From the outside, Bethany Cosentino's life looks pretty perfect. There's the hopelessly romantic name of her band, Best Coast. Her effortless collaborative relationship with righthand man Bobb Bruno. Their sun-dappled California-centric guitar rock. Their meteoric rise to indie success after the release of 2010 album Crazy for You, which Cosentino described as being "about weed and my cat and being lazy a lot."
Since then, Best Coast's ever-cresting wave has yet to crash. Promotional pushes from major brands like Urban Outfitters blasted early hits "Boyfriend" and "Our Deal" far and wide, which exponentially increased the band's fan base. But it also attracted a vocal Internet hate squad who took malicious pride in tearing Cosentino down – via her supposedly retrograde lack of lyrical depth, her hilariously quotable Twitter feed, her funky fashion sense and her choice of famous indie rock romantic partners (see: a tumultuous relationship with Wavves frontman Nathan Williams).
"In the beginning, I didn't deal very well with any of it," Cosentino says. "I was so young, and I felt like I was being bullied. I took it very personally – like, 'Why are all these people ganging up on me and saying hurtful things when they don't know me?'"
Cosentino says overcoming that self-doubt wasn't easy. But now that she's sneaking up on 30, she says she can roll her eyes and laugh off the digital dirty. "I try to disengage from the haters and trolls," she says, "and make it as positive as possible – more about the fans who say, 'You saved me from feeling suicidal,' or 'You helped me through my first breakup.' That's what I'm paying attention to now."
Of course, such an evolution took time. 2012 sophomore album The Only Place strained to break out of Best Coast's reverb-drenched surf-pop comfort zone. But its polished sound (helmed by super-producer Jon Brion) drained some of Cosentino and Bruno's electricity – both from her confident voice and from his assertive instrumentation. The nonstop touring cycle that followed didn't help; by the time Best Coast self-released a scrappy 2013 EP, Fade Away, critics were legitimately questioning whether the band had true staying power.
And then Cosentino figured out what she really needed: a break. "Artists tour now because that's how you make money," she says. "So Bobb and I found it hard to turn down tours: We both have mortgages, we're both adults, so we wanted to make sure we were financially doing OK. And then I realized that it's gotta not be about the money, but about my own sanity. So taking time off in 2014 was really nice."
For the first time in five years, Cosentino cultivated a normal life: cooking at home, exercising regularly, getting her finances in order and spending time with friends. "It was really important to take a step back, take some time off, and be at home," she says. "I learned a lot about myself and was able to figure out who I am in comparison to who Best Coast is. The band is obviously a huge reflection of who I am as a very outspoken frontwoman. But I also feel like there are parts of myself that I have to deal with – and parts of myself that I want to keep private. I'm very happy I got some time at home to re-center myself and figure those things out."
That added depth to California Nights, which was released in May. Although the title continues in the band's Golden State-loving vein, the Nights part is crucial: Songs like "Jealousy," "So Unaware" and "Sleep Won't Ever Come" address darker themes like insomnia and existential terror over the grungiest tunes Best Coast has ever recorded.
Oddly enough, that maturity seems to have made the band even more marketable. Last month, a Beats by Dre billboard promoting California Nights went up in Times Square, and the Twitter-verse erupted in cries of "Sellout!" when Cosentino posted about it. Unsurprisingly, she shook the criticism right off. "If companies want to help my band get bigger, why wouldn't I do it?" she muses. "That's part of my job. I love what I do, so if people ask me to be involved in things to make us more successful, I'm all for it. I'm very real; the person you see on social media and on stage is very much the person that I am. That's why I feel like people want to get more involved in a promotional way – they respect me as an individual and think it's cool that I'm comfortable and confident being myself. To me, that means I've come a long way."