SINCE FORMING IN 2005, THE BIRD AND THE BEE have brought a breezy elegance to their music, putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie-pop. On their latest album, the L.A.-based duo find an unlikely vessel for that sound: covers of some of the most massive and magnificently wild songs from David Lee Roth-era Van Halen.
The fifth full-length from singer Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, 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.”