California: a land of sun, fun, babes and waves, so, “why would you live anywhere else?”
That’s the question raised by vocalist Bethany Cosentino in the latest single and title track from Best Coast’s second record The Only Place due out this Friday, May 18, 2012.
Given Best Coast’s alluring brand of surf rock/pop and the lacklustre climate of our recently passed Australian summer, it’s difficult to argue with the the young songstress.
However, for Cosentino The Only Place doesn’t function as a platform to simply brag about her homestate, but rather serves as a conduit to expand upon her capacity as a singer.
“I wanted to perform better then on the last record since we were recording it in Capitol Studios where they have these infamous echo chambers that were used on everything from Frank Sinatra to like the Beach Boys… Making this record was definitely a bigger process and because of that I wanted to go harder with my vocals and just go to the best of my ability.”
“I wanted people to hear my voice better than on the last record”, Cosentino simply states.
As you might expect, Cosentino’s preparation consisted of numerous vocal exercises, but the youthful songbird also decided to digest an assortment of ‘weird drinks’ intended to strengthen her voice.
“I drank a lot of tea called Throat Coat, which is just like a peppermint licorice tea that’s good for your throat.”
“Then I drank this drink that was like lemon juice with cayenne pepper and ginger and agave syrup and it was disgusting, but it would help clear out all the mucus that I had. So it would make it easier to sing, but it was truly the grossest drink, like it burned really badly to drink it”, Cosentino giggles.
Cosentino’s commitment to bettering her craftsmanship extended the writing and recording time frame of The Only Place. Whereas Best Coast’s debut record Crazy For You was recorded in a matter of weeks, The Only Place was carefully constructed over several months.
Usually shooting straight from the hip in regards to the creative process, it was producer Jon Brion who opened up to Cosentino the idea of revisiting and reworking certain elements of songs that may have otherwise fallen by the wayside.
“I’ve never revised anything and that was something that John had suggested I do… We were working on this song (Why I Cry) and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t like this, I don’t think it’s good’ and he was like, ‘No, I think it’s good, I think you just need to rework the lyrics a little bit’. So I took it and worked on it and then that inspired me to do the same thing on a couple other songs and it’s inspired me to do the same thing on some songs I’ve written, like post-making the record.”
“I don’t know if I’ll continuously do it on every song, but I’m sure it’s something I’ll carry along with me and do every once in a while; but I definitely have the belief that when you create a piece of art it comes out of you the way that it comes out because it’s meant to be that way. I think that if you fuck around and try to change it a bunch, it just ends up losing some of its emotion and value”, Cosentino suggests.
With a focus on vocal quality and lyricism The Only Place sees Cosentino explore aspects of her lifestyle and personality that aren’t immediately definable.
“This record was definitely like I’m trying to figure out who I am and what interests me and what kind of sparks my fire as a person because I spent the last three years on tour and I was growing up kind of in a spotlight. It’s not something that I ever really imagined happening for myself so I think that those songs all kind of like question who am I; but I think this record is a lot more existential than the first record.”
“It’s definitely asking a lot of questions that I think a lot of…people probably wonder to themselves like…just sort of like that mid life crisis that everybody seems to go through at some point. I think that was what I was experiencing while writing this record. Even though I’m not mid life, I’m quarter life”, Cosentino jokingly admits.
When a musical artist self-reflects and attempts to tackle the ponderous themes of life, the music often reflects the weight of these universally elusive questions. However, for fans who are attracted to the breezy, upbeat spirit of Best Coast’s music, there’s no need to worry. The Only Place is still a sonically warm experience even if the lyrics at times take a more contemplative tone.
“I think it just happens that I write more upbeat music and then the lyrics are kind of more down. Crazy For You is the same way as well, a lot of the songs are melodically upbeat and poppy sounding and then the lyrics…if you listen them they’re a little bit more dark and sad. So I think it’s just organically that’s just kind of how I write. I don’t really know exactly why that is but I think it’s just something that happens with me,” Cosentino muses.
“Also I think about bands like the Beach Boys and The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac and bands that really inspire me and a band that had a very specific…like they came from this scene in the 70s that was like Southern California and that’s what people thought of. Most every Eagle’s song has down depressing lyrics except for Take It Easy or something, which is one of their more optimistic songs, but I think it’s like a lot of the bands I listen to do the same thing lyrically and melodically, so it’s probably just something that’s seeped into my subconscious.”
Best Coast – The Only Place – Out Tomorrow