BEST COAST: ENDLESS SUMMER - Nathan Jolly
Beth Cosentino, frontwoman and songwriter of California’s Best Coast, is in Wyoming with limited phone reception. She’s just endured a full day of horrendous Australian press, with local online publications, street press and even one of Sydney’s daily newspapers asking her a string of vapid questions about her cat (Snacks), her boyfriend (Nathan Williams aka Wavves) and her love of weed (gasp!) – it sounds more like a TV Hits inquisition than the usual considered questions asked of a critically acclaimed young songwriter. Needless to say, Cosentino is happy to finally talk about music; namely her debut album Crazy For You, which managed to land inside the Billboard Top 40, despite its release through a small indie label, Mexican Summer.
“That was a really surprising thing; none of us expected any of that to happen,” Cosentino recalls. “It’s one of those things that I didn’t really believe until I actually saw it on the chart; we were in Europe at the time, and really anxious to get home. To be such a small record on a small label, and to have it chart that high first week [number 36, selling roughly ten thousand units] …even though it was only on it for a week, it’s still a pretty insane accomplishment. None of us ever, ever expected to be able to say ‘Oh yeah, we had a record that charted on the Billboard chart.’”
In Australia next month for Golden Plains festival and a bunch of sideshows, Cosentino seems to be growing tired of the stoned Californian Gidget stereotype that she’s happily cultivated through tweets, blog posts, interviews, and most importantly, her music. On Crazy For You, Spector-esque walls of reverb do their best to drown out lyrics encapsulating teenage love, heartbreak and that endless summer that Californians take for granted (plus cats, weed, her boyfriend…). The next record, she says, will be a deliberate step away from all of that. “I don’t want to change our sound completely, but I do wanna make a sophomore record that is different to our first… I think I have a voice where you hear it and know, ‘oh that’s Bethany,’ so with that at the forefront, you will know it’s a Best Coast record. [But] there are a lot of logistics behind recording, and I think we wanna approach this next record in a more ‘professional’ way, for lack of a better word, than we did for the first record. So it’s something that is on my radar, but I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen.”
Although they made it onto the Billboard charts seemingly overnight, Best Coast first came to attention through a series of hazy, lazy 7-inch singles that sent bloggers reaching for superlatives. The lo-fi aspect of these songs was ditched once the band landed in a ‘proper’ studio to record the single ‘When I’m With You’ (included as a bonus track on the Australian pressing of Crazy For You). “We recorded all the 7-inches at Bobb’s [Bruno, fellow Best Coaster] house; he had a studio in his bedroom and we recorded them all very quickly. That was definitely a period where I was interested in making things sound very hazy, and of course when you or someone in your band is the one recording and mixing and making all the music, it tends to be one-sided and ‘this is exactly the way we want it to be,’” she explains. “As soon as we started recording with a producer, they were able to keep that aesthetic but make it brighter and fuller and more audible. In the beginning it was more that we didn’t have the tools, so that’s kinda the way things sounded. Once we had access to a big studio, we thought, ‘Let’s make a prettier sounding record’. We didn’t wanna spend a lot of money in a studio to make something sound like shit.”
The record’s “more audible” sound certainly contributed largely to the success of the band, as well as putting Cosentino on the radar of some quite famous well-wishers – a few of whom wanted to work with her. “I found out Rivers [Cuomo, Weezer frontman] was a fan of the band because he tweeted about me, and said that he really liked the record, and had been listening to us a lot. I was like, ‘What the fuck? Why is Rivers tweeting at me? That can’t be real…’” She quickly asked her manager to enquire about a possible Weezer support slot and a few months later, Cosentino was in the studio with Cuomo, writing and recording a track. (“Wow – that happened,” she recalls with disbelief).
Likewise it was through Twitter that she heard that Kid Cudi was a fan, which resulted in her appearance on a Converse promotional single featuring Cudi and Rostam Batmanglij, of Vampire Weekend. The link to Converse did nothing to hamper her credibility in this post-sell-out age. “Of course I said yes to that. It’s a huge opportunity. It was really early on for Best Coast, our record wasn’t close to coming out, and we were doing our own headlining tour. So I took it as an opportunity to have my name attached to something big that would get some attention.”
Now, with attention firmly planted on her, Cosentino will use the upcoming American summer to “slow things down” and plan the next record. “I definitely have been thinking about it a lot,” she confesses. “I have a lot of songs compiled that I’ve written within the last year. My mind is running with ideas and when I get some time off, I’m gonna try to sit with them, and really think about it all.” With Snacks the cat by her side, no doubt…
Originally published inBrag 401 (February 28, 2010)