Proud Los Angeleans, The Bird and The Bee (Greg Kurstin and Inara George), are back. After a solid five years of anticipation, the duo released their fourth studio album, Recreational Love, through Rostrum Records on July 17 and a handful of fun-loving videos to match. Although they’ve nearly sold out every show they’ve announced thus far, it looks like Kurstin and George have no plans for an extensive tour. So, hopefully you were able to catch them at one of the four Los Angeles or New York shows, but if not, stay tuned for any upcoming shows featuring the Bird with some other “birds.” Just hours before their performance at the Ace Theatre, mxdwn had the chance to chat and share some laughs with the delightful George. She discussed the group’s weekly jam sessions, what it’s like to grow older gracefully in a band, love for Los Angeles and future plans for another Interpreting the Masters album.
Photos By Owen Ela
mxdwn: Congratulations on the release of “Recreational Love” and recent sold out LA Shows and playing this beautiful venue. How’s it being back live as The Bird and The Bee?
George: I’ve never been here before and I couldn’t believe what it looks like. It’s super fun, super fun! And the way that we’re doing it, we’re not doing a full tour, so it’s nice to have a balance between family and the band. It’s been really good.
mxdwn: All the songs are fantastic and every one has the perfect mix of pop & R&B that gets you moving. And I have a little pug and she was right there as I was listening to the album, and she finds certain beats very appealing and starts moving her tail to them, and she was doing that throughout your record.
George: [Laughs] Really? That’s so cute! I feel like kids and dogs. If you can get kids and dogs, you can get anybody!
mxdwn: Yeah, and she’s very picky she usually only does that to Shakira and the Strokes.
George: And now the Bird and the Bee.
mxdwn: Yes, and the Bird and the Bee! She was having tons fun and I was having fun as well! What was the production process like?
George: Well, the last record we put out was a little over five years ago and in between we’ve been working very slowly. Like every Friday, we have a standing date. We get together every Friday for a couple of hours and we’ve been kinda chipping away at it and things. We didn’t always do it every Friday because we have children and Greg has his family and I have mine. It was kinda a slow process but then we got towards the end and then we were like “Oh, I think we should spend a little more time to finish it,” and we found a label and so it was fun! I’ve never done that, taken that much time, so it was great!
mxdwn: I know that you were on Blue Note before and then switched over to Rostrum Records. Did the transition influence the production process at all?
George: Oh no, we actually finished the record before we ever gave it to anybody, and that’s what happened with Blue Note too. Blue note, there’s no ill will. We love them! And we were with them and separated out of a technical. It wasn’t anything that we didn’t enjoy being on the label and we decided to go with a smaller label just to see what it is like because times are changing and to see how different it would be because we’ve only ever been on Blue Note and so far it’s been really fun! It’s really small and you’re working with the same people all the time and it’s very cool! Blue note is a small label too, but it’s a small label in a big, huge label.
mxdwn: In the five years it took to put out the album and with you being a mother now, would you say that your perspective has changed from the last album? Did you recognize a difference in the lyrics or topics that came to mind when writing the songs?
George: Yeah, it’s actually not only having kids, but also being an older person. My perspective has changed. And in having kids, things have changed and there are some things I just don’t feel comfortable talking about any more because they just don’t apply to me. And I think that’s what’s kind of amazing about writing songs and being a musician, that you can look back on your music and think “oh, that’s where I was” or “that’s where my head was”. The earlier Bird and the Bee is a little more angsty, doe eyed. It felt naïve in a way and it walked a line. Whereas I think the later stuff has more of a heft to it or something. I don’t know, maybe. You know, you just can’t sing about certain things anymore.
I think it’s important especially, and not to say it’s not important for men, for women having children and getting older because of the way that women are looked at as sexual beings. I guess, and as you get older, you’re still a sexual being, but it’s different and I think it’s kind of a great thing to embrace the difference because that’s growing older, gracefully. So, how can you still feel like you’re always that person inside, but you have different circumstances. I feel like I have more knowledge to impart and I can talk about a song from the other side of the perspective, rather than being from the side where I’m like, “Why doesn’t he like me,” whatever, those things.
mxdwn: And I did notice that in your music. That it did seem to have a progression. When I first listened to it, it seemed like the first songs were the beginning of the story for love. I may be interpreting it in the wrong way. but it seemed like it followed a natural progression from the early stages of love to the middle stages and the end.
