Q&A: Jane Wiedlin Talks Go-Go’s Farewell With Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino
Tonight the Go-Go’s — the pioneering California quartet that melded punk and New Wave into inimitable musical staples — embark on a farewell tour signaling that they’re go-going for good. For the next month, the chart-topping band’s “classic lineup” (featuring vocalist Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock on drums, guitarist Jane Wiedlin, and jack-of-all trades Charlotte Caffey) will wave goodbye to their fans and celebrate their 38-year-long career on an 18-date trek. The Go-Go’s are bringing along Kaya Stewart to open, and starting on Friday fellow Californians Best Coast will join the victory lap as special guests as well.
While the quartet scored hits with the pop-perfect likes of “We Got The Beat” and “Vacation,” the Go-Go’s’ roots are firmly entrenched in Los Angeles’ punk scene in the ’80s (hear their early tune “Living At The Canterbury” for yourself to get a sense of the squalor they lived through). Wiedlin says the group has planned a setlist with underrated Go-Go’s numbers, and maybe even some of those old punk tunes. “At this point we’re not really sure if it’s going to work. But it would be so much fun to show people what our songs used to sound like.”
We chatted with Wiedlin and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino about the farewell tour, and how they ended up owning the same house.
STEREOGUM: How’s everyone’s day going?
JANE WIEDLIN: Good. I’m in Hawaii.
BETHANY COSENTINO: You’re in Hawaii?
WIEDLIN: Yeah, that’s where I live.
COSENTINO: You do? Well … I’m talking to you from your old house. How weird is that?
WIEDLIN: Wait, what?!
COSENTINO: Yeah, I sent you a message saying “I’m at your old house in Burbank,” right?
WIEDLIN: You know what … yes. Now I remember. I freaking cannot believe that. When I’m in LA can I come visit you?
COSENTINO: Yes, of course!
WIEDLIN: I’m dying to see what it looks like now. It’s the best house in the world. It looks like a freaking castle.
It’s so gorgeous. It’s a mansion built in the ‘20s, tucked away in the canyon, and it’s on two acres. It’s a surprising amount of land for that area, no one has that kind of land.
COSENTINO: Now there’s a pool and they built this vineyard. The backyard is very dense and beautiful, there’s a lot going on back there. It’s something that is just so weird and cosmic that it ended up happening that it’s your house. And now we’re touring.
I wanted to wait and tell you [Jane] when I met you in person because I thought it would blow your mind. But the second we became Twitter friends, I thought, I can’t hold it in any longer. I just had to get that out of the way.
STEREOGUM: That’s wild! I’m guessing you bought the house before you knew about the Go-Go’s tour?
COSENTINO: Well … we had gotten an email that was basically like, “The Go-Go’s were going on tour and they were fans and would we be interested in touring with them?” And right immediately I said “Yes, of course, that sounds awesome.” And I came at looked at this house, found out it used to be Jane’s, looked at everyone in the room and was just like, “This is super bizarre, because I literally just confirmed that I’m going to go on tour with the Go-Go’s at this point next year.” And everyone sort of looked at each other like, “What?” It was one of those things where I thought, if there was ever a sign, this is one of them.
WIEDLIN: It’s totally a sign. Did you find the secret room in the basement?
COSENTINO: Which one? The door that goes to nothing?
WIEDLIN: There’s a secret room behind one of the walls.
COSENTINO: You’re going to have to show me!
WIEDLIN: We ended up storing wine down there. It was underground and all cool. But I always thought oh my god, this could be a dungeon.
STEREOGUM: So you two have yet to meet in person?
COSENTINO: Yeah we’ve never met.
WIEDLIN: But we’re going to be besties on tour.
COSENTINO: Yeah! I can’t wait. I mean, I grew up on the Go-Go’s. I’m a born and raised LA valley girl so the Go-Go’s were definitely, when I was growing up, very girl-power centric. So you know, this is just all-around something we’re super excited about. Especially me, because I’m the only girl.
