The Bird and the Bee Announce Van Halen Tribute Album

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August 5, 2019 at 1:51 am Quote #60737


Absolutely fucking loved it! Thanks for all the links, Ron.

August 20, 2019 at 10:42 am Quote #60758


Why LA’s The Bird And The Bee Covered Van Halen For An Entire Album
by Mike Roe in Arts & Entertainment on August 19, 2019 9:00 AM

Indie-pop duo the Bird and the Bee created the beloved Interpreting the Masters Volume 1 in 2010, offering lovingly crafted reconfigurations of fellow pop duo Hall and Oates. While it would be easy to treat that band as a punchline thanks to the use of ’80s synths and even more ’80s hair, the Bird and the Bee played it straight, bringing out the band’s top-notch songwriting.

Nearly a decade later, they’re back at it with a second volume of the series — this time covering legendary rock band Van Halen.

Singer Inara George — the “bird” of the band — grew up in Los Angeles, as did “the bee,” producer/musician Greg Kurstin (also known for producing Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and many more). George said there’s definitely something SoCal that comes through in their music.

“I think there is something about the weather, and the sun, and even the traffic — I mean L.A. specifically,” George told LAist.

Still, she doesn’t know exactly what that je ne sais quoi is.

“I know it affects our music, but it’s almost just like saying, ‘Why do you talk the way you talk?’ It just is,” George said.

They went through a couple different options before settling on Van Halen. George loved the idea of exploring the music of another L.A.-area band. Both George and Kurstin were fans of the band at an influential time in their lives, as they were with Hall and Oates. They even wrote a letter to the band explaining why they wanted to cover them.

Kurstin’s first Van Halen experience was hearing their take on “You Really Got Me” on the radio.

“It just sounded dangerous, and it just sounded like it came from this world I didn’t really understand, I was scared of,” Kurstin told KPCC’s The Frame. “I saw the photo on the first album, just the four of them, and I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are sweaty…’ but I loved them.”

George’s mind was blown when she saw Van Halen live, with David Lee Roth as the frontman. They wrote an original song about the legendary Diamond Dave years ago, which also appears on the new album.

“It was like, are you the best showman I’ve ever seen? Are you on Broadway or are you in a rock band?” George said.

George and Kurstin decided to tackle Van Halen because, much like with Hall and Oates, they thought putting their spin on it would push them out of their comfort zone. The Bird and the Bee started out based on their overlapping musical interests, and these albums became an extension of that.

“It’s kind of our little, not to say our dissertation, but this feeling of, how can we take something that obviously lights up the world with these songs, and has inspired so many people to listen to this music?” George said. “So we know the songs are good, and so how can we take it in a different direction, and yet still honor the songs.”

While they’re a duo, they wanted to embrace the fact that Van Halen was a full band, so they brought in more instrumentalists to fill out their sound. They started out by renting a studio and playing through the first Van Halen album, start to finish — but felt it didn’t sound like the Bird and the Bee, because they weren’t that kind of band. So Kurstin played with one of the tracks and started to reconfigure it, coming up with what ended up being their take on “Running with the Devil.”

“It’s like taking the jazz elements of our style, and infusing it into [the music],” George said.

They realized that one of the best ways to make it a Bird and the Bee project was to have Kurstin play Eddie Van Halen’s guitar parts on the piano.

The other song that stands out to George on the album as being particularly exciting is “Eruption.”

“‘Eruption,’ for me, to listen to that and to just hear — there’s something about that’s so emotional for me,” George said. “I always feel a little bit moved by it, because it’s just so beautiful.”

George also had an embarrassing story to share about Van Halen’s “Panama” from when she heard it growing up, which appears on the album.

“I think because, in my kid mind, I was learning about the Panama Canal when I heard that song, I really thought it was about the Panama Canal,” George said. “And then you read the lyrics and it’s about a girl and a car — of course.”

Making Interpreting the Masters a series wasn’t always the plan.

“When we made that first record, I don’t know if we had the intention of making a second,” George said.

But when they decided to title it in the style of a classical music album, sticking “Volume 1″ in the name, they knew they had to make another one. It’s taken a while to work out the timing for the next round. They wanted to make time for another original album in between, and they also had to work it in around other projects and new commitments in their lives.

“We used to work like lightning speed, but that was before we were married and had kids,” George said. “Greg’s super busy with his producing career, and I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom, so it’s just, the windows of time are just smaller.”

It may be a number of years, but George said she would definitely do another volume of Interpreting the Masters — even if it’s another decade down the line.

“I think the idea of us being so much older is wild to me to think about, but I think Greg and I have always had the intention of just continuing to be a band until whenever — until forever,” George said.

George said that maybe the Bird and the Bee could have been bigger if they’d devoted more time to it, but that through it all, they’re still doing what they love and having fun.

“We feel lucky that we still enjoy it, and there’s no pressure — I think that’s kind of one of the unwritten rules, is neither one of us can pressure the other one to make it more than the other one wants,” George said.

They’ve thought about the next set of reinterpretations, according to George, but haven’t gotten as far as picking an artist to cover.

The Bird and the Bee is currently on tour. George decided to bring her kids with her on the tour bus for her longest tour in the past 12 years.

“You start to really feel like, oh, this is so temporary — they’re not going to be around much longer, or even want to hang out with me much longer,” George said. “That’s where my attention is — and yet, I still put out records, and I still do mini-tours here and there.”

The band’s next L.A. show, returning home after being on the road, is at the Grammy Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 11. Interpreting the Masters Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen is available now.

