Best Coast’s last album, 2015’s California Nights, was the ultimate Best Coast album: crisp, guitar-driven music about love and getting high in California. But when a journalist recently asked front woman Bethany Cosentino how many songs on her band’s new album, Always Tomorrow, were about California, she recalls having to break the news that, this time, there weren’t any. California Nights may have been a dream for fans, but it was far from it for Cosentino. “I was miserable and nothing was ever going to change,” she writes of the period after that album, marked by heavy drinking, in a note on Always Tomorrow.
So, Cosentino, 33, got sober in late 2017 and finished her new music with bandmate Bobb Bruno that way. “With this record, I wanted to do something different, but I also had a story to tell,” she told Vulture on the day of Always Tomorrow’s release last Friday. The bright, poppy sounds of California will always be in her music, she explains, but on songs like “Everything Has Changed,” it sounds more like a deeper part of her newfound hope than just a sunny day. “That’s just what life is: a series of triumphs and struggles,” Cosentino says. “It’s bananas, but this band has really been therapy for me.”
Does this feel different than putting out past albums?
Absolutely, and I think the biggest reason why is ’cause I’m just very present for it. I’ve never had such a heightened sense of my own feelings, so it’s really cool to get to sit here and see everything and experience it in this way.
As someone who’s always been open with your fans, how has getting their support through the journey of this album and your sobriety affected you?
It’s so interesting for me to look back and see these messages from these people that say, “I’ve been listening to you since I was in junior high.” It’s crazy that they’ve been around that long, but it took me this long to recognize what they see in me. They’ve helped prop me up in a way that I feel like I’m finally getting to experience.
Being sober is insane. You seriously experience your feelings in such a real and raw way. I’ve put out four albums, but I’ve never felt these things because I was numbing them for so many years. This feels like the first time in a lot of ways.
This was the first album where you started with some tracks from Bobb and then worked on those. How do you think that changed the sound of those songs?
The first song he sent me was “Graceless Kids.” I remember when I first got it, every day I would play it in my kitchen — I’d be doing the dishes, and I would start humming things to it. It was Bobb’s creation, so I then got in my head, Well, wait, I wanna make Bobb happy! I don’t know how to get out of my way sometimes. But it created a lot of depth on this record, and it also allowed me to really focus on what it was I wanted to say. It adds a heaviness to the record that I don’t know that I’m necessarily capable of writing. It’s so interesting that it took me ten years to reach out to him and use him in that way.
Do you think that’ll change how you write in the future?
I don’t know, really. I think what it ultimately made me see is that I work well when I collaborate with people. When I take the pressure off of myself, and I say, “Here, can you help me?” I depend so much on myself — and that’s not just in my creative life, that’s also in my personal life. I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable asking people for help. Collaborating with Bobb took me to this weird place where now I’m always calling my friends and asking for help and advice. I’m like, Dude, what was I doing before?
Knowing that this would be a more personal record, did you ever think about releasing it solo?
Because I write all of the lyrics, and up until now I’ve written all of the music myself, it’s always sort of felt like my own project. But the music doesn’t sound the way that it sounds without Bobb. For right now, I get to be my own self in this band, and that’s not something that I would change. I feel really lucky to have Bobb, who supports me and lets me write about what I wanna write about. A lot of bands don’t have that dynamic.
That’s awesome. So you made a music video with the cast of Vanderpump Rules. I have to know, what do you think about this season?
[Laughs.] I mean, it’s good. I’m not super into the new people yet, I don’t really care. But I will say, I’m so sick of everybody protecting Jax and Brittany — like, that last episode with their homophobic pastor, I’m like, Get over it! This guy’s done horrible things, everybody should be calling them out. It’s so funny, ’cause knowing some of them, I always feel like I have to remember they’re real people, but they’re also on this television show. Sometimes I watch them as friends and I’m like, You guys need to call each other out on each other’s bullshit! Or maybe I’ve done so much fucking therapy that I feel like I have to tell everybody, “Speak up for yourself!” But it still serves its purpose for me as the best show to put on and just zone out.
I also love how Ariana talks so openly and freely about having depression. I texted her recently and just told her, “It’s really cool how you talk about shit like this on a platform like Bravo, ’cause a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to deal with that stuff.”
Best Coast are also one of many bands who’ve performed in support of Bernie Sanders. What do you think about him appeals especially to musicians?
He’s truly a man of the people. When you think of politicians, you don’t think of people that really connect with the working class. I feel like Bernie speaks to people all across this country that have never really felt a connection to a politician. He’s making people that have felt detached from politics — which I think a lot of times can be artists and creative, free-thinking people — and waking them up in ways that they’re like, “Wait a second, I see a guy that might actually bring about change in our country.”
In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned getting asked about what the 2010s were like for you and feeling like you couldn’t really answer that because you were in a haze for part of it. So, what do you want the 2020s to be like for you and Best Coast?
I feel like I’ve entered this new phase in my life where I’m learning to be okay with the way that things are. I just hope that I can continue to have that same feeling throughout this decade — this idea of, I don’t need to know what lies ahead, I don’t need to have the answers for everything, I don’t need to constantly be searching for meaning behind every single thing, sometimes things just aren’t that deep.
If I think about the way the 2010s started: I started a band, I had no idea what was gonna happen. As things continued to unfold, it got bigger and bigger, and more successful, and I kept making records. I was very detached from it in a lot of ways, but it just kept happening. I feel lucky that I even get to still do this. If at the end of the day, this is the last record, I would be okay with that because I know that I told a story that’s important to me, and it’s probably important to other people.
This interview has been edited and condensed.