Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino
Q&A (formerly Quarantined Artists) is an FUV feature that includes online and on-air conversations with musicians dealing with life in Covid-19 lockdown and beyond.
Back in early February, when Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno visited Studio A for an FUV Live session supporting their new album, Always Tomorrow, they couldn't have predicted how abruptly their U.S. tour and promotional events would end barely a month later.
Yet as Cosentino observes, the foundations that gave her the strength and insight to record the songs she did for Always Tomorrow—rooted in her sobriety and resiliency—gave her the ability to weather this unpredictable time too. And although Best Coast remains uncertain about their tour schedule in 2020, there are projects afoot, like a reboot of the "Scooby Doo Theme Song" that Best Coast did for the new animated film Scoob!, out now on VOD, and Cosentino's "Bethline" radio show.
In this new FUV Q&A, Cosentino touches on getting through the last few months, both the good (air fryer!) and the bad. She also talks about this spring's civil rights protests that, in her words, gives everyone "a real opportunity for a paradigm shift."
The songs on Always Tomorrow resonate with clarity, candor, and your real hope for the future—and it was released right before the world shut down. Did you and Bobb have an uneasy feeling, as you were both building to the album's release, that Covid-19 might affect your touring and more?
Honestly, it never crossed my mind. I knew what was going on in the world, but I really didn’t think about how it might affect the album/touring/my life. I guess in a way it was like I was practicing the principles that I talk about on the album: acceptance, surrender, and not obsessing over that in which I can not control. I knew this was a very real virus and that it was spreading and people were dying, but I guess because it seemed so far away, and honestly so out of my control, I just didn’t really stress out about it.
When we were out on tour and the conversation really came to America and people were really freaking out, we noticed our shows were not as crowded as ticket sales told us they’d be, but I still didn’t even really put the two together. I was just so focused on my art and performing and was in such gratitude of getting to do what I love, play music. And maybe in a way that was naive or selfish of me, but as soon as I really realized like "Wow, okay, this is very real and I have to go home," I was able to accept it.
I think I have just learned via the work I’ve done on myself in the last few years that there’s really nothing good that can come from stressing out over things before they are actually right there in front of you to tackle. So in some sense, my acceptance around the whole thing being so out of my control is the thing that saved me from real panic until the moment came when I knew there was no way we could keep touring and needed to go home and do our part to keep people—and ourselves—safe.
Songs like "Everything Has Changed" or "Master of My Own Mind" certainly have an added subtext now. Are there songs on the new album that really have taken on a whole other meaning for you now, and how?
It’s funny because I always joke about being “a very powerful witch.” I have a tendency to manifest things in my own life though my songwriting and I kind of feel like Always Tomorrow as a whole is a blueprint for sort of how we need to exist through this whole crisis. It’s about learning to take care of yourself in whatever way that means for you, and also learning to let go of the things that you just can not control.
So yeah, when I think about those songs, or even a song like “Used to Be,” there is new meaning because I would imagine none of us are really the people we were a few months ago when this whole thing hit. People may not even be conscious of how they’re growing or changing in these incubators we’re all kinda in, but something this big happening to our entire world and all of humanity at the same time kind of pushes a shift in people and in society as a whole. So I would argue that everyone has changed or had to look within at some point during this time, even if they haven’t done it consciously.
Certain albums have become life rafts for listeners in 2020 and Always Tomorrow has that distinction: these are songs about making your way through dark times. How has sobriety helped you weather this global crisis in a different way?
Working though my unhealthy issues with substances for me has just been about learning to really take care of myself, and not running from my feelings or trying to numb them. This crisis has absolutely had its moments where I have wanted to jump outside of myself and run for the hills to escape it all, but I have such a connection with myself now where I just know that drinking or numbing those feelings won’t make them go away.
The biggest tool for me that has aided in my change has been therapy. I wish therapy was accessible/affordable for everyone. It’s just really changed my life. I do Jungian therapy, which is so much heavy introspection and it has really opened my eyes in ways I just can’t imagine life before it. I am so grateful to have therapy, especially during this time where the world feels really dark and the unknowns are so palpable, it feels necessary for staying in my lane, I would be totally lost without it.
How are you and Bobb planning ahead for the future, especially when it comes to touring—you have three December dates planned in the UK.
I really don’t have an answer for that. I still think there's too much uncertainty to really know what things will look like as this year progresses. I am really not sure if our December dates will happen. I hope they do, but I’m also a realist and know that they may not.
Are at-home livestreams, like the one you did with Sting and Ben Gibbard for the National Air and Space Museum, a workable alternative until touring feels safe again? Do you enjoy that kind of at-home performance intimacy or is it awkward?
