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Best Coast drop new album 'California Nights,' with inspirations from Led Zeppelin to Gwen Stefani

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The band Best Coast: Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno.
Best Coast
The band Best Coast: Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno.

The band says their music is obviously California-influenced, because that's who they are — but they don't want to just be what people say they should be.

The Los Angeles-based duo Best Coast's last full-length album was released in 2012, and now they're back with a brand new album, "California Nights." Frontwoman Bethany Cosentino explained the band's vibe.

"We try to approach things in a very go-with-the-flow, chill way. And I would use both of those phrases to describe California."

Their music often talks about California — they were both born and raised here, so Cosentino says it's inherent to who they are.

"When people are like, 'They love California so much, they talk about it so much!' It's like, well, it's really a huge part of who we are, so even if we didn't like it as much as we do, it would probably still be something that would shine through, through our music."

Cosentino writes all the songs, as well as singing and playing guitar, while bandmate Bobb Bruno plays instruments and creates arrangements for the songs. Bruno says they work separately, which he thinks helps them get past some problems most fans face.

"When you're in a typical band situation, you're all trying to write together in a room, and you sometimes will be intimidated to try a certain idea or approach to a song," Bruno says.

Cosentino sends Bruno demos with her vocals and guitar, then he tries out different things and sends the songs back to her, he says. They don't have many musical disagreements, but they say they try to be open and honest with each other.

On the new album, Cosentino originally thought that Bruno's guitar solo on the song had too much movement and too many notes, and he ended up pulling it back.

"When the band first started, before we even recorded a single song together, me and Beth sat down and had a conversation about just how we wanted the band to work," Bruno says. "And I told her, from the beginning, if there's ever anything I do that you're not into, just tell me, and my feelings aren't going to get hurt. I'm not going to get upset about it. I understand — these are your songs, so you have the clearest vision of what they should be, and I'm just here to help facilitate that."

Cosentino had some apprehension when she was writing the new album's title song.

Best Coast's California Nights

"I was very much inspired by Led Zeppelin, the Stone Roses, Spiritualized, Spacemen 3. I had a very clear vision for the song, but I was also a little bit worried," Cosentino says. "When I sent it to Bob, I think I wrote in the email, 'This might be weird, you might not be into this,' because it's very different from the rest of the songs on the record."

It was the last song she wrote for the record, but Bruno, as well as their producer and their drummer, said that it was actually the best song they'd made.

"For us, this record was really about taking risks and exploring influences that we maybe didn't explore in the past because we felt like we had to stay in this box of tags and genres that people threw at us," Cosentino says.

She says that when the band first started, they told people they were influenced by the Beach Boys and '60s pop. But, while they had surf-rock influences, they didn't actively describe themselves as a surf-pop rock band.

"When people are saying that you're one thing, it's hard to not be like, 'Oh, I guess that is who we are,'" Cosentino says.

The new album shows a wide variety of influences, and Cosentino says they were totally cool with drawing inspiration from everywhere.

"Bob was saying that one song was heavily influenced by a solo Gwen Stefani song, and nobody questioned that, nobody said, 'Mmm, that doesn't really fit Best Coast.' It was like, 'Cool. If that's what's inspiring you, then let's go for it.'"

The song was "Feeling OK," and the inspiration was Gwen Stefani's "Cool."

Feeling OK by Best Coast

Cool by Gwen Stefani

The band's last album, "The Only Place," was considered the most personal, lyrically, with its discussions of fame and romance.

"When I was writing 'The Only Place,' I was coming off of being on tour for what felt like an eternity, and not really spending a lot of time at home. And so a lot of themes on 'The Only Place' were feeling homesick and just feeling confused about my success and not really understanding how Best Coast got to where we were at the time," Cosentino says.

They'd just come off "Crazy For You," which was a big hit, and Cosentino says she only had a week to write the songs for "The Only Place." This time, she had more room to work with.

"There was a big gap of time where I was allowed to write the songs, and sit down, and think about what it was that I wanted to say, and to work on the songs. We weren't on a label when we were making the record, so we were able to just go in and do whatever we wanted, and we didn't really have a deadline. Like, we knew we wanted to get the record out, so we were like, 'We're not going to spend a year in here.'"

The album continues the band's California feel. Cosentino says that, while she tries to go outside and be connected to the physical environment, a lot of it is right outside her home.

"When I write music, I have this room in my house where I have all of my music stuff set up, and I go in there, and I can just open the curtains, and I have a pool in my backyard, it's very California-looking. There's palm trees, there's mountains," Cosentino says.

She says that the sun's always shining, and even when she's writing music at night — which she says she did a lot for this album — there was still something very Californian when she looked outside. Cosentino says that Los Angeles is her home.

"Because I left L.A. and then came back, I realized that I took so much for granted. Because when I was in New York, I missed driving, I missed being in my car and listening to music and getting to roll the windows down, and it's just so nice, you know?"

Cosentino had a shot at being a teenage pop star or an actor when she was younger. When she went to college, she was an aspiring journalist and writer, but dropped out to start Best Coast. She says that everything she's been through so far has given her more inspiration for her songs and taught her a lot of life lessons.

Her fellow band member Bruno didn't have aspirations quite as lofty — he says he told the other kids in high school that he wanted to be a postman.

"I was like, 'I just want a job where I walk around outside all day.'"

He has to make do with rocking out across stages with his band.

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