The Bird And The Bee
Call it what you will -- space age bachelorette pad music seems fitting -- just as long as you don't call it "modern standards" or "jazz pop." And even if Inara George and Greg Kurstin have hipster naCall it what you will -- space age bachelorette pad music seems fitting -- just as long as you don't call it "modern standards" or "jazz pop." And even if Inara George and Greg Kurstin have hipster nation buzzing right now, please don't call the Bird And The Bee a "buzz band."
Signed to Blue Note imprint Metro Blue, and debuting at No. 17 on the Top Heatseekers chart with a self-titled full-length, the Bird And The Bee's principles are indeed steeped in American standards (multi-instrumentalist Kurstin studied jazz with Charles Mingus' pianist and vocalist/lyricist George grew up idolizing greats like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland). But the two consider themselves a "pop duo" mostly influenced by classic '60s-era songwriters and performers like Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield and the Brill Building collective, as well as French and Brazilian pop. "I don't think we ever wanted to write standards or jazz," says George." So when people say, 'They're a jazz duo,' it doesn't feel right."
As for the "buzz band" moniker, George says their "whole mentality toward the project is to try not to take it all too seriously. We're trying to stay grounded, because as much as people say this or that will happen, it's just as likely those things won't happen. We're just having fun with what is happening now."
A remix by Ralphie Rosario of the memorably named "F***ing Boyfriend" is what first grabbed the group serious column inches after a teaser EP, "Again and Again and Again and Again," piqued interest. The track -- which was also remixed by Peaches for the EP -- reached the top of Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in December.
The irony? Kurstin and George never got to hear Rosario's remix in the club. "The success of the track almost doesn't seem real, because we never heard it play anywhere. We only read about it in Billboard," says Kurstin. "We don't really go to clubs," adds George, "so it was just like, 'Really?'"
But somehow that anecdote fits right in with the duo's narrative. The Bird And The Bee's music oftentimes feels charmingly accidental, and the story of how it came to be strikes much the same chord. The project came to life while George was making her solo debut "All Rise," released on Everloving in 2005. Kurstin, who's produced songs for Flaming Lips, Beck and Peaches, was brought in to play keyboards on the album and ended up hanging out with George at the piano, running through standards and realizing how many of the same musical passions they shared.
It wasn't long before they started working up their own material, though they never made a conscious decision about what sources of inspiration they'd draw upon. "We didn't think about it much. We just started writing and over time we learned that where we want to go with a song is very similar," Kurstin says.
George, daughter of late Little Feat frontman Lowell George, adds: "Before I started writing with Greg, I'd never written songs like these -- you find somebody you can do something with that you can't do yourself and it's an escape from things you've done before. There's an ease that accompanies that, when it's not planned."
Signing to Blue Note was another accident, and one that initially threw the two for a loop. "When we finished our demo," Kurstin explains, "we were going to send copies out to indie labels, and a friend of ours who worked for EMI said, 'Let me give it to someone at Blue Note.' We didn't expect them to like it. It just sort of caught us off guard."
George adds, "We really thought of this as a side project, so when Blue Note said, 'Do you want to sign a deal,' we had to think, 'Can we do this?' It was really not expected at all. It's been very organic."
According to Blue Note's VP of marketing Meg Harkins, the band will be hitting the road "in earnest" toward the end of February, starting with a gig in New York at Joe's Pub on the 26th, to be followed by a week of dates in the U.K., where they'll be opening for Lily Allen. They'll come back to the U.S. to play the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas and then head back over the pond for the Blue Note Festival in Paris the first week of April, likely to be followed by other European dates and a possible trek to Japan. A successful trip to The Tonight Show last week is being followed up with an appearance on Carson Daly on Feb. 9, and Harkins also expects the Bird And The Bee's music will be licensed to television soon.
"Inara's had solo stuff appear in Grey's Anatomy, so she's no stranger to licensing. And if the Bird And The Bee album happened to have red and white artwork, we probably would've already heard from Target. The music is just so infectious, it's perfect for those sorts of campaigns."