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Interview: Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast

"It's weird to have your personal life suddenly be public."

By

Best Coast

Best Coast

Mexican Summer

On Crazy for You, her debut LP as Best Coast, 23-year-old Los Angelino Bethany Cosentino delivers a fuzzy, lo-fi, highly-melodic take on classic pop-music, steeped in longing. With a run of killer 7"s, a much-followed Twitter feed, and a relationship with fellow hype-magnet Wavves on her side, Cosentino is 2010's queen of blog buzz.

Interview: 11 August 2010

When did you start making any kind of music?
"I started playing guitar when I was 13, and started writing singer-songwritery stuff [as Bethany Sharayah] at 15. Then, I started Pocahaunted, this weird, psychedelic drone project. It was completely way out in left field for me; it was music that I wasn't familiar with at all, and came at a time when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with music. Me and this girl Amanda [Brown] just created this sound, and we made records, and we toured. It was really fun. But I wasn't going home and listening to the kind of music I was making."

Did you tire of authoring formless compositions?
"Yeah, it just wasn't melodic enough for me. There was no real songwriting process. And my favorite thing is to write songs. One of the really special things about Best Coast is that it's the exact kind of music that I actually listen to. And this is the first time that I've ever really done that."

Did you grow up with classic Beach Boys-type pop records?
"My dad was a musician, so I grew up hearing The Beatles and the Beach Boys non-stop. The whole family used to listen to the Phil Spector Christmas album [A Christmas Gift for You] every year. But it wasn't until I moved to New York [in 2009] —to go to college for creative writing— and felt the weather turn really cold that I started immersing myself in that California sound. Because it helped me cope with seasonal depression. I didn't realize how much being from California had affected me as a person: I found it impossible to be creative when it was gloomy and dreary. I didn't even really try to make music when I was in New York. I knew that coming back to California would give me that inspiration, and, about two days after I moved back, I started writing the songs that would be Best Coast. It was this almost instantaneous thing, brought on by weather. I took it as a sign that this is where I belong."

So you wanted to make your own Californian pop?
"The only idea I had was that I wanted to have a band loosely inspired by The Beach Boys and The Beatles. I wanted to do something in the vein of straight-forward pop-music from the ’50s and ’60s. Everything else happened on its own. I had no expectations of touring, even, let alone touring the world. It's been a huge surprise."

Has it been difficult existing under the intense scrutiny of the internet's fishbowl?
"Definitely! It's like I'm living in a completely different world now. I used to just be someone who could go to a show with my friends and just hang out, and now anywhere I go I go as 'the girl from Best Coast,' and whatever I do someone could write about it on the internet. It's weird to have your personal life suddenly be public, and have people know who you're dating, know facts about you that you have no idea how they know. The internet brings up a lot of stuff that's difficult to deal with. And, because it's all so new to me, it’s still something that I'm dealing with, and still learning how to deal with."

What are you learning?
"To not read blogs. I'll read reviews where they're just talking about the content of the record, but I just don't like go look at message-boards where people are just anonymously posting ridiculous comments about the way I look. What's important to me is what people think about the music, not what they think about my haircut. It's really weird that people are talking about things in my life that I never thought they'd talk about. If people want to approach me at shows and talk about my music, that's great. That makes me feel like I'm doing something right; that I've created this fan-base of human-beings who are connecting to these songs. But if people just want to gossip s**t about me anonymously, not say things to my face, that's something that I can't waste my time with."

But doesn't having such a public internet presence —a blog feed, a Twitter account— just feed the machine?
"Yeah, I know. But, in real life, I have a bit of social anxiety, and talking to people at shows can sometimes be hard, so Twitter is something that allows me to talk to people without having to talk to them. But, then, people start to feel like you're their friend because they read these little comments that you make, and they think they really know your personality. And, maybe they do, but you can't be friends with someone you've never met."

Why are you so anxious about talking to people at shows, if having them talk to you is preferable to having them blog about you?
"Because people are really intense! All the time I have couples coming up to me and saying 'such and such is our song!' Recently in Chicago this girl came up to me and said that her and her boyfriend were breaking up, but then they were listening to my record, and look at each other, and they started thinking 'wow, these songs are telling our exact story!' And for me, that's a little weird! It's weird for someone else to say that my songs, my story, is in fact their story. But, like, that was my reason for writing really straight-forward lyrics. I thought that other people would be able to relate to them, that their problems would be really relatable. Everyone deals with the kind of issues I'm singing about."

Is it weird to have your lyrics criticised for being simple, then, given that was the point?
"People just don't get it. I guess lots of people want to be able to sit down with a song, and come up with something really profound from its deep, inner meaning. But, for me, it's like, yeah, sometimes I listen to music where the lyrics are pretty intricate, too, but that's not the music I make. With Best Coast, the point is to be straight-forward. If someone wants to say I'm a bad lyricist because of that, well, great for them. I could easily write weird, metaphorical things, I just choose not to. That's not the vibe I’m going for. I want simple melodies, simple lyrics, simple pop-songs."

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