WIEDLIN: As a band, we always like to promote female performers. Especially ones that either write their songs or play their instruments or both, because it’s kind of what we’re all about. When we got famous in 1981, we thought things were going to change. And that it was going to change quickly. But it hasn’t changed nearly enough yet.
STEREOGUM: For some reason, people are still in awe of the fact that women shred and make great music.
COSENTINO: It is crazy, and it’s a frustrating fight. But I’ve tried to make my M.O. within the last couple of years very much speaking up and out about it. Because it’s pretty ridiculous.
Jane, like you’re saying, in 1981, you said “This is going to change everything.” Here we are in 2016, and young female artists are still trying to be like, “Yo what the fuck!” I’m hoping that this generation of female artists can take what we learned from you and your generation and pass it on. And hope that at some point it stops being, “Whoa you’re a girl and you play guitar? That’s insane, how is that a thing?” It would be weirder if my dog played guitar. I’m a living, breathing human like you. But, you know.
I meet young girls who come to our shows and say, “I look up to you because you’re just a real woman and you preach be whoever you want to be, wear whatever you want to wear, do whatever you want to do.” But do it for yourself, don’t do it for anybody else. They tell me, “I’m trying to get this guy to like me, should I do this thing?” No! Just be yourself. And if that guy doesn’t like you, fuck that guy! You’re going to find a guy who likes you for yourself.
And now, with the internet … every idiot ever has an opinion about everything. You get attacked for everything. My outspokenness has been really beneficial but it’s also gotten me backed into a corner. What the fuck are you attacking me for? I’m just standing up for what I believe in.
STEREOGUM: We get attacked for saying things, and nothing comes of silence either. It’s related to the impossible ideals women have to live up to: be firm but not too much otherwise you’re “bossy.” Be smart and cool, but not too smart and cool to be deemed “intimidating.” You can’t win.
WIEDLIN: You can’t win. It’s exhausting even thinking about it.
COSENTINO: My best friend is getting her PhD in feminist studies at the University of Santa Cruz and she’s like, the most brilliant woman I’ve ever known. We basically have this conversation every single day, and the resolution we come to is: There’s a lot of crazy shit happening in the world, and you just have to look at how much good there is still and how many people are fighting and supporting these issues. If you just let the Internet peanut gallery get you down, it’s easy to feel bad. But to remember that there are women like the three of us having this conversation, who really get it … it’s a battle because the proof isn’t always there. But there are women and men that are out there fighting the good fight too.
WIEDLIN: It has to be said that there are plenty of good men. It’s unfortunate that the assholes are the loudmouths.
— Chelsea (@Chelseashow) August 1, 2016
STEREOGUM: What do you wish someone had told you about the industry before you became a part of it?
COSENTINO: It’s an exhausting, exhausting, exhausting job, being in the spotlight of any kind, whether you’re a man or a woman, being a woman I think it’s more difficult to be in that spotlight. However, it’s just a very intense thing. You lose a lot of privacy, you lose so many hours of sleep. But I will say it’s one of the greatest things ever. To know that I can go and travel the world based on art that I created and art that’s very personal to me, and struggles I’ve dealt with for years and years, and knowing that there are people out there listening to these stories and struggles, and they get it and think, I can relate to it, then they come out and sing along? That makes me feel like less of a weirdo. “Oh, there are other people in the world who relate to this and I’m not alone?”
I would have appreciated it if someone went, “Hey, touring? You think it’s a big party all the time but it’s actually not like that.” It can be but if you make it like that, good luck trying to do a whole tour. Jane, all the things I’ve read about you guys, you can attest to this, I’m sure: As you get older, it doesn’t get any easier to be the constant party person. When I started this band I thought, “I can get drunk with my friends and this is my job.” Now I’m 30 and the hangovers don’t go away.
WIEDLIN: I think that’s super valid. I would want to tell myself starting out now, first of all, cherish the years before you’re successful. Because in retrospect those were the most fun years. And secondly, once you become successful, in my case I was very young and very naïve when it happened, and I thought finally I can relax. And that’s not true at all. The pressure gets worse when you’ve “made it.” You have to be strategic and smart when you’re successful. And the way down can be very, very fast. What happened to us is that we basically imploded once we got successful. Because you think it’s going to be forever. And it’s not.
