Best Coast's Bobb Bruno on Guitar Heroes and His Very Unexpected Path
Did you know the multi-instrumentalist actually wanted to be a mailman?
By Mike Duffy
Best Coast officially formed in 2009 as a humble project between guitarist Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino, but by that point, the duo had already logged a few collaborative years.
Bruno, a savvy multi-instrumentalist, had produced tracks for Cosentino’s experimental project Pocahaunted back in 2006. Perhaps that’s why Bruno and Cosentino seem to have an uncanny chemistry when writing Best Coast’s sunny California-coast jams.
“It’s great working with Beth. We never argue,” Bruno said with a laugh. “It’s really strange, sometimes, how in-tune we are. A lot of times, there will be things that we do apart from each other, but when we get back together, we’ll totally be on the same page.”
It’s that close relationship that keeps the band pushing forward; they're currently at work on the follow-up to 2015’s Wally Gagel-produced California Nights.
Bruno checked in with Fender to dial in two exclusive presets for the Mustang GT Series and discuss his unlikely path to being a full-time musician, his approach to effects and his songwriting process.
”Being a Musician Was Definitely Not in the Plans”
“Through high school, I figured I’d become a mail carrier, because that’s what my dad did. It seemed like it would be a cool job, walking all day and being outdoors. I had no aspirations in playing in bands. I was just happy doing music in my bedroom for myself. I didn’t even want to share it with people.
“But just messing around with friends in high school, I got more into playing guitar. I was playing bass at first and began playing guitar as a joke. My one friend was really good at guitar, and I played drums. But one day we switched, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is really more fun.’ That’s how I got into playing guitar.”
”When I Heard the Band Godflesh, That Changed a Lot for Me”
“[Godflesh founder] Justin Broderick was really an inspiration. A lot of the guitar in the ‘80s and ‘90s was about shred and being technical, and I thought, 'I could never do that.' But when I heard his approach to guitar, there were still aspects of metal, but it made more sense to me. It was more about sonics and not playing a bunch of notes. For a lot of years, I was playing both bass and guitar in two bands. But I really got into being a guitar player when we started Best Coast.”
”We Actually Don’t Write Together a Lot, but That Might Change”
“Beth will write the skeleton of a song at home and send it to me, and I’ll figure out the other instrumental parts for it. We’re just starting a new record, and I think we might try and change some of that process. Every record, we try and do something different. When we made our second one, a lot of people were sort of put off by it because it was so different than the first one. We very easily could have done Crazy for You, Part II but that doesn’t interest us. We want to grow and do things that are interesting to us.”
”Bass Actually Came Pretty Easily to Me”
“The thing that attracted me to bass—even though I can’t do it—is lead bass players. I was really into Primus and Flea and Cliff Burton. Their styles were just so in front. I mostly play with my fingers, not a pick. I think part of why I didn’t have many issues with the bass was starting on drums first and knowing how the bass and drums interact.”
”I Get Inspired by the Music I Listen To”
“My parts that I write for Best Coast, I’m just a music fan. Whether it’s current or older things, they’ll stash away in the back of my mind and might come out when we write. She’ll have this specific vibe, like the Misfits and the Go-Gos together. The way we communicate makes sense to me. Writing things that serve her songs the best is really the biggest inspiration."
”I Got a Strat because of [German Guitarist] Caspar Brötzmann”
“It was a Mexican Strat, black and white. That’s what Caspar plays. I think his is a vintage. At the time, it was what I could afford, and it was the first guitar I ever bought. I still have it. I saw him live, and to me, I couldn’t help but think that it was like what people thought when they saw Jimi Hendrix for the first time. He was doing all these things I’ve never seen before.
“The first song, he plays though a Marshall full stack and he was doing this percussion thing for three minutes by just flipping the pickup toggle. Because it was at such a high volume, it was just mesmerizing. He would full force charge at the amps. It was the most physical guitar playing I’d ever seen. He’s still one of my biggest influences.”
Bobb Bruno’s Mustang GT Presets, “Bobb Coast” and “Left Coast”
“I love effects pedals, and I’m constantly getting new ones. I’m always changing out my pedal board to get new sounds,” Bruno said. “Even though I have this monster pedal board, I can easily play a show without it. It’s happened before when the board died. Like only one delay and an overdrive. I can still play the songs. I ‘m not a slave to the pedals. It just makes it more fun.”
Bruno took that love of pedals to Fender’s amplifier technicians when he created his pair of Mustang GT presets—the appropriately named “Bobb Coast” and “Left Coast”.
“You could tell he was a guy who knew exactly what tone he wanted,” said Fender Amplifier Product Development Manager Rick Heins, who helped guide Bruno through the Mustang GT’s features. “These really represent Best Coast’s sound evolution as a band.”
For Left Coast, Bruno selected a Fender ’65 Twin Reverb as a base, and then added a Yellow Box effect before the amp and a Small Reverb to add more ambiance. Some might say it recalls Best Coast’s beginnings.
Representing more modern Best Coast sounds, Bruno's Bobb Coast preset was also built on a ’65 Twin Reverb and includes a Big Fuzz, Mono Tape Delay and Large Plate Reverb.
“Using effects makes things more interesting,” said Bruno. “Even though within the music of Best Coast there’s not a lot of room to improvise. I can still change it up, color-wise, with my sound while still not changing what the song is at its core.”
Keep up with Best Coast here.