Since Best Coast’s formation in 2009, Bethany Cosentino has come a long way: The Cali surf-rock singer went from writing about her cat and smoking weed to lyricizing about the meaning of life. Yup, the big stuff. The 28-year-old singer—who has battled anxiety in the past—has found peace in California Nights, the duo’s third album, which dropped this past May. Inspired by everything from 90s soundtracks (namely from 10 Things I Hate About You), to Spiritualized, Sugar Ray, and Gwen Stefani, the result is collection that finds them swerving into the pop lane and driving towards the horizon. Perfect for 90s nostalgists. Pull up those white knee socks and pretend you’re Alicia Silverstone. We caught up with Cosentino about managing anxiety, her love for Target, and getting high on life.
Noisey: How has your style evolved since you started making music?
Bethany Cosentino: I feel like when I first started Best Coast, I was much younger and I wasn’t totally confident with my body and even knowing what I was into fashion-wise. I feel like I’ve always been Madonna in this way: I’m always changing. I used to change my hair color all the time. Now I’m really comfortable and confident with my body. I exercise a lot. I feel like I’ve worked really hard. I reveal a little more than I used to, but it’s because of confidence. It depends on what the show is. If it’s a nice, bigger indoor show, I’ll usually work with a stylist to come up with something fancy. I’ve always just tried to stay true to who I am. As I get older and as I grow more confident, it’s a reflection of that as well.
I know you did a line for Urban Outfitters a few years back. Would you ever do a fashion line for another brand? Are you working on anything?
I’m not working on anything, but I would totally do something like that again. It was super fun for me to do. It’s nice to do some stuff outside of music—dip your toes in different creative pools. I would definitely do something if given the opportunity.
How would you define your current style? What have you been really into lately?
On this tour, I’ve been really into wearing sheer tight—either sheer black tights or sheer nude tights and short shorts with crop tops. The tight thing was inspired by Beyoncé because she does that all the time. You’re always like, her legs look incredible, and you realize her legs are incredible, but those tights man, they make you look flawless. She’s got someone who’s airbrushing them. Like I said, I maybe show a little more skin than I used to, but not in an overt or too much kind of way. I have been kind of wanting to do a modern-day twist on Jodie Foster. I am kind of into that look she had as a teenage prostitute in that movie [laughs].
Photos from Best Coast's Instagram.
You wear really fun, flirty A-line dresses. Where do you find them?
I actually shop a lot for clothes at Target surprisingly. I kind of go to Target for everything. I don’t know who started designing things for them, like this backpack is from Target, but my stylist thought it was vintage Gucci. I was like, no it’s from Target. I buy so much stuff from Etsy and eBay. I’m into vintage designer stuff, so that’s where I get them. Then I kind of go to H&M for basic stuff. People ask me this all the time and I’m not really a huge label person. If I try something and it looks cool, I feel good in it and it fits, I don’t care where it came from.
What’s your biggest beauty indulgence?
La Mer. It’s this really fancy skincare. It’s from Paris. It’s what Gwyneth Paltrow uses. It’s very celebrity. It’s the one thing I’ll splurge on. I didn’t believe in it at first. I was like, ‘This is bullshit,’ this doesn’t work. Then I started using it, and I felt like I looked younger. Even if it’s the placebo effect, it makes me feel better.
Let’s talk California Nights. Would you say this LP has a cohesive theme that runs throughout?
I feel like the record is a coming of age story for me. I’m super into astrology and when I turned 27 I started doing a lot of self-exploration, finding out who I am and that kind of stuff. My mom is really New Age. I carry a pouch of crystals with me everywhere I go. I’m super into that kind of stuff. I hate flying, so I’ll be on a plane and I’ll be that weirdo in the corner with these in my hand. One is for anxiety and depression, one is Moonstone which helps with clarity, this other one. They’re basically all to help center and balance you. California Nights was about self-realization. I’m kind of getting to that point where I’m kind of content and happy with how everything is. I’m at an age where I’m getting older and figuring out what I want to do. Do I want to have kids? I swear to God when you turn 25 and you’re a woman, you’re like, ‘Whoa. I’m an adult.’ I started the record off with the song “Feeling OK,” which is really about coming to terms with the fact that everything is OK. Then the rest of the record goes backwards in talking about what I did to get to that point. There are repetitive themes from previous records, but they’re approached in different ways because I’m older now. It’s less, ‘I’m so sad and this boy doesn’t like me’ and it’s more like, ‘What the fuck does life mean?’ It’s a little more existential and less whiny 17-year-old.
With regards to “Feeling OK,” what was the catalyst for helping you get to such a good place?
Honestly, staying at home. I was on the road for so long. We sort of took a bit of a break. For the most part I was at home consecutively for a year. We made our record and did a few short tours. I was for the most part at home. I working, and I was getting ready to promote the record, but I got to go home, cook dinner for myself, have a glass of wine and watch TV. I realized that’s the kind of thing that genuinely brings me joy and makes me genuinely happy. I just needed to check out and get to re-know myself. For the past couple of years, I’ve felt like Best Coast and not Bethany. People would even be like, ‘Hey, Best Coast.’ I’m like, ‘My name is Bethany.’ I also think exercising [has helped]: I got really into exercising. I meet so many young girls that come up to me at shows saying they have anxiety and ask what they should do, and I say, ‘exercise.’ Even if you don’t want to do it, it’s so therapeutic.
When your first album came out you were singing about your cat Snacks and getting high. Is this the first time the subject matter has changed?
I think so. I know there are a lot of recurring themes through all of my records. I’m still sort of trying to figure things out. I think that this was the first record where I was not going to talk about the cat. On California Nights, when I talk about being high on the album it’s not weed—it’s that sense of having an out of body experience: whether that be exercising, smoking weed or something else. Sometimes I feel like I need that feeling of feeling high to get through life. On this record, I wanted to challenge myself in terms of writing a couple of songs. I wrote a song about jealousy and people that hate on people for no reason. I wrote a song about insomnia. I’ve battled insomnia the whole time Best Coast has been a band, but I’ve never really talked about it. Even the songs that are about romance and relationships they’re different. I’m coming at them in a different way because I’m older now.
Does Snacks tour with you?
I wish. I always see Taylor Swift posting photos of her cats backstage and I’m so jealous. I don’t think he’d like the tour.
How do you feel about being lumped into the pop genre? Do you feel like you fit?
I feel like I never really identify with the genres that people classify us as. I grew up listening to pop and I love pop music. We write the music we write and we know people are going to define it. I try not to pay attention. At the end of the day, I know what my music is like and that’s what matters to me.
Follow Ilana Kaplan on Twitter.