Arts & Entertainment, Music

Playing it cool: A conversation with Best Coast at Osheaga

Best Coast, a band made up of the striking odd-couple Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino, rose to prominence with their 2010 debut album Crazy For You. Crazy for You is a collection of odes to chilling, smoking, falling in love, and becoming very confused. 

Their third and latest studio album, California Nights, delves deeper into that confusion, moving on from ‘what are we?’ friends-with-benefits laments, to existential contemplations like “Will I ever change?” The title track, for example, experiments with shoegaze, a psychedelic genre that is more reflective and darker than their usual lovestruck, 60s surfer pop. The lyrics sigh: “I take the way I’ve known / but have I really grown?” The thoughtfulness of Best Coast comes through on the album, but never enough to allow for any big revelation—just more questions. Despite this, the duo seems spiritually satisfied with their record. As front woman Cosentino puts it in an interview with Rolling Stone, the making of California Nights felt like, “the universe aligning.” 

Cosentino and Bruno sat down with the McGill Tribune at Osheaga and discussed this alignment. 

“I think we didn’t limit ourselves as far as trying things that in the past we were like, ‘Oh well we can’t do that because we’re supposed to be this specific type of band,” said Cosentino about the album. “I think it boiled down to doing things we wanted to do and not pandering to the expectations of what people wanted us to do.” 

Over the six years that have passed since the release of Crazy For You, critics have repeatedly called Best Coast out for being a very specific type of band. The formulaic nature of their California stoner anthems, the naive questions about love, and the frequent rhyming of “crazy” and “lazy”—infuriating to some—is more than present on California Nights; however, Cosentino is firm in her method. 

“You have to do stuff selfishly, you can write something and have it in the back of your mind, ‘Oh I hope my fans like it,’ but if you sit around writing things because you want a certain person or group to like it, it’s going to be really contrived,” Cosentino said. “Part of what Best Coast does is that we’re really straight to the point and honest. I think that if I tried to write something a certain way you would be able to tell.” 

Cosentino has recently been striving to be direct and honest in her role as a public figure. Cosentino began by voicing her support of Dirty Projectors’ lead singer Amber Coffman in Coffman’s sexual assault allegations against publicist Heathcliff Berru. She has since been very vocal on the topic of sexism in the music industry. Cosentino spoke on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, as well as penning an essay on Lena Dunham’s blog, conveying her own exhaustion with the double standards she’s faced for the past seven years. 

“It can be difficult, but I always try to tell women to be vocal, stand up for yourself, and surround yourself with good people. If anybody is creepy or makes you feel uncomfortable, either don’t work with them or say something,” Cosentino said. “Just have each other’s back. If you see someone going through something, be vocal and support them, even if you don’t know them.” 

“Treat everyone with respect. That’s all it boils down to at the end of the day. Have manners,” Bruno added. 

“Don’t afraid to be loud,” Cosentino concluded. 

Cosentino’s voice in her music and as an industry figure appears very self-assured and composed. Best Coast has established their sound, their vibe, and their place, as their frontwoman has become a veteran of indie music. 

“I mean [I] always felt like, ‘What the fuck am I going to do with my life?’ but I didn’t think I’d be able to make music my career,” Cosentino reflected, when asked how she would advise student musicians who look up to her career arc. 

“Don’t listen to people trying to discourage you. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” Bruno added. 

“If you’re a student and you’re focusing on something but you also really enjoy making music, just do it as a hobby, and it will eventually become something,” Cosentino concluded.

After their unexpected float to fame and three studio albums, not much has changed about the duo. Cosentino’s parting wisdom is emblematic of their attitude: Never try too hard. If Best Coast can be described as anything, it’s laid back—now, forever, and always.  

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