It might be difficult for some to remember, but six years ago there was no on-demand streaming service in the United States. There was Pandora, which mimicked radio, but if you wanted to actually hear an album you had to buy it. Or, more likely, you pirated it.
Sometime in the latter half of 2010, I pirated what I believed was a copy of Best Coast’s 2010 debut album, Crazy for You. (This was very rude of me and I apologize.) I was a sophomore in college, and many of my friends liked the song “When I’m With You,” the album’s breakout single. I went to the Pirate Bay, undoubtedly the biggest torrent directory on the web, and grabbed a torrent uploaded by a user named Barnaby123. I downloaded what looked to be Crazy for You. All 13 tracks were included, and all of the track lengths corresponded with official listings for the album.
Then it got weird.
The album’s opening track, “Boyfriend,” plays without a problem, but all of the other tracks cut out after roughly ten seconds. What plays next is emphatically not Best Coast.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” user capteeth commented on the torrent. “You get to hear about a 10 second clip of each song, before the Seinfeld sound bites come in.”
“don’t download, sullied with seinfeld,” writes ghostfacevanilla.
“I think the first track is complete. After that, it’s filled with Seinfeld audio,” says TraumaHound. “That’s disappointing, to say the least.”
Every track except for the first one on this torrent was a bait and switch. Tracks two through five cut to — as far as I can tell — random Seinfeld audio, such as the shrinkage discussion. After that, thing got more diverse. Included in the fake-outs is audio from Chappelle’s Show, Caddyshack, the Garfield cartoon, The Big Lebowski, Half-Baked, Pulp Fiction, Cheech and Chong, and an old report about Jamaicans attempting to smuggle pot. “Our Deal” cuts out to some audio of a doo-wop song about pot that I was unable to identify.
I have, for years, attempted to find out who would do this and why. It’s such a weird prank; really just a minor inconvenience (says the guy writing about it six years later). The user who uploaded the torrent, Barnaby123, has not uploaded anything else to the Pirate Bay, and I have been unable to definitively confirm that other users named Barnaby123 on other sites are the same person. I’m inclined to believe that it is a throwaway account.
But I have some other theories.
Last May, Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast’s singer and one-half of the band, held an AMA on Reddit. In her kickoff post, she wrote, “I am so excited to be chatting with you guys today answering all of your questions about the record, the inspiration behind it and our love of California. Or we can talk about Seinfeld, astrology, macaroni and cheese — whatever your heart’s desire, I am here to chat with you about it!” (Emphasis added.)
The thread was titled, “Seinfeld Nights- a Reddit AMA with Bethany from Best Coast in honor of the new album California Nights!” A year prior, Cosentino had conducted an interview with Stereogum about how much she loved the show.
Given that four of the fake Best Coast tracks featured Seinfeld, I dug into the other audio clips on the show.
In October of 2014, Cosentino gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly, all about her cat, Snacks. Asked how she picked the name, Cosentino said, “I think I had the name already thought up, because I’m really into Garfield. This is really cheesy, but I feel whenever I read Garfield comics, I relate to them. I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s super relatable to the kind of person I am.’ And so I imagined whatever cat I had would be sort of similar to me-slash-Garfield.” (Emphasis added.)
Hhhmmmmmmmmmm. Garfield audio is used on three of the fake tracks.
Here’s Cosentino at Terminal 5 six weeks ago, performing in a Garfield mascot-head.
I emailed Best Coast’s PR last November, asking if Cosentino or someone close to her was involved in this bizarre not-actually-a-leak, and received no answer. In a follow-up earlier today, I was told that they didn’t have an answer for me.
Which leaves us right back where we started. Who would go to extraordinary lengths to orchestrate this bizarre prank? Who would go through the trouble of cutting together audio, making sure that all of the file metadata looked legit? The torrent was uploaded nearly four weeks ahead of the album’s official release. Was someone trying to mess with people looking for leaks? Was that person … Cosentino herself?
We may never know.
Update: Cosentino responds.