February 8, 2023

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The jam band gives the ‘White Lotus’ theme song the cover it deserves

5 min read

“Renaissance,” the title music for the second season of HBO’s “The White Lotus,” written by Chilean American composer Cristóbal Tapia de Vir, touches something deep in the modern zeitgeist. It’s become an EDM anthem, a social media hit and — most recently — a perfect cover for funk jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Greg Ormont, one of the band’s two guitarists, loves the show and recently played a jammed-out rendition of the theme song during a two-night run at XL Live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, part of the venue’s “Festival of Melting Lights.”

It’s not an obvious song to cover. “Renaissance” has no sound, and instead consists of a succession of high-pitched yodels not unlike a pack of monkeys. It’s exciting and evocative, uncomfortable, yet somehow danceable. It’s a fitting introduction to the operatic drama set in Sicily this season, reinforcing the uncertainty of the story and its characters. Pigeons spoke with Greg Ormont of Ping Pong diversity About the band’s cover.

“Renaissance” went viral on TikTok and took over the international EDM scene. Why do you think the song resonates so deeply with people?

The melody is really catchy, especially the way the vocal part is chopped up to sound almost Native American. I think we’re so used to hearing a normal human voice and human tone that when something different happens, it catches the ear just like a big interval jump would catch the ear instead of a melody following the normal steps of a scale.

Were you surprised by the crowd’s reaction to your performance?

I knew right away who the “White Lotus” fans were, because I think anyone who loves the show is now obsessed with this song. If I’m in a crowd and a band starts playing that song, I’ll freak out too. It was fun to watch, oh, who has HBO, you know? It was a great litmus test to see who was subscribing where.

What do you like about the show?

It’s almost hard to explain why I love it so much. It’s such a unique show, and so funny. But ultimately, I think it comes down to the characters being so rich, both literally and figuratively, and their evolving relationships and the way the tension builds and then releases.

Storytelling will take you down certain paths, and sometimes those paths don’t resolve and they don’t develop and they’re almost like a diversion from the real story. I think everyone who watched the season two finale was both satisfied and dissatisfied. Some plot lines were tied up and others were left open. What happens to Greg (played by John Grice)? Did he get caught? Does he suffer for this? What about Portier (Haley Lou Richardson)? Does he seemingly get off scot-free? Why was Jack (Leo Woodall) in such a deep hole and why did he end up in the same situation as he started? I mean, there were so many: What happened to Daphne (Meghan Fahy) and Ethan (Will Sharp) when they went for a walk on the beach? Much was left unsaid.

How did the song make it into your set list?

I played it for the band and it was an earworm for Jeremy [Schon, guitarist] … He went home and started watching the show. Then, he dusted off a guitar pedal he doesn’t normally use in our daily shows called Tremolo, and brought it out so he could mirror that choppy tone. He learned the tune, showed us the chords, and we were off and running.

Usually we’ll take these ideas into practice and let it marinate a bit. But not only was it an instant hit with the band, it felt very current. We felt like we had to play it right away since the season finale aired. We also did a quick little search online and couldn’t see any other covers of this, and we were shocked by it. A few TikTok videos were floating around about that funny kind of vocal melody. So that was another motivation to get it together and tear it down.

To add it to your collection, do you want to reach more fans?

Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was in the back of our minds. But it all boils down to playing what you like to hear and what you want to hear if you’re in a crowd. And it was just a song that clicked on all levels, and we just wanted to play it. When we played it during sound check, we were grinning from ear to ear. There are so many songs that are played in our scenes or in live music in general, and we like to try to find that happy medium: songs that people know, but aren’t already nauseating.

Did you get any creative inspiration from the characters on the show?

I think there’s a lot of familiarity in these characters’ situations that, whether you’re a billionaire or not, you can feel for Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge). He struggles to build authentic relationships and to be heard and understood. I think that’s what was so interesting that the show was written in a very specific way with the characters’ situations, but it was universally relatable. I find that when writing lyrics, your best comes when you write about what you know and when you’re specific. It’s all going to be painted in metaphors for whoever is interpreting the song, but if you write about what you know, that’s when it’s going to be the most authentic and the most relatable.

Also, the twists and turns in “The White Lotus,” where some storylines resolve and others leave you hanging, you can do that in the music as well. Especially with our live concerts where we will help take our audience on a journey and whether or not that tension is resolved musically is part of the different emotions we try to evoke in the crowd. Whether or not there is a winning release or if we hang on to them is a bigger picture and part of everyone’s personal experience.

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