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Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on New York Versus California and Weed’s Impact on Her Productivity

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, just in town for two shows at the South Street Seaport, is releasing her first full-length album, Crazy for You, on Mexican Summer records today. The L.A. native, something of an indie "It" girl, has been noted for her sixties-sounding, beach-friendly, and infectious lo-fi pop tunes. Over the phone, we spoke to her about her seasonal affective disorder, getting high, and how she used to dress better when she was younger.

You recently moved back to L.A. full time from New York.
Yeah, I lived in New York for about nine months and I moved back to L.A. a year ago. It's been great. This is where I'm from. When I have, like, a week left of touring I can't stop thinking about how excited I am to be back in L.A. and to be back in warm, nice weather and my own house. I think it was the best decision I ever made, leaving New York and coming to L.A.

What were you so glad to leave behind in New York?
I think New York is an awesome city. I think, at least for me, it's a lot more fun to visit than it is to live there. But I just couldn't handle the seasons. I couldn't handle the winter. I got a really crazy case of seasonal depression, basically, and I didn't feel motivated or inspired to do anything and I would think that, while I was sitting around in freezing cold weather, my friends and my family were back in L.A. in the middle of February and it was sunny out.

What's your songwriting process like?
I can really only write by myself. I don't really like to be around a lot of people when I'm writing. The lyrics I don't think about beforehand. I've never really thought about a story that I want to tell in a song. I normally just write the lyrics and it's not until after I've recorded the demo or after I've typed the lyrics up on my laptop or written them down on a piece of paper that I think, Oh, this song is about this, or whatever.

Do you write songs while you're high?
Yeah. It's ... yeah, I do. I'm not really good at playing music while I'm high. When we play shows, I don't normally smoke weed until after we play, because it makes it really complicated for me. But I'm from Southern California — it's legal here, medicinally. It's not something I'm ashamed to talk about; I don't really think it's that big of a deal. I smoke weed every day. Basically. [But] it's not like I have to get high to write music or something. It's honestly the reverse effect sometimes: I'll smoke weed and then I won't get up off the couch for three hours, I'll just watch TV, and then I'm like, Oh, shit. The day is gone. So when I'm trying to be my most productive, I try not to smoke weed until at least, you know, an hour or two hours before I go to sleep. I'm meant to be lazy at nighttime.

As you become more of a public person, are you thinking about having a certain style in terms of fashion and image?
No, not really. I've always just dressed however I feel like. I think I used to dress a lot cooler when I was younger and cared more. But it's hard to be fashionable or whatever when you live out of a suitcase. We were just on tour for a month in Europe and you can't really bring that much stuff with you when you're traveling. So I just wear whatever's comfortable. Every once in a while for a show I'll wear something nice, like heels or something, but I just wear a lot of basics for the most part. I like floral prints and neutral colors and earthy tones and that sort of stuff. But I don't think that I'm that fashionable. I used to be, when I was a teenager. The first thing I went to school for was fashion — I took design classes at a junior college before I went to school for writing.

You're dating Nathan Williams from Wavves.
That is true. I don't really like to talk about it too much, because it's not that important. But I'd like to clarify that I've known him since I was 17 years old. I met him a couple days before his 19th birthday, so we've been friends for a really long time. We didn't really talk for a few years, but then we met back up again. I think people assume we met through our bands or something, but that's not true. We're old pals from teenage years.

Photo: Devyn Manibo