What do you get when you take talented young musicians from South Africa and Connecticut, add pop sensibilities and a projector screen, and drop them squarely into South Lake Tahoe’s live music scene?
You get Gen. YZ Dr., of course.
Pronounced “Gen Wise Drive,” this musical duo landed in South Shore in late December 2017, having selected the area as a destination after considerable Internet research.
“We looked at the entire map of America, and we were like, ‘Where’s a good place for us to go to build,’” singer Sim Sibanda said. “We just narrowed it down, narrowed it down, narrowed it down and eventually we were like ‘OK, this is where we want to move.’ ”
Sibanda and partner-in-pop Charlie Crowell play an eclectic blend of music, with Crowell on guitar, augmented by various backing tracks. The two have a predilection for a wide range of pop and EDM music, producing their own contributions to the latter genre via FL Studio. Onstage, they use a video projector to screen a variety of background visuals, enhancing the flavor and texture of their performance with a music-video like vibe.
“Ultimately it’s a pop, dance, visual experience,” Sibanda said.
“We call it live multimedia,” Crowell added.
The two initially met in the Northwest as co-workers in 2016. Sibanda, hailing from South Africa, was on one of several visits to the United States that she has made over the years.
“We used to work in Seattle together, we worked at a hostel,” Crowell said. “I didn’t know that Sim was a singer and she didn’t know that I played guitar. And then by chance one day, I called her out and we sang something together.”
Their first tune, Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” apparently went well, and Gen. YZ Dr. was born.
After brief stints street performing in Las Vegas and Colorado, the two singled out South Shore as the place from which to launch their musical career. Neither had visited the region prior to moving here.
“For me, I think Tahoe is a lot more than what it offers online. I think there is a lot more depth to capture, which is very rare about a place,” Sibanda said.
“I would say that there is dense potential when it comes to this idea of the next Nashville. There is so much here to build with and to build upon, that’s what I have come to see,” Crowell said.
Sibanda has been singing for a little more than four years, while Crowell grew up playing guitar. In recent years, his initial passion for folk music has given way in part to an appreciation for pop and EDM.
“I also dance a lot more onstage than I used to,” he said.
Gen. YZ Dr. can currently be seen at a number of venues around South Shore, including Azul Latin Kitchen, Base Camp Pizza Co., and Outpost Brewery. This act is just the foundation however, as the duo has a number of projects in the works.
A burgeoning author, Sibanda is soon to publish her second book, “The Calling.” Her musical career actually arose out of her writing, as music is a recurring theme in her works, the exploration of which led her to begin singing herself.
Gen. YZ Dr.’s musical work accompanies her writing, as well, as the group’s debut EDM single shares the title of the upcoming novel. One of six original tracks that the group will be releasing this year, the audio version of “The Calling” will be released as a music video, hopefully this summer.
Sibanda’s writing career also features thematically in the original music created by the two, she says. The singer was formerly a journalist in her home country.
“I did a lot of sociology of the society, a lot of commentary on the social dynamics and how that affects us as a society,” she said.
Beyond looking toward their upcoming releases, Gen. YZ Dr. is hoping to build a holographic stage and take to the road, simultaneously promoting their music and Sibanda’s literary works in a multi-faceted, media-driven road show, with Tahoe serving as home base.
On a fundamental level, these two spirited performers are merely focused on connecting to people, from any and all walks of life. In fact, the duo’s diverse appeal is baked right into the name of their act.
“It’s a reference to everyone who is alive now. It’s a reference to a renaissance period, the age of light, the generation of the YZ,” Sibanda said.
– Josh Sweigert