With big guitars, direct lyrics, and a pleasantly laid-back attitude, the Los Angeles duo Best Coast play a tuneful version of punk rock that nods toward '60s pop and '90s alt rock informed by the sunny days of their hometown. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno started off small, issuing a string of singles before becoming an internet-fueled sensation. Their albums range from simple Ramones style (their 2010 debut Crazy for You) to arena-ready (2015's California Nights). Their popularity as a live act grew steadily and the musical bond between Cosentino and Bruno held firm. The duo's 2020 album, Always Tomorrow, shows the band still in love with the hooky bubblegum-punk sound they started out with, and stretching out in new areas, like commercial radio pop.
A former child actress, Cosentino started writing songs in her teens and gaining a strong online following by the time she was 17, thanks to a handful of poppy songs she made available on her MySpace page under the name Bethany Sharayah. She soon decided her heart wasn't in making teen pop and pivoted in a very different direction as a member of the spacy experimental pop group Pocahaunted. After moving to New York to attend school, she moved back to Los Angeles in 2009 and started working with Bruno on Best Coast's first demos.
The group's noisy lo-fi sound took inspiration from '60s surf rock and girl groups, filtering it through Cosentino's drawling vocals and punk sensibility. Best Coast's first year saw a flurry of small releases: a self-titled 7" single on Art Fag; a cassette tape release, Where the Boys Are, on the U.K. label Blackest Rainbow; a split 7" with Jeans Wilder on Atelier Ciseaux; an EP, Make You Mine, on Group Tightener, and a self-titled 7" on Black Iris. The releases garnered attention from the media (notably from Nylon magazine), and Make You Mine made its way onto a few year-end "best-of" lists. The band embarked on their first U.S. tour early the following year, sharing the stage with the Vivian Girls. Their profile continued to rise in 2010 with the release of the "When I'm with You" single. The duo signed to Mexican Summer Records and began work on a debut album. Meanwhile, Cosentino made a summer single for Converse (a collaboration with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and rapper Kid Cudi) and Best Coast added a full-time drummer, ex-Vivian Girl Ali Koehler. The group's album, Crazy for You, which featured Cosentino's cat, Snacks, on the cover, was released in July. They followed the album with plenty of touring and festival appearances, and a Drew Barrymore-directed video. At the end of the year, Ali Koehler was let go.
They returned to the studio, this time the famous Capitol Records Studio B, to work with producer (and Bruno's old boss) Jon Brion for their next album. The Only Place boasted a more professional recording quality than anything the group had recorded to date, a bigger sound, and a wider range of instrumentation, too. It was issued by Mexican Summer in May of 2012. The duo's next release was their first for Cosentino's new label, Jewel City. Sporting a new drummer, Brady Miller, and a sound that split the difference between the noisy punch of their debut and the polish of The Only Place, the Fade Away EP was released in the fall of 2013.
Around this time the band met up with producer Butch Walker to begin work on a new album, but the sessions quickly fell apart. The duo continued recording with producer Wally Gagel (who worked on Fade Away and has a CV that ranges from work with Superchunk to Rihanna), and the band signed to Capitol subsidiary Harvest. The '90s alt-rock-influenced California Nights was released in May of 2015 and reached the Top Ten on the Billboard independent, alternative, and rock albums charts. The group toured heavily with Wavves, then as opening act for Paramore. Their next record was aimed at the children's music market; Best Kids is a mix of kiddie classics and originals. Around the same time of the record's release in mid-2018, the band signed on to appear as themselves on What Just Happened??! with Fred Savage, a talk show parody that aired on Fox starting in 2019. Meanwhile, the duo started work on another album with big-name producers Carlos de la Garza and Justin Mendal-Johnson. Always Tomorrow veered away from the '90s worship of their previous record in favor of a more diverse approach that edged toward a more commercial sound, and detailed Cosentino's recent lifestyle changes. It was released on Concord Records in early 2020.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo