Californians Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno have been creating melody-riddled Rock songs as Best Coast for nearly a decade, moving with relative ease from the fuzzed-out, lo-fi bliss of 2010’s Crazy for You to the sleeker sonics of their third and most recent album, 2015’s California Nights. Costentino sings with a voice that channels equal parts Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle and Liz Phair and writes universal lyrics that center on relationships — good, bad and indifferent. Bruno’s multi-instrumental talents are most obviously manifested through his reverb-driven guitar work.
Best Coast is currently finishing up an extensive North American tour opening for Paramore, which should infect whatever comes next in the ever-evolving Cosentino/Bruno collaboration. CityBeat connected with Cosentino to discuss everything from becoming a touring adult to why cats are the best.
CityBeat: You guys have been opening for Paramore on the current tour, but for the Cincinnati show you’re headlining a smaller venue. Why did you want to add a few headlining shows? Do you approach touring any differently now that you been through it so many times?
Bethany Cosentino: Paramore takes a lot of days off and we’re not super into too many days off on tour. You get into a rhythm and you want to keep going. So we booked a bunch of our own headlining shows in between Paramore dates and we decided to do them at small, intimate venues because we don’t really play small venues anymore.
Touring is a lot easier for me now than it used to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong — it’s still hard and exhausting — but I feel like I’m just better at it. I know how to pace myself better and drink a lot less, eat healthier, exercise more. I tour like an adult now instead of a wild teen like I used to.
CB: You’re between album cycles right now. How do you approach crafting a setlist when you’re not touring behind a new record? Are you playing new songs?
BC: We’re playing a combination of songs from all the albums and some B-sides at these shows. We don’t play new songs because we don’t like playing things that aren’t fully figured out yet. Everything always ends up on the internet and I don’t want people's first impression of new music to be from some shitty YouTube or Instagram video.
CB: How would you describe your sonic evolution from the fuzzed-out, lower-fi approach of the first album to the sleeker sound of California Nights?
BC: We basically just got a bigger recording budget. Crazy for You was made for, like, no money, and it took us a week to make. The sound was intentional, but I think at the time that’s just what we thought we should do. We like to change sonically with every record. It’s called growing up, really.
CB: Speaking of which, as you move into album No. 4, are you conscious about doing something different than you’ve done in the past? Do you go into the writing and recording of a new album with a specific theme or goal in mind, or is it a more organic process?
BC: It’s usually organic, but as we approach the process for this next record, I am thinking a lot about how we can do it differently. And that doesn’t even mean like come up with a new sound — because I don’t think we’ll ever be one of those bands that puts out an album and people hear it and they say, “This is Best Coast?” — but instead, trying things differently. Collaborate with one another differently, try out some producers and really let people help us take our songs from point A to point B. It’s exciting to have been doing it for this long and have a really great, supportive fan base. It kind of means we get to do whatever kind of album we want and we know we’ll have people backing us up.
CB: Your voice and Bobb’s guitar anchor what you guys do — which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given that you two are the lone constants over the years. What makes Bobb unique as a musician and collaborator?
BC: Bobb is just one of those guys that knows everything. He’s so knowledgeable on music and musical instruments and production ideas… He’s a great guy to have in my court. We also just get along incredibly well. We don’t fight. We tease each other like brother and sister but we never actually argue. There’s little to no ego involved in what we do, so it makes our jobs a lot easier.
CB: It’s kind of impossible for the current political and social climate to not influence what artists are creating right now, and you’ve been vocal on social media about a variety of things going on at the moment. That said, most of your songs are intimate and written from a first-person point of view about specific relationship issues. Will that change going forward? Will you address the broader world in a more overt way?
BC: I’m not totally sure. I think it’ll change my perspective a lot, so maybe the content of the songs will be a little different, but I can tell you for sure I’m not going to be writing a bunch of political or protest songs. I just want to write about life, because that’s what people need in scary times — they need to relate and remember they’re not alone.
CB: How do you think social media and having immediate feedback with fans — or even non-fans — impacts what you do as a musician?
BC: I dunno about the feedback part because I try to not pay attention to online criticism from complete strangers, but I will say it’s awesome to have social media to get the message across and connect with the fans. It’s also cool that I can send out a tweet announcing something or filling people in on something and they see it immediately. I’m also really awkward and anxious in person so it’s helpful to have that platform to engage with the fans, so I don’t have to be an awkward mess in real life with them.
CB: Finally, why are cats the best?
BC: Because they love you when they want attention and then they could care less about you when they wanna chill and do their thing. That’s basically my personality in a nutshell.
BEST COAST plays 20th Century Theater Monday with Tweens. For tickets/more info, visit the20thcenturytheatre.com.