Before Sunday’s concert at Annette Strauss Park, Pink Martini’s gay bandleader Thomas Lauderdale discussed just why the eclectic jazz outfit as been so productive lately. With four releases in the last three years, the band has churned out material faster than in their early days.
Lauderdale also says that with Dallas’ random weather lately, Pink Martini is set to deliver on Sunday whether there’s a crowd or not proving the band’s commitment to spread its distinct sound that delves into foreign lands and classic movies.
Read my conversation with Lauderdale after the jump. Pink Martini performs at Annette Strauss Square at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 8 p.m. $45–$65. ATTPAC.org.
Dallas Voice: You described Pink Martini as “musical archaeologists.” What haven’t you yet dug into at this point? Lauderdale: It really is sort of endless and that gives the band this limitless, diverse repertoire. I’m always digging, especially in different countries. We already started looking at some Hindi and Danish music and we found this Turkish song and have been talking to these linguist professors in Arizona who have a bunch of amazing ideas about Turkish music. It really never ends.
Speaking of that, you released A Retrospective last year, a sort of greatest hits/best of album. Some bands have joked that those tend to be the beginning of the end for a band. How did you all decide to release that? They say that? Retrospective was our chance to release stuff that I never had an opportunity to. We have a dance mix, some instrumentals, but all of these didn’t have a place anywhere else. That was the whole impetus for the album. Plus, it was a request from our European audiences.
Gus Van Sant sings “Moon River” on there. How exactly did that happen? He also lives in Portland and he’s done some guest spots with the band, plus, he’s his own written songs about golf and cowboy stuff. At the time, I was obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I love that song. That was recorded 15 years ago. I think that song is so much like us — very neighborly.
Funny you say that, because the band does seem very accessible. Pink Martini can headline a show at a major venue in another country and then collaborate with a high school band back at home Do you strive for that? I think that makes things much more interesting and keeps the band on its toes. It’s a way to ensure things never become stale. We learned that the von Trapp (from The Sound of Music fame) great-grandchildren moved to Austin from Montana. We’ve been talking with them to maybe joining us onstage Monday.
Pink Martini is based in Portland and the last time you chatted with us, Portlandia had not come on the air. Have you seen the show? Well, I wish it had been more like Mary Tyler Moore, set in Portland but with constant characters as opposed to vignettes. It seems to have caught on.
Would Pink Martini do the show? Probably. Yeah, I mean if we were asked. It depends if we’re making fun of ourselves but in a certain fashion. TV has ruined the country in my opinion, but ironically it was a TV commercial that launched our career, so I have a tough time with the idea of television. Seriously, I think life is better before I had a cellphone or computer. I feel like I could survive without them.
In addition to A Retrospective, Pink Martini released three other albums over the past three years and of course, the subsequent tours. Why so busy all of the sudden? I think I learned more to follow my gut instinct and not ask too many questions along the way. Having deadlines helps. We had a album deadline with Starbucks for Joy to the World. Then we had one with EMI Japan for 1969, our work with Saori Yuki, the Barbra Streisand of Japan. It forces us to make choices.
You met your partner Philip Iosca after you were in Pink Martini. Was there a difference in your work before and after? We’ve been together eight years and he’s working on our 1878 three-story building in downtown Portland. The band is based on the first floor and we live on the second and third. He has been a stabilizing force in my life and really, part of the reason I’ve been so prolific in recent years.
Sunday’s show is rain or shine. Is there a Plan B if the clouds start to show? We’ll be there even if no one else is.