Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on Getting Emo and Clowning Around
West Coast songwriter talks about her band's May disc 'The Only Place'
Though Best Coast’s 2010 debut album, Crazy for You, won an ocean of fans for its fizzy, lo-fi surf pop, frontwoman Bethany Cosentino swears she’s still the same weed-and-Wavves-loving girl as always. “I’m not some crazy asshole who walks around super-conceited or anything,” says the 25-year-old by phone from the Los Angeles home of the aforementioned band’s Nathan Williams and their Internet-famous cat, Snacks. Along with multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, she will try to continue her ascent this May, when Best Coast release their follow-up, The Only Place (Mexican Summer). Lusher than its predecessor, the album was produced by Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West), who pushed the duo into unknown territory. “A couple of songs almost hit four minutes,” says Cosentino, “which for me is really long.”
You’ve said that the new record is more “emo” — so, lots of bad puns about deceased poets, obscure tree genera, and bloody car crashes?
It is pretty emotional. I’m not really holding back. And that makes me a little bit nervous because I am letting the public in on all of these personal things. But at the same time, that’s sort of what I do. I think Crazy for You reached so many people because they could relate to what was going on. So when I say “emo,” I mean that there are some serious things being talked about. But no, it’s not, like, a Get Up Kids record.
Then what kind of record is it?
I keep calling it a “grown-up record.” It’s really about me just being like, “Oh, holy shit, I’m growing up. Life is changing.” When Crazy for You came out, I was 22. And I know that from 22 to 25 wouldn’t seem like that much older, but I think women go through a lot of emotional changes during that time. And, you know, dealing with so much criticism coming from so many different angles. I would wake up and be like, “Where the fuck am I? How did I get here?” A year ago, I was working at a soap store trying to convince people to buy some kind of weird lotion for their really dry hands, and now I’m on a plane to Australia. So, yeah, it’s a lot more inside the brain of Bethany and less inside the LiveJournal/love diary of Bethany.
“How They Want Me to Be” [a song Best Coast previewed last year] takes on anonymous online detractors. Are you having a Mary J. Blige, “don’t need no hateration” moment?
It’s always kind of annoying. But you have to realize that, for the most part, it’s either a 14-year-old kid sitting behind the computer or a really bored adult who has nothing better to do. You have to stop looking at it. At first I was like, “Oh, cool — somebody wrote about me on a blog!” And then there’d be all these comments attached to it, and you’re like, “Oh, wait — I didn’t know people said these kinds of things.” So you learn the hard way that some people love you and some people hate you. You have to move forward and try not to let that stuff get you down. But it definitely did get me down at a point.
Did McDonald’s lawyers come after you for using the Ronald McDonald look-alike in your video for “When I’m With You”?
We had never done a video before and I thought, “Don’t you think we’re going to get in trouble?” But then it was, “Eh, fuck it. I’m just going to do it.” Nothing ever happened. The one thing we did get in trouble for was having a guy dressed up like Ronald McDonald at In-N-Out Burger. They told him, “Excuse me, sir, you can’t be in here.” I don’t know if that was because he was dressed like Ronald McDonald or if they were just, “Dude, you’re wearing a clown costume. You can’t be inside of our restaurant.”
You made a plush toy based on your cat, Snacks. Aren’t you worried about exposing and exploiting your loved ones for profit?
I don’t think they’re the best seller on the merch table. When we got the mock-up for it, I was like, “That looks nothing like Snacks. But sure, if you guys want to make a cat doll, we’ll go for it.” At one point, I just took a bunch and threw them off the stage because I thought, “Okay, these aren’t selling very great, so I’m just going to give them away.” But people love that fucking cat. It’s not a joke.
How scared are you of the Snacks Tumblr?
There’s a lot of that stuff. It freaks me out. I can’t look at it. People really, really do like Snacks. And, hey, it’s my own fault for putting him on the cover of my record, but I’m never going to be able to stop talking about it. Maybe I’ll have to put a donkey on the cover of my next record.
This story originally ran in the March/April issue of SPIN.