Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino is better than ever — for real this time
To the outside world, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino seemed to have everything under control. It was 2015 and her group had just released the single “Feeling Ok,” off their album California Nights. Yet the track was a facade. Cosentino wasn’t okay, she just wanted it to seem like she was.
“To be completely honest with you, all of California Nights, I feel like I bulls— my way through that,” says Consentino, who decided to get sober in late 2017. For her, much of the 2010s had been a blur. “People keep asking me like, ‘What are your top moments of the decade?’” she says. “I’m like, ‘I don’t f—ing know. I was checked out for so much of it.’”
Best Coast’s latest record, Always Tomorrow, is the first body of work Cosentino, 33, has put out where she feels like herself again. The band’s fourth album also brings a new kind of clarity to their approach. A layer of distortion that once coated the duo’s music has been stripped away to reveal an invigorated rock sound, one that allows Cosentino’s rich vocals to soar.
Formed in 2009 by Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, Best Coast quickly rose to indie-rock stardom following the release of their 2010 debut Crazy For You, which was largely about romance, smoking weed, feeling lazy, and Cosentino’s cat Snacks. But as they became more established, Cosentino found herself grappling with the group’s intense rise. “I felt like I just needed a moment to rest and reset because in all honesty — like since Crazy For You came out — I’ve just been f—ing going,” says Cosentino. “I don’t think I ever had a real break.” So she finally took one. But that break turned into years of isolation, sitting on her couch and not talking to her friends.
“I was just really, really dark and depressed and I didn’t know how to get myself out of it,” she says, a sharp departure from the carefree persona she displayed online. Cosentino would tell herself to go for a run and then try to make music, but it always fell apart. “I would literally write two chords and hum a melody for five minutes, and then I’d be like, ‘This sucks, you are the worst. You’ve lost it.’” Bruno knew what she was going through and would send instrumentals to help get the creative juices flowing. It was the first time in the history of Best Coast that she needed prompting.
By November 2017 everything had finally taken its toll. “I hit a really bad emotional rock bottom,” she says. “I saw how much I was using drugs and alcohol to kind of numb the way that I was feeling.” Being in the music industry didn’t help either, she admits, calling it “a breeding ground for people that have problems with addiction. There’s people that can get you anything you want at any hour of the day. All you have to do is ask.” One day, she woke up and came to the realization she couldn’t live the way she had been and made the decision to get sober. “I became very committed to taking care of myself and sort of redefining what my life looked like without these things that I was so codependent on for so many years,” she says. Cosentino isn’t sure what would have happened had she not stopped drinking. “I really don’t know if I would’ve been able to crawl out of the darkness that I was in.”
Before she found sobriety, Cosentino penned the aspirational track “Everything Has Changed.” It was about the life she wanted to be living. The single proved to be prophetic, as she willed her current moment into existence (that “little dog on a leash” she mentions in the song? She has one now). It was also the first straightforward rock song she had ever written, a telling sonic ethos of Always Tomorrow.
If anything the album is as much a new beginning for Cosentino as it is for Best Coast. Cosentino and Bruno wanted audiences to see that they had changed in a lot of ways. For Cosentino, the criticism around Best Coast not changing their sound plagued her. The song “For The First Time,” a departure from the band’s usual lo-fi aesthetic, was an opportunity to show their tangible growth. Still, the album includes homages to Best Coast’s origins. Opener “Different Light” is a nod to the hazy, 1960s pop sound that came to define them, and a preface for the record that reveals the transformative experience Consentino went through. “I think in the past all of my records felt very like, ‘Everything’s f—ed, who cares?’” she says. “And [the new album] feels a little bit like, ‘Yeah, everything’s f—ed, but here are ways in which we can try and not sit in that darkness the way I used to.’”
Across 12 tracks, Cosentino explores not only the relationship she has with herself, but the one she’s had with her fans. On “Wreckage,” she tackles the weight of fame. “I used to feel like I was held on this weird pedestal, and now I feel like I’m finally okay with being like, F— the pedestal. F— what you expect of me,’” she says. “I need to just be myself.” It falls in line with a lot of the new material, which sees Cosentino letting go of her own expectations and accepting she’s never going to be the person people want her to be. For her, everything about Always Tomorrow feels meant to be, and everything she went through brought her to this moment. “It sucked, and it was the hardest s— ever,” she says. “But I know that it all happened for a reason, and I’m very good now, so, it’s all good.”