Originally published in THE BRAG #439 – November 21, 2011
“It’s basically like California, but as an entire continent.”
For an artist that has so openly and constantly serenaded her home state of California, this is about the highest compliment that Bethany Cosentino, frontwoman and driving force behind the much-loved Best Coast, can bestow upon our country. In interview mode to promote her band’s second visit to Australia – this time as part of the Big Day Out lineup – Cosentino is excited about the prospect of coming Down Under again, comparing our audiences favourably to the “stiff audiences in Europe and places like that.” In the past year, she’s visited most of the Western world off the back of a considerable amount of early hype and column inches, which culminated in the admittedly rushed debut record Crazy For You. While the album landed in the Billboard Top 40 and spawned several successful singles (and a slew of feverish Bethany followers), she’s keen to move past the perpetually stoned, cat-friendly beach pop that she’s been pedalling so successfully over the past two years.
“I definitely want to do things differently. I would like to have a totally different sound [for the second album]. The first record was made really quickly, and it was made under the pressure of being a band everybody wanted a record from,” she confesses. “We really just made the record we wanted to make at that exact moment. I love Crazy For You, I’m really proud of it and of everything we have done, and I’ll always have great memories of making it and touring with it, but I feel like I don’t wanna be categorised under beach pop or lo-fi for the rest of my life. I’d like to prove I can do something different. So my intention is to go in and make a record that again we really enjoy, but that’s a huge progression from the first record.”
Enter uber-producer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion, who has worked with artists as diverse as Kanye West, Fiona Apple and Elliott Smith – and who has signed on to produce album no. 2, much to Cosentino’s immense joy. “He was just a fan of Best Coast; he played with us at one of our shows in LA, he played keyboards on ‘Our Deal’,” Cosentino explains. “I’d been a huge fan of his work since I’d first heard him, and [him producing] was just an idea we’d thrown out there, which we didn’t really think anything would come of. It’s cool because everything with Best Coast has worked that way; we put something out into the universe and it just happens. It’s very cool that we didn’t really have to stretch for a producer; we just picked this person that we really wanted to work with, and he wanted to do it. We feel extremely privileged.”
Cosentino certainly isn’t joking about her recent luck in floating ideas and having them eventuate. Collaborations with Rivers Cuomo and Kid Cudi occurred this way (“I co-wrote a Weezer song!” she proclaims incredulously), as did their glossy MTV-sanctioned clip for single ‘Our Deal’, which was directed and conceptualised by Drew Barrymore. “Actually, the night Jon Brion played with us was the same night that we met Drew Barrymore,” Cosentino laughs. “She wanted to come to a show so we put her on a guest list, obviously, and met her after the show. For someone who’s been famous since she was like four or something, she’s just very grounded and down-to-earth. We instantly hit it off and exchanged phone numbers and started talking. Our management and our label and MTV had this idea of doing this big video and getting Drew Barrymore, and it was another thing where we had this idea and didn’t think it would happen, but it ended up being one of the greatest things that has happened to me; to be able to work with Drew Barrymore is a huge accomplishment. But I wasn’t involved in any aspect of it, other than that I was on the set; she invited me to cameo on my own video, which was kind of funny. It was a great experience.”
By the time this story goes to print, Best Coast will have joined Brion in the studio to begin recording their second album. Although Cosentino claims to have left behind that ‘60s girl-group sound, she still finds inspiration from the females of that era. But while Crazy For You and the early 7-inch records mine the lovelorn likes of The Ronettes, The Crystals and various other Spector-driven groups, this time she is aiming more for the heartland of ‘60s America. “I started listening to a lot of old-school female country music like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Wanda Jackson,” she explains, of the album’s proposed direction. “Being a strong, female frontwoman is something that I feel very privileged to be. It’s amazing to be a female character that other girls look up to; I get told all the time that I’m these young girls’ role model, and I say, ‘Well, I think I’m a terrible role model – but thankyou!’” she laughs. “I wanted to emulate the strong women of that era. I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘60s country music, and this time I wanted to feature my voice a bit more and experiment with these croony, lovesick, beautiful ballads. Jon Brion is perfect at doing these produced, professional female things. I’m really excited about how it will turn out.”