success, Cosentino has been using those last two years to steadily climb not only the charts and away from the cat obsessed stoner public image that she herself had built during that time, but also into more rarefied circles of fame and fortune.
It was just the other day that she was rubbing shoulders with Tina Fey and being asked by Tracy Morgan to sing 'Respect' with him. She had a video directed by Drew Barrymore featuring a host of young stars including Chloe Moretz and Donald Glover, and in the witheringly backhanded compliment, has been a notorious target for HipsterRunoff's personal brand of caustic and ironic wit.
On second look, maybe she is in fact, deeper than just cats and weed. In fact, I might be inclined to think that, on one hand, she takes herself very seriously. And on the other, not seriously at all. Perhaps it's more that she takes her position in pop culture seriously, but herself not so much - though perhaps a little more with each HRO post. Cosentino seems cautious in her responses, and at times even defensive. She's frank though, and even speaks at length to explain her intentions and actions.
Tuesday March 6 2012:
We first interviewed Bethany back in September 2010. I did this interview with Cosentino about a year later in October 2011. With the recent buzz surrounding her new range for Urban Outfitters dropping into stores in May 2012, it seemed an appropriate time to let y'all read the unedited conversation. This cat-and-weed-meme-indie girl with the songs about the everyday tragedy of heartbreak and love set to warm and fuzzy guitar has proven far more than a blip on the radar and doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. To be honest, I prefer Best Coast less when she's talking and more when she's singing. Less meme and more music, I say - and it seems, so does she.
Where do you happen to be at the moment?
I'm home in Los Angeles right now.
I read that you were planning to be in the studio this month…how's that going? Is that happening at the moment?
We haven't actually started recording yet. We're starting to record next week. This is kind of me hanging out at home so I can do some final writing and stuff before we head back into the studio.
Exciting. I've read about your country music angle that you've been going for. being as bombarded as everyone is by her, I initially thought it was so Gaga of you…but then when I read a little more into it, and about your ambition to not necessarily make a country music album, but more to emulate some of the awesomeness of especially female country music singers. Can you tell me a little more about the music you've been listening to and how it will influence your album?
I think when I said that I wanted to make a country influenced record, I think I freaked a lot of people out. I didn't necessarily mean like, using banjos and making a literal country record. But yeah, I'm very much influenced by very strong willed, very big attitude, big voiced female country singers from the 60s and stuff. So that's something I've been listening to a lot. And I just wanted to kind of make this record and I wanted to feature my voice a lot more on it.
I think that the last record, I wasn't very confident with my singing and I was very shy and didn't want people to hear what my voice sounded like, which is why I buried it in tonnes of reverb. So on this record I wanted to showcase my vocal more; because it really is the thing that I'm the best at doing. I'm not the best guitar player, but I am a singer song writer.
I wanted to make a record that featured those two things more than the last record did. I'm just very inspired by the croony, ballady thing of the female country music singers of the 60s. That's sort of what I meant by saying I wanted to make a country influenced record.
Speaking of these powerful voiced strong opinioned women, I saw on your twitter that you met Tina Fey the other day. I know you've said that her book is like, the best book you've ever read. It seems like you're a girl power kinda girl without being all, well, girl power-y about it. Which is pretty refreshing.
Also lately your image seems to be deepening, and people are finally focussing less on the cats and weed that you were so notorious for. Do you consider yourself a feminist or anything like that?
I don't think I'm really so much of a feminist or anything like that, but I support women and I think it's really awesome to be a woman in an artistic community and to be surrounded by other women that are making art.
I think that it's just really refreshing when you meet a woman that you kind of look up to and she seems very normal and that's why I love Tina Fey so much because she's a regular woman. She's not like some kind of scary alien supermodel, which I think are kind of, at least in America, are very much the top hottest girls are like, crazy skinny swimsuit models and that's not what the majority of the world looks like, or talks like or acts like and so, I kinda just like to be a regular girl.
I am very much just a regular girl. And I think that's something people can relate to a lot better than being some crazy fancy supermodel who walks around wearing seven inch platforms and Chanel all the time. I am who I am and I feel very honoured to be a woman in a role that I have a voice and that I can help other young girls and women feel confident about just being true who they are.
Did you see Drake on SNL? (He did a matching sweaters interviews with Andy Samberg. They were coogee knit jumpers). Have you seen any of his film/acting work? He was on Degrassi the New Generation you know. I dig Drake as much as anybody, but to be honest, his hairline weirds me out sometimes, when it's freshly buzzed. How is your campaign to get in touch with Drake via twitter going?
