Joint Accounts from Bethany Cosentino and Nathan Williams
Published February 23, 2011
BETHANY COSENTINO AND NATHAN WILLIAMS. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID BLACK
In the perpetually bouncing, skating, blunt-smoking, laughing, crowd surfing, reverbed world of Best Coast and Wavves, over-thinkers, self-pitiers and gloomy types need not apply. There’s a reason that the two bands called their soon-to-wrap joint headlining tour “Summer is Forever.”
The fact that Bethany Cosentino and Nathan Williams are a real-life couple only makes the story better. The two met at the age of 17, spent a summer together, went their separate ways and then got back together. Williams eventually moved into Cosentino’s place in Eagle Rock, California, which the couple shares with Snacks, music’s most famous cat—he recently directed Best Coast’s “Crazy For You” video and has his own Twitter feed. Nathan and Bethany, too, are among the most entertaining Twitter users out there. In fact, some of their tweets formed the basis of our questions for the pair recently, when they sat down for a rare conversation together at New York’s Webster Hall.
JOHN NORRIS: I know people have been having fun with calling this a “joint” tour, but the two bands have been out together now for a few weeks. How’s it going?
NATHAN WILLIAMS: Great. It’s going really well.
BETHANY COSENTINO: Yeah, we’ve been playing a lot of all-ages shows, which is really fun. We both have a lot of teenage fans, so it’s fun to see those teens.
NORRIS: I saw on Twitter, Nathan, that you lost your wallet one night…
WILLIAMS: Yeah, that was in Austin, that was stupid.
COSENTINO: He crowd-surfed in sweatpants.
WILLIAMS: Whaddaya gonna do.
COSENTINO AND WILLIAMS DURING THIS INTERVIEW, COURTESY OF NOISEVOX/RUBES HARMAN
NORRIS: The idea for this tour—was there just a hole in the schedule for both bands and you decided this would be a good thing to do now?
WILLIAMS: It was really more our managers’ doing.
NORRIS: Did it take some persuading?
WILLIAMS: A little bit. I think we both thought it would be a good idea, but…
COSENTINO: Touring is stressful, and touring with the person you’re dating can be stressful.
NORRIS: More so?
COSENTINO: Actually, no, I think it’s less stressful. But I mean, obviously I am a fan of his music, and I thought it would be fun to tour together, because last year we really didn’t get to see each other all that often. So we get to spend a good chunk of time together, which is cool.
NORRIS: Of course the potential downside to all this togetherness on the road is if there are disputes…
WILLIAMS: I’ve already heard it, Johnny-no-no. Heard it.
NORRIS: Well, it’s that you’re right there, and you can’t walk away and cool off. Or can you?
COSENTINO: Well, we’re in separate vans, which is nice, so we get to spend some time apart.
WILLIAMS: And of course, we sleep in separate beds, because we’re not married, so we’re not gonna consummate it until marriage.
COSENTINO: We’re good Christians. See? [points to a upside down cross on Nathan’s jacket]
WILLIAMS: Yeah, can’t you tell? I’m wearing it upside down. No, it’s cool. I mean you can’t really complain, even though it can be a little bit stressful, that you get to hang out with your girlfriend.
NORRIS: And… has it changed you? I mean, I already had the sense that you were not raging quite as hard as the ’09 version of Nathan Williams.
COSENTINO: He’s been raging, I’ve seen it.
WILLIAMS: But not as hard as normal, yeah. I’ve toned down a little bit for the tour. She still thinks I do.
NORRIS: And Bethany, when Best Coast is out on the road, not with Wavves, are there after-parties?
COSENTINO: Not really. We’ll go out every once in a while, but for the most part, we do most of our raging in our backstage and then we’ll be like, “Okay, when can we get to a TV to watch Jersey Shore?” or something.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, but we’re doing the same thing, though. I just have a couple more glasses of whiskey than she does before we watch Jersey Shore. It’s not so crazy.
NORRIS: So, you mentioned Jersey Shore. I know you guys both love the music video, you like the ’90s—are you cool with the tsunami of reality shows that have taken over what was once music television?
WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah!
COSENTINO: I mean, yeah, it is a little weird that MTV is still called MTV? Because there is no music…
NORRIS: Yeah, no kidding. It’s like ESPN doing weather.
WILLIAMS: I would watch weather if it was on ESPN.
COSENTINO: Although we were in a hotel the other night, and we caught the late Jersey Shore and they were having video premieres, they had like, a Sleigh Bells premiere and Nicki Minaj and Drake—at 3 in the morning! Who’s up then? I guess we were.
NORRIS: On the topic of that network, and since people have been talking about it, what do you think of Skins?
COSENTINO: I’m not into it.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I’m not gonna say anything just in case they want to give me money to use my song, but that show sucks! They should have just kept the UK version.
NORRIS: I agree with that, but you’re not offended by it, right? This idea that you shouldn’t be showing kids having sex.
COSENTINO: Yeah, I just think it feels like they’re trying really hard to be cutting-edge. Like, let’s do this crazy show about kids having sex and doing drugs. That’s not surprising to me at all. I had sex and did drugs when I was a teenager.
