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Interview: Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini

Pink Martini / Photo by Sherri Diteman
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One of the songs on Pink Martini's forthcoming album, Splendor in the Grass, includes the line, "Life's a lot richer with a healthy mixture...not to mention lots more fun!" In addition to capping off a great musical romp, this statement also encapsulates the essence of Pink Martini. Over the course of 15 years, four albums and one live DVD, this little orchestra has crafted a sound that's both modern and retro. The group's albums feature a mix of covers and originals—even occasionally alternating between the two within the same piece.

Leading the Portland-based band is Pink Martini founder/pianist Thomas Lauderdale, and China Forbes on lead vocals in multiple languages. Saturday night, Pink Martini will take the stage at the Hollywood Bowl—a venue so perfectly suited to the band's sound that it would be easy to imagine a prescient architect creating this amphitheater with them in mind. LAist spoke with Lauderdale earlier this week to learn about the new album, his love of Polaroid cameras and what he appreciates most about Los Angeles.

LAist: One of my favorite songs from the new album is the title track, "Splendor in the Grass," and it's great how you incorporate Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto #1" at the end. What was the songwriting process like for the song—did you start with Tchaikovsky and work your way back?

Thomas Lauderdale: No, we actually started with the melody, then the Tchaikovsky came later to kick it over the top. The melody came from a Clint Eastwood film [Kelly's Heroes]. There's a song by Lalo Schifrin called "Burning Bridges" and I'd heard an instrumental of this song and thought, "This is just great!" So we wrote a song around that melody with new lyrics. It's sort of a back-to-nature ode.