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Band of the Week: Best Coast

L.A. songwriter trades 'Sex and the City' fantasy for low-fi retro-pop

July 7, 2010 4:23 PM ET

Who: A retro-pop duo fronted by 23-year-old singer-guitarist Bethany Cosentino, who formed Best Coast after ditching the writing program at New York's New School and returning home to her native Los Angeles. "I used to watch a lot of Sex and the City, and I had this fantasy of moving to New York to be a writer," Cosentino says. When reality struck (along with a frigid winter), "I was like, 'Fuck that — I'm out of here,' " she says. "I called my mom and she got on the next flight and helped me pack up my shit."

Sounds Like: Sixties girl-group pop streaked with low-fi guitar fuzz and Liz Phair's deadpan cool. Best Coast, which also includes multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, started gaining attention last year with a series of limited-edition seven-inches on tiny, ultra-hip indie labels like Art Fag, Group Tightener and No Age drummer Dean Spunt's PPM. Now Mexican Summer is set to release the band's full-length debut, Crazy for You, on July 27th. Says Spunt, "They write killer jams."

Growing Pains: After making most of the Best Coast singles in Bruno's bedroom — "I'd sit on his bed and record my guitar parts," says Cosentino, "then stand in the corner and do my vocals while The Sopranos was on mute" — the group upgraded to L.A.'s Black Iris studio to record Crazy for You with producer Lewis Pesacov, who also plays in the bands Fool's Gold and Foreign Born. Pesacov says he pushed the band to think in terms of an album, rather than as a collection of singles. "With a single you're sort of in and out," he says, "whereas album tracks can develop and go in different directions. They can be darker and slower and moodier. We definitely had that in mind, and I think what we ended up with represents another step forward for them."

On the Road Again: Cosentino admits to having reservations regarding Best Coast's upcoming tour, which kicks off in Chicago at the Pitchfork Music Festival and extends through the end of September. "I get really anxious to get home," she says. "Then again, I've been here for the past week and I'm already going stir crazy. I can only watch The X-Files so many times before I lose my mind." Something she's particularly looking forward to this time out: having merch to sell. "It'll be nice not to have to say, 'Um, sorry — all of our singles don't exist anymore."

Fame Game: Fans' warm reception has kind of blown Cosentino's mind. "There's seriously no greater feeling in the world than seeing a row of six 19-year-old girls singing along to your songs," she says. Interest in her personal life has been trickier to get accustomed to. "It's definitely weird to be out somewhere and someone's tweeting, 'Bethany's at this show and here's the outfit she's wearing.' It's like, What the fuck? How do you even know who I am!?' "

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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