- 30 Oct 15
She’s still the “stoned cat lady” underneath it all but, with her band sounding more anthemic than ever before, Bethany Cosentino wants to stand for something more. The Best Coast frontwoman talks death, misogyny and the Hollywood Bowl.
"Greetings from Los Angeles!" It's perhaps the most Bethany Cosentino salutation you could expect to hear when you get on the blower with the Best Coast front woman. Back on the coast with, in her estimation, the absolute most after a summer touring, she doesn’t need an excuse to return to a California state of mind – indeed, she’s spent a significant portion of her career to date batting lyrical eyelashes at the place she calls home. There are professional reasons for her whereabouts at the moment, however. It’s a big week for Best Coast, who, thanks to an alt-J support slot, are about to give their debut performance at the famous 1920s amphitheatre that is the Hollywood Bowl.
“It’s incredible,” says Cosentino. “I knew who alt-J were but I wasn’t super-familiar with the music. But when I got the email I was like ‘uh...okay!’ We’re all born and bred Californian people – everyone who plays in the band – so to be offered that as someone who grew up here is a huge accomplishment. In general, the Hollywood Bowl is a venue that people all over the word have heard of and see it as a very iconic place. We’re thrilled to be doing it. My mom is flying in from out of state, it is going to be a pretty big deal.”
The name is slightly overawing, but the size of the crowd won’t be leaving the kinda-surf, kinda-stoner rockers dumbstruck in 2015. When Cosentino first started playing with fellow core member Bobb Bruno over five years back, the prospect of playing a show on that scale probably seemed faintly ludicrous. Now they’re battle-hardened after arena jaunts with the likes of Green Day.
“When we were on the Green Day tour, I don’t think we were at that place as a band. But we did the best that we could and, for us, it was more about knowing that Green Day were huge fans of what we did. Billy Joe Armstrong, he wanted us to come on that tour. I didn’t care if we were up there and there were four people paying any attention to us. And two of them are on their phones and two of them are staring at me like: ‘get off the stage, I wanna watch Green Day!’
“By the end of it, I’d learned a couple of tips. Watching Billy Joe I was like ‘I need to do more stuff like that.’ Unfortunately I didn’t have a t-shirt cannon, so I couldn’t do it exactly the way he did.”
One of the perks of her gig has been getting to rub shoulders and ultimately become friends with many of her musical heroes.
“I’ve been very fortunate to not only meet but work with a lot of people that I’ve really idolised. I co-wrote a song [‘Go Away’] on the last Weezer record and I got to do the song with them. I’ve done it so many times at this point that they were joking the last time I performed with them: ‘you should just join our band’. Okay, cool!
“A couple of nights ago I went to see Garbage play at The Greek Theatre,” Bethany continues. “After the show, I was talking to Shirley, who’s somebody that I have looked up to, especially as a female frontwoman. It’s an extremely humbling feeling to know that people you’ve looked up to are now fans.”
Known for her forthright views, that strong voice came to the fore again recently, when she took down a live reviewer who had bemoaned her band’s onstage engagement, while simultaneously writing a tad leeringly about what Cosentino was wearing. Taking understandable umbrage at lines like “The outfit was – and I’m still a bit heartbroken that I have to say this – the best part of the evening”, she decried the sexism still prevalent in the industry.
“It wasn’t even like I was hurt. I more did it because I wanted to say, listen, this is something that is still going on. So many females reached out to me; ones that I had never spoken to before, ones that I had seen in passing at festivals and had thought: ‘I don’t think that person likes me.’ It was a thing that connected all of these women.”
There was criticism, too, which led to her tweeting from @bestcoast that she was “sad + scared for this world” where people were even questioning whether the review was misogynistic.
“There was somebody that was like ‘why don’t you just take it as a compliment?’ Because it’s NOT A COMPLIMENT! The internet age has given a lot of idiots voices, but it’s also given people with a large fan following the opportunity to speak our minds on the things that we believe in and the things that we don’t believe in.”
Cosentino is keen for her younger fans to become “their own little activist” with her encouragement.
“I do feel very, very lucky to be in a position where kids come up to me and say ‘thank you so much for speaking out, I had a situation like that happen to me.’”
Expect her to continue to be an outspoken, positive force in the game.
“I don’t think I’ll ever stop,” she affirms. “I was talking to my mom last week and she was saying ‘you’ve always been like that, you were like that when you first learnt how to talk! Always saying what was on your mind.’ That can be good and bad. I’m trying to use it now for the purpose of good.”