The Bird and the Bee just released for Recreational Love via Rostrum Records and it’s highly infectious/definitely grab a copy IMMEDIATELY. I recently had a minute to catch up with Inara George (who is just the loveliest, by the way) over the phone to talk about the duo’s creative process, the super-fun video for “Will You Dance” (which features Patton Oswalt and Simon Helberg), the social media explosion that’s happened in the five years since the LAST record came out, and SO MUCH MORE!
So you worked on this record during weekly Friday sessions; was that a new thing for you guys (to put a particular day aside), or has that been a long-standing work method?
Once Greg’s schedule really started to amp up, if we didn’t set something aside, sometimes it’d just go by where he didn’t have any time. So it’s usually around ten to twelve, and it’ll be before his major sessions, but we do have a standing date. If for some reason he has to change it, or I do, then we just skip it for the week.
Makes sense. And outside of that space, do you on things alone that you end up bringing into the sessions? Or do you try to leave that creative process strictly for when you’re together?
It’s very rare that we’ll take things away and do it by ourselves; we usually just do things together, and that’s kind of always the way we’ve done it. It’s nice, because you have each other to kind of bounce things off of. If we’re in a time crunch, then maybe I’ll go finish the lyrics, or he’ll send me the track and I’ll work on it. We did that for one song; he had a track that was a little bit constructed, and then I sang over it and we screwed with it once we were back together, but usually it’s just in that little time period that we’ll come up with something.
And obviously you’ve been working together for a long enough period of time that I’m sure this is rare, but if there are ever any creative differences to iron out, is it difficult to decide who’s “right” when it’s just the two of you?
I don’t know, I think that more people tend to make things more complicated. And you know, we have a similar sensibility musically, so it’s never that much of an issue. Usually we’re much more like Chip and Dale than we are Guns N’ Roses; we’re much more like, “Oh, you don’t like it? Let me go and work on it.” If one person is uncomfortable with an idea, then we’ll always work on it. It’s a pretty copacetic relationship. [Laughs]
That’s good, no “ROCK PAPER SCISSORS” to determine outcomes. [Laughs]
Yeah, no. [Laughs] We always want each other to be comfortable with ideas.
Now, with this record in particular, would you say that you established any sort of mission statement as you went into the writing process? Or did that manifest itself as you went along?
You know, the way that we’ve done it from the first record is that we write a couple of songs, and then we sort of decide which track in particular we want use as our “base”, and we spring off of that. Sometimes the base song changes as we write more songs, and not all the songs are going to sound the same (we hope), but we kind of use that base song as the template for the feeling of the record. That’s how we’ve done it in the past, and that’s what we did this time as well.
And from a technical standpoint, do you tend to worry about how the songs will be able to translate live? Or do you concern yourself with the live arrangements later?
We do think about that. With our first record, we didn’t think about it at all, so that kind of changed the way we thought about our second record. And so with this record, we wanted to simplify the sonic bed. It’s a pretty simple in that way, and it’s easy to translate live, whereas our last record was a little more complex in trying to figure out how to make the live sounds work.
Well it sounds AMAZING. Love “Will You Dance”; the song is great, but I also really liked the video! Whose concept was that?
Thank you! We were trying to figure out an idea for the video, and the song is sort of like what happens when people aren’t looking, or how you behave when you’re not self-conscious; the initial idea was maybe to have a kid dancing, but then we thought, “Is that too complex? Is that too over-played?” We weren’t on the same page about the idea (it was my idea, and Greg was like, “I don’t know about that…”), so then I said, “What about people singing the song on the toilet?” And he loved that idea, so we kind of fleshed it out and made it a more narrative story. What I love about it is that it kind of reminds me of an eighties video. Somebody commented that “Someone would get sued for sexual harassment if that happened it my office!” [Laughs] And it’s true, it’s sort of an old-fashioned concept of a guy needing to get worked up about how to make a move with the girl in the office; today that can’t really happen. [Laughs]
And so how did you get Simon [Helberg] and Patton [Oswalt] involved? You knew them before, I’m assuming?
My husband and I have known Simon since he was a kid; he went to the same high school as me, but maybe five years before I did, so I didn’t know him then, but he’s married to one of my good friends from a long time ago. And then Greg and Patton’s daughters went to school together, and they met that way. So we just asked both of them, and they were really sweet and said they’d do it.
