“Life is a matter of asking yourself questions and searching for answers” Interview with Best Coast
Five years after that wonderful “Crazy For You” (Mexican Summer, 2010), Beth and Bob are back with a stunning third album. “California Nights” (Harvest, 2015) represents a turning point in their career. Their sound is still shining and the formula is up there, but the dark side is tempting. We get some psychedelic and lo-fi sounds, and their music feels more powerful than ever.
We had the chance to interview Bethany Cosentino and discover the secrets of the album and the mistery behind the lyrics and the career of Best Coast.
I saw you were premiering the album in a Tumblr event which looked really fun… Are you planning to bring the visuals and the swimming pool with you on tour?
We can’t bring the swimming pool. It would be really cool if we could bring the swimming pool on tour. The visuals that we have were created by our friend Adam Harding who actually made the ‘California Nights’ music video. And yes we do plan to have some of the visuals with us on tour. Not sure that they’ll be at every single show but we definitely, what he created for us was amazing. What the visuals would look like and it added a cool element to it. So yes it’s something we’re planning on doing. A swimming pool would be awesome but I don’t know how that would be possible.
So the new album is finally here, how are your feelings about it?
I’m super excited. I’m kind of at a loss for words that it’s actually coming out soon because it feels like the process has been quite long and it felt very, this record was done long before we even announced it and so it was very hard for me to, I have a hard time staying quiet so it was hard for me to not come out and say, ‘We have a new record coming out.’ I had to stay on schedule with the release announcement and all of that. So I’m just super excited that it’s actually going to be out in less than two weeks and that fans are going to be able to hear it as a whole.
This is a record we’re very comfortable with and very confident with. It just, to me it feels like our strongest record and I’m hoping everyone else feels that way as well.
I’ve read that you took a 6-mile hike up to listen to the album by yourself on the mountains, but how do you know you’re confidence about the result of the album, and that result is the one that is right? Is it something you learn with the years?
I think that your confidence grows over time. Not only as a person but also an artist. You grow when you’re working a lot and when you’re forced to be on stage in front of a bunch of people and do interviews. It becomes part of your job and therefore you become more comfortable doing it.
I think the point in my life that I’m at now I’m so much more comfortable doing what I do than I was when the band had first started. I think when the band first started I was 23, I was unsure what I was doing, I was unsure of myself, whereas now, I’m still navigating my way through life, obviously that’s what we all have to do on a daily basis. But I am now a lot more sure of who I am and I think that when I listened to the record after it was done and I made a sequence of it everyone was trying to sequence the record. And that’s when I decided, I put it on and went hiking and just enjoyed it. It felt so right and everything on it felt like, ‘Yes. This is exactly what I want to say. This is exactly how I want it to sound.’ And I don’t really know how it got to that point. I think it’s just growing up, and growing up in this industry is interesting because it can have this positive and it can have this negative. I think that I’ve done a good job of filtering out the negatives and focusing more on the positives. And I think that’s how I got to where I am today. So it feels very nice to know that I have grown a lot.
“I am now more sure of who I am”
Do you still feel pressure when you make an album?
I did in the past for sure. I think one of the things on this record that was really saved the process of making it and saved my sanity as well was the fact that I didn’t feel any pressure when I was making ‘California Nights’. I think a large part of that had to do with the fact that we weren’t on a label when we were making the record. We were sort of in between the label that we released our first record with and finding a new label. Just being able to go into the studio and knowing there’s nobody that was going to say, ‘We need a single by this date.’ Knowing that we could really do it the way that we wanted was really important to the process of making this record and it allowed me to not feel any pressure at all.
The only pressure that I felt I was creating for myself but on this record I think I did a really good job of not really allowing myself to even over think things, which is usually what I tend to do. But I don’t think I did that very much on this record.
So “California Nights”, what do you see in those nights that may have influenced somehow the new album? How would you explain to someone that has never been in California?
The term ‘California Nights’, I think people are taking it really literally. I had kind of made it a little bit of a metaphor in a way. Obviously it’s a real thing and it’s definitely a thing that I experience a lot, that inspired me, but it was really a metaphor on the light and dark and how everyone treats California as this picturesque place with blue skies and palm trees and sunny all the time. It is very much like that but at the same time there’s a lot of grittiness and darkness through LA. There’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of crime. The music industry has a lot of oddities that as an insider you see. I feel that you can explain that in the music as well – being uplifting and positive, sunny sounding, but the lyrics are a bit gritty and darker. So for me that was this interesting juxtaposition of light and dark.
“This album is a little bit more light and dark together”.
But really the ‘California Nights’ term was referencing my insomnia and the fact that I was awake a lot. I am awake a lot at night because I have insomnia. So it was really like, a lot of the creation of this record, I stayed up at night either writing songs or listening back to mixes after we’d started recording. Night time in California, or just night time in general was a huge part of this record. And it just so happens that I live in California, so that was the place of the nights I was experiencing.
To explain California nights to someone that hasn’t been there, it’s really an epic thing. I mean the place changes so much once the sun goes down but it’s a beautiful thing. As much as I talk about the sun, the beach, all this stuff, I actually prefer nights to day. So I kind of wanted to explore that darker idea with this record as opposed to the other ones where I feel it’s like all sun in your face all the time. This one is a little bit more light and dark together.
I reckon that your albums are one of those kind of records that gain with the years, discovering different pleasure the more you listen to them. The first song that we got to listen was “California Nights” which sounds very different and still very interesting. How did you approach that song?
I think as you grow your music changes with you. When we were making the song, ‘California Nights’, I wanted to do something that I had never done before and I wanted to do something that when it came out people would think, ‘Wow. This doesn’t sound like Best Coast at all.’ But still sort of have that vibe that I think we evoke with our music. For me it was a matter of tapping into influences that, or styles of music that I’ve listened to on a daily basis or that I’ve listened to for years but maybe hadn’t applied them to Best Coast.
It was really a matter of taking the jam and thinking I’m going to give it a shot. I remember sending the demo to Bobb and Wally and Peter and saying, ‘I don’t know if you’ll like this. It’s very different to everything else on the record and it’s very different to every other record.’ Everyone looks really excited about it. It was cool to return from the normalcy of what Best Coast does and just go in a different direction and explore but then also have songs on the record that very much sound like Best Coast. That was really wanted to do on this record, break things up a little bit. Not have it be one long continuous happy, uplifting, poppy sounding record. So it was very cool for me to make ‘California Nights’ and get to feel that I was exploring all these different parts of myself in terms of the music that I listen to and inspires me.
We see in your lyrics you’re still asking yourself questions. Do you think you’ll ever find the answers? Or is it like a learning process?
That’s life. Life is really a matter of asking yourself questions and searching for answers. I don’t think any human being in the existence of the universe will ever have the answer to every single question. For me it’s a growing process and I can listen back to ‘Crazy For You’ and hear the things that I was asking then and think to myself now, as a twenty eight year old woman, ‘Oh I’m not necessarily still searching for that answer.’ I’ve found a lot of answers, or I’ve answered a lot of questions for myself, to a certain extent. Obviously I didn’t find the golden ticket and now everything is perfect. It’s just like, what I try and do in my music is ask questions that not only I’m thinking but that I know a lot of other people are thinking and talk about things I know a lot of people are dealing with. I think when you can relate to a song and feel like you can relate it to your own life and your own situations and your own personal experiences, that’s when you can really create a super close bond with either an artist or a specific song.
That’s what I try to do with music. Just be as honest as possible and hope that there are people out there who are listening to it where it’s helping them answer the constant questions of life.
Bethany, you’ve been very active with the social media, How do you get on with it? Having so many people showing their opinion on pretty much everything you do?
I think in the beginning I would read a lot of stuff and I would definitely be effected if people were saying negative things. But I think now I’ve learnt now to pay too much attention to it. I understand that I am in an industry and I have a job that very much means that I receive criticism. I think any industry though is an industry where you receive criticism. But I think that for me it’s just like, I try my hardest to not pay attention to the negative and really only focus on the positive. The reason I’m active on social media is because in person I’m not necessarily the most social person. But that is the way I connect with my fans to make them feel they’re a part of my life without actually being sitting next to me on a table or being with me on the tour bus. But I can give them a window into what my life is like. The person that you see on the internet is the Bethany of real life as well. I just try not to focus on the negatives.
There’s been a lot of talking about this Jay-Z Tidal project, what’s do you think about his idea?
I don’t know a whole lot about it so I don’t have an opinion because I don’t really know a tonne about it.
Are you happy?
Right now I am. I’m playing with a toy dinosaur. It’s making me feel very happy.
David Bernardo @rockasting