Best Coast acknowledge that they became popular almost by accident. “We really had no aspirations at all,” multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno tells IndieLand. “We’ve always said: ‘A band could not have tried less to actively become a successful band than us.’”
The world into which the duo dropped its debut album, Crazy for You, seemed uniquely primed for Best Coast’s hazy indie-rock aesthetic. It was 2010, the heyday of blog buzz and blissed-out tunes. Times were also simpler, in comparison to 2020 at least: Obama was in the White House; we weren’t all in quarantine; and songwriters like Bruno and his bandmate, singer-guitarist Bethany Cosentino, had the time and space to ponder the wonders of weed and cats, and the surreal feeling of being ghosted. Crazy for You turns 10 on July 27th, and revisiting this collection of songs now feels like a wormhole to a less fraught moment.
Filtering Sixties girl-group sounds through the grittiness of punk, Crazy for You was replete with songs that felt both pleasingly retro and refreshingly current: “I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk,” Cosentino sings on “Goodbye.” The whole record almost sounds like one artfully blurry dream, bursting with Cosentino’s honeyed vocals and Bruno’s Beach Boys–inspired groove.
Best Coast formed when Cosentino was in her early twenties and Bruno in his mid-thirties; the former had dropped out of college in New York and moved back to Los Angeles, where she linked up with scene friend Bruno, who was already a seasoned musician by that point. Fueled by her share of bad relationships, her love for her now-famous cat Snacks and a passion for bittersweet West Coast pop, Cosentino churned out a seemingly effortless stream of songs that Bruno then shaped into finished products. The magical combo of MySpace and blogs helped propel them to Pitchfork fame and, later, the world stage.
Much has happened since Best Coast first broke out — Cosentino got sober; they released four more albums, including the new Always Tomorrow — but the band recently called IndieLand from quarantine to discuss the indie-pop time capsule that is Crazy for You.
When was the last time you listened to the record?
Bobb Bruno: The first time I listened to it all the way through was maybe like a week ago. The big thing that they talked about at the time was just how slow our songs were, but I never felt like they were. But our reference was doing stuff in my bedroom. When we recorded it, I remember we were in a real studio. Even though we did it in maybe less than two weeks’ time, it felt like a luxury.
Bethany Cosentino: I’ve actually been listening to it a lot over the last few weeks because we’re planning to do this online anniversary concert-film thing. There’s such a muscle memory with these songs. I knew all the words; I remembered all the chords. It’s just like this stuff is so ingrained in me, you know?
I think that I have a lot of compassion for myself now. I can hear in these songs that I was very anxious and angsty at the time. It’s, like, palpable to me when I hear it.
You must feel like a different person at this point.
Cosentino: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, listening back it’s like: I obviously know that I wrote those songs. I know that that’s my voice and that’s me. But I definitely feel like a totally different person. I think that something that’s really cool about the style of music that I made then is that it exists — not just for me, but I think also for listeners — as a bit of a time capsule. So, I can listen back and remember specifically what my life was like. I think it just lends to really being a bit of, like, nostalgia.
What was your mindset about music when you first started out?
Bruno: I was recording a lot of bands that were from [L.A. DIY venue] the Smell scene and playing in some bands. Heavy rock or noise or metal, things like that. I was really excited to be able to get to [work with Bethany] because I love that kind of music. I’d just never been afforded top material. She had a batch of demos that she’d done on her own. Then we started meeting at my house and then working on more fleshed-out versions of those songs.
Cosentino: I’ve been playing music since I was a little kid. It wasn’t like I just randomly decided, “Oh, I’m going to start making music.” But I think for a long time, I just had this disconnect where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with music or how it was going to serve me.
I was living with my mom [in California after quitting school in New York] and I just started writing songs and recording them and putting them on MySpace. I reached out to Bobb, who I had known for years and was like, “Hey, I have some songs — maybe you could play around with them.” So we just started getting together pretty frequently and recording stuff in his room at his old house. And I vividly remember him looking at me and being like, “Do you think you want to play shows?” I think that that is part of why it worked — because I didn’t really have any expectations. Neither of us did.
Tell me a little bit about what inspired the album’s lyrics. For me, all the angst about romance brings me back to when the record came out — when I was in my twenties in Brooklyn.
Cosentino: Well, at the time, I was predominantly listening to Sixties girl groups. Those songs were all written from this lovelorn, “I just want him to be my guy — he can treat me like shit, but I’ll love him anyway” perspective. That was honestly a bit problematic, but at the same time, I was so inspired by the sound. So, I wanted to do my own version of that.
It also just so happened that I was 22 and didn’t always have the best luck with romantic relationships. I had literally just dropped out of college. I didn’t have a job; I didn’t know what the fuck I was going to do with my life. I think that I wrote about all that in a very digestible way. There’s no metaphors on the album; I’m just flat-out telling you how it is.