Cool! Well it seemed like it must have been a very fun time to shoot! How was it shooting in a bathroom? As glamorous as it seems?
Luckily it was a very clean bathroom…
It did seem pretty spotless, so that is a plus.
It was just really fun. Shooting videos isn’t my most favorite thing, because it’s so tedious; it’s sort of like recording, but not as fun because you have to be in makeup and costumes and stuff. [Laughs] But we had a really good time.
Good! And do you have any other videos planned for any of the other tracks coming up in the near future?
We do! We just finished a video for “Los Angeles”, which is not a new single, but it’s kind of like a promo. And we have a video for “Recreational Love”, which should be pretty funny, too.
Awesome. And I know you’ve got the release shows coming up in July, but do you have a wider tour planned?
You know, we don’t have any other shows booked. We’re not really a touring band. I’m a little more game to do it than Greg; he’s so busy at home that it’s hard for him to leave, but we’ve sort of created a Brian Wilson scenario where he can stay at home and be in the studio and I can take the band on the road. [Laughs] I’ve kind of put together an all-girl version of The Bird and the Bee, so we’re going to maybe book a couple of shows and Greg won’t be playing. I’ve heard from a few people that “Oh, it doesn’t matter,” but I know that some people will be disappointed that Greg’s not there. But it’ll be the same show, essentially. (Minus Greg.)
Hey, you gotta make it work somehow, and that sounds super fun!
I know, right? If we’re not going to tour that much, you’re just going to have to accept us as an all-girl version. [Laughs]
Exactly! Now, what else have you got coming up this summer? Are you taking family vacation or anything like that?
Yeah, I have kids, so we’ll be doing little vacations here and there, but we have some press stuff and the shows, and then I’m sure more stuff will be coming up, so I’m just trying to free up my schedule as much as I can. Not a ton of plans, though.
Well, it’s already huge enough that you have the record coming out after five years, so HUGE congratulations on that! We’re very excited for it.
Thank you! We’re excited, too. I mean, it’s a brave new world! Even just the social media aspect is so different to what it was five years ago; it’s much harder work!
Right?! I was looking at a few interviews you guys did a while back, and the photo they used on this one particular piece was cited as being from Myspace. MYSPACE! God, those were the days.
It’s crazy, Myspace was huge! And remember Friendster? It feels like Facebook is sort of phasing out now too, right?
Yeah, things seem to be shifting over more to Instagram and Snapchat.
I think it’s that you want to get a feeling across quickly, because there’s just not enough time to read anything anymore. So it’s like, Twitter, Instagram offer these little snippets of life, and I don’t know if it’s a good thing. Actually, I don’t think that it’s a good thing in terms of the social interaction of humans, but it’s definitely interesting how we’re processing so much information now.
Oh, totally. It’s definitely nice to be able to stay in touch with people from around the world that I otherwise wouldn’t probably speak to that much, but it’s also crazy; I was at a friend’s the other day, and I looked up from MY phone to see that every single person in the room was silently looking at their OWN phones. I just thought, “God, we are robots.”
Well we are! I mean, we essentially don’t have to remember phone numbers or ANYTHING, really; you can pull up any information you need from the internet, which I think is awesome, but at the same time, it does get in the way of actually having a conversation sometimes.
It’s nuts! And I don’t know how old your kids are, but I have a niece who’s four, and BABIES nowadays, even, just seem to be pre-wired to accept all of this technology and really understand it from birth! It’s like this weird evolutionary trend.
You just have to wonder…I mean, I think we’ll be implanted with things fairly soon. Have you seen that documentary about Ray Kurzweil? He invented the keyboard, but it’s about how fast technology has happened in the last five years, and since it’s just getting faster and faster, in ten years we can implant ourselves with something really small that can check our blood levels (cholesterol, etc.), check our organs to let us know if something is malfunctioning…
God, that’s insane. Have you seen that show Black Mirror? It’s on Netflix right now; it’s British, very short series (just two seasons with three episodes each), and it’s basically like the twilight zone for the digital age. It’s all about that stuff, and all of it hits just a LITTLE too close to home. Definitely would recommend it.
Black Mirror. Good title! Very ominous.
Right? Very. WELL, as I say, we’re very excited to have you in New York on the 17th, and thanks so much for speaking with me today!
Thanks, we’re very excited, too!