Best Coast: How Bethany Cosetino became key figure of US wistful beach rock
Thankful embracing of DIY culture after formative years of baby modelling
Generally speaking, The List is not a fan of infant beauty pageants. In the case of Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino however, we are happy to make an exception. Were it not for her formative years doing baby modelling and TV advertising (for Little Caesars and Pepsi, since you ask), the Californian might not have fled into the arms of DIY and become the lo-fi surf-pop heroine that we know and love.
Cosentino has spent most of her life either blinking in the showbiz spotlight, or ducking from it. Her dolled-up childhood experiences gave way to mid-teen major-label fervour, as A&Rs fell over themselves to shape-shift her into a commercial pop star. She even performed on The Ellen DeGeneres show when she was 17, providing backing vocals for folk-pop singer Ellie Lawson (this appearance was apparently orchestrated by her father, who drummed with 70s funk-rock fusionists War).
Our protagonist wilfully shirked the mainstream limelight, however, and turned down a number of major label offers. She has since become ensconced in the underworld of split 7”s (with Wavves), down home garage, balmy punk and radiant noise pop.
The 23-year-old’s affinity for hazy psychedelia first brought her to counter-cultural prominence as one half of Pocahaunted – the self-styled ‘Olsen twins of blissed-out drone’ – in which she performed alongside Not Not Fun Records founder Amanda Brown. ‘P-Haunt’, as they were brilliantly known, amassed critical plaudits and touring offers from the likes of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore during the mid-late 2000s, before calling it a day in 2010.
Pocahaunted enjoyed a cult following, but Cosentino’s evocative Best Coast endeavour has won over dreamy-eyed fans en masse. This is largely thanks to its yearning melodies, which linger like the memory of a holiday romance (okay, The List has never actually had a holiday romance, if the pathetic truth be told, but one can muster one’s powers of imagination).
Cosentino started dabbling as Best Coast in 2009, and issued several low-key releases thereafter, including ‘Something in the Way’ on the Post Present Medium label (run by Dean Allen Spunt of No Age) and ‘Make You Mine’. Debut album Crazy for You (Wichita) followed last summer, and stole many hearts with its songs in thrall to punk, the Beach Boys, Spector-esque girl groups, affairs of the soul and a love of the beach. ‘Boyfriend’ was a case in point: its heat-warped alt-rock and soaring vocals became an online super-hit.
Cosentino’s beloved cat, Mr Snacks, plays a starring role on the long-player, and in the general Best Coast aesthetic: he features within the album’s songs; his insignia features on Best Coast merchandise; and he takes centre stage on Crazy for You’s technicolour album artwork.
The cover art does well to capture the congenial Best Coast vibe: retro, movie-esque 3D block lettering; hand-drawn palm trees; the sun; the sea; the coastline. And bang in the middle, walking on waves, there is a portrait of the aforementioned feline. Indeed, you might say that alongside guitarist and musical foil Bobb Bruno, and drummer Ali Koehler (formerly of Vivian Girls), Mr Snacks is the de facto fourth member of our wistful beach-rock posse.
‘There’s something about the summer,’ Cosentino sings on ‘Summer Mood’. And that is the essence of Best Coast’s charm: they’re all about abstract, sun-kissed reverie.
Best Coast play The Arches, Sun 27 Apr.