After five years The Bird and The Bee finally released their latest album, Recreational Love in July. Having done only a handful of shows, fans of the LA-based duo – singer, Inara George and producer, Greg Kurstin were thrilled when they announced a small tour with shows in San Francisco, San Diego and the mid-West.
The band will play at the SF Social Hall on Wednesday, Oct 28. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to see George perform much-loved favorites such as “Polite Dance Song”, “F*#king Boyfriend”, “Love Letter to Japan” and any one of the Hall & Oates covers which are given the duo’s smooth, jazz-pop treatment. The highlight however, should be hearing live for the first time, latest hits such as “Los Angeles” – a sunny ode to their hometown and “Will You Dance” – a synth-pop confection so infectious and uplifting that it belongs on the charts with the best of them.
It even has a top-notch and cheeky video directed by George’s husband, Jake Kasdan (Sex Tape and Californication) which features comedian Patton Oswalt and Simon Helberg from The Big Bang Theory.
Thanks to Kurstin’s successful producing work (Lily Allen, Sia and most recently, on Adele’s “Hello”) Recreational Love is a pitch-perfect album with a myraid of songs, straddling varying genre styles that shine with the duo’s willingness to experiment and George’s childlike abandon in lyrical play. Unsurprisingly, it is also their strongest album to date. However, they have never charted further than No 75 on the Billboard album charts. Yet they have fans all over the world from the UK to Singapore and Australia.
The Bird and The Bee have an indie small but fiercely loyal following, not unlike the career trajectory that her father – Lowell George and his band, Little Feat cultivated back in Seventies. Both eschewed mainstream popularity for a discerning fanbase.
Despite her progeny, George is down-to-earth lovely and speaks honestly to atombash.com about why she thinks her band is not on heavy rotation at radio stations; why she values making her kids’ lunches over the celebrity status of a pop star; and why she’s going on tour without her Bird and The Bee partner.
Examiner: After 5 years, what’s it like announcing that you are going back on road to do a Bird and The Bee tour?
Inara George: We played a show in New York and a couple of shows in LA but Greg is not coming on tour with us. The girls who played backup with me at the Ace Theatre show will be picking up the slack. San Francisco is the first show that we won’t have Greg with us so it’s a bit nerve-wrecking but the girls are always fun so it should be great. We did one warm-up show in LA without Greg and it went well. Greg and I have never burdened ourselves with too much touring. I mean we toured extensively after the first record but in the greater scheme of what other bands do – it wasn’t a lot. For our second album, we didn’t want to be away from home for more than a week, we both have kids and he is busy with other projects. But I feel we have worked really hard with this record and if you don’t play, tour, it is hard to get the record heard – and I think Recreational Love deserves to be played.
Examiner: I love the album – especially “Will You Dance” and “Los Angeles” but the whole album is a soothing listen – what were you and Greg listening to when writing and recording Recreational Love?
IG: We actually recorded the album over 5 years, we didn’t go in and just do it in a month so what we were listening to, is all over the map. It was a slow process. We had a standing date every Friday, we would meet to record and write. Then someone would have a kid, then another. Prior to this album, we recorded the Hall & Oates covers so we were talking about their music a lot and what great songwriters they were. And listening to a lot of music from the era – Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson … a lot of the time with music Greg and I meet in the middle. We have a similar taste in music.
Examiner: Is it true you guys were also listening to Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu”?
IG:Yes, Xanadu – it’s such a good song. When we get to the studio, we would sometimes say what’s a really good song? Then we’d pull out a song and play it. For example, Hall & Oates – it’s very easy to write them off as a band but it sits at a certain juncture, if you listen to it, it’s very beautiful and well-written, “Xanadu” is like that too.
Examiner: I loved “Xanadu” as a kid.
IG: Me too. All the “Grease” records they were the first records my mom ever gave to me. They were actually my records.
Examiner: And did you love “Grease 2” just as much?
Examiner: People who come to hear of The Bird & The Bee more recently or even older fans, tend to wonder why your songs aren’t on radio? Why aren’t you guys more mainstream?
IG: I honestly think … and I could be wrong… but we didn’t work very hard. We love making the music and playing the shows. For a band to break out you need to go on the road and really promote it. And Greg and I weren’t ever that committed to it. Family always came first and we wanted to be close to our children and not leave them to go on tour for long periods of time. I think we could have pounded the pavement more but we are pleased with the way our music gets discovered. Greg’s career has really taken off in the meantime and he’s the perfect kind of superstar. He’s the kind who works with all kinds of superstars but he can still walk down the street without being recognized. We enjoy the way we record with The Bird and The Bee and though we would love to sell more records, I don’t think we are prepared to give up those other things. We do like it at this level.
Examiner: Through the years have you had moments when you’ve thought I want to be mega-popular, like Britney Spears/Taylor Swift popular?
IG: I’m old enough now to know, I don’t think I’ve ever had any designs to be that big. I certainly enjoy the attention and it’s taken me this long to realize it. I’ll be honest, I’m not just making music in my bedroom for myself. But being popular, it is not what makes you do good music. As you get closer to death, those things don’t make you happy. Being creative in a way that satisfies you – that makes you happy. Mainstream music is not what I want to play every night. I’m not saying that to be snobby. In my ‘20s I might have said that about pop music and it was snobby. I don’t know it’s not what I’ve ever really wanted, it’s about wanting to make yourself be good at what you do…I know it sounds preachy.