Read the Bird and the Bee’s letter to the band explaining more about why they chose to do this project here:

You can also watch the Bird and the Bee on the Late Late Show with James Corden covering “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl on drums here:

This story includes contributions from KPCC’s The Frame.

September 11, 2019 at 9:46 am Quote #60810


The Bird and the Bee on the Poetry of Van Halen
Greg Kurstin and Inara George discuss how they turned the quintessential party rockers’ hits into cool, jazzy pop numbers for their new tribute album
By Kory Grow
September 10, 2019 4:33PM ET
The Bird and the Bee’s Greg Kurstin and Inara George discuss their new Van Halen tribute album.
Alexa Nikol Curran*

Decades before Greg Kurstin was producing hits for Adele, Paul McCartney and the Foo Fighters, he was a preteen Van Halen diehard. “I saw them on their Diver Down tour,” he remembers. “I got to see them play ‘Unchained,’ and that was amazing. I was a massive Van Halen fan at that time.” So when he met singer Inara George and formed the jazzy synth-pop duo the Bird and the Bee with her, he was excited to learn that she, too, was a Van Halen stan. You wouldn’t guess it from George’s twee vocals or Kurstin’s dense electronic arrangements, but they have a huge respect for David Lee Roth’s vaudevillian “Have you seen Junior’s grades?” schtick and the pyrotechnics of the Van Halen brothers.

So they decided to pay homage to the band the same way they did to Hall and Oates’ a few years back, by digging deep into their heroes’ psyches and covering nine of their favorite songs (as well as revisiting their own Roth tribute “Diamond Dave”) on Interpreting the Masters Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen. They even recruited Dave Grohl to do his best Alex Van Halen on the drum kit for a few live performances, including “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” on The Late Late Show With James Corden.

So far, they haven’t heard for sure whether or not the members of Van Halen like what they’ve done, but they have hope. “Through the grapevine I heard that David Lee Roth heard it and liked it,” George says. “We hope they like it.” Here, she and Kurstin break down some of their favorite Van Halen bangers.
Photo recap of the Bird and The Bee performance along with Dave Grohl playing their cover work of Van Halen. Photographed in L.A. on 8.3.19.
Dave Grohl performs with the Bird and the Bee in Los Angeles in August 2019. Photograph by Carlos Gonzalez/The1point8 for Rolling Stone

“Runnin’ With the Devil”

“Greg and I know always know when we’ve recorded what could be the outline for the rest of the record, and I feel like that happened with ‘Running With the Devil,’” George says. “It was like, ‘Oh, OK. It’s, like, jazz piano and revoicing the vocals. So it was a fun realization that when reinterpreting the music, you have to come at it as the people that you are rather than trying to imitate.”


“With most of Van Halen, we’re taking guitar songs and putting them on keyboards, but ‘Jump’ is a keyboard song,” Kurstin says with a laugh. “So I was like, what do I do? Inara’s voice is one of the great instruments I get the privilege of using, so she simply sang in each part [of the synth arrangement].” “It has a more synthy thing,” George says, “because some of my vocals were pitched down.”


“My version of ‘Eruption’ was a little bit more of a jazz, classical take on it,” Kurstin says. “I feel like Eddie’s solo on ‘Eruption’ is very classical. I thought, let me go to the roots of that and bring it back to a piano and reharmonize it and treat it like a jazz or a classical piece. That’s how I approached Eddie’s guitar playing in general.”

“Jamie’s Cryin’”

“When you’re a kid, you don’t always think about the meanings of the songs, and I was pleasantly surprised by David Lee Roth’s lyrical content,” George says. “‘Jamie’s Crying’ is such a sweet song and I didn’t think of it that way. It’s a song about a girl that doesn’t want to have a one-night stand, and how it’s painful not to have that connection with somebody but she respects herself enough to not do it. It’s unexpected for that band at that time, given the way they presented themselves. You wouldn’t think that’s what they would be singing about. I was pleasantly surprised.”

“Hot for Teacher”

“‘Hot for Teacher’ was really tricky,” Kurstin says. “I tried many different versions. I tried a New Orleans version and a bunch of different things and kind of ended up with a hybrid of all the styles. We have Omar Hakim on the drums. He told me he was a Bird and the Bee fan, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m such a fan of him because of his drumming with David Bowie, Weather Report, and Kate Bush.’ He could do anything. I thought if I could get Omar on this, that would be great. Once he got on there, it all fell into place. And I started pulling some darker synths and getting Beck on there to do the teacher’s voice was the cherry on top. He was brilliant with the spoken-word thing that he did.”

October 16, 2019 at 4:24 pm Quote #60989


How the bird and the bee Interpreted Van Halen Classics With No Guitars
By Stephen Kallao & Kimberly Junod
2019-10-16 12:55:00

Van Halen is quintessential guitar rock. So what happens when an electronic jazz duo of self-avowed fans take on the band’s blistering discography? the bird and the bee’s latest album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen, offers an answer: Though the songs will feel familiar to fans of the guitar rock icons, the arrangements are entirely fresh.

Producer/multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin and singer Inara George have done this before with Hall and Oates. But with no guitars in the bird and the bee, Van Halen presents a different type of challenge; ultimately the duo used a creative approach to recreate the melody of some of the greatest rock songs of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

In this session, we’ll also talk about the surprising depth in David Lee Roth’s lyrics (but maybe not the videos). Hear that and more in the player above.


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