Tag: 1990s

Reindeer Flotilla is a Los Angeles-based electro pop act comprised of Neal Harris (vocals, keys) and Josh Brown (guitar). The duo started jamming together in the basement of an Atwater Village wine store, playing covers of John Carpenter, Brian Eno and Elliot Smith, which helped them develop their own sound centered around synths and guitar.

The Los Angeles duo’s latest single is an eerily straightforward cover of Radiohead‘s “Lucky,” that’s a bit more atmospheric and shimmering than the original — but while retaining the original’s soaring and yearning quality.

 

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Laura Burhenn is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, musician, activist and restless creative mastermind behind The Mynabirds, an act that has released four critically applauded and stylistically different albums through Saddle Creek Records — 2010’s What Was Lose in the Fire, 2012’s Generals. 2015’s Lovers Know and 2017’s Be Here Now. Burhenn also had had stints as a touring member of critically applauded and commercially successful acts The Postal Service and Bright Eyes. Burhenn has helped found Omaha Girls Rock, a non-profit that helps young girls find their creative voices — and she has given a TED talk based on her New Revolutionist photo project, which explored what it meant to be a revolutionary woman in this day and age. (Before all of that Burhenn was a member of Washington, DC-based indie act Georgie James with Q and Not U’s John Davis and released two-self produced solo albums through the label she founded, Laboratory Records.)

Interestingly, this year marks the 25th anniversary of Portishead‘s classic debut Dummy, an album that was highly-influential to Burhenn. “Dummy was my all-time favorite make-out record in high school and is in my permanent top ten, period,” Laura Burhenn says in press notes. To celebrate the occasion, The Mynabirds’ creative mastermind recently released a Patrick Damphier-produced cover of “Glory Box” that retains the original’s slow-burning and sultry nature and quietly defiant feminism — but while giving it a subtle, old-school country vibe. “That Beth Gibbons slid that feminist anthem into my teenage brain — that song completely rewired me.” Certainly, when women’s rights are being edged backwards, the song and its refrain “I just want to be a woman” would have to feel more powerfully necessary than ever before.

The track was released through Our Secret Handshake, a womxn-driven, women-focused creative strategy collective that Burhenn co-founded last year. A portion of the proceeds from the single will benefit Omaha Girls Rock.

 

 

Born Jennifer Hays, the Tucson, AZ-born, Seattle, WA-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Jenn Champion can trace the origins of her music career to when she met her then-future Carissa’s Wierd bandmates Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke at the local pizza shop, where they all worked. In 1997, the trio first moved to Olympia, WA for about a year, before settling in Seattle, where the trio formed Carissa’s Wierd. The band released three albums before splitting up in 2003 — but interestingly, the trio cultivated a rabid cult following, which has resulted in the release of three compilation albums of their work, including 2010’s They’ll Only Miss You When You’re Gone: Songs 1996-2003, which was released through Hardly Art Records.

Since Carissa’s Wierd’s breakup, the Tuscon-born, Seattle-based Champion has focused on several acclaimed solo projects such as the guitar and vocal-based pop project S, with which she has released four albums, including 2010’s I’m Not As Good At It As You and 2014’s Chris Walla-produced Cool Choices. While critics and fans have applauded and gushed over her open-hearted lyrics and willingness to eschew conventions while crafting sad songs meant to be cried to and with. Now, as you may recall, the last half or so of Champion’s last S album found her moving towards an electronic-based sound with “No One”  being a complete embrace of electronics. “I feel like a door got opened in my mind with electronic and digital music. There was a room I hadn’t explored before and I stepped in,” Champion said at the time. And although she intended to follow up Cool Choices with “a rock record — guitar, a lot of pedals, heavy riffs,” her plans had changed. “I couldn’t pull myself away from the synthesizers and I realized the record I really wanted to make was more of a cross between Drake and Billy Joel than Blue Oyster Cult.”

After the release of “No One,” Champion’s music publisher partnered her with Brian Fennell, an electronic music artist, songwriter and producer best known as SYML and the pair co-wrote “Leave Like That,” which was featured on SYML‘s Hurt For Me EP. Champion and Fennell hit it off so well that after Champion had written the demos for last year’s Single Rider, she enlisted Fennell as a producer. Fennell agreed and they spent the next five months working on and refining the material on Single Rider. As Champion recalls, “In the studio with Brian, I was more open than I had ever been,” and as a result the material evolved into a slickly produced, anthemic dance floor friendly album; however, the new album reportedly finds Champion maintaining the earnest emotionality and vulnerability that has won her attention — but this time, the album’s material finds the acclaimed Seattle-based singer/songwriter imploring the listener to dance, dance, dance, dance, dance heartache, outrage and disappointment away, for a little bit at least.

Turntable Kitchen has spent the past few years with the Sounds Delicious vinyl club. Over the course of its 13 previously released editions, a carefully curated collection of bands have released a full-length cover album. Interestingly, Jenn Champion has joined the ranks of an eclectic array of artists — and her cover album, the 14th of the series will find her taking on Weezer‘s 1994 full-length debut, The Blue Album. The first single off Jenn Champion’s The Blue Album cover is an icy, New Wave-like synth-based reworking of “Undone — The Sweater Song.”

Although Champion replaces the fuzzy power chords with layers of shimmering and atmospheric synths and propulsive industrial synth pop-like beats, she retains the song’s enormous and beloved hook creating a modern rework without erasing the original’s social unease, awkwardness and longing. The Jenn Champion cover reminds the listener that despite its release over 25 years ago, it’s a crafted bit of incredibly anthemic fuzzy power pop that manages to still sound contemporary and relevant, which is a rare thing for most of the material released during the same decade.

“I knew I wanted to take a synth heavy approach to this album, and in my mind The Blue Album was pretty straight-forward indie power pop,” Champion says in press notes. “But as I was deconstructing all the parts and putting the songs back together, I realized how much nuanced there is to [Rivers] Cuomo’s songwriting style. It’s a testament to his talent  that he can make an entire record of songs we want to sing along to and don’t realize just how weird those songs are.”

“I will say it was a challenge, a really fun challenge (!) to keep true to what makes these songs so great while putting them through an electronic lens.” 

New Video: Mark Lanegan Releases a Hallucinogenic Visual for “Night Flight to Kabul”

Over the past few years, I’ve spilled a fair share of virtual ink covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as the frontman and founding member of Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others.

As a solo artist, Lanegan has released 10 critically applauded albums that have seen a fair amount of commercial success. (Ironically, his solo work has seen much more commercial success than his work with Screaming Trees.) The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay’s tenth solo album Gargoyle was a collaboration between him, British-born and-based musician Rob Marshall and longtime collaborator, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. That album’s material was both an expansion and refinement of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his two preceding albums  2012’s Blues Funeral and 2014’s Phantom Radio.

Somebody’s Knocking, Lanegan’s 11th full-length solo album is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Heavenly Recordings, and the album’s material finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter turning to some of his most formative musical influences and loves — electronic music. “I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan says in press notes. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Somebody’s Knocking came together during an 11 day session in Los Angeles, much of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including the album’s two other writing partners Martin Jenkins, who records as Pye Corner Audio and the aforementioned Rob Marshall, who contribute some newer, murkier forms. Reportedly, Lanegan approached working with each of the album’s writing partners from the perspective and lens of a fan and interpreter. 

Lyrically speaking, the album purportedly sets the listener down multiple rabbit holes, as Lanegan paints psychedelic pictures inspired by the music. “I feel like I write lyrics instinctively. I let the melody come first and then it tells me what the words are going to be and I write whatever feels appropriate,” Lanegan says in press notes. “That said, I’m also influenced by everything I’m into. I don’t usually like to talk about what a song means to me; I prefer that the people who connect with a song do so with their own interpretation. It never crossed my mind what Neil Young meant by After The Gold Rush, only the personal movie it created in my head. My entire life, all the music that I’ve connected to has drawn me in like that. Joy Division, Nick Drake, Son House, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Gun Club… all the music that meant the most to me, the music that saved my life was the music that told my own story back to me.”

Naturally, some aspects of the real world can’t help but seep their way into the album’s material. “It seems to me that the entire world is in a weird, precarious place right now,” the Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “I try to not be someone in a constant state of worry and alarm but watching the massive divide that is taking place and the political situations, especially in the US and UK makes me think, ‘what the fuck are these idiots thinking?’ The hatred, racism and all this other fear-driven shit, these ‘adults’ that continually drive the machine that perpetuates this ignorance to their own ends should all be in the prison cells instead of the non-violent drug “offenders” in them now. I can’t specifically say how any of this effects my writing but I know that most of the things that occupy my thoughts have a way of coming back out in a song.”

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about the bluesy-Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen-like “Letter Never Sent.” The album’s latest single “Night Flight to Kabul” may arguably one of  be the album’s more dance floor friendly tracks, as it’s centered around thumping, four-on-the-floor drumming, rumbling bass lines, shimmering and skronky guitars, a tight motorik groove and Lanegan’s imitable croon. In some way, the song will likely remind listeners a bit of a bluesy take on the likes of Gary Numan and New Order. But lyrically, the song evokes a hallucinatory and surrealist fever dream, in which things aren’t quite what they seem. 

Directed by Dean Karr, the recently released video for “Night Flight to Kabul” is a hallucinogenic and feverish dream. ‘“The artistry and genius of Dean Karr is what made this video happen,” Mark Lanegan says in press notes. “5,000 still photographs taken in eight hours were painstakingly put together to give the appearance of a strange wraithlike figure moving weirdly through the desolate landscape of the Salton Sea. My third video with Dean in three different decades and I have to say this was the best. The most artistically challenging and satisfying.”

“We had been talking about doing this video for ‘Night Flight to Kabul’ for a month or two and my only concern was how could I pull this off with such a challenging budget for my friend?” The video’s director, Dean Karr adds in press notes. “Being a photographer before I was ever a director, I decided to use my Nikon D810 still camera for the entire music video and turn it into animation throughout the entire clip. What a simple solution! There’s lots of post work involved, which was done by editor and FX artist Joel Nathaniel Smith. There’s alot to be said for the simplicity of working WITHOUT a crew, it was just Mark, myself and a fan of Mark’s (Jason Hall) who drove 3 hours out of his way to meet us at the The Salton Sea, CA to help us shoot a beyond unique video! I think this is one of the freshest looking things out there today and love the ‘melty’ moments, which remind me of doing hallucinogenics back in the day!”

Live Footage: the bird and the bee Cover Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with Dave Grohl on “The Late Late Show with James Corden”

Comprised of singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia,Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee can trace their origins to when they met  while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. As the story goes back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show, during the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim(drums), who has worked with the David Bowie and Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“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,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “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,” Kurstin recalls.

Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen‘s album’s second single “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” is a slinky New Wave-like take on the original, centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, atmospheric electronics, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to New Order and It’s Blitz!-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the track is imbued with a feverish quality.

While much of Van Halen’s material, whether it was David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era is seemingly familiar to the point of well-worn, the first two singles off Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen finds the duo crafting a loving and thoughtful take on beloved material. And they manage to do so in a way that retains familiar elements but within a playful, post-modern, decidedly feminist fashion. 

The duo were recently on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where they performed their sultry rendition of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with a special guest — Dave Grohl, who played drums. 

 

I’ve spilled my fair share of virtual ink, covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who known as the frontman, and founding member of  Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-BirdCreature with the Atom BrainMobyBomb the BassSoulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight SingersUNKLE and others.

Lanegan’s solo career has seen him release ten, critically applauded albums that have seen a fair amount of commercial success. (Ironically,. his solo work has actually seen more commercial success than any of his work with Screaming Trees.) The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s tenth solo album Gargoyle found him collaborating with British-born and-based musician Rob Marshall, who’s best known for stints with  Exit Calm and Humanist and his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. Interestingly, the album’s material was both an expansion and refinement of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his two previously released albums 2012’s Blues Funeral and 2014’s Phantom Radio.

Now, as you may recall, Lanegan’s 11th full-length album Somebody’s Knocking is slated for an October 18, 2019 release though Heavenly Recordings, and the album reportedly less the tale of a brooding rock veteran and more that of someone consumed by a lifelong love affair with music and words. Interestingly, much of the album’s material finds Lanegan turning to some of his most formative musical influences and loves — electronic music.

“I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan says in press notes. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Lanegan’s forthcoming 11th album came together during an eleven day session in Los Angeles, many of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including some newer, murkier forms provided by Martin Jenkins. who records as Pye Corner Audio or Rob Marshall, a collaborator on Gargoyle and on his own, forthcoming debut album as Humanist. In each case, Lanegan approached working with each of the writers from the perspective of a fan.

Lyrically speaking, the album purportedly sets the listener down multiple rabbit holes, as Lanegan paints psychedelic pictures inspired by the music. “I feel like I write lyrics instinctively. I let the melody come first and then it tells me what the words are going to be and I write whatever feels appropriate,” Lanegan says in press notes. “That said, I’m also influenced by everything I’m into. I don’t usually like to talk about what a song means to me; I prefer that the people who connect with a song do so with their own interpretation. It never crossed my mind what Neil Young meant by After The Gold Rush, only the personal movie it created in my head. My entire life, all the music that I’ve connected to has drawn me in like that. Joy Division, Nick Drake, Son House, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Gun Club… all the music that meant the most to me, the music that saved my life was the music that told my own story back to me.”

Naturally, some aspects of the real world can’t help but seep their way into the album’s material. “It seems to me that the entire world is in a weird, precarious place right now,” the Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “I try to not be someone in a constant state of worry and alarm but watching the massive divide that is taking place and the political situations, especially in the US and UK makes me think, ‘what the fuck are these idiots thinking?’ The hatred, racism and all this other fear-driven shit, these “adults” that continually drive the machine that perpetuates this ignorance to their own ends should all be in the prison cells instead of the non-violent drug “offenders” in them now. I can’t specifically say how any of this effects my writing but I know that most of the things that occupy my thoughts have a way of coming back out in a song.”

Centered around a motorik groove, shimmering guitar lines and a tight hook, “Letter Never Sent,” the album’s latest single manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen but imbued with a bluesy tinge.

 

Throughout this site’s nine year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the ridiculously prolific, New York-based producer, DJ, remixer and JOVM mainstay Rhythm Scholar. And as you may recall, the New York-based JOVM mainstay has received attention from this site and elsewhere for funky, slinky produced and crowd-pleasing remixes and mashups of classic soul, funk. hip-hop and New Wave.

Over the past few months, Rhythm Scholar has released a kaleidoscopic remix of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams‘ smash hit collaboration “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and a propulsive, house music-leaning remix of one of my favorite Tears for Fears tracks “Head Over Heels.” Interestingly, the New York-based mainstay’s latest remix finds him creating a swaggering and strutting 70s soul and funk-inspired mashup of Warren G.’s and Nate Dogg’s “Regulate” that features loving homages to Edwin Starr, The Blackbyrds, Kurtis Blow, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, some explosive scratching and an extensive nod at Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” — all while retaining the noir-ish feel of the original.

 

New Audio: the bird and the bee’s Jazz-like Take on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”

Last month, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee — singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney — and as you may recall, the act can trace their origins to when the duo met while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. Back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show — and it was the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowieand Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“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,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “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,” Kurstin recalls.

The album’s two singles found the members of the bird and the bee taking on Van Halen’s “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The duo turned “Panama” from a power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. Their cover of”Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was a slinky and shimmering New Wave-like take that recalled New Order and It’s Blitz-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs while imbued with a feverish quality.  The album’s third latest single finds the band taking on “Hot For Teacher,” the last official single that band released with their original lineup.  Featuring drummer Omar Hakim, who has worked with David Bowie, Sting, Daft Punk, Weather Report, Madonna, Kate Bush and others and a spoken word cameo from Beck, the bird and the bee deliver a swinging bop jazz-inspired take that actually pulls, tugs and teases out the jazziness of the original — particularly within Eddie Van Halen’s dexterous guitar solo-ing. Interestingly, much like Easy Star All-Stars take on Dark Side of the Moon, the bird and the bee version of “Hot For Teacher” isn’t a purely straightforward cover — rather, it’s a subtle and mischievous modernization that retains the spirit and intent of the song in a thoughtful and loving way.