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Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino Does Not Want to Talk About Cats

In June, one month after the release of indie rock duo Best Coast’s third album, California Nights, vocalist and guitarist Bethany Cosentino posted an open letter on her Twitter account in which she addressed recent comments from fans about her appearing “upset or bummed out or bitchy onstage.” The note gained a lot of traction across music sites and social media, though Cosentino wishes she never had to write it in the first place.

“I didn’t really want to have to explain myself, but I was just so annoyed by reading stuff like ‘Bethany’s a bitch,’ or ‘She’s phoning it in.’ It’s like, there’s a difference between showing up and playing a few songs and doing what I used to do when I was 23, [when] I was drunk and I would get on stage and talk about cats.”

Cosentino’s onstage maturation is mirrored by the darker themes and more experimental song concepts on California Nights. Along with her bandmate Bobb Bruno, Cosentino explores the duality between sunny California stereotypes and Los Angeles’ less pretty aspects, its societal problems that are often brushed aside.

“If you listen beyond the instrumentation and the melodies, lyrically, it’s always been a little bit darker,” Cosentino says of her music. “When I was writing this record, I was home for the first time in a really long time, so I was noticing a lot of things about L.A. I had never really picked up on, because I was never here. Everything from how intense the drought is to how bad crime is in certain areas.

“There’s a lot of stuff about L.A. that people just gloss over,” she says. “They think, ‘Oh, it’s just this glamorous sunny place with palm trees,’ which it can be sometimes, but that’s not all of it.”

Though Best Coast has proven popular worldwide, it can be tricky to translate music with such a distinct West Coast mindset for people on the opposite side or even outside of the country. But to Cosentino, bringing the Cali vibe outside of the Golden State is the whole point.

“When I started this band, I had just moved away from New York, where I experienced my first winter,” she says. “I was listening to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. It reminded me of California, and it reminded me of my childhood there, driving around with my parents listening to that kind of music on the oldies station. I wanted to create music like that that could bring that feeling to other people.

“Obviously, the band’s name is Best Coast—we’ll never lose the California thing,” she continues. “When we play a show in a place like Athens or New York or even Japan, I think that we bring who we are as people, West Coast-born and bred… You don’t need to be a fan of California or Los Angeles to be a fan of us. We can just sort of help you get into a California vibe or mood. It’s like an audio [version of] vitamin D.”

Indeed, while Cosentino has entered a new stage in her career, her music still holds on to the free-flowing flavor that made it so appealing in the first place. Still, as her Twitter letter shows, she continues to battle a flighty-stoner-girl image, established when Best Coast hit the scene in the late aughts.

“I feel like I set myself up for that,” she admits. “It’s hard to lose part of an image that you create. It was who I was at the time. I still appreciate weed and cats to this day, but I also feel like it’s a part of myself that I don’t need to talk about all the time. To be completely honest with you, when an interview starts with ‘How’s your cat?’ I sort of check out. It’s like, ‘Can we talk about music now?’ I’m not the cat whisperer.“

With California Nights, Cosentino hopes to help people understand where she is mentally right now. She stresses that she—and, in turn, Best Coast—is better than ever.

“I’m almost 30 years old now. I started this band when I was 23. I was really self-conscious; I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t really feel like I could define who I was as a person. I feel like I’m a lot more in tune with who I am, and what my interests are, and my own personal sense of style. [I’m] more confident with myself as a person and a musician. I’m not 23 anymore.”

WHO: Best Coast, Lovely Bad Things
WHERE: 40 Watt Club
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m.