SXSW Q&A: Best Coast

Southern California nights for the masses

“I’m well aware that Best Coast won’t last forever,” says the L.A. duo’s singer/songwriter Bethany Cosentino. “I hope it lasts as long as it can, but I’m realistic. I doubt I’m going to be doing Best Coast when I’m 50. I mean, maybe, but I’m probably going to be doing something else.” Saturday night she showcases her popular pop band at Uproxx House, 11:30pm.

Best Friends: Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino

Austin Chronicle: You’ve been playing through Austin for a long time now. Any specific memories from your time down here?

Bethany Cosentino: The first year we came to South By Southwest was right after [2010 debut LP] Crazy For You. We played like 12 shows in four days. Then we came back the next year and played a bunch of shows. I’ve always made the mistake of drinking a little too much before all our important shows, so those aren’t the best memories.

In fact, I’ve already made the very adult decision to wait until work is over before enjoying free beverages. We always have a lot of fun in Austin, because we have a bunch of friends there. South By Southwest is especially fun because everyone is there. So my best Austin memories are drunken ones even if I’m trying to not to do that again.

AC: What’s the balance between fun and frustration when you’re playing 12 shows in four days?

BC: It’s flattering, because you know you’re in demand and a lot of people want you to be a part of their parties. You feel like the popular kid at school. But for me, I remember our first South By Southwest. I was so sick at the end of it. I was exhausted, I had no voice. It’s cool to know you’re wanted, but you’re not really worth much if you can’t sing. I’ve always called it spring break for music.

AC: The new album is called California Nights, and it’s clear from your music that you take a certain amount of inspiration from the Pacific Coast after dark. Talk a little about that.

BC: I’m a night owl. I don’t necessarily go out and party at night, but I have really bad insomnia and I stay up super late if I even go to bed at all. It’s bizarre because it’s the total opposite for most people I know. Other people wake up, go out, run errands. I chill and relax when the sun’s out, but once it’s night, I’m like, “Okay, time to go take care of stuff.”

There’s a very obvious shift of energy. I think a lot of people from California understand that, and people who aren’t might not get it. In Los Angeles, you look one way and see palm trees, and you look the other way and see these crazy mountains. There’s something really special about it. We wanted to capture that energy, from the bright sunny day to those hues of purple and orange, and then it’s just dark. I wanted to capture the imagery of a Southern Californian night in a song.

AC: Best Coast came from a generation of bands in 2009-2010, and in retrospect that seems like a pretty big boom period for indie rock. Your band was on the cover of Spin, and getting Target sponsorships, which was unprecedented for the time. These days it feels like that attention has swung more towards EDM, R&B, and hip-hop. Is that something you’ve noticed?

BC: It’s not something I’ve ever cared about. When we first had success, it was with a lot of other bands, but to me what’s cool is how we got past that and continued to make records. We don’t go on tour and care if we’re still a cool Internet band. The Internet is a fantastic tool, but also a terrible thing, and you need to learn how to deal with it properly.

We have super dedicated fans. We have people that come and see us even if we don’t have a new album out. We appreciate the help of the Internet, but I don’t have a Google Alert for myself. I never read reviews. I never read interviews of myself. I’m sure there’s plenty of musicians out there who are like, “Oh my god, I’m not being paid attention to anymore,” but I’m just doing this because I love doing it.

I really love those young fans that come up to me at shows. I’m 28 years old and I’m still relating to these 17-year old girls and their problems.

I see where you’re coming from, and I’m sure it’s a real thing for a lot of artists, but I’m just not one of those artists. If you’re fans are happy, and you’re happy, you’re doing okay.

AC: Lastly, you’ve been tweeting a lot to WWE’s Paige recently. What do you find inspiring about her?

BC: I absolutely love her. I love wrestling and I love her character. I tweeted that I had a crush on her, and she responded with, “I’m totally okay with this,” so that’s become an ongoing joke with my friends. I do really adore her though.

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Best Coast, SXSW Music 2015, Bethany Cosentino, Bobb Bruno, WWE’s Paige

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