Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.
Go big or go home. With the new California Nights, Best Coast definitely chose the former. The duo’s third album is by far the most mature, arena-ready and, well, big record of its career. MAGNET asked Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams to interview Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno for us.
I first heard about Best Coast the same way I find out about most of my more recent favorite bands: my boyfriend/fiancé Chad (Gilbert, New Found Glory). He came home from one of their shows at the Troubadour—this was in, like, 2009 or 2010—raving about their sound and the songs they played. He said, “I hung out with them for a bit, and I think you and the singer would get along really well.”
It wasn’t until early 2012, when I moved to L.A. to record with my band, that Beth and I exchanged numbers and would text each other nonstop about music, what we were writing, how much we love food and stuff like essential oil remedies! It became somewhat of a joke between my band about how often I would be like, “Oh, my friend Beth from Best Coast!” They’d be like, “Wait, Hayley, what band is she from again? We forgot.” Ha! But having a friend in another band who gets the lifestyle, who understands being in a band with men, and who is just a woman who knows what she likes was so cool for me. It still is. Especially when either of us ever slow down enough to actually hang out.
I’ve been lucky enough to have followed Beth and Bobb from their first release until now. It’s an honor to witness any band’s growth. I’m not a fair-weather fan. Maybe it’s because of what I do, but it’s still fascinating to me to see how a band evolves and how they weather the inevitable storms of this kind of life. Their songs read like a diary of Beth’s life, and their music continues to become more nuanced in all the ways I could’ve ever hoped. I could not be prouder to know these people in real life.
As I write this, “California Nights” just came on SiriusXMU in the car. (I’m not driving! I’m riding passenger!) What’s crazier is that I’m listening to the college station—I’m not even cool enough to listen to half of this stuff.
Anyway, I gotta go. Probably going to roll my window down and tell some folks that my friend Beth from Best Coast is on the radio. —Hayley Williams, Paramore
Hayley Williams: How are you? How are you guys doing?
Bethany Cosentino: I tried to work out this morning. I went to the gym, and it didn’t really last very long. Now I’m just sitting at the juice bar where my sister works and hanging out, waiting to talk to you guys.
Bobb Bruno: Fun.
Cosentino: Is this the first time that we’ve talked on the phone as friends?
Williams: I think this is the first time we’ve talked on the phone.
Cosentino: Way to go us. How long have we been friends, and our first phone interaction is a recorded conversation. [Laughs]
Williams: Are you guys doing tons of press today for the record? I saw your press sheet, and it looked pretty stacked.
Cosentino: Yeah, we’ve been pretty busy. Bobb doesn’t have to do … Bobb is wearing an antler right now, for some reason … Bobb doesn’t have to do as much stuff as me. He’s more of a “relaxing dude.” But today is sort of our together day—which we do often. But I’ve been doing a lot of stuff on my own this week, so it’s kind of cool to be with Bobb and hang out and get to do stuff together. It’s so much more fun when you’re not doing it by yourself. I don’t even consider this an interview because I’m just talking to you guys—it’s just hanging out.
Williams: Yeah, it’s a phone hangout. It’s sort of that three-way Mean Girls thing right now, like, “Is he listening or is he not listening? Can we talk about him? Is he there?”
Cosentino: Bobb, who do you think you relate to the most in Mean Girls?
Bruno: Uhhh …
Cosentino: Lindsay Lohan?
Cosentino: You’re Lohan in all situations. So, we’ve just kind of been really busy people. I’ve just been texting you saying, “Oh my god, I forgot how crazy it is to set up a record.” We were at South By Southwest for a week, kind of having a crazy amount of stuff going on, playing tons of shows. And then the record actually comes out. Which is insane because I remember when we found out this record was coming out in May, and we were like, “Wow, that’s like so long!” And now it’s almost here.
