Listening to Best Coast is almost akin to listening to the cackle of a car speaker, worn down by the effervescent saltiness of the sea air, as it sits beside a nearby boardwalk. You can hear the ethereal hum of the treble, the waves crashing like faraway mortor fire, and the detached voices of beach dwellers join together like white noise. Best Coast is a band that evokes the watery ghosts of yesteryear. Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of the neo-retro band, has the perfect voice for such beach music. Playful and sometimes reserved, Cosentino’s vocals waft over distorted guitars like they were being culled from a spectral and long-lost 1960s radio station. Costentino’s no-nonsense attitude manages to coexist with her cordiality and openness; there is something truly fantastic about the singer, whose cat, Snacks, is featured predominately in the band’s make up and whose Hepburn-sized glasses are always perched above a wide-grin.
Robert Patrick: I guess the most important question I have to ask is about the record’s cover-art; is Snacks the cat on the front of your album?
Bethany Cosentino: Yes, that is Snacks on the cover of my album.
Okay. I’m relieved.
Who designed the album cover?
His name is David Rager. He was just a friend through our producer. We were in Europe and we needed a record cover done between two or three days and I just sent in ideas. I just said that I wanted it to be 1960s looking. I want my cat to be on it. I want there to be an ocean. I want there to be a palm tree. I threw out ideas and then it came back with my cat near the ocean and with California etched into his butt (laughs). I loved it.
I know that Best Coast almost didn’t exist at all. Major labels spoke to you when you were younger and you declined to sign with them. You were even going to college on the east coast. Did you imagine that calling both of those things off would lead you to where you are now?
No, I had no idea this would happen. I just think that life takes weird twists and turns sometimes. When I was in New York I just felt a strong feeling that I wanted to move home. I wanted to play music and be back in the surroundings that I grew up around. I think it was obviously a good move for me, as it inspired me to form a band that I am currently touring and making records with. I’m very excited about it.
I know beach music is a large part of your aesthetic. If you were touring in the ’60s, what band or artist would you tour with and why?
I would probably say The Beach Boys, which is obvious, but they were a big influence to me. When I was growing up my dad was a huge fan, so I heard a lot of their music. “Pet Sounds” was one of the first albums that I ever really remembered hearing and connecting with at a super young age. I think I was maybe twelve or something. I just remember being amazed that the vocals and harmonies were so awesome. Not to mention that Bobb, my bandmate, is a huge Beach Boys fan. So, yeah, I would definitely choose them.
If you had to choose one song as an introduction to your music, for a first time listener, which track would you choose and why?
I think I would pick “When I’m With You” because that’s sort of the song that started us in a different direction, as far as production and recording went. Up until that song we had recorded everything on our own; we had done everything in Bob’s room. We were using programmed drums, since we weren’t using live ones at all. When we went into the studio to record “When I’m With You”, that’s when we started messing around with live drums and when we really kind of realized that this was what we wanted our music to sound like. I think if you listen to that song it introduces you to the band we are now, whereas you listen to some of the earlier singles and the songwriting is the same but the production is definitely different. I’m a lot happier now doing the songs the way we’re doing them.
I heard in interviews that you have embraced the lo-fi sound, but then in other interviews I heard you wanted to get away from that scene. What’s your take on lo-fi almost becoming a genre in music?
I think it’s really strange that something that used to describe a recording sound has become a genre. The whole thing is pretty strange to me. I’m a fan of bands that continue to record their music and sound very lo-fi, but for me it was something that I was experimenting with at the beginning. Eventually our producer said, “Hey, let’s try to tone it down.” I didn’t want to make something that sounded bedroom recorded, but I have nothing against that sort of sound production, I just left that behind when we started recording in the studio. I just like it to sound cleaner now.
Going back to “When I’m With You”, where did the idea come from for that video?
Pete Ohs, who has directed a lot of awesome videos, sent me a Facebook message, and I had never met him before, but he said he was a big fan of our music and that he had an idea for a video. Before he contacted me, a lot of people gave me ideas for a video and none of the ideas were really what I wanted the video to be. Pete’s idea was really weird and kind of funny. I thought that no one was going to understand why my boyfriend was Ronald McDonald. As a person I’m a weirdo; I joke around a lot. I’m very sarcastic and I’m a goofy kind of girl – and Bobb is goofy as well – so we figured let’s make a video that makes us seem like the people we are. The video is me running around on a beach with a giant clown, so it’s pretty weird and funny. Pete is a great guy and it was easy to work with him, so we owe it to his idea.
I know Pitchfork put the video on their site and they also gave you the best new music title. Is that a big deal for the band, or is it entirely inconsequential for you?
If we hadn’t got “best new music” it woulnd’t have been the end of the world, but it’s awesome to be given that title by a website that is very important in music right now. It definitely gave us a boost of confidence to know that we’re doing something right, that someone is enjoying our music. No matter what we were happy with the record, so that’s all that matters.
Since we are a film website, I feel like I’m obligated to ask you what your favorite films are.
I have really bad taste in movies. I like a lot of really awful stuff (laughs). I am a really big Woody Allen fan. My favorite Woody Allen movies are “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall”. I also love early nineties comedies. I love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan comedies – those are always both stupid and heartwarming to watch (laughs). I grew up watching movies like that with my mom, so it’s kind of a nostalgic thing. I just recently saw “The Fly” and now I’m a huge fan of that movie. I obviously had heard of it and knew what it was, but I had never seen it. I was in London in my hotel room and they sort of edited it down for television, but I bought it the other day on DVD so I’m going to see the whole thing. I think that movie is really rad.
Who doesn’t love Jeff Goldblum, right?
Jeff Goldblum is really awesome. He’s an awesome guy.
While we’re still on the subject of movies, would you ever write the score for a movie if you had the opportunity to do so?
I think in theory I would want to do it, but then I would think about how fucking difficult something like that is. You have to really, really be the kind of person who can sit down and concentrate on what you’re doing. I just feel as a song writer that I’m a very spur of the moment kind of person. I dont put too much thought into my lyrics, I just focus on melody and stuff like that. I think if I had to write music to the theme of a movie I might have a really hard time doing that. I would love to do it, if I could actually sit down on my ass and work really hard (laughs). I would probably do some sort of teenie-bopper movie with straight forward music, because I like simple pop songs. Maybe I would make an updated version of “She’s All That” or something that I grew up watching.
How did the collaboration between Kid Cudi and Rostam of Vampire Weekend begin?
I was approached at South by Southwest about this Converse thing that was going to happen. I knew about the previous one where The Strokes were involved. I lived in New York when that thing was going on and the campaign was huge. So when I received the invite, I was shocked. I’m a fan of Rostam’s work and I had heard that Kid Cudi song “Day ‘N Nite” about a thousand times on the radio and thought it was really good. It all slowly came together, we recorded in New York, then we did a music video. It wasn’t something I was expecting, but it all came together and it was a lot of fun.
You guys just finished touring through Europe, is that correct?
What was your most memorable time touring out there?
We played a festival in Portugal where we went on a three in the morning. Our last tour in Europe was crazy because we were only there ten days but we had to play in six different countries, so every day we would wake up, play, then fly to the next country. It was a very overwhelming tour. We played the show in Portugal and found out our set time was three in the morning. We were all concerned about how the fuck we were going to stay awake. We’re not a rave band, no one is going to party to us at three in the morning. We thought nobody was going to be there. We were just super negative. We ended up getting there super early and hung out with some friends. By the time three o’clock came around, there were thousands of people singing along to our songs. The songs weren’t even written in their language, so it was an exciting thing. Girls had signs that had my name on them – it was really crazy. We expected to play a set at that time to a total of five people and then go to sleep, but it ended up being such a big show (laughs).
You guys are coming down here to San Diego in November, do you have any interesting San Diego stories?
Every time we play a show in San Diego we get really drunk and drive home the next day with a really bad hangover. We always have fun in San Diego because we drink a lot. We like playing in San Diego, and we have a lot of friends there. There’s a lot of good people there so we always have fun. They also have really good carne asada fries in San Diego.
Yeah, we do – almost too much so.