By Thursday afternoon, Bethany Cosentino of the band Best Coast had played so many shows at South by Southwest she was running out of clothes. For an outdoor concert at the Palm Door on 6th in a few hours, she was down to a Lucy Paris wool skirt and a Fleetwood Mac T-shirt.
“I’m at the bottom of my suitcase,” she says. “This is what was there. Everything is, like, sweaty and smells like a barbecue because I’ve been wearing it around all week.”
Best Coast has had one of their busier times at this year’s festival — nine performances that culminated Saturday afternoon. It’s all part of the run-up to the May release of the band’s third album, “California Nights,” which Cosentino describes as their boldest project yet.
“If confidence is a way you can describe a sound of music, I would say that’s kind of what it is now. We’ve just sort of become the band that we’ve always wanted to be,” she says.
Even by the standards of music festivals, Cosentino, 28, stands out in Austin, Tex., as the ultimate California girl, liberally peppering her conversation with “likes” ad nauseam and proudly showing off her various tattoos, including one that reads, natch, “California Dreamin’.”
Music, she likes to say, “was always in the stars for me.”
Born and raised in La Crescenta, a suburb of Los Angeles, Cosentino started out as a child actress in commercials and eventually segued into playing gigs with her father, a drummer, in high school, which she later dropped out of to pursue music full-time.
“If I would ever do shows around L.A., weird executives would come. It was like, ‘We like you, but we want to turn you into something else,’ and I was, like, vaguely punk, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that,’” she says.
She spent a year in New York studying at The New School and when she returned to L.A., she pitched Bobb Bruno, an acquaintance from the local music scene, the idea of the band. Although the two of them are over a decade apart, their musical influences overlap. “He’s, like, my twin flame, but super platonically,” she says, citing their love of classics like The Beach Boys, West Coast rap and even Oasis. “He always says it’s because he thinks I’m really mature for my age, but I think that he’s actually just immature for his age.”
Out of the gate, agenda-setting music sites like Pitchfork raved about their first album, 2010’s “Crazy for You,” and soon Cosentino became a fixture on popular blogs of the Aughts like Hipster Runoff. For their third effort, Cosentino wanted a mix of love songs with everything from “alternative Nineties” to “psychedelic, kind of shoegaze-y” vibes. With only two songs released, it’s already resonating with audiences. “People are already singing along, and it’s crazy,” she says.
Though they’ve only been together for six years, Cosentino sounds like a jaded veteran of the road. She’s even starting to think about the future. “I would like to continue doing this I guess into my 30s, but I also am in that late-20s phase where I’m like, ‘I kinda, like, want to maybe think about getting married, and, like, having a baby, and, like, settling down,” she admits, before adding, “But I doubt that that’s going to happen anytime soon.” It’s telling, though, that the highlight of the festival for her wasn’t a performance, but meeting actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
“We literally, like, hung out and talked and exchanged phone numbers. It’s basically the highlight of my life — not just of South by Southwest. I mean the shows have been awesome,” she said with utter sincerity. “But that was really the most important thing to me.”