Almost three years ago, we phoned up a little known L.A. musician named Bethany Cosentino. After a cold, miserable winter in New York City, she had returned home to the West Coast and formed a band around the awesomeness of it. “I wanted to do something that was evocative of the fact that I am obsessed with California,” the Los Angeles native told us. We liked her right away, and included her then-emerging act on our short list of “The Raddest Bands in the West.”
By now, you, your sister, your college buddies and your dad who likes to think he’s cool have all heard of Best Coast, Cosentino’s band with multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. And because of that fact, our conversation with her now, in 2012, is a little bit different than when we first rapped about boys and sunshine and being a young, lazy creep in L.A. In the interim, her debut album, Crazy for You, went gangbusters, and she became an indie princess along the lines of her idol Jenny Lewis. She’s recently been tweeting back and forth with Miley Cyrus about the video she just won an MTV Woodie Award for, which was directed by Drew Barrymore. She now has a fashion line through Urban Outfitters designed to look like it came out of her tour suitcase. And she just got done working with legendary L.A. producer Jon Brion at the even more legendary capitol Studios on Best Coast’s new album, The Only Place. It’s named for its title track, which is about—that’s right—California. “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes / We’ve got the sun, we’ve got the waves,” sings Cosentino on the upbeat track. “This is the.... only place for meeeeee!” Some things never change.
And though Cosentino sounds like her same old self on the phone from her same old house in L.A.’s out-of-the-way eagle rock neighborhood, where she lives with her Twitter-famous cat, Snacks, she is trying to make deeper personal changes. “I am overly anxious and stressed all the time,” she says. “If I can’t find my shoe, I freak out and don’t know what I’m doing. There are a lot of things like that that I want to fix and work on as a person. I just want to get to the point where I can change a light bulb without having a minor panic attack,” she says.“Or I can go get an oil change without having to ask my mom how to do it.”
An only child, Cosentino grew up in a cocoon of love and support. now 25, she seized the experience of making The Only Place as an opportunity to grow up a little. You can hear it on songs like “Better Girl,” where she gets down on herself a bit for being a spaz. But recording The Only Place the way she did would get anyone’s butt in gear. “I grew up in L.A. seeing the capitol building in Hollywood and in just about every movie,” Cosentino says. “Pulling up to that building every morning into the parking space with your name on it is a very surreal experience.” despite recording in the live room where Sinatra sang and seeing pictures of Judy Garland on the walls, she didn’t find the process particularly intimidating. “The only thing that stressed me out was driving there,” she says, “because I live on the other side of town. So I’d be like, f*ck, I have to drive to Hollywood now.”
She does admit she was a little nervous about the ever-daunting task of making a sophomore record after a smash debut, and under much more scrutiny than with the first one, which was recorded at Black Iris studio with producer Lewis Pesacov of the FOAM-adored L.A. band Fool’s Gold. While Pesacov crystallized the hazy, mini wall of sound that would become the early Best Coast signature (and an at-large trend in indie rock), Brion steered her happily out from behind that old curtain of reverb and distortion. “I didn’t want to go into capitol studios and make something that sounded like we recorded it in our garage,” she says. “I wanted this one to be like a country record, not like Taylor Swift, but like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn, how they had these big, clean, huge vocals on their songs.”
She got her wish. The Only Place is a mature, honest pop record that lets Cosentino’s ace voice and confessional songwriting shine. it has all the same simplistic lyrics and hooks that made the indie world fall in love with her. It’s just that now, it all seems so much clearer. “It’s like I’m still me, but now you can hear me,” she says, which rings like a metaphor for her life and career. It’s probably the only real difference between then and now.