It’s easy to see where Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s music comes from. Her zest for music radiates as though she’s the band’s Vitamin D-drenched surf pop made flesh. She has repeatedly gone on record about her love for her job and when it became evident that a career in retail was never going to get off the ground (“I hated it and was always terrible at it.”), music was the only path imaginable. “People ask me all the time, ‘What would you be doing if you weren’t in Best Coast?’ and I literally have no idea because my life has become so consumed by this. I feel like there’s not really a division between Best Coast and Bethany. This is my life. Everything I do, every decision I make, everything I say is, in a way, related to the band. It’s hard to figure out sometimes where the line is between me and the band. Like when you have a kid. You can’t imagine not having it. This is almost my baby.”
Indeed, having 'These are the songs I write. You either like it or you don't.' recently flown the nest from Mexican Summer, the imprint that released Best Coast’s first two LPs, it feels as though any barriers that might have stood in the way of the band’s creativity have been lifted. “I just decided to do my own label and it’s been really cool to do,” Beth says, bubbling with enthusiasm for her new venture. “You get to make all of your own decisions which is really awesome as an artist. When you work with a label there are people who are pulling the strings. We did a music video yesterday and me and the director, we came up with the concept ourselves and it was totally funded by me. I get to do whatever I want and don’t have to worry about some label person saying, ‘No, this doesn’t work.’” She giggles as she tells the story of a runner who approached her to warn that the label may not be happy that some of the actors were drinking on set. “I was like, ‘Well I am the label and they’re allowed to do that!’”
The luxury of having that final say has had a tangible effect on Best Coast’s output, even helping to shape the format of ‘Fade Away’. At seven tracks, it stops deliberately and unashamedly short of a full album and as it emerges just over a year after the duo’s sophomore full-length, ‘The Only Place’, it was born out of a basic desire to get their music heard. “We really wanted to put out new material but we weren’t really ready to do another full length record. I had written a couple of songs that I was really excited about and I thought that we should record them and do something with them.” Shorn of label commitments, Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno welded some other tracks together to form the final version. “And then we had two songs that we had done for Record Store Day. So we were like, ‘These would make sense to go on there too.’” The resultant collection, whilst eschewing the aesthetic unity that an LP might bring, is a fusion of the styles visited on the first two albums, as the lo-fi sunniness of ‘Crazy For You’ vies for attention against the sultry, subdued wistfulness that Cosentino discovered on ‘The Only Place’. “I’ve been saying it’s kind of a combination. If you put the two albums together, it’s a little half and half. I feel that the last record was a lot more down tempo and I wanted to do something that was a little bit more upbeat, poppier and catchier. I think when people think of Best Coast they think of these sunny, poppy songs and there are a lot more of those on the EP than were on ‘The Only Place’. There are a couple of slower, mid-tempo songs because I feel like a classic album or any release should always contain one or two down-tempo songs.” She pauses and laughs. “It’s good to give your listener a little bit of a break from rocking too hard.”
For a '“I wanted to do something that was a little bit more upbeat.' band who seem to be so inextricably tethered to, so defined by the influences worn proudly on their collective sleeve, what they listen to inevitably has a hand in shaping Best Coast’s evolution. Mazzy Star and Patsy Cline have already been name-dropped by Cosentino. “I was listening to the same stuff that I’m always talking about - Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys - but I was listening to My Bloody Valentine a lot when I was driving to and from the studio. We wanted to experiment a bit more with guitar stuff where we did more distortion. I was listening to Blondie and The Go-Go’s. More female, more punk, I guess. I feel like there are a couple of songs on the EP that have that fast-paced vibe. But it’s not like I actually sit down and say, ‘OK, I’m gonna write a song that sounds like so and so.’”
While Beth initially writes the songs, her sonic visions are brought to life by the other half of Best Coast, Bobb Bruno. “I needed to have somebody to fill in the gaps for me and figure out what else needs to go on these songs. We bonded over a shared obsession with the Beach Boys.” Since then, their communication has become almost telepathic. “I would write a song and sent it to him and write him this email where I’ll say, ‘OK, I want to sound like blah blah blah’ and I’ll blurt out this bulls**t that doesn’t make any sense and he completely understands it and makes it happen.” With the maturing of sound on ‘The Only Place’ and now ‘Fade Away’, Bethany is keen to downplay the idea that the band may have felt the need to tackle more grown-up subject matter, choosing instead to stand her ground and remain true to her own self. “I feel like the entire process is extremely natural. I don’t ever really say, ‘OK, I’m going to write a song about the time I got dumped by this guy or the time I liked this guy and didn’t know what to say.’ I just write what comes out. I could sit down and write a song about the government and how fucked up it is, but I don’t do that because I feel it’s not my style and the reason why people, especially young people, connect to Best Coast is it’s all relatable stuff.” It’s clear that the ability to speak to the listener is an important part of her art, and that this can only be achieved through being genuine. “Everyone’s had their heart broken, everybody goes through feeling confused about themselves and they don’t know who they are or what they’re doing. I’ve become this poster girl where people say, ‘She’s the relatable cat and TV girl,’ and I’m fine with that because I am that person. These are the songs I write and you either like it or you don’t.”
Best Coast’s new mini-album ‘Fade Away’ is out now via Jewel City.
Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online or to download on iPad now.
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