Tragic Chemistry

Tragic Chemistry

 Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

A band composed of equal parts heart and brain. Tragic Chemistry marries thoughtful songwriting to textural arrangements resulting in music that defies genre boundaries.


In the information age, when becoming a band and securing a name involves only building a makeshift website and attaching your chosen moniker to it, how does a new band go about generating a unique identity? For Tragic Chemistry, the answer was through a strange mixture of sweat and serendipity. The band went through a host of names including, “The Consequence”, “What Army”, “Pangloss” and “Scattershot”, among others; all the spawn of brainstorm sessions that generated no less than 100 possible names. With each seeming success, the band would cross-reference the name using various web resources, only to find another working or defunct band (or bands) with the same name. Singer/songwriter Aric Jorgenson, after concluding that no combination of letters or words existed in the entire English lexicon that had not been previously affixed to a band, argued they would simply have to, like grave robbers, take the name of a band that had previously broken up. That is, until he accidentally opened an untitled document which he believed was a set list he’d been preparing for an upcoming show. The untitled document was in fact a poem he had written some years before that contained a metaphor referring to humanity as “tragic chemistry” (the whole poem can be read on the band’s website). The name stuck, and was, after rigorous investigation, found to be unaffiliated with any other band past or present. The final band name was chosen only after their debut album was mixed—in fact recording engineer Scotty O’Toole did not recognize the album when it was mailed to him after mastering because of the unfamiliar name.

Tragic Chemistry’s music is in many ways like their name: a product of a creative process that is unique and somewhat remote from outside influence. “While we listen to a lot of music, when we’re writing we are always trying to create an atmosphere that supports the mood and tone of the lyrics for a particular song, not trying to achieve an effect like this song or that song by this band or that one. The process always involves trying to think about what we can do musically to convey the intent of the lyrics, which Aric spends a lot of time on,” says singer and keyboardist Leia Manuel about the band’s writing process. Jorgenson adds, “there isn’t much ego involved when we’re working. No one feels like they need the spotlight on them, only that if a song works at the end of the day, we’ve done our job”.

The result is a self-assured band that plays by its own rules and creates music that is immediately engaging, but that’s intricacy demands repeated listening. Their self-produced debut album Quiet Desperation (even the luminous photography for the liner notes was taken by the band), sounds sonically like a major-label release, but feels like an indie band’s labor of love.



Written By: Aric Jorgenson

in the corner
under smoky lights
your legs are long and brown
you look at me with come hither eyes
but don’t make a sound

come sit down
just, sit down

the gold band
in my tailored pocket
feels like lead
as you lead me slowly by the hand
to your alluring bed

come lay down
let’s lay down

on a holiday
from the day to day
the wife and kids don’t possess the charms
that i find in your exotic arms

after months of sneaking around corners
she found out
i just got back from meeting with the lawyers
they’re gonna fight and shout

now that that’s said
you should know i haven’t bled

on a holiday
from the day to day
the wife and kids don’t possess the charms
that i find in your exotic arms

oh mr. man
catch as catch can
you have the means
i’ll be your queen

I don’t feel right
going out tonight
the baby would cry and cry and cry

you stay here, i’ll be back my dear
once i see the sights
under smoky lights…

on a holiday
from the day to day
the wife and kids don’t possess the charms
that i find in your exotic arms

oh mr. man
catch as catch can
you have the means
i’ll be your queen
nothing is free
c’est la vie
go or stay, either way
you’re going to pay


Written By: Aric Jorgenson

oh saint augustine
what did you mean
when you mentioned
that grace is predestined?
He counts all our sin
before we begin
shh…don’t say it loud to the crowd

then canonized
by a people
not beneath the steeple
when you lusted
so disgusted
will the almighty
agree about your piety?

thank me for
the just war
you can raise your spear
if He whispers in your ear
that you are right
and they are wrong
collect the tithe
make your swords long

oh saint augustine
so pristine
give me chastity
when i‘ve lost alacrity
for my concubine
and the taste of wine
when i grow old
and blood runs cold

did you fear as the end drew near (I want to live)
that the good you did (after I die)
wouldn’t outweigh your id (if not with god)
indiscretions (than in the minds)
dark intentions (of other men)
when it’s my turn (who suffer too)
will i burn? (my afterlife might be in you)


Written By: Aric Jorgenson

fluorescent lights
illuminate the scene
as you are introduced to fate
i run my hand
through the cascading sand
of an hourglass
that's hour is about to pass

shoot the boulevard
lights bleed into a stream
the shutter captures all
my summer, your fall

the water hammer drops
on your broken heart
you pine for a new start
as i take off my gloves
and cinch up my laces
you disappear
into a smear of a hundred other faces
still i know for whom the bell tolls
not just for thee
but for me

the heat of summer
fever takes my mind
now its autumn
wind on wrinkling skin unkind
blizzard in winter
frostbit limbs left behind
here come the spring rains
to rinse away the rind


Written By: Aric Jorgenson

oh, if i go out today
i will find another way
to deconstruct what you say
this won’t be the last time

the fear of running
the fear of standing still
the fear that indecision someday will kill
the fear of falling
the fear of looking down
the fear that if i scream i’ll make no sound
the fear of losing
the fear of getting beat
the fear that if i fight i’ll lose my feet
the fear of dying
the fear of getting old
the fear that all this fear will take its toll

the evening news crawls down my spine
as i contemplate myself into a bind
this predilection will paralyze
i lie here etherized


Written By: Aric Jorgenson

how would you like
a day in the sun?
just start counting
from a million down to one
when you are finished
the storm will be done
and a long draught
will have begun

i’m finished waiting
for the tincture of time
to cure what ails me
or at least ease my mind
corner poets
recite useless rhyme
as they try to swallow
the tincture of time

the tv is droning
the bankers are loaning
to end all your distress
for twelve percent interest
everyone peddles
an elixir to settle
that sinking feeling
that you are concealing

push in the bodkin
right through your skin
take it back out
put a cork in the spout
i’m losing faith
in this kind of healing


Quiet Desperation: debut LP to be released January 2010

Set List

Shows generally consist of between 1 and 3 45 minute sets.

My Summer, Your Fall
The Fear
Saint Augustine
Tincture of Time
Fate is Sold
Give Me Tyranny
Leda and a Swan
Why, Absalom?
I Hate Needing Love
Another Wonder
Your Whateveryouwant
Tiny Trophies
The Things Your Housekeeper Knows
Outside Eden
Nothing Special
Don't Wait
Down, Pariah
No Control
Anyone Lived

Down Boy (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
Wake Up (Arcade Fire)
Where is my Mind? (Pixies)
Mad World (Tears for Fears)
Optimistic (Radiohead)