UPDATED 8/2/19 with more songs:
The Bird And The Bee are releasing a Van Halen tribute album, and we are SUPER EXCITED about it!
I was out shopping at a record store in 2006 when I heard their debut album playing in the background, and it stopped me in my tracks… I asked the clerk who it was, and I bought it on the spot. This was not rock and roll, but was something really unique and refreshing. It was like electronic jazz – a little psychedelic – with this beautiful voice singing over it, and fantastic melodies. (You can listen to their Van Halen covers, and a couple of their originals, below).
The Bird and the Bee is made up of singer Inara George (the bird) and producer-keyboardist Greg Kurstin (the bee). And it turns out that they are both huge Van Halen fans.
We were happily surprised when they released their tribute song to David Lee Roth, “Diamond Dave” a few years ago. The song explores Inara’s school girl crush on Roth.
And now, the fact that they are releasing an entire album giving Dave-era Van Halen classics their unique treatment, makes us quite happy indeed.
Their fifth full-length album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to VAN HALEN both sheds new light on the glory of classic VH and further proves the playful brilliance of the bird and the bee. The album follows Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, a 2010 release hailed as “wink-free pop bliss” by Entertainment Weekly. This time around, George and Kurstin find common ground with their source material in a shared affinity for fantastically intricate rhythms, unforgettable melodies, and—most essentially—a certain ecstatic spirit imbued into every song.
Produced by Kurstin—a seven-time Grammy Award-winner who’s recently worked with Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney, and Adele—Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2 alchemizes the outrageous dazzle of Diamond Dave into something delicate and dreamy and shimmering.
“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” says George. Also a diehard fan, Kurstin got the chance to work with Eddie Van Halen at age 12, when the guitar god served as producer on “My Mother Is a Space Cadet”—a 1982 single from Kurstin’s band with Dweezil Zappa. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played the Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” he recalls.
First crossing paths when Kurstin performed on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise, the duo soon bonded over their very similar tastes in music. In 2007, after catching her first-ever Van Halen show—on the first tour since 1985 to feature Roth as the band’s frontman—George found herself so charmed by his presence, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The result: a swoony serenade called “Diamond Dave,” off the acclaimed 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future.
With the release of Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2, the bird and the bee hope to spread that near-lifelong Van Halen love to a whole new crop of listeners. “When I want to listen to hard-rock music there’s still nothing that hits me like they do,” Kurstin notes. “Every time I hear them it takes back to when I first found them on the radio, and it felt so dangerous to me—like they were from a whole other world. It would be so great if people who would never usually listen to Van Halen heard this record, and then ended falling in love with them too.”
We love what Forbes says about this album:
The idea of recording a Van Halen tribute album without any electric guitars at first seems radical, given that Eddie Van Halen’s explosive guitar playing has always dominated the legendary rock band’s sound. But one could also argue that trying to play guitar like the aforementioned guitarist would also seem pointless. That’s the wise approach that the Los Angeles-based electropop duo the Bird and the Bee took.
“We soon figured out that we couldn’t put guitar in it,” George says. “It would be almost like sacrilegious. Greg approaches his piano in a similar way as Eddie would on his guitar—it’s almost an extension of his body. For Greg to try to play guitar or to get somebody else would be dumb. So we just figured, ‘Let’s not even try that. Let’s have it be about more of a piano-driven or keyword-driven record.’”
Their new record contains renditions of some of Van Halen’s best-known works, including “Runnin’ With the Devil”, “Jump,” “Unchained,” “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” It’s almost shocking to hear these hard rock classics reinterpreted as predominantly jazzy synthpop highlighted by Kurstin’s keyboard playing and George’s exquisite vocals—and yet the melodies and lyrics will be certainly recognizable to Van Halen fans.
The album is mainly devoted to Van Halen’s recordings with their charismatic singer David Lee Roth from 1978 to 1984. “It’s no offense to Sammy Hagar,” says George, referring to Roth’s successor. “For us, we grew up in the ’80s. That was the era that it’s in our bones. It’s songs we recognize. I think when Sammy Hagar joined the band, we were into other kinds of music. It was only a conscious choice in that we chose the songs that we were familiar with it.”
The album is being released tomorrow (Friday, Aug 2nd) through No Expectations/Release Me Records. One place to get it is iTunes, for only $9.90. And all the song samples that you can hear on iTunes sound really cool.
1) “Runnin’ With The Devil”
3) “Hot For Teacher”
6) “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love”
7) “Jamie’s Cryin’”
9) “You Really Got Me”
10) “Diamond Dave”
11) “Everybody Wants Some” (Vinyl Only)
Listen to some samples:
Runnin’ with the Devil:
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love:
Hot For Teacher:
For their cover of “Hot For Teacher”, they brought along a special guest. Beck (“Loser”, “Where It’s At”, “The New Pollution”) joins in.
While the duo’s two previous singles “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Panama” replaced the heavy guitar riffs of Edward Van Halen with synthesizers and pianos they stayed true to the original lyrics. On the synth-heavy “Hot For Teacher”, however, they went one step further. Beck’s voice can be heard on the three spoken-word sections of the track and they are what can be “class”ified as a “substitute” for those originally done by Roth on the 1984 album.
Here’s Beck’s opening spoken-word intro:
“Good morning class, I’m your substitute teacher this morning”… “Tomorrow there will be an essay due on the dialectical Shaminism of David Lee Roth…and there will be a pop quiz.” And so on.
Here’s what Beck said about working with the Bird and the Bee on a Van Halen song:
“The Bird and The Bee bring unforeseen angles to the Van Halen song book. Makes sense because, like Eddie Van Halen, Greg is a kind of musical wunderkind in his own right and Inara’s vocals bring a cool counterpart to Diamond Dave’s pyrotechnics. Making a cameo on their version of “Hot For Teacher” felt like an extension of the kind of riffing and fooling around we do in the studio on a normal session.”
“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” LIVE with David Grohl:
The Bird & The Bee tapped Dave Grohl for their performance on The Late Late Show last night, with the drummer leading the beat on the band’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”
The Bird & The Bee, comprised of singer Inara George and producer Greg Kurstin, give the classic song a lush indie rock vibe, with George crooning the lyrics as Kurstin plays piano. Things get pretty raucous towards the end, particularly in terms of Grohl’s enthusiastic drumming.
David Grohl Describes discovering The Bird And The Bee’s music:
In the first minute of the video below, you can listen to David Grohl described what it was like hear their music for the first time. And this is funny to us because it’s just how we felt, as well.
Check out a couple of their originals, “Again & Again” and “La La La”:
Their upcoming TOUR behind the Van Halen tribute album:
The Bird and the Bee will embark on a 15-date tour in support of the VH release, kicking off at Los Angeles’ John Anson Ford Theater on this Friday, August 2nd. David Grohl and Justin Meldal-Johnsen are set to perform with the band during the opening show.
08/02 – Los Angeles, CA @ John Anson Ford Theater
08/11 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
08/12 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village
08/14 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre
08/15- Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre
08/16 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
08/17- Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere
08/20 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
08/21- Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5
08/22 – Birmingham, AL @ The Saturn
08/24 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
08/25 – Austin, TX @ Parish
08/28- Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
08/29 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
08/30 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
For more on The Bird and the Bee, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram.