When asked if I’d be interested in covering a band called Best Coast, I immediately remembered Bethany Cosentino, the 25 year old lead singer who loved to smoke weed, hang out with her cat, Snacks and her boyfriend, Nathan Williams of Wavves. I also had some faint memories from a couple summers ago of baking in the sun and listening to the fuzzy, lo-fi surf pop songs from their first album, Crazy for You.
With lyrics about heartbreak and loneliness, there was always a brutally honest element to her simple songs that not only seemed real and endearing, but they would stick in your head for weeks. Even though “Boyfriend” basically consists of Bethany repetitively pining “I wish he was my boyfriend” and a grungy guitar solo by Bobb Bruno, the fact that it sounds like it was recorded in the 90s makes it ok.
So after a summer on regular rotation, I admittedly got over “Boyfriend” and lost track of the band. But when I heard they were coming to Montreal and I would even have a chance to talk to Bobb, the slightly stoic and multi-talented member of the band, it seemed like the perfect time and the perfect weather to revisit their old album and check out their new one, The Only Place.
After some quick research and listening to the album on repeat, it was clear that both the band and their sound had changed a bit. Bethany’s voice no longer sounds far away and buried under a haze of feedback and blurry guitars; the album is polished and the clarity of her voice is the focal point. I also learned that the band seems to be on route to becoming a full-fledged brand, complete with a clothing line at Urban Outfitters, which Bethany describes as “an extension of the band.”
I suppose it was inevitable that they would one day get sick of talking about Snacks the cat and their lo-fi vibe, but Bobb reassured me that they won’t forget their roots. One thing that will never change is their love for sunny California, which still infiltrates songs heavy with homesickness and self discovery.
“Our hometown is an amazing place,” Bobb longingly describes San Diego, “we still love playing in the same places we used to go as teenagers. Beth is always going to sing about what she’s going through and a lot has changed. She’s not recording in her bedroom anymore. When you’re on tour for a few years and missing home, it’s going to come out in our music. We love just being at home, having your own things around you, your own bed, watching our favourite shows. We’re also huge online shoppers so when we get home there’s always a pile of boxes waiting for us.”
But on the up side, the self-proclaimed foodies get to try all kinds of things on their travels. On the band’s Facebook page, they asked their Montreal fans to suggest some places to go for good poutine in exchange for free tickets to the show on Friday. As of today, they were still undecided so there’s still time to win!
In addition to some great comfort food, Bethany and Bobb have each other when they’re on the road and it sounds like they’ve bonded quite a bit over the years. They’ve seen other band members come and go, but they’ve stuck together ever since they discovered they had a mutual love for the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac.
“We’ve been friends since we were involved with Pocahaunted – great band, but they were heading in a different direction and we really wanted to do our own thing.”
Bobb has worked with a wide array of talented musicians, like Fiona Apple and Jon Brion, who produced the soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as well as Best Coast’s own latest album.
“Jon was so good for this album. Beth has such an amazing voice and he really helped bring that to the surface. He also added some keyboard overdubs to Up All Night, which ended up being one of my favourite songs on the record. That one and Do You Love Me Like You Used To are my favourites for sure.”
Bethany also just collaborated with Iggy Pop on a song that made its way onto an episode of True Blood called “Let’s Boot and Rally.” For Bobb, collaborating with Father John Misty of the Fleet Foxes is a long-time dream of his and he wouldn’t mind lending a song to Curb Your Enthusiasm.
“I would also love to work with Zola Jesus. She has such a cool sound.”
Best Coast has certainly proven to be ambitious and they’re not apologizing for it. They’ve had their share of criticism and the typical scrutiny from blogs like Hipster Runoff as they shed their stoner, beachbum image and evolve into a successful pop sensation. With lines like “You gotta keep me away from what they say about me,” it would be a lie to say that it doesn’t still affect them, but they’ve learned how to use it to their advantage. Bethany has always said that writing is like therapy for her and now she’s managed to channel all that negativity into a handful of hits.
Check out Best Coast and Those Darlins this Friday, July 20th at Le National. Doors at 7:30