What would you say to 22-year-old you now?
Cosentino: I don’t even know. There are so many things I would say. Like I said, I hear those songs and I have a lot of compassion for myself at 22. I think now, as a 33-year-old woman who’s done so much work on myself over the last decade, I wish that I could just pat younger Bethany on the back and just be like, “It’ll all be OK. We’ll figure it out.” But, also, shit always happens. You think you’ve had it figured out and then something happens. You’re like, “Well, fuck, now I have to start all over again.” I think now I have a better understanding of the fact that life is hard and it sucks sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world, you know what I mean?
What do you think of the image that became associated with the band after the record came out? Weed, cats, and California.
Cosentino: I mean, on the one hand, I understand why it happened, because it was such a part of the aesthetic. I was also really outspoken at that time about smoking a lot of weed and loving my cat as much as I did and all that stuff.
On the other hand, imagine yourself at 22 getting famous — like out of nowhere, not expecting it to happen — and having this persona that you had at the age of 22 sticking with you. To this day people are like, “Cats and weed and California!” and I’m fucking 33 years old now.
“Imagine yourself at 22 getting famous — like out of nowhere, not expecting it to happen — and having this persona that you had at the age of 22 sticking with you.” —Bethany Cosentino
To be completely honest with you, it did a bit of a number to me. In terms of my identity, I feel like I really thought that I had to be that person when, in reality, I don’t know that I really was that person. It was just kind of like a blip on the radar.
Bruno: You never know when you make something what things people are going to latch on to from it. Smoking weed became one of the things — which is funny because I don’t even smoke weed.
I feel like 2010 was basically just all about weed and cats anyway. It was so different from now.
Cosentino: That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot — realizing that this is coming up on a decade [since the debut]. Like, holy shit, it’s just so different — not just the politics and the environment but the way that music comes out and artists are discovered, the way that records are digested.
I feel like back then you had more room, too, to be sad about boys and smaller issues.
Cosentino: Yeah, if I put this record out now, I probably would get people going, “What the hell is this? There’s more important shit to complain about.” This record came out at a time where you had more room to just marinate on this shady guy who won’t text you back.
Speaking of the way the music industry has changed, you guys were discovered on blogs and MySpace. It seems like that sort of thing isn’t even possible anymore.
Cosentino: I remember putting out the first demo that I had done totally alone on MySpace. I had a friend who had a really small seven-inch label in San Diego and he was just like, “Oh, I’d love to put the music out.” I was like, “Well, hold on, Bobb and I are going to, like, re-record and we’re gonna make this shit sound better.” Honestly, it’s such a blur to me because it happened so fast and it was so unexpected. I was working at Lush, the soap store, and I quit my job there because they wouldn’t let me leave for a weekend to go play shows in San Diego. So I was like, “Well, fuck this.” And then before I knew it, we were making an album.
What was like the first thing that made you feel like you’d made it?
Bruno: We did CMJ and that was our first time playing in New York. I don’t even think we had a seven-inch out, but got paid — a good amount of money for me, having been in bands for like 10 years before that.
Cosentino: I think when we found out that Drew Barrymore was going to direct the “Our Deal” music video. Our manager at the time was like, “So Drew Barrymore wants to direct the video.” And I was like, “OK, sure, whatever.” And he was like, “No, for real. We’re gonna get you on the phone.” And I was backstage at some tiny venue in the middle of the country and I got on the phone with her and she just … you know, there she was. I was just like, “How did I get here? How did this happen?” It was mind-blowing shit, you know?
Is there anything else that you want people to know about the record 10 years on?
Bruno: All the time people ask us to go back to sounding that way and we’re never going to do that. We still play those songs and I still love the record. Every record we’ve done is different from the one that preceded it. I’m really happy we did that and I love all the songs, but we don’t need to do it again.
Cosentino: I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself over the last few years and what I’ve come to realize is how unhealthy my relationship with love and co-dependency has been. I posted something a couple of weeks ago on my Instagram about “Boyfriend.” I always give this speech at our shows where I talk about how I hate that song and I never really told anyone why. But I think it’s because there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve sort of withheld this hetero-normative narrative of obsessive-compulsive, like “I need you, I need you, I need you.” I haven’t really ever challenged this system of: Maybe these types of romantic relationships aren’t good and maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about them.
I’ve always been kind of a bit of an outspoken person. I’ve always used my platform for good. I appreciate so much that people love this album and that song in particular. But a lot of it for me is painful because it reminds me of a time of my life where I was really, really unhealthy. So, 10 years later, I’m choosing to talk about it in my own way because I think it’s important to just remember that if somebody makes you feel so crazy that you can’t sleep at night, they’re probably not a good person to be with you.
I can acknowledge the unhealthiness behind some of it, but also I’m so proud of myself for this body of work that I created — not allowing some of the hardships that I’ve had to go through to negate this piece of art that I created.