California, California, California. With Bethany Cosentino, it's always about California. "Everything I've ever read about myself says, 'Oh, you write songs about California,' " said Cosentino, singer of the indie rock outfit Best Coast. "If you listen to the lyrics, they're not really about California. But the sound of the music has a kind of California sound. Bobb (Bruno, guitarist) and I are very influenced by California bands like the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, and these bands that came from this scene in California."
Maybe it's the sound, maybe it's the tattoo of the state on Cosentino's right forearm, maybe it's her effortlessly cool slacker-chic style. Whatever the reason, Cosentino has emerged as a California Girl for the Twenty-Teens, and a hot commodity on Madison Avenue — she's designed clothes for Urban Outfitters, and on Record Store Day (April 20), Best Coast will release a new 7-inch single, Fear of My Identity, in collaboration with footwear line Clarks.
But it's her music — a deceptively simple mix of fuzzy surf-rock guitars and girl-group vocals drenched in reverb and sunshine — that keeps any potential haters at arm's length. Best Coast's 2012 album The Only Place polished and deepened the gleefully lo-fi jangle of their 2010 debut, Crazy For You, and this spring, they'll open for Green Day in arenas nationwide.
But first: A stop at Saturday's Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa. Cosentino recently called from her home in Los Angeles to talk about writing in sunshine, scoring free swag and her famous cat, Snacks. Here are excerpts.
Best Coast is so associated with the state of California. Do you think the songs in your head would still exist if you lived in, say, New York?
It's hard to tell. I did live in New York, and when I was living there, I tried to write music, and it was really bad. It didn't sound like what I wanted to be making. And then as soon as I came back to California, there was this burst of creativity that exploded from me, and I just started writing these songs, and I was like, "Okay, this is exactly what I want to be doing." California inspires me so much because of the weather. I don't do well in gloomy, cold, rainy weather. Ninety percent of the time in L.A., it's sunny and it's warm and it's breezy, so I can open the blinds in my bedroom and my room will be filled with sun, and I can write a song that sounds beachy or upbeat and poppy.
How do you feel about the concept of writing ironically to make a point? Is that something that you've ever done as a songwriter?
My songs are really 100 percent honest. I write about what I know. I write about experiences that I've been through or that people I know have been through. When people buy our records, they're taking away a piece of me or of an experience that I've had. That's something that I'm very proud of. I know that people criticize my lyrics and say they're very simple, they're trite, whatever. But I'm proud of it, because they're 100 percent honest, and there's no sugarcoating.
You're releasing a single for Record Store Day. What can you tell me about that?
Record Store Day is a really awesome thing. It's really important to remind people that they can buy music in stores and not just online. And I've always really liked Clarks shoes, and they seem like a really cool company and really cool brand. It was just something that fell into our laps. We were also just ready to record something new, because we had done the record (The Only Place) and toured, and we were like, okay, now what? It was just a fun experience.
You must have labels falling all over themselves to send you free clothing. Is that the case?
I have a room in my house, actually, that I really lamely refer to as the swag room. (laughs) It has a lot of the free stuff that I get. My friends will come over and be like, "Whoa, where did you get this?" "Oh, blah-blah-blah sent it to me . . ." It's definitely a perk of being a musician, is that people want to shower you in nice gifts.
Your cat, Snacks, has more than 11,000 Twitter followers (@snacksthecat). Do you have a sense of who those people are, and how they differ from the 102,000 people who follow you (@best_coast)?
I have no idea. I'm 100 percent baffled every single day of my life at the fact that people know about my cat. When we tour, people come up and are like, "Where's Snacks?" I'm like, "Snacks is a cat. He's at home, sleeping. He's not on tour." I didn't intentionally want to make my cat a weird celebrity. It was just like, "Oh, he's cute, I'll put him on the cover of my record." It's bizarre. He's a cat. He has no clue that anybody knows who he is.
Does he get swag? Like, cans of Fancy Feast from fans?
He gets a lot of fan gifts. He got a free cat teepee. It's in my living room, and he sleeps in it sometimes. People make him little toys filled with catnip, and they give them to us at shows. I just look at him sometimes and laugh, because I'm like, "Dude, you're famous. I don't even understand." (laughs)