With a new EP release and an expanding touring territory, South Lake Tahoe rock duo Black Star Safari is hard at work.
The band opened for Lavish Green Aug. 27 at the Live at Lakeview concert series at Lakeview Commons in South Lake Tahoe. Black Star Safari is Dan Green (guitar, vocals) and Matt Mandella (drums, vocals).
“It’s a lot of fun you know, to play for the community and a lot of people that wouldn’t necessarily be at our shows, so it’s a whole new audience and something we’re psyched to do,” Green said.
The two musicians first hooked up in 2012, while studying music in Southern California.
“Both me and Matt went to the Musician’s Institute in LA and that’s where we originally met,” Green said. “We were just kind of picked up to do an R&B project for this soul singer. That’s where we initially met and then we decided to branch off and do our own thing. After we graduated, we were both pretty sick of Hollywood so we decided to take a trip up Tahoe.”
Settling into South Shore (where Green grew up), Black Star Safari started making music around town.
“I had played up here in other projects in the past up while I went to school, so I have a good network of friends and people who are making a lot of things happen,” Green said.
After honing its sound and stage presence in and around Tahoe for the last few years, Black Star Safari is now looking to expand its footprint around Northern California and the Northwest.
“Most recently, we’ve just been traveling a lot and doing our own booking and getting outside of Tahoe a lot more,” Green said. “We’ve recorded a couple of EPs which we’re definitely psyched on, the most recent one especially, and that’s been opening up a lot of gigs; and we’re just evolving. We’re both in the jam-band mentality but we’re realizing that that’s not necessarily where our strengths lie.”
Black Star Safari released “All In” last May, the duo’s second EP. CLICK to read the review.
“I kind of just had it in my head, I wanted to do another one,” Green said. “Our original one, ‘Cut and Dry,’ we recorded that one in less than 24 hours, so we felt super rushed on that. We wanted to spend a little more time, although always balancing a budget. We had a week on this one, which is still not a lot of time, but a lot more for sure.
“Getting your art to closer to what you hear in your head … it’s always a work in progress, but I’m really happy with how it’s turned out so far.”
The band has seen its appeal growing outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin of late, with expanded touring in Sacramento, San Francisco, in part based on the vibrant indie music scenes in those cities, Green said. Black Star Safari has upcoming tour dates in Chico, and an Oregon Labor Day run in Eugene and Ashland.
Onstage, the duo draws in fans with the sheer energy of their performance, which can often surprise newcomers as emanating from just a two-piece act.
“I would definitely say that we’re intense, our live performance, very intense, it’s raw. And it catches a lot of people off guard that aren’t ready for it,” Green said. “A lot of the time people will be dumbfounded or standing there with their arms crossed, but that’s fine with me.”
Sticking primarily to original tunes, the two also include their own take on classic songs, playing covers of artists including Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly.
Beyond expanding its touring area, Black Star Safari also has been working on expanding its presence on social media, and putting some time into video production. Beyond that, the focus is always on the music, as the duo hopes to release another recording before long.
“We have some new material we’re working on,” Green said. “We’re just kind of always in the process of writing, permanently.”
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