On eve of co-headlining tour, a double interview with Wavves’ Nathan Williams and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino (Part One)
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If the 2000s have an indie power couple à la Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, then it has to be Bethany Cosentino and Nathan Williams. Cosentino is the charismatic singer-songwriter behind L.A.’s Best Coast, whose ‘Crazy for You’ album isn’t just one of last year’s most acclaimed albums, it also proved a commercial success, entering the charts in the top 40; Williams, meanwhile, is the iconoclastic leader of sublime San Diego-bred noise-pop concern Wavves, whose 2010 ‘King of the Beach’ also proved an indie smash, receiving a “Best New Music” rating from Pitchfork.
As followers of their notoriously oversharing Twitter feeds already know, Cosentino and Williams have many things in common: love for cats, Brian Wilson songs, skateboards, baseball hats, Lil Wayne, reverb, their home state of California, surf punk, television and smoking pot among them. But although they share a bed, they have yet to share a stage until now: Friday marks the launch of Best Coast and Wavves’ first ever co-headlining tour (kicking off at Soma in San Diego). In honor of the occasion, the couple recently sat down for their first joint interview — and if their show is as gloriously unhinged, irreverent and funny as the pair is in person, it should prove to be a can’t-miss event. (Note: the freewheeling conversation contained a certain amount of cussing, some words of which we’ve excised from our relatively family-friendly blog.)
-- Matt Diehl
L.A. Times: So is this your first joint interview?
Nathan Williams: Yeah. Well, we’ve done interviews…
Bethany Cosentino: With joints!
NW: I actually pre-jointed.
BC: Yeah, he did — puffed an inhaler, then took a hit of the bong.
NW: We’ve done interviews in the same house next to each other.
BC: We hear each other do interviews a lot.
NW: I can probably answer her questions, and she can answer mine.
LAT: Why are you finally going on tour together?
BC: We’ll get to hang out more. And we like each other’s music. Well, I like his music. If his record [was bad], I may not have had sex with him.
LAT: The satirical blog Hipster Runoff seems to really have it in for you—it seems to have made a cottage industry making fun of your Twitter conversations back and forth. How do you feel about that?
NW: Really, Twitter is our only way of talking when we’re on the road, ‘cause we don’t have Facebook.
BC: I don’t give a ... about that guy. I did laugh when Hipster Runoff said “Pitchfork Gives Best Coast Same Score As Wavves To Avoid Relationship Conflict,” but I just don’t need to read it.
NW: I’m pro “Hipster Runoff”—I think it’s funny. In the end, it just makes both of us bigger and bigger. He can say whatever he wants: It just breeds hate, but it’s always helpful. Anybody that says they hate it probably loves it. That’s just what the Internet is.
LAT: You’re totally public as a couple. Does it bother you when people trash-talk you about your romantic life?
BC: No. We’ve known each other for a really long time so we don’t really think about what people say about us, really.
NW: The first time we dated, we were 17. She lived in Eagle Rock, down the street from where we live now. I was living in San Diego at the time.
BC: I had this friend Hayden who was like, “I’m going down to San Diego this weekend if you want to come with me,” and I was like, “All right.” We just met in San Diego at a party, and then just started hanging out all the time. It was basically a summer fling.
NW: That was a hot summer.
BC: We would take the train to see each other. My mom lived down the street, and we would always steal pills from her. We talked about Wu-Tang a lot, I remember; we went to the [FYF Fest] together. We hung out for a hot second, and then we parted ways for a couple years.
LAT: Why did you break up the first time?
NW: She made me cry in Portland. She was on tour with a band called Bomb Squad.
BC: I dumped him. I was mean to him, apparently: I called him an idiot because he was dancing on the table in a bar. If I was smarter then, I would’ve stuck a dollar bill in his underwear.
LAT: What was your first date?
NW: We stayed at Mario’s house.
BC: (Laughing) Oh, yeah! Our friend Mario actually put out my first seven-inch single. He does the label Art Fag in San Diego.
LAT: I’m amazed at how much good music comes out of San Diego.
NW: In the past two years, there’s been lots of great stuff—Crocodiles are old homeys of mine. Swami had their run on San Diego for the longest time: Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu… I don’t really like Rocket [From The Crypt]: that band was huge in San Diego, but not really my cut. Jehu was my favorite.
LAT: So what’s up with your cat obsession?
NW: I like cats ‘cause they’re dirty and filthy. Our cats smell like the bottom of a dumpster.
BC: Like a dead dog! We actually have two cats: Chloe and Snacks.
NW: Yeah, Snacks has a Twitter now and is famous, but don’t forget Chloe!
BC: They’re actually both my cats. As you said this morning, “They’re your cats. You need to clean the litter box.”
NW: She doesn’t clean up after them! Both the cats love me, and they hate her, but they’re her cats. She wouldn’t even let Chloe in the house, but I nurtured her, cradled her in my arms, kissed her every night, whispered sweet nothings in her ear …
LAT: You’re both famed for your love of marijuana. What’s the reality of your pot intake?
BC: I haven’t been smoking that much weed lately. I like to take breaks sometimes.
NW: She’s on a heroin kick right now.
BC: Weed just makes us, like, watch more TV. We eat way too much junk food when we’re high together.
NW: Sushi’s good, too, because the consistency in your mouth when you’re stoned is really cool. I get high from the moment I wake up, so I’m probably not a good influence on her. I like drinking, I occasionally dabble with other things, but weed I smoke everyday. But I’m functional—It’s like what Lil Wayne says: “There’s no addict that can do what I do.”
LAT: What else do you guys have in common?
BC: We both dropped out of high school — well, we tested out.
NW: I home-schooled though the last two years, but I got my diploma. I never picked it up though. Then I went to community college, but not even for a second; my favorite class was a swimming class.
BC: I tried to go to college, and then I realized it was just not my thing. Both of our parents are musicians, too. My parents took my middle name, Sharayah, from an Amy Grant song…
NW: And my parents named my brother, Joel, after Billy Joel…
BC: My dad is a session guy — he’s super, super talented: he plays with bands when they do reunion tours. He toured with War when I was a kid, and then he was in Ambrosia. I went to see my dad play with Ambrosia when they opened for the Zombies, and it was really, really awesome. Ambrosia also opened for America, and I love America — “Sister Golden Hair” is my #1 jam. My dad was actually my first drummer! My backing band was my dad and his friends, and it always made me feel really weird.
NW: My mom teaches music, and my parents met because they were in a band together in the ‘80s. Their band was called Summer Winds: they had a small hit, and were going to sign to Disney, but turned the deal down because they didn’t want to go pop or something. It’s all come full circle — my mom and dad used to play at Madame Wong’s, and I played my record release there, before it closed. Check back next week for Part 2 of Pop & Hiss’ interview with Nathan Williams and Bethany Cosentino.
Top photo: Nathan Williams of Wavves; credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times.
Bottom photo: Best Coast (Bethany Cosentino, center); credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.