NORRIS: Bethany, you have lived in Eagle Rock for a while, right?
NORRIS: And Nathan, when did you move in there?
WILLIAMS: I actually moved my stuff in like a year ago.
COSENTINO: But he was basically living with me before he had officially moved in, he was always at my house, almost every time he was home from touring.
NORRIS: So did you have another LA house before that, or were you in San Diego?
WILLIAMS: I lived in San Diego before that, but when we were younger and we knew each other, her mom used to live in an apartment down the street, and I would come up.
COSENTINO: The first time that we ever dated was when we were 17 or 18…
NORRIS: Yeah, it was in that LA Times piece that I read about how you guys would take the train back and forth…
WILLIAMS: I took the train.
COSENTINO: I did too!
NORRIS: For some people, the moving in thing is a big step. Was that big for you?
WILLIAMS: We’re only home for a couple months a year anyway.
COSENTINO: Yeah that’s the thing. We were like, “Should we move in together?” and we figured, yeah, we’re hardly ever gonna be home. But we are talking about buying houses across the street from each other. Mine will be the better one, and I get Snacks.
WILLIAMS: Yeah right. If that cat could talk, he would tell you guys some stuff. Who feeds him, who he really loves….
NORRIS: So in between the time you were first seeing each other and when you got back together, were you in touch?
WILLIAMS: Well, I moved to Portland, she moved to New York.
COSENTINO: But then we started talking again when he started Wavves, he came to New York and we hung out.
NORRIS: So then Bethany, you moved back to LA in spring of ’09, and that was the whole year of drama for this one. Build him up only to tear him down, try and throw dirt on him…
WILLIAMS: You can’t bury me!
NORRIS: So were you guys in touch during that time?
WILLIAMS: We were basically living together.
COSENTINO: Or at least we talked all the time, I always talked to him wherever he was on tour. I was interning for FADER magazine, and that’s really how I found out about Wavves. Because everyone in the office was obsessed with them, and I was like, “What is Wavves?” and then I was like, “Oh, that’s my ex-boyfriend. That is weird.”
NORRIS: I know you guys said that there is no professional competition here. But the records did come out within a couple of weeks of each other—do you find that people want to do that compare and contrast?
WILLIAMS: You mean like what you’re doing right now?
NORRIS: Come on—you know I love your record!
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, it’s gonna happen. We put the same cat on both of our records, and Bethany started Best Coast shortly after Wavves and they both came from a “lo-fi” sound, California, singing about stoner stuff, whatever. And then add to that the fact that we date.
COSENTINO: I think even before people knew we were dating, they were still comparing us.
WILLIAMS: I mean yeah the first ever reviews I saw of Best Coast were like “female Wavves.”
COSENTINO: Yeah, which I don’t get. We do completely different stuff. And seeing us on tour together, too, it’s like…
WILLIAMS: They couldn’t be more different.
COSENTINO: Yeah, the energy during a Wavves set is way higher than during a Best Coast set. We have some similarities, but we play totally different kind of music.
NORRIS: And there is new merch, as we can see. [points to Nathan’s Wavves cap]
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I did a hat with this company called Mishka in New York.
NORRIS: And the grinders? Still selling those?
WILLIAMS: Yeah we’ve got some, but the grinders sell out really quickly.
NORRIS: And does Best Coast have grinders, too?
COSENTINO: No, we’ve got beer koozies. We didn’t go for the weed merch route. I leave that up to him.
NORRIS: Is that an aspect of the band that’s overplayed? The weed association?
COSENTINO: I don’t care. I mean, I really don’t smoke that much weed. I did for a while.
NORRIS: There is a double standard on the drug front, though—you know, Nathan, that if you had done an album cover with a mirror with a couple of big fat rails chopped up on it, that you wouldn’t be able to get that record into some stores.
WILLIAMS: Virgin Mega Whore had a record that said VMW and Cocaine. And I thought that was cool for some reason, when I was like 14. When I thought coke was cool. But yeah, well, it’s different. Weed doesn’t hurt anybody. And people still think it’s like a bogeyman or something.
NORRIS: Well, “hurt” is a relative thing.
WILLIAMS: Well, relatively, alcohol kills people and weed doesn’t. I’d say that’s a big one.
NORRIS: “Kills” in the sense that…
WILLIAMS: In the sense that they die and don’t come back to life. And they don’t die from smoking weed.
NORRIS: Speaking of all this stuff, I do want to ask you about your brush with the law [for marijuana possession] in Germany back in the fall. Is there anything more as a result of that? Did you have to pay a fine?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I had to pay a fine.
COSENTINO: Community service… [laughs]
NORRIS: Well guys thanks so much. If I had a few million dollars to throw at the idea, I would suggest the Bethany-Nathan reality show.
WILLIAMS: I knew you were gonna say that.
NORRIS: And I bet it would be a lot more entertaining than Newlyweds.
WILLIAMS: Way too many pills and weed paraphernalia. I don’t think they would be able to air it.
NORRIS: But they do have Skins on…
COSENTINO: That’s true. But this is real life.