Pink Martini anchor Thomas Lauderdale loves taking old-school photos with his Polaroid Land Camera, but is finding it difficult to find its discontinued film. It’s a fitting metaphor for the band’s new ninth album, “Jes Dis Oui!,” which features songs in eight languages and a feminist-anthem cover from Miriam Makeba, “Pata Pata.” “We imagine that we have more choices than ever before, but I think it’s just the opposite,” he says. “We recoded this record on two-inch analog tape, even though nobody’s doing that, because commitment to quality and beauty are just totally disappearing from pop culture.”
You’ve been placing songs in TV shows like “Samantha Who” and “Parks and Recreation” for a few years. But you just jumped into the film world with the Isabelle Huppert movie “Souvenir”?
Yeah. In 2005, we were playing for the first time in Belgium, in Bruges. It was a free outdoor show, and in the front row were two guys who were super-cute, and I liked how they danced, they just had this incredible energy about them. And afterwards, we talked, and they were filmmakers, and they’d made a couple of shorts. And a couple of years later, I saw their first feature-length film, and it was stunningly beautiful. When I saw them next, I said, “I would love to work on any future project you have, if you think it’s appropriate.” And that’s how “Souvenir” happened. I did three songs for it, and then I ended up doing the score. So you never know what will come out of any random moment in life.
And you actually met Huppert herself?
Yes. I flew to the South of France in August of last year, where she was on vacation with her family. “Souvenir” is about a woman who lost to ABBA in the Eurovision competition in the ‘70s and now works in a meat-packing factory. One day a boxer comes to work there, and he recognizes her and they have a mad, passionate inter-generational affair, and he convinces her to make a comeback. So I did a few days with her, just working on the songs she had to sing, because she’s an actress more than a singer.
Do you speak fluent French?
Well, French I studied in high school, and I also studied Japanese, Russian and German. And China (Forbes, band vocalist) is pretty fluent in Italian and French. But it’s been a great adventure, working in so many different languages. And it’s surreal, for instance, to introduce a young Romanian listener to an actual Romanian song from 1950. You end up feeling like an ambassador.
IF YOU GO
Pink Martini’s Holiday Spectacular
Where: Luther Burbank Center For the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 6
Note: The group also appears in a sold-out show at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University.
China ForbesIsabelle HuppertJes Dis OuiPink MartiniPop MusicSouvenirThomas Lauderdale