02.22.2016
culture

The Growing Pains of Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino

Confidence scares some people—insecure people.

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino is somewhat synonymous with California. Since the duo began in 2009 (with Cosentino handling songwriting, guitars, and vocals, and Bob Bruno on multiple instruments, including guitar), they've captured the hazy, sun-drenched milieu of Los Angeles-living in surf pop jams, quirky lyrics, and tons of weed.

"One of my favorite things about L.A. is that you can be in the heart of the city and in 20 minutes be at the beach or in the mountains. Drive a little further and you're in the desert," Consentino said in a phone interview last week. "It's a place you can experience almost every kind of geography."

Since the 2015 release of California Nights, the band's third studio album, the geography of Best Coast has become almost as varied as Cosentino's beloved West Coast.

California Nights is the band's strongest album in terms of growth. Their sound has darkened a bit, as tends to happen, an existential cloud eclipsing the youthful sunbeams of prior releases. However, surprisingly, Cosentino's newfound maturity and composure led many of her fans to accuse her of "being a bitch," not caring about her followers, and—worst of all—not smiling.

Her male counterpart, Bob Bruno, was in no way subjected to this kind of scrutiny.

"The more confident I become, the more shit I get for it."

"The most frustrating thing for me was just like, I'm older now," says Cosentino. "I'm more confident. I'm a lot different than I was when the band started. When the band started, I remember being so uncomfortable and awkward, I would just get really drunk and talk about stupid stuff on stage. Now, I can play a show and not really be concerned with my stage banter, there's less of that. I mean, I was 23 when the band started. I'm 29 now. I've changed a lot as a woman."

This natural evolution into adulthood is something many of us experience in our mid to late twenties. So the question becomes: Why is the Internet so mad at Bethany Cosentino for simply growing up?

In the video for the album's namesake track, California Nights, the song begins, "I stay high all the time," followed by an image of Cosentino's famous cat being cute. I mean, not that much has changed since the band's early days. Someone who started as an awkward young performer going out of her way to impress the crowd has blossomed into a strong, opinionated musician. That would be fine, except that Bethany happens to be a woman.

It's that last part the internet wasn't ready for.

"For some reason, when I decided I was more confident, everybody wanted to say that I didn't want to be there or didn't care about my fans. It has nothing to do with any of that. I'm just taking things more seriously now. I don't have to get shit faced and get up on stage and talk about cats anymore." Cosentino pauses. "It's been hard for me. The more confident I become, the more shit I get for it."



In October, a polarizing internet fire-storm erupted when Cosentino voiced outrage to her 150K Twitter followers regarding a poorly written, laughably sexist review titled "Best Coast, Mediocre at Most," published by a San Francisco college student. The backlash she received, to many, illuminated the inherent internalization of sexism regarding woman in rock.

Since then, she's become somewhat of an outspoken media fixture, illuminating all that sucks about being a creative young woman constantly judged by appearance alone. The Twitter-storm spurred Cosentino to write an essay on sexism in the music industry for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter, which garnered a heartening amount of critical attention and support from other creative women.

Haters should take a page from Cosentino's book, and grow the fuck up.

"A lot of women in the music community and other communities such as journalism or other creative fields are using their voices to draw attention to the fact that it's 2016, and sexism is still completely alive," says Cosentino. "It's just like what the fuck, why is this still happening? But it's cool that people are really starting to speak up, and women are starting to bond together a bit more and put their differences aside, just saying, 'I'm going to stand with you and support you and retweet this thing.' I had so many people reach out to me. I wasn't really expecting it to garnish the reaction that it did, but I'm really happy it did."

Cosentino's activism has extended to a political vein.  During Best Coast's current tour, a month-long U.S. jaunt with Wavves and Cherry Glazer, she's joining the ranks of Animal Collective, St. Vincent, and Kurt Vile by partnering with Head Count, an organization helping kids register to vote and promoting political activism.

"This is a huge election, especially for women," says the self-proclaimed Bernie-girl. "There's a lot on the line. As a woman and advocate for women's rights and all that stuff I do, I really felt it was important to have this be a part of the tour." 

After the tour, Cosentino plans on returning to her home state, writing music, and chilling out for a while. As for the haters, seems like they should take a page from Cosentino's book, and grow the fuck up: "You will never be able to make people 100 percent happy, but I feel like a lot of the fans that were with us in the beginning are still with us—fans that have watched us change and grow and have changed and grown with us. To me, that's most important. I just try to pay attention to that and let the haters hate. There's nothing you can do about it. At this point, it just makes me laugh."

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