Tell Me About That Album: The Only Place by Best Coast

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David Black
Bethany Cosentino, the leader of L.A. duo Best Coast, is one busy lady. In between her summer-long touring schedule, Tweeting for her cat Snacks and releasing the band's hotly-anticipated sophomore album The Only Place, she's been focused on launching a clothing line for Urban Outfitters, something she's taken a lot of flak for from the same indie community that devoured the group's 2010 debut, Crazy for You, which placed it atop several end-of-the-year best lists. We were, however, able to pin Consentino down long enough to have her to answer some of our questions via email, where she riffed on her indie backlash, her favorite California bands, and the time David Letterman asked about her cat. Best Coast play the Neptune Theatre on May 22nd.

There's a saying about having your whole life to write your first record and a few months to write your second one. Did you find the process way more daunting this time around? And is it more intimidating to release The Only Place because of how well-received Crazy for You was? Honestly, I can't even remember what it felt like to make the first record. So much has happened since, and my emotions have been so all over the place within the last few years. I've been focused on such different things. I remember we had two weeks to make the first record so it felt a bit rushed. And we were on a deadline. This one was a bit more free, and we had much longer to record it. We spent about six months on this record. That's a long fucking time for a band like Best Coast. I was definitely nervous when we first started, but as soon as I got into the groove I just forgot about the "sophomore slump" shit. I started focusing on just making the record and being as dedicated to it as I could be.

I know you grew tired of the term "lo-fi." Was that part of the reason you arrived at having Jon Brion produce the record, whose work with artists like Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwright tends to bring out their sunniest tendencies? I knew that Jon would enhance the sound sonically, so yes, I wanted to work with him for that reason. But he's also just a smart guy with a shitload of talent. He knew exactly how to make us sound the way we wanted to sound and it wasn't hard to do so. This record was really easy to make as far as figuring out how we wanted to piece songs together and stuff. [The band's multi-instrumentalist] Bobb had this great quote where he said, "The first record was in black and white and the second is in Technicolor." I think Jon brought our songs to life.

If Crazy for You labeled you as "that stoner cat girl," what do you hope The Only Place will say about you? That I'm just like every other person out there: a confused mess sometimes. This record is really about the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, craziness of this thing we call life. It's about the downside of fame and the things that people look past when they think you have it all. It's also just about me, and it's a much more personal record than Crazy for You was. I think this record just gives people a more in-depth glimpse into Bethany.

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Whereas your last album cover had your cat on a beach with California outlined on his hindquarters, the new album's cover features a bear hugging your beloved home state. Can you talk about how the cover art came about and whether you'll include animals embracing the state on future releases? In all honesty, I didn't think this album cover would feature another animal. I saw the photo, which is from an old piece of sheet music entitled "I love California," and I was like, "That has to be the cover." I just knew right away that it made sense. Then I realized, "Well shit, it's another animal." But I didn't really care. The cover just makes so much sense for what the record is about: me embracing my home and realizing how important it is to me as a person and how sane it keeps me. All of the feelings and emotions that are spoken about in these songs all stemmed from being away from home. It's like, when I get home, I want to give California this huge hug and thank it for bringing me back to center and allowing me to remember who I am and where I came from.

Do you have a favorite song on the album? "Up All Night" is definitely my favorite song. It's an older BC song, and I wrote it almost 3 years ago, but I think the way it sounds now, as opposed to when it was just a solo song, is a million times more beautiful. Jon did some amazing keyboard/string parts, and Bobb wrote a really beautiful baritone part that ties the song together. It was also my strongest vocal performance in the studio and it means a lot to me as a song.

How about a favorite lyric? "Moods they swing the seasons change."

You told L.A. Weekly that Best Coast is a brand -- and you've taken a lot of flak for your ties to Urban Outfitters. Is there some sort of indie rock/hipster bias at play here? It doesn't seem like Gwen Stefani or Katy Perry are subjected to the same kind of scrutiny. People think when you're indie that you're a sell out if you do anything besides music. It's bullshit. I am a fucking business woman at the end of the day and I work my ass off to promote this band in every way possible. When someone asks you, "Hey, do you want to do a clothing line" and you have an interest in fashion, you say yes. I don't care what people think about me. I'm well past that. This record allowed me to get it all off my chest, and now when I deal with haters I just roll my eyes and move on.

Which bands sound the most like California to you? The Beach Boys, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, a.k.a. all of my favorite bands, and bands that highly influenced this record.

Have you been to Seattle much? Does anything stand out about it compared to all the other cities you visit? I have been to Seattle a bunch. We played a really fun block party there last year. I can't remember what it was called, but it was so much fun and the crowd was awesome. We've always had great Seattle shows. It's a fun city to visit, great food, good record stores, nice people. And it still has that same west coast vibe as California -- that laid back feel, so I love it.

Is there a singular moment from the last 24 months that really stands out as a highlight? When David Letterman asked about my cat on-air after we performed live on "The Late Show." It was just like, "What the fuck? David Letterman is talking about my cat. What is my life?"

 
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