Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino on Sexism, Trolls and How to Love the Eagles

Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. Additional photos and videos below.
Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. Additional photos and videos below.
Photo by Janell Shirtcliff

For years, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, which joins Wavves at the Bluebird Theater on Saturday, February 27 and Sunday, February 28, has been among the smartest and most opinionated figures on the current music scene.

But earlier this month, she took these attributes to the next level.

In "Burgers, Bitches and Bullshit," published at LennyLetter.com, she took on a big topic: patriarchy in the music business and beyond. The results are honest, compelling and fearless, particularly given her cutting take on the very sort of Internet trolls likely to be incensed by what she has to say.

Our conversation with Cosentino touches on the ripple effects of the essay's publication before moving on to California Nights, her third full-length for Best Coast (which teams her with multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno), and the band's finest effort to date. Subjects include lyrics that double as personal pep talks, the art of contrasting dynamics and contradictory juxtapositions, finding a balance between stubbornness and a willingness to try new things, and her love of music from Southern California — particularly the Eagles.

Cosentino admits that the recent death of Eagles co-leader Glenn Frey was an emotional experience for her while trying her hardest to convey the glories of the group to someone who just doesn't get it: yours truly. And as you'll see, she puts up an impressive argument.

Which should come as a surprise to precisely no one.

A screen capture from "Burgers, Bitches and Bullshit," as seen on LennyLetter.com.
A screen capture from "Burgers, Bitches and Bullshit," as seen on LennyLetter.com.

Westword: You just published an essay entitled "Burgers, Bitches and Bullshit," in which you take on the patriarchy of the music business, including your decision to speak out about sexual harassment you and others experienced from a publicist named Heathcliff Berru. What kind of response have you received about it so far?

Bethany Cosentino: It's been incredibly overwhelming in a very positive sense. I was feeling very hot and cold about this essay. I was very passionate about it, but I was also thinking, "Oh man, this is going to come out and a lot of people are going to read it." I'm a human being, and when people criticize me, which is a lot of what the essay is about, I can sometimes take it a bit to heart, so I was a little bit worried that people would say, "It isn't written well" or whatever. But I also know that I'm my own biggest critic, which is also why I was worried.

But the reaction's been really incredible. I've had so many people who've reached out to me and thanked me for it or said that to read about me sharing my experiences really encouraged them to be honest and open about stuff they'd gone through. I had a young girl in a band who wrote an e-mail to my manager that was forwarded to me about how her and her best friend just started a band and the essay just confirmed all her thoughts and concerns about being a woman in music.

For me to be hanging out at home and getting all this positive feedback, and using my voice to talk about things that weren't necessarily positive experiences, but using them to shed a positive, empowered light on a not so positive topic, is something that's very humbling for me. It makes me feel good at the end of the day to know I've inspired and encouraged men and women to come forward and be more aware of the stuff that's going on. Because I know it's not just happening in music. It's happening in all fields.

Just to be one person with a voice makes me feel good. So I'm happy I did it and that people are paying attention to it.

One of the themes of the piece is the horribly sexist reactions you've sparked on social media and in response to you when you play live. You mentioned the positive responses to the essay that you've received. Have there been some of the other kind, too? Or do you think you shamed the trolls into silence, at least temporarily?

Oh no. I don't think you can ever shame any of these people into silence, unfortunately. On the Internet, people are always going to come at you from all sorts of angles. I saw some comments that were like, "This is stupid," or "Did you even graduate from middle school?" Just really stupid, petty bullshit.

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For the most part, I try really hard to not pay attention to the negatives. The opening line of the essay says, "I learned very early on, don't read the comment sections of things." I still do it sometimes. But now I've trained myself to only fire back when it seems entirely necessary.

I read a couple of things that said, "I'm no longer a fan of Best Coast because of your beliefs in patriarchy." It was just so ridiculous — basically calling patriarchy a conspiracy theory and saying I'm a conspiracy theorist now.

What? Really?

Yeah. I saw it and thought, "Well, okay...." But luckily, I've got some of the greatest fans who go through those comment sections. I feel like they're my children. There were some girls and men who said something back to this person. They were like, "Hey, listen up." They're fighting their own fight on my page, and that makes me very happy. I feel like my experiences and the shit I go through on a daily basis are starting a conversation that really needed to be started a while ago.

In any comment section, even if it's not a celebrity's comment section, there are always really stupid, ignorant comments. And there are always really stupid, ignorant comments in real life, too. So, like I said, it's important to decide when it's important to step up and say, "That's not okay" or straight-up block somebody. But for the most part, I've really received a lot of encouragement and thank yous and gratitude. That's what I'm paying the most attention to you.

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino on Sexism, Trolls and How to Love the Eagles
Photo by Janell Shirtcliff

Is there any part of you that feels frustrated these battles still need to be fought? Shouldn't these lessons have been learned a long time ago?

Oh, of course. That's a large part of why I even talk about it. And it's not just with sexism, not just with women feeling the need to say, "I'm a feminist." It's with race. It's with gender as an idea. All the issues trans people are facing, all the stuff that's going on in the world, it's really fucked up. There's so much stuff that on a daily basis, I go, "How is this still happening in 2016?" And not just with things I've experienced. We're still seeing police brutality against African-Americans in 2016, and it's absurd. How is this still happening?

But something I think is important is, if you believe in something, you have to speak up for it. Musicians, artists, celebrities of any type — whether you're as famous as Leonardo DiCaprio or you're as famous as Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast, which is totally the opposite end of the spectrum (laughs), there are people who are paying attention to us. There are people who want to know what we're passionate about. And they take that and apply it to their own lives and things they're passionate about.

So at the end of the day, as fucked up as all of this is, and no matter how much it frustrates me that people in all walks of life are still having to defend themselves, still having to say, "This isn't okay," I feel like more and more people are using their voices in a positive way. They're starting to bring awareness to stuff. Awareness was brought to a lot of this stuff a long time ago, but it still needs to be done....

I'm just glad to be part of the conversation in general. I'm not happy there's still a reason this conversation has to be going on, but I'm happy to be a part of it.

Continue for more of our conversation with Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, featuring videos from California Nights and a passionate defense of the Eagles.



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