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Back then the Smell's crowd was fairly specific. "Lots of punk aesthetics," says Amanda, who now fronts L.A. Vampires. "Post–riot grrrl, late-teens sort of throwing some sound together. People really believed in the community and it was totally uplifting."
Within this small community, it was easy to get acquainted. The Browns knew Roy, the Wives' drummer, and he officially introduced Amanda to his girlfriend, Bethany Cosentino.
Cosentino was fun. Her dad was a session drummer and she had been around the L.A. music scene from a very young age. She had done talent competitions, been in musicals, done audition tapes, even a few commercials. "She loved to talk about that," Amanda says. "She was hilarious when she told the story about singing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium, and she used to crack me up doing her line from the Little Caesars pizza commercial" (Cosentino was the blonde toddler in that famous early-'90s "conga line" ad for the pizza chain).
Eminently chill, but also clearly determined, Cosentino had recently put a few confessional songs up on the Internet under the name "Bethany Sharayah." And although she had listed "punk" as a genre on her MySpace page, she was clearly influenced by Rilo Kiley and noted as her main influences Billie Holiday, Fiona Apple and Leonard Cohen.
Amanda and Cosentino hit it off, and shortly after that, Roy mentioned that his girlfriend "was sort of depressed, missing music, feeling a bit weird about some of her friends." Roy suggested Amanda talk to her: "Be like a big sister." But Cosentino, says Amanda, "never needed advice. She takes care of herself, for sure. So I just said, 'I'll play music with you! I suck, but let's do it.' Then I started dreaming about it, and I told Bethany and, of course, she laughed in my face. But yeah, Pocahaunted was born."
Though it was a 50-50 project between Cosentino and Amanda, Pocahaunted followed pretty closely the experimental, psychedelic aesthetics of the Browns and Not Not Fun, a label that would go on to launch out-there jammers like Sun Araw. Pocahaunted's music had no traditional lyrics: The girls vocalized wordlessly, in sounds that Cosentino liked to call "vocables." "You'd call it chanting, I guess," Amanda says. "Bethany didn't want to make pop music then. She was exploring her weirder sensibilities, though I'm sure that if she'd wanted to, she could have written some classic Bethany lyrics."
This experimental collaboration worked between 2006 and 2008, with a large number of releases on Not Not Fun (several of them cassette-only) and other small labels. A lot of the Pocahaunted recordings were done by L.A. experimental-scene stalwart (and occasional solo performer) Bobb Bruno, a multi-instrumentalist with a well-known home studio and ties to the Largo venue and cult mainstream producer Jon Brion. Bruno also eventually played drums on many of Pocahaunted's live dates.
The highest-profile moment for the Bethany Cosentino–Amanda Brown lineup of Pocahaunted was the opportunity to open for Sonic Youth, because cassette freak Thurston Moore had become a fan. "Success highlight, perhaps," Amanda clarifies. "Because I think just the recording and hanging out was the highlight. Bethany and I were close."
But in 2008, Cosentino left Pocahaunted, moved to New York and abandoned music for a shot at a degree in creative writing at the artsy Eugene Lang College at the New School for Liberal Arts.
A year later, she was back in L.A., working with Bruno on something called Best Coast.
BETHANY COSENTINO: I moved to New York in the summer of 2008 and I left maybe end of March, beginning of April of 2009. The last year of my life is extremely hazy, so I apologize for not being able to give you such a great timeline [laughs], but it literally was something where I got home, I got back to California, and instantly I was inspired to start writing these songs. I had told Bobb ahead of time, "I really don't like New York, I really don't like college, I really wanna drop out, I really wanna go home."
And kind of on a whim I called my mom — my parents both and all of my friends in New York and all of my friends in California knew that I was not happy in New York and that I really wanted to come back to California, but I felt that I would be letting people down if I dropped out of college and moved home. And then I said sort of, "Fuck it, I can't do this anymore," and so I called my mom and said, "Can you get on a plane and come out here and help me?" and she literally got on a plane that night, it was a Friday, and I was back in L.A. by Sunday evening.