George: [Laughs] Well hopefully it’s not the end
mxdwn: Yeah, not the end.
George: I know what you mean though, from the different records. It’s nice that you saw that because it was not a conscious decision. I think you hope to write from an honest place and I think that this is my honest place in my Bird and the Bee persona because these songs are not entirely me. It’s a fantasy sometimes. But, even my fantasies have to feel a little grounded in reality.
mxdwn: That makes complete sense to me. I know you both must’ve gone through a bunch of songs in forming this album. How did you narrow down on the 10 that you featured?
George: We have a lot of different criteria and one is sonically. We’ll go through songs and the first songs we just kind of decide on “What’s the core?” “What’s the spine of the record?” And we kind of bridge out from there. And I think the first song that we really felt like, “We want our record to sound like this” was Young and Dumb. We kind of bridged out from there and took different tributaries in the musical genre to keep building a pallet. So, it’s like you write a song and you’re like “Oh, we think this is really good,” and then you finish it and you’re like “Ah, this isn’t good” and you throw it out and then we write three new songs and then the song that was earlier on just doesn’t seem to gel with it, so you throw it out. So you just get the feel of it and because we had so much time, it really gave us a good perspective because we weren’t hammering out the songs. We’d work on the songs and revisit them months and months later and you could be like “oh I thought that was a good song, but it’s not very good.”
mxdwn: And how did you settle on “Will You Dance” as your first single?
George: I think we just thought it was the most accessible on first listen. It gets stuck in your head and it just has some fun pop hooks. I don’t think it was for any other reason than that.
mxdwn: Yeah I think it was a good selection.
George: It’s a fun one!
mxdwn: It definitely leaves you wanting more and to listen to the rest of the album. And the video is fun, I love Patton Oswald.
George: Thank you!
mxdwn: And how did you like the Robert DeLong mix that he did?
George: I love it. I think it’s really cool. Sometimes I’m like, “ I wish I thought of that melody. That’s really cool.”
mxdwn: It’s a super fun spin on it!
George: It really was! Sometimes remixes, I’m like ah. I think there’s a difference between that kind of dance music from 10 years ago and that of today because it feels like they’re more like songs, whereas sometimes it feels like they go on forever and I think that’s because it’s for a dance club, but it’s not a song I’d necessarily put on at home. But, I would put on that Robert Delong one on at home. I think it’s really pretty.
mxdwn: I’m right there with you, when I got out dancing.
George: You want that!
mxdwn: Yeah, and it’s like okay, but after a while you’re just like “Oh, it’s the same song, the same beat, the same everything,” and you need something else. But, Robert Delong really did add something.
George: Yeah, he added something! I was really impressed, actually.
mxdwn: For the album in general, did you have an overall theme you were going for or anything that you kept in mind because it had, like I said earlier, all of your music has a progression where in the beginning with Young and Dumb has a naïve/young perspective and it goes more to thinking about what you want.
George: Oh, you know, that is another one. I didn’t think of the songs in terms of what they were saying. That’s not true actually. Some of the songs I felt like were better served at the end as a resolve. A lot of times it’s a sonic decision, like how is this going to feel when you put it on. But, sometimes it’s like a happy accident.. Sure it was in our brains, but it wasn’t a conscious decision.
mxdwn: And I Love “Los Angeles,” of course. It’s a fantastic song
George: Cool! Are you from LA?
mxdwn: Yes, East LA. Where did you come up for the inspiration for it? Was it more of a city pride thing? Or was it something else?
George: Greg is from Los Angeles too. We both grew up here and I think we were like, “Should we do this, can we do this?” We did a love letter to Japan on our last record and I had an idea for the lyric and I was like, “Is that terrible?” It’s kind of a scary line to walk because some people may think it veers more on the silly side, but I find that out of all the songs, there is actually a real emotion for me.
mxdwn: And I think it’s funny that in the song you mention that people are always asking you, where you’re from and no one believes you. I went to college in Seattle and I remember when I first moved, people would ask,“Where are you from?” And when I would respond Los Angeles, they’d say, “No, where are you really from?” Yes, and I was like…
George: Los Angeles. I know, right? It’s really annoying!
mxdwn: Yeah and even one time my friend from Seattle came over and we were in Hollywood and the person working the store asked her where she was from and she replied “Seattle” and the girl goes ahead and tells my friend, “Oh yeah, there actually isn’t anyone from Los Angeles here.”