I’m not super into the live at home performances. I just feel a disconnect playing a song into my phone. I know why I’m doing it and it’s just a bit bleak, it makes me sad. Performance is meant to be experienced, and I know that there is an experience in watching an artist play a song live via a device, but it just doesn’t scratch the itch the same way for me. That doesn’t mean I won't do it, but I definitely feel a lot more selective in some of the things I’m choosing to do during this time.
To be honest with you, it’s been a good exercise in learning to say no to things that don't bring me joy. I have a tendency to be a bit of a people pleaser so it’s been nice to have choice with these things. I’m very blessed to be in a position where I have the ability to say yes or no; not everyone has that in their line of work. So yeah, we’ll see. We are planning some cool stuff coming up that I’m excited about.
In late March you launched "Bethline," your quarantine radio show which airs Wednesdays. Over the last two months that you've been doing the show, talking about mental health challenges or chatting with friends like Soccer Mommy's Sophie Allison, what have you liked best about the experience? Do you have a favorite episode?
I started "Bethline" as a way to stay engaged with fans and keep using my platform to bring attention to important issues like mental health. As I said before, I’m not entirely into the idea of the livestream concerts, but I wanted to stay busy and engaged so "Bethline" was a way for me to do that in the first few months of this lockdown. It was really cool to get to talk directly to fans and answer their questions about life. It made me feel special to know anyone would look to me and trust me enough to care about my opinion on something.
I think my favorite episode was one that I did with my friend Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells about social media. Social media is obviously such a tool, especially right now with everything happening in the discussion with Black Lives Matter and systemic racism in this country, but I still think it’s important to limit our time on social media because our mental health is also so important to this fight. We’re lucky to have such an expansive place to share information but I also think we really need to take the information we learn off the internet and into our daily lives.
That episode aired long before the murder of George Floyd and the protests that took place after, but it still felt like a topical conversation around social media and the way we use it as a society. I’m grateful to have a platform to use to inspire or educate people, but I’m also very interested in doing real work offline and I think everyone should be trying to do the same.
I read that you've been cooking a lot during this lockdown. What's your ultimate comfort meal and any fabulous cooking tips you want to share?
I really just make so much pasta, ha ha. I’m half Italian so I grew up eating a lot of Italian food. I joke that everything I cook is “vaguely Italian.” I got an air fryer about a month ago that I am absolutely obsessed with. I’m vegetarian so I make a lot of really good veggie things in it like “fried” tofu and shishito peppers. I really don’t know how I lived life before my air fryer!
Is there anything new that you've brought into your daily routine that's helped you?
I’m here at my house in Los Angeles. I read a lot more than I ever have, which is awesome. I’ve always loved reading but I never really had the time to do it, or I would be so distracted by work or outside issues that I just couldn’t sit down and focus on a book. So it’s been really nice to just lounge and read! I read a lot of non-fiction/self-help style books. I also took a tarot reading class from my “psychic” who is more like a spiritual, mystical therapist honestly. Say what you will about tarot or metaphysical practices, but those types of things really ground me and make me feel connected to something bigger than myself.
Do you really have a ghost in your house? Is it a friendly ghost?
Ha ha, yes, I have had some weird ghost experiences in my house since I’ve been home, but nothing freaky at all. I have had to burn a lot of sage the last few months. For the ghost and also just for the world, ha ha.
What do you hope most people have learned during this pandemic era? If there's anything positive that comes out of this time, what do you think it will be?
Like I said earlier, I think it’s impossible to live through this time and not have it affect you in a life-changing way. Even if those changes are small, like you learn how to pause more, it’s important that humanity shift a bit. I think everything we are seeing now with Black Lives Matter and living though our own civil rights movement—we are starting to see a lot of people wake up.
A lot of us were already awake, but it’s never too late for people to change. It’s never too late to educate yourself and ask questions. I think that life coming to a screeching halt the way it did back in February sort of forced people to learn how to just be with themselves, something we aren’t taught how to do as kids or in school.
And now that we are witnessing such civil unrest, it’s like, how can we ever go back to the way things were before? We just can’t. This has all been exposed for a reason, we have a real opportunity for a paradigm shift here. In tarot there is a card called The Tower which is pretty much about something collapsing because it doesn’t work anymore, and with that collapse, evil is exposed and there’s an opportunity for real rebirth and restructure.
That’s the way I see it. Something that hasn’t worked for a long time is finally toppling over, and I do believe a better world is possible. I do believe that this country is capable of being pushed forward into a more progressive, inclusive, and just place. I think as long as we don’t give up on ourselves, we can keep fighting this fight and pushing until we see process, which sometimes happens quickly and sometimes happens slowly. It’s just about holding onto the faith that you can always rebuild when the bottom falls out.
- Bethany Cosentino
June 18, 2020