Multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin and doe-eyed vocalist Inara George draw upon a fondness for jazz standards and '60s tropicalia to deliver the stylish tones of the Bird and the Bee. The two musicians were introduced in 2004 by mutual friend Mike Andrews, whom George had enlisted to produce her solo debut, All Rise. Needing someone to contribute piano to several tracks, Andrews called upon Kurstin, who had studied under renowned jazz pianist Jaki Byard during his college years. George and Kurstin soon found themselves spending hours together in the studio, where a shared interest in jazz-based music -- something that George hadn't explored much on All Rise -- helped lay the foundation for the Bird and the Bee.
Apart from Kurstin's work with Byard, neither musician had done much with jazz or tropicalia before. Kurstin had previously contributed keyboards to selections by Beck, and his production credits included work with the Flaming Lips, Peaches, and Lily Allen (with whom the Bird and the Bee would later tour). On the other hand, George -- the daughter of Little Feat's Lowell George -- had pursued work as a Shakespearean actress before forming the post-grunge band Lode and subsequently embarking on a solo career. Both George and Kurstin began to explore new sounds and textures in Kurstin's studio in Echo Park, CA, eventually composing enough sun-kissed material for their debut EP, Again and Again and Again and Again, which arrived in late October 2006. The Bird and the Bee's self-titled LP was released the following year by Blue Note Records, spawning a number one hit on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart with a remix of the sassy "Fucking Boyfriend."
After enjoying positive press from such outlets as NPR, the pair returned to the studio. Please Clap Your Hands, a five-song EP featuring a cover of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love," arrived in September 2007, and the duo heralded its release by joining Rilo Kiley on a fall tour. Two digital EPs, One Too Many Hearts and Live from Las Vegas at the Palms, helped placate the group's audience in early 2008, while Kurstin and George readied a second album, which eventually arrived in the form of 2009's Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. Meanwhile, Inara George also found time to issue two albums: An Invitation, an orchestral project recorded with Van Dyke Parks, and Accidental Experimental, a digital album released several months later.
Kurstin kept himself similarly busy. After wrapping up the recording sessions for Lily Allen's second album, he spent 2009 producing music for the likes of Kris Allen and Ke$ha. By the end of the year, however, he'd teamed up with George once again, this time to pay tribute to the music of Hall & Oates. Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates was released in early 2010, comprising eight cover songs and one original number. In late 2011, the Bird and the Bee announced that they were no longer signed with Blue Note, but would be releasing another album. Although they did end up recording new material for two different films (2014's Endless Love and Sex Tape), the bandmates largely devoted the next few years to their own careers, with Kurstin emerging as a high-profile pop producer and George recording several albums as part of the folk group the Living Sisters. Reemerging in early 2015, the band announced that their fourth album, Recreational Love, would be released in July of that year. ~ Andrew Leahey & Timothy Monger, Rovi