George: And were you like, “No, that’s not true?” My parents actually met at Hollywood High and Greg’s parents met at Hamilton High, so we’ve got the two generations. I think that Greg’s family even goes back further. All my grandparents settled in Los Angeles from other places, but my mom and dad were both born here and so was I. I think that Los Angeles is a misunderstood city and I think that people are discovering that because we have such a huge amount of people moving here now, and that’s what the city has always been, but the history. I mean, places like this, these crazy little gems that you never knew were here are all over downtown Los Angeles. LA has got some interesting stuff. And the music scene. I’ve heard from many musicians that there’s no other place that has better musicians than Los Angeles and I think that’s true. New York is different because I think there’s more of a jazz thing there, but all of the records are made here mostly. I love LA.
mxdwn: Expanding on your roots. How exactly did The Bird and The Bee come together? I’ve read that you and Greg formed a friendship while working on your solo project, but was there a true a-ha moment when you realized there was a real musical connection that needed to be explored?
George: I met Greg through Mike Andrews. Mike was producing my first solo record, I’d been making music otherwise, and he asked Greg to play on it. I’m not a musician like Greg or Mike, but he put together a band and everyone is amazing players and can play everything, so at the end of the rehearsals we’d just jam to the most ridiculous songs. One point, everyone went inside his house, because we were at an old studio of his, and Greg and I started nerding out on the piano and we went through all the standards that we knew and we bonded over that and then we bonded over the fact that we had similar taste in music and that’s pretty much where it was born from. Then, we started writing songs and it was fun. And it was fun because I kept my solo thing going and our thing has never been full time. It’s always been a little thing that we kind of do and it kind of ramps up and then trickles away. But, we always keep it kind of brewing on a back burner, kind of thing.
mxdwn: That’s great because you could continue to explore different musical aspects that way.
George: Yeah and when you don’t feel like a band where everyone is relying on you and you have to do it. If he has something, I’m like “for sure, don’t worry about it”, or if I have something. We have a copasetic relationship that way.
mxdwn: And how did you settle on the name The Bird and The Bee?
George: It’s not that interesting. On our first record, we had just finished the record and we didn’t have a name. I think we were called the Falling Leaves the first name, but then we realized somebody else had that name. So, I had written a song called the Bird and the Bee for the first record and I was like “what about the Bird and the Bee?” and he was like, “Sounds good to me” And that was it. People ask who is the bird and who is the bee and it’s turned out that I’m the bird and he’s the bee. But it did not cross our minds that people would ask that question. So, we were like, “Oh, I guess.” We were a little bit dopey about it. Oh, I guess if you name your band The Bird and The Bee, one of you is going to have to be one of the things.
mxdwn: Until I had read that someone had asked you, “Who is the bird and who is the bee?” I didn’t think about it myself.
George: Well, there you go. Good. No, don’t feel so foolish.
mxdwn: Looking into the future, what do you both have in store for The Bird and The Bee?
George: We’re not going to do a ton of touring, but I might take an all-girl version of the band and do a little more touring without Greg because he’s so busy at home. I mean, I have three kids, so I’m busy too, but just like weekends or do little trips. And then I think we’ll keep making music. I think the next record we’re gonna make is another interpreting the masters, which I think we’ve chosen, but I don’t know yet for sure what it is. I think we enjoy making the records and we enjoying playing out, but we aren’t able to leave, it doesn’t make sense for us. Maybe when we’re like 70 or something.
mxdwn: That sounds fun, keep it exciting! And any interesting solo projects coming up for you?
George: Yeah, I’m always kind of tinkering. I’ve been working on one solo record, but the solo stuff is always hard because it has to be guided by my own individual force, so I will find a lot of other things to do instead of doing that. But, I’ve been recording a little bit here and there and I don’t know when it will be, but it will be sometime soon.
Photos By Owen Ela