Best Coast: riding the wave
By Jonathan Fisher
22 July 2010, 19:37
As a result of the rise of low-cost bedroom recordings and the rise of the internet as a tool for communicating and distributing music over the last decade, it increasingly feels like one could never run out of bands to discover. Using blogs, MySpace profiles and webzines, anyone with a passing interest in music can daily read names they’ve not read before, see promo shots they’ve not seen before and hear songs they’ve not heard before. With such a modern media overload to contend with, we all build filters both conscious and subconscious, either favouring certain blogs or blocking out bands with triangles as part of their names.
Best Coast got vetoed by a number of this writer’s personal filters initially: young girl talks about hot weather, weed and cats a lot, plays lo-fi beach jams and sings simple, naïve lyrics about boys ‘n’ shit. I’d considered the whole package to be a pretty face on top of a stack of buzzwords from the last twelve months, a contrived set-up. This, as I was soon to find out, serves a massive injustice upon Bethany Cosentino, the voice/brain/face of Best Coast.
Having spent a childhood with a musical family keen for her to succeed in the field,
Bethany began writing songs when she was fifteen under the name Bethany Sharayah. They were sweet country-tinged pop songs in the style of Rilo Kiley and attracted some attention from major labels, which she remembers with mirth, boiling her flirt with an A&R hotshot down to “it was just like a dude handed me a business card and was like “I wanna have a meeting with you” and I was like “no” and that’s what happened.”
Soon after deciding that this style of music wasn’t what she wanted to devote herself to, she started psych-drone twosome Pocahaunted with a girl called Amanda Brown who she met at community college. “I got to smoke a lot of weed, I got to hang out in a dark recording studio with this other weird girl and we would just make these weird trippy songs and we got to open for Sonic Youth out of it, which was pretty cool.” A support slot during which they used twelve minutes of their allotted thirty and sat on the floor playing one chord progression over and over, but one which enabled Bethany to become friends with Thurston Moore.
Having fulfilled many a musician’s wildest dream at such an early point in a career could potentially have skewed her outlook on the whole business. Instead, she moved to New York to start anew and left the band as one, three thousand miles separated them and two, it was another genre which didn’t ignite sufficient passion from within to be an on-going concern.
This drastic diversion in style helped Bethany to consolidate her identity as a songwriter. “I was in this band, playing this kind of music I had never been familiar with, music that I’d never listened to, so if it did anything, it allowed me to realise that the music I wanted to be making is nothing like this. And before I was in Pocahaunted I was making pretty poppy, singer-songwriter stuff, so it was obvious that I’m a pop songwriter at the roots.”
New York proved too cold to sustain someone so in love with the sun and the beach and as soon as she touched back down in Los Angeles Bethany began work on Best Coast.
“The cool thing about Best Coast is that it’s the first band I’ve ever been in, the first project throughout the whole of my musical history that I’ve been really proud of and really excited about because I think it’s the kind of music that I would want to listen to.”
“This is something which really interests me; making music evocative of 50s and 60s eras and California and this whole beachy aesthetic that’s been tagged onto this band. That’s what I want to create: I want to make music which sounds like that. This is the kind of music I’ve been listening to for years now, beachy, Californian, 50s/60s stuff. I’m like “cool, I’m making music which is reminiscent of that time” and even if it’s not, if it doesn’t exactly sound that way, if it’s making people say “I live in Madison, Wisconsin where it’s freezing and I’m listening to Best Coast and I feel like I’m at the beach surrounded by palm trees”, that’s fucking awesome, that’s what I want to do.”
A few listens of the upcoming debut record Crazy For You and the affectations are there strong and true. Sweet, reverb-soaked vocals on top of lo-fi guitar and backing harmonies bring a sound of 60s pop songs updated to fit modern slacker life – lots of ooh-wah-wahs and “I wish he was my boyfriend” alongside liberal references to a weed habit that sail close to the gauche. After closer examination it appears as just another example of the honest, open and unabashed way Bethany presents herself and her life. She’s young and doing what she wants to be doing—making music, getting stoned, watching Seinfeld with her buddies and hanging out with her cat, Snacks, who adorns the front cover of the album.
One wonders what kind of mileage such juvenile pop songs will have in a year’s time when new buzzes like ‘witch house’ have taken off and subsided again, but this is a girl going with the flow, concentrating on the here and now.
“Who’s to say that in two or three years from now I’ll be into goth and industrial music, who fucking knows, I might try to do something like that, because the kind of person I am, my interests change a lot, the stuff that I’m into changes a lot.”
Make the most of her upcoming shows because her mind is supple for change, and learn from my mistake: don’t make assumptions about Best Coast.