[Originally published in Performer magazine, March 2020]
We recently had a chance to speak with Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast about their new album, Always Tomorrow.
As she puts it:
“Always Tomorrow is the story of where I was and where I am now. As well as the struggles I am still learning to identify and figure out because let’s face it, life is fucking hard, and like I said before, there is no guidebook. Some days I wake up and I feel like I’m on top of the world and I forget about everything that’s ever bummed me out, and other days, it all comes flooding back. This album is about leaving the darkness for the light, but still understanding that nothing is ever going to be perfect. It’s an album about attempting to fix your broken patterns and learning to get out of your own way. It’s about burning it all down and starting from scratch even when the idea of that is fucking terrifying. Closing one chapter and moving onto the next even when you have no idea what is on the other side. Acceptance. It’s about taking a gigantic leap of faith.”
This is a really personal album for you, I wonder if we could start from talking a little bit about the songwriting process. I read that this record and come from sort of a low point, flowing back up. Can you speak to that?
It took a long time. I didn’t really produce anything that I liked until the song, “Everything Has Changed.” Over time more songs would come…In the past I’d sat down and written a record over the course of a month or two or approaching going into the studio I’ll have some last-minute ideas. But this record was years.
I was curious how [bandmate] Bobb [Bruno] factored into it. How did he receive this very powerful material from you? What did he bring to it?
The way it’s worked in the past is I write basically the blueprint for the song. I write the main rhythm guitar. Sometimes I come up with different ideas. And I’ll send them to him and say, “Here’s my idea, here’s what I want it to sound like, I want it to kind of have a groove like this” and he fills in the missing pieces, completes the puzzle.
But this time around I was struggling so much with writer’s block…I’m telling you could not get anything out. I would pick up a guitar, start playing, and get so pissed and upset and throw it all down. So, I went to him and said, hey listen, I think I might want to try having music that’s pre-written and just try to write lyrics and melodies.
It’s so funny, he and I both have a lot of self-doubt– we’re artists, I think that’s intrinsically in the mind of every creative person. And he was like “I don’t know, I don’t know if you’re going to like it.” I was like, whatever just try, just send me any ideas you have. And so, he started sending me these songs that were different from songs I’d have written. But that was cool because it allowed me to sit with them and take my time with the lyrics and the melodies and the style in which I sang.
For this record, I just sort of took a risk and said can we try it this way and he was willing to do that.
I love that you decided together to take that risk and it paid off in this case. Where did you record the album?
We did all the drums as Sunset Sound. And then we did everything else at Carlos de la Garza’s home studio in Eagle Rock. He’s recorded a lot of rad records there and done a lot of cool stuff at that studio. It was an amazing and beautiful studio, but it was cool that it was kind of in our neighborhood and at Carlos’ house and we could break to go get lunch in our local neighborhood. It’s also interesting because the first music that Best Coast ever created was at Bobb’s house in Eagle Rock. So, we got to go back to where it started and make this sort of fully-fledged, produced record.
A lot of promo materials for this album talk about where your path took you: which is that you’re a couple of years sober now, right?
Congratulations! That’s amazing…and you’re in the public eye. It’s a lot. It’s huge that you’re able to carry that off. But you put a lot of that into this album.
Yeah, yeah. I think for me, music is really the place in which I work through things. It’s really funny because I’m a super private person. I’m a Scorpio, so like, if you believe in astrology, I’m secretive, and until you earn my trust, I’m not going to open up to you. In my personal life, I’m super personal, my friends know this, my friends don’t ask me certain questions. But my entire band, my entire career, has been built on spilling my guts. It’s very interesting the way in which I’ve made that my personal brand, essentially.
But I think for me, when it comes in the form of music, it feels very safe and comfortable to talk about because I know that it’s going out to a mass amount of people that are then going to take it and going to relate it to themselves and going to connect with it and feel.
Maybe some people will listen, and they’ll be like, “I don’t know what it’s like to get sober. I don’t know what it’s like to have your career explode overnight.” They aren’t going to understand those things. However, I talk about certain feelings and emotions that are just universally understood.
Everybody knows what it feels like to doubt yourself. Everybody knows what it feels like to be insecure. To have anxiety. To feel like you’re your own worst enemy. We’ve all struggled with that. To write about these feelings, in song, it helps me work through them and it helps me to hear that it helps other people.
It’s been a growing experience for me, for sure, from when I started to now. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and a lot about myself as a woman. I’ve figured a lot out sort of through my own music.
What’s it like for these other musicians in these sessions with you, working with these producers and folks recording with you? Making music together is already an intimacy, let alone when you’ve now taken it to this next level.
With this record, everyone was really excited because we haven’t made a record in five years, we felt really invigorated to be back and make music. Everybody just wanted to help us be the best version of Best Coast that we could be. Especially for me, talking about things that are very personal and being more vulnerable on this record than I think I’ve been in the past, they just wanted to give the message of these songs this amazing landscape to try to exist within. Everyone came to it with their best selves.
We all would go in each day going, “What’re we going to do and how are we going to do it?” There were a lot of suggestions we’d consider; this record was a lot more collaborative than in the past. Carlos would sit with me and say, “Hey, I think you should change this, or I think it’d be better if you went to this chord instead” and I was like, “Sure! Awesome! Let’s do it!” In the past, I was a lot more protective and it made me feel so much pressure.
Now that we’ve allowed other people to come in: with Bobb writing music for the songs, with Carlos and Justin helping me with arrangements, it allowed me to breathe for a second. I was very excited that we had a crew of people that we trusted enough to even be like, yeah, sure, we’re down to let you do that.
And in such capable hands too. With Carlos you’re talking about credits for Paramore, Tegan and Sara, Young the Giant, Ziggy Marley– real heavy hitters and amazing artists.
So, after talking about recording, what do you think taking this to the stage is going to look like? You’ve got tour dates starting at the end of February. What’s that going to be like?
We’ve been doing a lot of radio stuff over the last few weeks, playing these songs in a sort of stripped-down way. But I’m really, really excited to play these songs live and to just sort of bring a different version of us to the stage. Like I said, I think these songs are a little bit tougher, a little bit heavier, they have a little bit more of like a rock vibe to them that I think will be fun.
Playing them next to the Crazy For You songs is so funny. The Crazy For You songs feel like they were written by a 22-year-old girl. And these new ones feel like they were written by a woman in her thirties, going through some heavy shit.
It’s really cool because my music is weirdly like a little bit of a time capsule I’ve created for myself. I can play a song and remember what it felt like to be a 22-year-old girl, sitting on my floor, being like, “Oh god, I’m just so annoyed by this guy.” You play it now as a 33-year-old woman and you’re like, “Aww, I remember that version of myself.”
That’s personal growth!
It is! But I’m excited…It’s new and it’s fun to feel like we’re in a new era of our lives as a band, it’s a new decade — there’s a lot of new stuff that I feel like is going to happen for us.