Having said that, I have to say no regrets. I’ve grown from the fucked up times. You have to treat them like a gift from the universe. What else are you going to do?
STEREOGUM: I heard the Go-Go’s farewell tour was supposed to happen several years ago but it didn’t because you fell off a cliff, Jane?
WIEDLIN: Yes. We had decided that we were going to retire in 2010 and just before rehearsals started I was hiking. I did a midnight hike and we all had lightsabers. As it turns out, lightsabers are not to be used for illumination. They are extremely blinding. I ended up falling off a cliff and both of my knees got wrecked. It was about two years before I was back to normal again. But it kind of put a kibosh on that farewell tour and during the time that I was recovering, and we had some time to think, and we decided not to go away yet. But this time, we are.
STEREOGUM: Why is now the time to say farewell?
WIEDLIN: Well, we’ve been together for 38 years. We’re all fucking old as the hills. We could keep doing it, like the Stones, but I don’t want to be onstage when I’m like 80 years old and all bent over or whatever. It feels like the right time. Why not leave on a graceful note rather than when we’re so depressed that no one wants to see us?
COSENTINO: I think it’s a good time to be celebrating women! You guys’ career has been something that has influenced even artists that don’t say, “You’re a huge influence.” It has influenced them in some way. Because you guys were the first female punk band. There’s nobody else that did it. I feel like in the wake of all the shit that’s going on in the world, it feels like perfect timing you’re doing it now.
Obviously I’m not glad you fell off of a cliff! But it’s almost cosmic in a way that you’re doing it now instead of then, because the world was a lot less scary back then.
STEREOGUM: Jane, which Go-Go’s song are you looking forward to playing the most, and Bethany, which song are you looking forward to hearing the most?
WIEDLIN: We’ve all been working on our own and we made a 12-song list that haven’t been in the setlists for a long time. And we’re figuring out which ones work. So I’d probably say a couple of songs on that list which are from our fourth album, which was egregiously overlooked by the world because we were on a really bad label.
But there’s a song called “Here You Are” that’s really beautiful, and the reason it’s on our radar again is because there’s a musical being made with our music. And we went to New York to go to a workshop to work on the music, so we heard all these new arrangements of our material with super lush harmonies. So definitely that song. Another song from that album is, “Insincere,” that I really love. And one called “Good Girl” that I really love which is about being a people-pleaser. It has a lot of personal resonance.
COSENTINO: I mean, I was introduced to the Go-Go’s by way of Beauty And The Beat. My mom played that record all the time and was a huge, huge fan, and I remember seeing the record cover and being probably, I don’t know, seven or eight, and was obsessed. My favorite song from that record is called “How Much More.”
I would say it was really influential for me doing Best Coast stuff. Doing these very meaningful, straight to the point lyrics. That’s been my objective with Best Coast, and I get a lot of criticism for it. “You rhyme lazy with crazy…” Yeah, so did a lot of other incredible songwriters! I don’t know if you guys are going to play that song but that’s my favorite.
WIEDLIN: We are!
8/02 Clearwater, FL – Capitol Theatre
8/03 Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Broward Center for the Performing Arts – Au Rene Theater
8/05 Washington, DC – Warner Theatre*
8/06 Bethlehem, PA – Sands Bethelhem Events Center*
8/08 Boston, MA – House of Blues*
8/10 Ridgefield, CT – Ridgefield Playhouse*
8/11 Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore*
8/13 New York, NY – Central Park SummerStage*
8/14 Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony Outdoor Stage*
8/16 Toronto, ON – Massey Hall*
8/17 Huber Heights, OH – Rose Music Center at the Heights*
8/19 Highland Park, Il – Ravinia Festival Pavilion*
8/22 Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery*
8/23 Paso Robles, CA – Vina Robles Amphitheatre*
8/25 Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre*
8/26 Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach*
8/28 Costa Mesa, CA – Segerstrom Center for the Arts*
8/30 Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre*
* = Best Coast will appear as special guests.
Kaya Stewart will open all shows.