I did yeah. I just really like him. I think he's a really refreshing kind of person in the rap scene. His lyrics to me are really relatable. He raps a lot about his life and how it's changed. Obviously he and I are operating on a completely different level of fame. But I think that for me, my life was in the same sort of way where I went from being a college drop out who was just writing these songs in my bedroom to touring the world and kind of being this sort of public figure in indie music and I wasn't really expecting that. So when I listen to Drake's music, I can kind of relate to what he's talking about. And I really like that he's not afraid to be emotional and he talks about things that a lot of other rappers wouldn't talk about. But yeah! I love him and I would absolutely love to work with him at any point in life, but I think that I'm done trying to get him to pay attention because it may be a little creepy. From here on out, I'm a huge fan of his and I would love to take any opportunity to work him.
So Jon Brion… He's done a whole lot of amazing stuff including some scores to some awesome films and produced a bunch of awesome artists…How did you get hooked up with him?
Well Bob knows Jon very well, they're very close because Bob and Jon used to work together, Bob was basically Jon's assistant for a very long time. I've always been a fan of Jon's. And once I became friends with Bob, he was like, oh you know, Jon Brion like – it was funny because, when I was getting a lot of shit for writing these simplistic lyrics, I would sometimes get down on myself and it bothered me that that was kind of like, something I was trying to do…
I remember Bob telling me that he went to a party at Jon Brion's house, and Jon told Bob 'Tell Bethany not to listen to any critics, her lyrics are brilliant and she's doing a great job' and I just remember thinking that was really awesome that somebody like that – Jon Brion's like, a musical genius, it was really a confidence boost to me to hear somebody like Jon Brion thought I was doing something right and real.
But basically we just know him and he's been coming to our shows and we've been friends of him for the last – or I have at least, Bob's known him for a long time – but I've been becoming closer over the last year, and we just thought it would be incredible to work with him and it was just an idea that we were like, oh Jon Brion, whatever that would be awesome, not really thinking that it would ever happen. And then we got an email from our manager that was like, 'Jon's totally down to do the record, you guys are going to start recording in October'. It was like, oh wow!
Everything that has happened has happened very organically. We didn't really push or fight to get Jon. He was just somebody we loved the thought of working with, and he was just total down to do it, so it just ended up happening in a really natural way.
Which is the best way! Who knows, maybe Drake will actually happen this way. Which would be really cool.
Yeah the Kanye connection we'll see!
I think the album's going to shape up to be amazing. I read that you said "A lot of the lyrics are more personal and more about my life and how it's changed in the past year. So basically it's less of 'I love him, why doesn't he love me?' and more of 'What the hell is going on in my world?'" Do you find it harder to write when you're happier?
Definitely. I'm like every other person in the world. I have fears and anxieties and worries and all that kinda stuff. But I do have a great life, and I have a wonderful family and wonderful people that I do surround myself with so I am very fortunate. But I do tend to write a lot of songs that are a little bit more dark or have a little bit of a sadder vibe. And I don't really know why it's so hard for me to write happy songs. It's almost for me a therapeutic thing. I write a song about what's going on and it kinda helps me out in this weird way. It's kinda silly and probably a bit lame and stupid to say that it's like therapy to me or whatever. What's crazy is that that was sort of the idea. To write these songs that weren't happy and just about what was going on.
The stories in these songs weren't really the greatest thing but the music itself was very upbeat and fun. That was something I was really focussed on and I really wanted to hone in on that record. But this one, it's a little more direct and I wanna be like these are beautiful sad songs that deal with sadder things in life. Not every song will be like that. But I am very much a fan of ballads and Stevie Nicks is like, my favourite person in the world and the song that she wrote 'Storms' which is the saddest and most drawn out, beautiful slow Fleetwood Mac song. It's one of the greatest songs I've ever heard and I think that you can really affect people with beautiful sad songs sometimes.
So, to answer your question: yes.
I noticed you did a piece on the Fader, mentioning that you used to intern there…how long ago was that? What ambitions/intentions did you have at the time?
Well I was going to school in New York and I guess it was around 2009 or 2008, and I was a student at The New School. I was a creative writing major. Obviously I love music and I've made music my entire life, but I wanted to use my writing to be involved in something cool. And my really good friend who was an intern with me at The Fader, who is now the Style Editor, which is really amazing because we started interning together and now he's an editor there – but he was like, would you be interested in interning for the Fader, they're looking for another intern and it would mean lots of writing for the blog and even getting stuff in print. It was just a fun thing for me to do. It was a good experience for me. It also counted as class credit. The people who work there are really great people many of whom I'm still great friends with. It was just something fun to do at the time.
I've heard you don't eat meat (but you dream of it) is that still true? What's your favourite munchies snack food?
Yes [laughs]. I don't actually eat a lot of junk food but I am obsessed with Sour Patch kids. I don't know if you have these in Australia but they're really sour and really good. That's always what I get.