A lot has changed for Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast since she and bandmate Bobb Bruno released their previous album, California Nights, in 2015. Their follow-up, Always Tomorrow, out last month via Concord Records, captures that change: not only have Best Coast fully pivoted from fuzzy rock that lands between surf and pop to maximalist rock, she no longer sings about her beloved cat Snacks, her adoration of LA, or weed. Insecurity and self-doubt still gnaw at her, but she’s more accepting of herself and more grateful for where she is in life.
It’s taken her much personal work to get to this point, but, as she tells Northern Transmissions by phone before soundcheck in Palm Springs, no single event led to the shift — other than the simple fact of aging. “I think it was probably around the time I turned 30.
I started to look at some of the choices I was making and some of the people that I was surrounding myself with.” She knows 30 is still young, but she also knows it’s generally considered a pivotal age. “I think it’s just a number that strikes you in a way that makes you inherently start to reevaluate things.”
Partying was a big part of her 20s. After all, as the cliché goes, that’s what 20-year-olds are supposed to do, especially when they also happen to be professional touring musicians. But even on a song like “Why I Cry,” from as far back as Best Coast’s 2012 album, The Only Place, Cosentino was already wishing to leave behind her hazy, wasted days. Now, on cuts like Always Tomorrow’s second single, “Everything Has Changed,” she contrasts her past life of drinking nothing but water and whiskey to a more settled one of walking her dog, living in a big house, and cooking for two every day.
“When I first started this band, I was 22, and I am 33 now. I have been doing a lot of work on myself over the last few years, specifically: therapy, I got sober. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting that caused me to grow in ways that I didn’t know were possible for me.”
Her positive energy has continued building momentum. “Not even intentionally, but I started to gravitate more towards mature people that had their shit more together…. If you make changes in your life, your energy shifts, and then the people that gravitate towards you, I think it all kind of aligns in this way where what you put out, you get back.”
Nowhere does Cosentino sound more clear-eyed and renewed than on Always Tomorrow’s lead single, “For the First Time.” Springy and whimsical, the song is about as far away as she’s gotten from the lowest lows she’s divulged through song.
“I was going to pick my mom up from the airport, and I was just feeling good,” she says, reflecting on the inspired moment behind “For the First Time.” “I was in a place where I had overcome some stuff and just literally had this idea of inspiration and was about to go pick my mom up from the airport and just sat down in the room and wrote that song. I think to be able to write words like that and actually mean them, my life had to look very different for me to sing stuff like that in earnest.”
Despite the song’s radiant optimism, though, she wasn’t immediately struck by it. ”I was already living this different life and experiencing life in a different way, so it wasn’t like I noticed the shift in myself through the song. I was very awake to the idea that my life had changed a lot by that point.” It wasn’t until she listened back to the recording that she paid the shift much attention. But even then, she was rather nonplussed. “When I record the song, then I get to hear the lyrics back and be like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s nice. I’m glad that I feel this way now.’ But it wasn’t like I wrote it and then stepped away from it and had some massive shift in perspective. The song was inspired by a shift in perspective.”
Prior to the new album, Cosentino had never been shy about her vices — not in her songs, not in the media. Consequently, she developed a reputation as a party girl. But she never felt motivated or pressured to play up or even flaunt her persona. “It never really felt like I was playing a part,” she says.
In another way, though, she did feel like she was wearing a mask. “I always tried to act like I was very unaffected by everything, but I actually wasn’t, and I think that was part of why I was using drugs and alcohol the way that I was, because I was trying so hard to mute everything and numb everything.”
And when she decided to get sober, she did consider her persona — briefly. “At a certain point, I was like, ‘What if people aren’t accepting of this?’ And then I realized, what do I actually care? My own sanity, my own health, my own life, and survival is what’s necessary, and I don’t really care if people like it or not. I have to do this for myself…. I had to let go of other people’s expectations of me and focus on my own.”
Cosentino is well aware of how Always Tomorrow will be perceived. “When we were making this record, I kept saying everyone’s gonna make this record about my sobriety. Every pull-quote is gonna be like, ‘I got sober.’” But she emphasises that the album is not explicitly about sobriety, because she doesn’t want to exclude anyone who isn’t sober.
“It’s really just about a journey and life and how it changes and how it evolves and how we oftentimes are the people keeping ourselves stuck in our ways and blocking ourselves to growth.” And that growth can be anything: committing to sobriety, going through a break-up, spending less time online, undergoing intensive therapy. “Whatever the shift in their life is, I do feel like they can relate their own experiences to the ones I’m discussing on this album.” At the end of the day, Cosentino has one goal with Always Tomorrow: “I want to show people that change is possible, whatever that may look like to you. You just have to really work hard for it.”
interview by Leslie Chu
Best Coat’s current release Always Tomorrow, is now available via Concord Records
March 2 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom*
March 3 – Vancouver, BC – Hollywood Theatre*
March 4 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox*
March 6 – Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall*
March 7 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre*
March 9 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue*
March 10 – Evanston, IL – SPACE*
March 11 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall*
March 13 – Detroit, MI – El Club*
March 14 – Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theatre*
March 15 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre*
March 16 – Boston, MA – Royale*
March 18 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel*
March 19 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club*
March 20 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer*
March 21 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle*
March 23 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East*
March 24 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West*
March 25 – New Orleans, LA – The Joy Theater*
March 27 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger*
March 28 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk*
March 29 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater*
March 31 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom*
April 1 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park*
April 2 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory
*w/ Mannequin Pussy