The Bird And The Bee: Busy Bees

The Bird And The Bee carves out some spare time for an unexpected triumph

Inara George doesn’t blame anyone for believing that the Bird And The Bee (her L.A.-based duo with Greg Kurstin) was kaput. After all, it had been five long years since its last effort, Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates, and six since its sophomore set of space-age lounge-pop originals, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. George stayed busy with the Living Sisters, while Kurstin worked with Pink, Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson, as well as overseeing Tegan & Sara’s 2014’s hit Heartthrob. “But we never really broke up,” she says. “We just stopped making music as quickly as we used to.”

Now the team has bounced back with an unexpected new release, Recreational Love, featuring jazzy, cocktail-exotic concoctions like the bubbly “Runaway,” the pulsing “Jenny,” the new-wave-edged “Doctor” and kickoff single “Will You Dance?” an undulating hand-clapper with a surreal lavatory-filmed video that boasts appearances from actors Patton Oswalt and The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg. More surprising is the method they employed to accomplish this feat—composing and recording only one day a week, Friday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. On the dot.

“I have a five-year-old, and two almost-three-year-olds at this point, and the last time the Bird And The Bee put out an album was right before my eldest was born,” says George, the daughter of Little Feat’s Lowell George, and wife of film/TV director Jake Kasdan. “So, that’s what kind of stalled everything, in addition to Greg’s amazing career. So, we had a standing date—for the last five years, we’d just get together for a couple of hours on Friday and just sort of chip away at this record. So we could always keep working on the music.”

The setup suited Kurstin perfectly. As his schedule booked up—and he began tackling assignments like scoring the soundtrack for last year’s Annie reboot—he could still conduct personal business on Friday afternoons. The appointments always started the same way: with roughly 20 minutes of discussion before he’d begin experimenting with piano chords while George toyed with melodies. “And then I start to think of where the song’s going to go on the production side of things,” he says. “So, we work simultaneously, and it’s a bit of a race sometimes to see who finishes first.”

“I’m usually able to finish first,” says George. “But Greg’s so fast. We used to have the goal of finishing the song in one session. Now we kind of half-bake it and then check in with it the next week. We can really think about whether the song is good.” The musicians estimate they ditched a full two albums’ worth of tracks; just when they thought they were finished with Recreational Love, they’d pen more material. “We were our best and worst critics,” says George.

In fact, “Will You Dance?” was originally relegated to the slush pile. Three years ago, it was slated for an early version of the album. “But it got pushed aside, “ says George. “Then Rachel—Greg’s wife and our manager—heard an old mix of it in the car, and she said, ‘Why isn’t this song on the record?’ And we didn’t have to do too much to it to change it. It went from the chopping block to being our first single.”

So, not only did the pair not splinter; they see no reason to discontinue the relationship any time in the foreseeable future.

“It feels like we can do anything with the Bird And The Bee,” says Kurstin. “There are no rules. We can make our records however we want.”

—Tom Lanham