In this Tahoe Onstage video, Matt Mandella and Dan Green of Black Star Safari perform “Signs” on Sept. 25, 2013 in Tahoe Paradise.
Photographer’s notebook: South Lake Tahoes own Black Star Safari rocked it out Staturday, May 24, to a great, young audiance at the Himmel Haus for its “Cut & Dry” EP release party. Primairly a duo, Dan Green on guitar and Matthew Mandella on drums, invited bass player Mark Mickens and saxaphone player Seth Hall to join them on the stage. Both of which are truly outstanding musicians and added a whole nother dinamic to their sound. No dout we’ll be hearing great music from these up and coming musicians. — Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage
Musicians go through a lot wear and tear, and that’s not just factoring the late nights and long miles. Black Star Safari’s Dan Green described his songwriting process as “smashing my head against the wall until it hurts.”
The South Shore duo — Green, who plays guitar and sings, and drummer Matt Mandella — made its debut EP and weeks ago slated its release to be celebrated May 24 at the Himmel Haus. Although they’ve played the hometown venue a few times before, anticipation for this gig was stressful. The CDs only arrived May 21.
“We were sweating,” Green said.
The five tracks were recorded in a day at producer Patrick Langham’s studio in Davis. The title was inspired by the process. The instrumentation was mostly recorded in one take.
“We had played the night before and we were offered this studio time,” Green said. “It was very spur of the moment. I am proud we were able to pull it off . It’s just us playing. Almost like a live performance.”
While the Black Keys, White Stripes and Lightnin’ Malcom are among the vanguard of successful contemporary duos, Black Star Safari isn’t necessarily following.
“I liked Captain and Tennille,” said Green, who we are pretty sure was joking.
The band is a duo, but it won’t necessarily remain one. It wouldn’t mind adding a bass player. In fact, Green and Mandella considered adding bass to “Cut & Dry” but elected to go without one to stay true to what the band sounds like today.
The two players make a variety of sounds, including rock, funk and folk. “Cut & Dry” leans mostly on the rock side, we say, although the most interesting track, “Best of Luck,” leans toward folk.
Black Star Safari gave Tahoe Onstage a taste of the upcoming album last fall at Tahoe Paradise Golf Course when it recorded the video (above) of the song “Signs.”
“(The album) is all over the place,” Mandella said. “It takes you on a long ride.”
“I’ve always liked dynamically different bands,” Green added. “This has a lot of different feelings emotionally for me personally.”
Green and Mandella bonded musically at a gig at the House of Blues when each attended the Music Institute in Los Angeles.
The Himmel Haus show opened with Two Bottle Music, which includes singer Molly Taylor and members of Bandit.
Here is Kurt E. Johnson’s slideshow from the performance: