It’s difficult to pin down The Tragedee.
Founded by singer Pete Lazaron in 2021 and featuring an ever shifting line-up of supporting players, The Tragedee have evolved from hard rock band to lo-fi lounge lizards to electro-funk, with no telling what shape they will shift into next.
Lazaron initially formed The Tragedee with the help of Bastardane’s lead singer/bassist Jake Dallas. Because of Dallas’ influence The Tragedee’s early sound (like on their first single “Target”) leaned heavily into metal and hard rock.
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“I saw Bastardane perform and we talked a little bit.,” said Lazaron. "I asked [Jake] if he knew where I could find bassists, drummers, anybody. He was like, ‘Oh, I’ll play bass.’ I was taken aback because these guys are way cooler than me. They’re freakin’ rockers.’ I couldn’t believe this guy wanted to play bass in my band.”
The name The Tragedee was meant to sound “anxty” because of their heavy sound, but that was not the direction Lazaron ultimately wanted to take.
“Really I wanted to play more jazz rock stuff,” explained Lazaron.
With some new direction and line-up changes, The Tragedee’s next single was a synth-driven retro wave song called “Katana.” It wasn’t until Lazaron finally recruited Max Smay and drummer Sincere Deas that he had his first consistent line-up and could focus on The Tragedee's debut album, “Lust.”
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“Lust” fulfilled Lazaron’s desire for The Tragedee to be a jazz rock band. With songs like “Pineapple Juice” and “The Peacock Lounge is My Favorite Cocktail Bar to Get Stood Up At” the album evokes Savannah nightlife while dripping with Steely Dan-like urban sleaze.
“I didn’t do it with the intention of wanting it to be like ‘Aja’ by Steely Dan, but it turned out like that,” said Lazaron. “The life I was living at the time of that record was a lot of night life and being, I don’t know if sleazy is the word, but a nightlife person, and lots of girls, or whatever. And Steely Dan has a lot of that going on. The environment and music I like just turned it into that.”
Lazaron added, “I’m a really big fan of movies that are 70s, sleazy underbelly type movies like ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Heavy Traffic,’ ‘Fritz the Cat,’ ‘Dolemite.’ These gritty, goofy things. I like urban decay, I don’t know why, it’s just cool to me.”
Lazaron’s love of urban decay might be traced back to his early childhood in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota where his love for music was born. It’s possible that some of his hometown remained in his DNA as The Tragedee’s latest single, “Modern Times” sounds like Prince-era Minneapolis funk.
“My neighbors were an older couple named Nicky and Linda,” recalled Lazaron. “The husband was born in Russia in 1948. His family emigrated to St. Paul. His little brother owned a guitar store, and they had this duplex business building where one side was a Russian restaurant and the other side was Pete’s Guitars. This store was a high-end guitar store. Big acts would come through the Twin Cities, and I saw all these pictures of Pete with guys like Eddie Van Halen and George Harrison, Z.Z. Top, everybody. This was when these bands were making insane amounts of money, so what else are you going to do in the Twin Cities besides go buy insanely rare vintage guitars. Pete was killed in a car crash before I was born unfortunately. The store got converted into a Russian Orthodox Church.
“They would babysit me at their house and they had all these guitars, that looking back now, these were insanely valuable late 50s Gibson arch-tops that were immaculate. I loved it. It was like this preordained thing from birth where I’m obsessed with music.”
Lazaron didn’t realize how much he was inspired by the city until he moved to rural New Hampshire.
“St. Paul was a pretty gritty city,” said Lazaron. “I even knew it then. I was into hip hop at a really young age. But moving to New Hampshire, to the sticks, I longed for this urban grittiness in a way, and I think that’s had an impact on some of my music.”
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The Tragedee are now onto their next phase of evolution with their strongest line-up yet. Lazaron is now backed by Vincent Henningfields on keys, Chris Jenkins on guitar, and Max Christman on drums, and the band is hard at work on their next album. The Tragedee’s new direction is dynamic jazz fusion, but played with entertaining Diamond David Lee Roth energy.
“We sound good! We sound really crazy,” exclaimed Lazaron of his current band. “It’s a lot different from the other stuff we did, a different vibe. I think the next record is going to be a more natural sounding record. The last record I’m really proud of, but a lot of the drums were programmed. Max has a studio at his house and he’s an absolute genius at recording drums and in general. It will have a lot more dynamics to it because it’s not on a grid on Ableton. It’s a really good feeling to record a song, listen to it, and be like, ‘Damn, that’s really good.’”
Savannah may not be the gritty urban landscape Lazaron dreams of, but it’s local music scene has been incredibly supportive of The Tragedee.
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“I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I was homeschooled for a long time, so I had this lonely life,” said Lazaron. “I was always out of place because I was this weird music kid in rural New Hampshire. I have to say, when I moved to Savannah it was really cool because I found this group of like-minded people and it was beautiful. I have a lot of love for the dudes in Bastardane and Basically Nancy and all those people. Life is good.”
What: Phantomwise with The Tragedee and Klept
When: Friday, Aug. 19 at 9 p.m.
Where: El Rocko Lounge, 117 Whitaker St.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah GA music: The Tragedee release debut album, Lust