Williams: Yeah, I feel like you and I have been talking for a long time about what you wanted out of this next era of the band, and you were really scared about it. It feels like it was almost a year ago, you were like, “I have no idea what’s gonna happen.” And now here we are. I’ve been listening to the record as much as I can for the past two days since you sent it to me, and it’s so good. I knew when you told me some of the things that you had said, I was like, “This is gonna be really good.” Because I feel like all of that tension and pressure, that’s what happens before the best stuff.
Cosentino: Part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you particularly for this thing is because I remember when you were making the self-titled record, and you were so excited to be doing pretty much exactly what you wanted to be doing. And I feel like when Bobb and I were making this record, it very much felt like the first time we felt at ease in terms of making a record. We just kind of went in and knew what we wanted to do, and did not hold back. This morning, Bobb said, “We’re doing this thing on May 2—that’s kind of like a fun day for our fans.” It’s a hangout with us before our record comes out. They’re gonna sell some records that influenced this record. And Bobb gives me this list and it ranges from like the Sea And Cake to, like, Gwen Stefani to Coheed & Cambria—which I never knew was an influence for this record until I saw the list.
Bruno: Yeah, I listened to Coheed driving to the studio every day.
Cosentino: When I wasn’t in the car with you.
Cosentino: We just sort of played with this record and explored different territory as far as our influences go because I feel like we kind of got boxed into this weird sort of genre. People were kind of like, “They’re this sort of band,” and we were sort of like, “Are we?” It just sort of happens. And sometimes you go with it and sometimes you’re like, “I’m gonna totally fight against it.” When we made this record, we were just sort of like, “OK, we’re just gonna honestly explore any sort of thing that is influencing us and not be afraid if it makes us look cool or not cool. Like, we’re gonna talk about Sugar Ray and not be embarrassed about it at all, because you should always own what you’re into.”
Williams: I totally agree with that. I don’t know why it takes so long to get that. I know I was in the same headspace when the self-titled came out, and I was thinking that there were a few boxes that my band was really stuck in. Not because we put ourselves there. It’s funny how people’s perceptions of what you are have everything to do with all these filtered and watered-down reviews and articles, and then like one- or two-second things they might see on the internet. And you can’t help it. So, I don’t know if that sort of made you weirdly aware of parts of yourself that you were like, “Now I don’t want to do that.” It really made me hyper-aware of everything, and I was afraid to examine it for a while. And I was afraid to own those things. So, it’s amazing, because I know that feeling you’re talking about, of I don’t care, and I really love listening to the first Britney Spears record and then going and screaming into a mic. These things matter. Coheed & Cambria matter to your album because it just did, and that’s what you like listening to on the way to the studio. Listening to this record, I never would have thought that, but it never would have turned out the same had you not listened to those records you listened to on the way to the studio.
Cosentino: I totally agree with what you’re saying in terms of making you kind of weirdly hyper-aware of these things. Because I feel like, when I was writing stuff for this record, I was trying not to overthink. The thing we’ve been saying with this record is that we’ve been trying not to overthink it. I think up until making the record, we were definitely thinking a lot. And then in terms of like actually going in to make the record, we were like, “OK, let’s just stop thinking and just start going with what feels natural and what feels right to us.” And Wally (Gagel), the producer that we worked with, he’s a friend of ours, but also he’s a producer that we really respect and like because he has done stuff—he’s worked with like Jessica Simpson and Miley Cyrus and then …
Cosentino: Yeah, and he’s worked with everything from this crazy super-pop stuff to a lot of kind of ’90s alternative stuff that really heavily influenced us for this record. So, we felt like we were in the hands of the right person. This is the first time we’ve ever made a record where we went into the studio prior to making it and went through the songs with our producer, which is really weird to me since we’ve never done that before. Because we did it and we were like, “Whoa, this makes stuff so much easier when you already know what you’re gonna do.”
Bruno: Well, I think part of it was just … maybe we didn’t feel like we had time.
Cosentino: That’s another thing, too. We just had a lot of time to really plan this record and work on it. We weren’t signed to a label at the time that we were making it, so it was very much like we could truly do whatever we wanted to do. And nobody was coming in like, “Hey, we gotta get that thing going.”