Interview: Best Coast
Mon, 01 Jun 2015 13:34:22
Singer and guitarist Bethany Cosentino on the stories behind 'California Nights', her favorite nineties movies, and the band's love of Metallica.
Best Coast got dreamier than ever on their third full-length album, California Nights [Harvest], and it results in the Los Angeles duo's best music to date. Bethany Cosentino [vocals, guitar] and Bobb Bruno [lead guitar, bass, drums, production] thread together pop, rock, alternative, and indie into a whimsical pastiche of Southern California living that's as sunny as it is searing. As far as L.A. records go, there hasn't been an album that spoke this directly to the city's heart and soul in decades, while offering something that resonated worldwide. The songs remain both instant and infectious as they tap into true soul. This is by far one of the year's musical landmarks. So, we spoke to Bethany about the record in depth as well as her co-directing the video for "Heaven Sent," finding inspiration back in nineties flicks, and why St. Anger begs for a closer listen.
California Nights has a distinct cohesion, and it feels like a complete thought. How cognizant are you of that while making a record?
In the past, I didn't really necessarily think about it that much. I started to approach this record in a way where I didn't overthink things, but when I was sequencing the record, I put a lot of thought into the sequence. I wanted to start off with a song like "Feeling OK," talking about how I'm in this point in my life now where I'm very content with the way that things are and then work my way backwards to talk about all of the things I went through in order to get to that point. For me, it was more about when I was doing the sequencing of the record.
Do you view the songs as a palette to paint pictures or tell stories? Directing the videos, it's clear you have a cinematic sensibility that's not exclusive to the songs.
Yeah, I think when I write songs, I sit down, pick up a guitar, mess around on it, and come up with a couple of chords. It's very stream-of-consciousness. I'll let the feelings out. It's not very thought-out. I just do it. Once it's done, I'll sit there, look back at it, and think, "I know what this is about and what I'm referencing in this song or whatever."
Everything I write just happens naturally and organically. Sometimes, I go into something with an idea of a topic I want to talk about. For instance, on this record, I knew I wanted to write a song about insomnia so I was like, "Okay, I'm going to take a stab at that." I don't sit down and think of lyrics. I'll let those things flow very freely from whatever state of mind I'm in when I'm writing a song.
Do you still write lyrics with a pen and paper or in your phone?
The way I usually do it is I'll be strumming some kind of chords on the guitar, I'll be singing a melody, and lyrics will start coming to me. Then, I'll type them into my computer. I record all of my demos on Garage Band on my computer. As I'm doing that, I'll be typing down things. I very rarely go back and edit lyrics. I don't sit with a pen and paper and write out my lyrics.
I think when people say things such as, "The lyrics are very simple" or "The lyrics are very repetitive." My response is, "That's the point. That's what I've always wanted it to be." Because of the way I write, it just happens to be that way. I'm not sitting down and going, "Okay, I have to write these really deep and profound lyrics." I'm just saying what's on my mind in the moment and putting it to a melody. That's essentially the way it works for me.