Best Coast is the band that indie rock loves to hate. Fronted by Bethany Cosentino, the group was fiercely single-minded on its 2010 debut, “Crazy for You.” In hot pursuit of that teenage feeling, the songs were unabashed odes to young love set against the sun and sand of Best Coast’s native California.
Fans, including this critic, reveled in Cosentino’s simple lyrics and glorious melodies that nodded to 1960s girl groups and beach pop. Skeptics groused that her lyrics and song structures were far too elementary to warrant such hype. Cosentino, 25, also recently designed a clothing line for Urban Outfitters, which inflamed some folks who objected to the company CEO’s support of conservative politician Rick Santorum.
It was both surprising and refreshing, then, to hear Best Coast take strides on its new sophomore album. Produced by Jon Brion, fabled for his work with Fiona Apple and Kanye West, “The Only Place” polishes the fidelity and brings everything — from Cosentino’s vocals to her heartsick songwriting — into sharper focus.
In advance of Best Coast’s tour, which rolls into Royale Wednesday, we recently caught up with Cosentino on e-mail.
Q. The last time we spoke, back in July 2010, you joked that you were happy to write from a teenage perspective. How did your songwriting evolve on this new album?
A. I just grew up a lot. I went through a lot of changes, and being on the road kind of forces you to grow up a little bit. Well, not really, but it gives you a lot of time to think. So I spent a lot of time in my head, thinking about [stuff] I wanted to change or depart from in my life. When you live your life out of a suitcase, and you go from city to city and virtually don’t have a home, it definitely changes you. I’ll say I’ve grown up in a lot of positive ways, but I definitely still act like a teenager sometimes.
Q. What were you able to convey on “The Only Place” that maybe wasn’t as apparent on the debut? What did you feel like you had to prove this time around?
A. I think the biggest thing I got to improve on was my vocals. I was really freaked out the first go-around about singing to the best of my ability, so I held back a lot, and we used a lot of effects on my voice. After two years of touring and singing onstage every night, I got a lot more confident with my voice and wanted to use that talent on the second record.
Q. How did producer Jon Brion challenge you?
A. He just really allowed us to do what we wanted to do, and if we ever doubted ourselves, he would help boost our confidence level. He really isn’t one to walk in and be like, “Do it like this.” It’s more like, “Jon, I’m going to play this one guitar part here,” and he’s like, “Awesome, try it” and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We were really comfortable with Jon. There was really no awkwardness or stress in the studio; it was a really laid-back atmosphere. When I would get nervous about something, Jon would always give me good advice.
Q. New songs like “How They Want Me to Be” and “Up All Night” reveal new shades of you — not only as a songwriter, but also as a singer. How did you approach your vocals differently?
A. I just didn’t hold back. I would . . . sing my heart out. I got really into it — lit candles, turned all the lights off, lit sage. I tried to channel these female singers that really inspire me: Stevie Nicks, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn. I’d just tell myself to go as hard as I could, do it like a pro!
Q. What did you learn about yourself and the band from making the new album?
A. I learned that we are just really amazing together. Bobb [Bruno, who crafts the melodies and arrangements] is like my best friend, and he reads my mind when it comes to music. We are always, always on the same page. I’m so fortunate to have a bandmate like that. Being a band can be so tricky sometimes. People get their feelings hurt or have egos, but that kind of [stuff] doesn’t exist in Best Coast. We just do what we do, and we are honest with each other about every little detail. If Bobb plays a part in one of my songs that I’m not totally feeling, I’ll politely tell him I don’t think it works, and he’s just like, “OK, on to the next.” We don’t sit there and bicker and try to prove that one person is wrong or right. We just go with the flow, and that’s how it’s always been.
Q. How did you handle the backlash that accompanied your line for Urban Outfitters?
A. I could care less. I expected people to hate on it. People don’t want to see you succeed. They want you to remain in this little bubble where they can have a tight grasp on you, and they never want to see you grow or change. It’s just how it works. I don’t take any of it to heart, and I try to stay away from reading or paying attention to any of it. I’m happy doing what I do, and if some troll that lives in their mom’s basement has a problem with that, they have every right to. I’m just living my life. Those people can live theirs.