Bethany Cosentino, frontwoman of indie duo Best Coast, is a proud California girl. It’s in her blood, and infused in her music.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist is very vocal about her love affair with the golden state in her songs — the sun-kissed choruses on cuts like “The Only Place,” “California Nights” and “Summer Mood” are reminiscent of sunny coastal drives with sea breeze streaming through the open windows — but she jumps at the chance to share her West Coast roots in conversation, too.
“I was born and raised in California and I feel a very intense connection to it. It feels like it’s such a part of my biological makeup that I don’t know who I would be if I wasn’t from here,” she says. “California is a huge part of who I am and obviously a huge part of the career that I’ve started with this band. It all kind of revolved around California as the muse. Even if I’m not necessarily writing every song about California, it’s in the music.”
Best Coast stands out on the surf rock circuit for coupling existential, often dark lyrics with catchy, upbeat melodies. Cosentino claims that this unlikely pairing is “intrinsic to who she is.”
“I had a dark cloud over my head for a pretty large portion of my 20s, so I just wrote about what was happening in my mind,” the 31-year-old says of her songwriting process. “But when I would write melodies, I came from the hopeful part of me and the part of me that was very much inspired by the environment of where I’m at, which is sunny Southern California. I think it was sort of a blending of me as a person, which was this peppy, happy-go-lucky girl who also had all these existential crises moments constantly swirling in my head.”
Cosentino and her bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, will bring those punchy melodies and emotive lyrics to Sun Devil Stadium on Friday, October 5.
Though Cosentino comes off as unflappable, she is candid about her battles with anxiety on and off stage. She admits the thought of performing in front of large crowds used to terrify her. Now, she finds the experience almost cathartic.
“In the past, performing was a bit anxiety-producing for me. I used to get very in my head and nervous. Where I’m at in my life now, when I perform… it’s just a moment in time for me to kind of detach from everything that’s happening in my life and in the world,” she says. “I’m not on stage in some Zen headspace where I’m not feeling anything, but I do feel like it’s a way for me to check out of my own reality for a second and just be in the moment.”
Cosentino grew up listening to classic rock from the ‘70s, or “smooth mom/dad rock,” as she puts it. She puts on a Steely Dan or Fleetwood Mac record when she needs to press the reset button.
“I’m a super emo, nostalgic person. That’s the music that really reminds me of being young… so it takes me back to that place,” she says.
Best Coast’s breakthrough album, 2010’s Crazy for You, offered a series of songs steeped in reverb featuring catchy, fuzzed out hooks, while 2012’s The Only Place presented a more polished sound. The band’s latest effort, 2015’s California Nights, was lauded by music critics as being more sophisticated. Earlier this year, Bruno and Cosentino decided to switch gears, and came out with Best Kids, an Amazon Original album featuring a mix of original songs and covers, as well as a kid-friendly version of their hit “When I’m With You.” Cosentino says writing music for a younger audience was a fun challenge and a welcome break from focusing on the serious side of her career.
“I write very simple melodies and I try to write simple, relatable lyrics, so I was like, ‘I could probably make music for kids.’ I just had to change the content of what I usually sing about,” she says. “We had all this time because we weren’t ready to work on a real record yet, so we took the opportunity to try something different and flex some creative muscles… Also, given the state of the world, it’s nice to do joyous and hopeful things, and what’s more joyous and hopeful than children and seeing how much they enjoy things?”
According to Cosentino, Best Coast’s next “real record” will be released next year.
“We’ve been really churning it out in the studio the last couple of weeks working on some new material, but we’re taking our time with it,” she says. “I think when you rush creativity, it doesn’t turn out the way that it’s supposed to. We’ve tried to pay very close attention to our intuitions, which were telling us to take it easy and work slowly on things.”
She says fans can expect “the classics” at the Arizona show, but no new material yet.
“We don’t do things like typical bands. Sometimes bands are like, ‘Here’s a new song.’ We don’t do that until we’re really ready,” she says. “I never want to put anything out and have people hear it on YouTube or Instagram… I would rather have people hear it when it’s ready to be heard.”
Best Coast with Buzzy Lee, Sun Devil Stadium’s Coca-Cola Sun Deck, 500 E. Veterans Way, Tempe, 1.800.745.3000, ticketmaster.com, 8 p.m., Friday, October 5, $19.50.