Examiner: Is it true that when you were younger, you did not want to be a singer – why was that so? And what happened that made you change your mind?
IG: I always knew I could sing – I was in the choir from a young age. My father was a musician. I was a little girl when I realized how much they all loved my dad. I didn’t have that interest in it or tackling it, having to talk about my dad. And I enjoyed doing other things. I was not diligent at practicing piano. Also I was nervous about it but I’ve had to realize that’s your own baloney, people aren’t really thinking about that. Little Feat was always this small band, and a small group of people really, really loved them.
Examiner: In relation to your voice you’ve said “If you have long legs, you wear short skirts” when did you realize that you had this mellifluous voice and range?
IG: I definitely have my limitations. I was in a band earlier in my singing career where I was more into vocal acrobatics. Everyone has an instrument, a certain timbre and you can ask yourself, how do you like to sound? The quality of voice that I’ve had, it’s best to not push it too hard. When I play live, I use a deeper, chestier sound. In the studio, it’s less of a push. Singers like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Sia, I would love to be able to do that. In a way, you have to give up everything to push that hard for that sound.
Examiner: Finish this sentence, “If I could not sing anymore, I would …”
IG: It’s funny… if you had asked me yesterday my answer would be different but today…maybe I would write. Write a book.
Examiner: Yes, you should do it!
IG: Just do it. (laughs) Everyone has a story and is interesting. I listen to tones of podcast and someone else’s story – what their parents were like? Why they are they were they are? It’s not so much what their accomplishments are but why they are? What gets them crazy.
Examiner: How do you look after 3 kids and be in three bands (Living Sisters, Bird & The Bee and her solo work)? Perhaps you have more help than me but still, I have only two kids and it’s all a struggle.
IG: I have help but I don’t know if I have more than you. I have help cleaning my house and a babysitter twice a week. The kids come first and if I have to do something in the evenings, I limit it to two nights a week. Now the kids are at school, that’s when I do my work. I have to limit it and not overextend myself. The music will always be there but I feel my kids won’t be this age for long. So for the tour we will go to San Francisco, do the show and come home. Then we go do three shows in the mid-West. If I wanted to be Britney Spears, I wouldn’t have kids. Making lunch for my kids is important to me. I try to write in the early morning – that’s the kind of creative person I am, if you’re not you have to try and re-invent yourself. I give myself an assignment – I write songs for people, for their weddings, or if they’re going through hard times. I give myself a deadline, I know it sounds dorky but I have to finish this song for these people, that’s my deadline.
Examiner: You’re writing songs for other people?
IG: You know how at school kid’s have auctions to raise money? I don’t know how valuable it is, someone might say, ‘who is Inara George?’ (laughs). If you tell me a little about yourself, I can write a story for you – that’s what I am thinking about doing, or offering as an auction item. All I need is to know a little about the person, and then I can get into the headspace, what they like to do on the weekends or if someone close to them has died or they are going through something difficult.
Examiner: Speaking of kids, my son James who listens to the album Recreational Love in the car asked, “What is your most favorite song that you’ve written and why?”
IG: That’s a really good question. It’s hard, I like so many of our songs but there is this one song that we don’t play live – it’s on an EP called “The Races”. I don’t know why – it sounds literary to me. It’s not as heady as other Bird and The Bee songs. I feel when we write stuff there‘s always humor, a wink and a nod. Some songs are emotional but this one has a stirring story. The way the melody goes. Maybe it’s most like me. With The Bird and The Bee it’s more of a character that we put on and our songs get to go through that sunny lens but with “The Racist” it’s raw.
Examiner: You’ve had some amazing collaborations from Greg Kurstin for almost a decade now, to Van Dyke Parks, and more recently, The National’s Matt Berninger “For All Our Endless Love” – what was it like being involved with The National or having Parks arrange your music for ‘The Invitation’? How important is the act of collaborating for you as an artist?
IG: Collaborating with someone is when I have experienced the most joy. For example with Van Dyke, he was a close friend of my father’s and I just enjoyed his company immensely. He is such a dear person, and I felt so lucky spending all that time with him. Lots of people don’t get him, he is like an unknown treasure and I feel like more people should be aware of him and his music. Matt Berninger, we met at a wedding of one of my best friends. He is married to a friend’s sister. And a friend of ours, worked on the film Endless Love which the song, “All Our Endless Love” was featured on the soundtrack. We never actually performed that song together, he recorded it in New York, and I recorded it in a studio in LA, then it was mixed together. I love collaborating, I think it’s important to write on your own but also to say and think things when with another person.
For tickets to The Bird & The Bee at The Social Hall, please click here. Ticket at $18 (presale) and $20 (at door). To purchase the album, Recreational Love please click here. See below for other tour dates.
The Bird and The Bee Tour
Oct 28 San Francisco, CA – Social Hall
Nov 1 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
Nov 2 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
Nov 29 San Diego, CA – The Irenic