Sunday, January 29, 2023

Thee Sacred Souls Say She She, Jalen Ngonda

Doors | 7:00 pm // Show | 8:00 pm

Thee Sacred Souls

For Thee Sacred Souls, the first time is often the charm. The band’s first club dates led to a record deal with the revered Daptone label; their first singles racked up more than ten million streams in a year and garnered attention from BillboardRolling Stone, and KCRW; and their first fans included the likes of Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas, Princess Nokia, and Timbaland. Now, the breakout San Diego trio is ready to deliver yet another landmark first with the release of their highly anticipated, self-titled debut.

“Every step of the way has just been so organic,” says drummer Alex Garcia. “Things just seem to happen naturally when the three of us get together.”

Indeed, there’s something inevitable about the sound of Thee Sacred Souls, as if these ageless songs of love and loss have somehow always existed, as if Garcia and his bandmates—bassist Sal Samano and singer Josh Lane—have been playing together for a lifetime already. Produced by Bosco Mann (aka Daptone co-founder Gabriel Roth), the record is warm and textured, mixing the easygoing grace of sweet ’60s soul with the grit and groove of early ’70s R&B, and the performances are utterly intoxicating, with Lane’s weightless vocals anchored by the rhythm section’s deep pocket and infectious chemistry. Hints of Chicano, Philly, Chicago, Memphis, and even Panama soul turn up in their music, and while it’s tempting to toss around labels like “retro” and “vintage” with a deliberately analog collection like this, there’s also something distinctly modern about the band that defies easy categorization, a rawness and a sincerity that transcends time and place.

“I think we found the best of both worlds with this band,” says Lane. “We get to be innovative and honest and challenge ourselves as artists, but we also get to dig deep and pay homage to the foundational stuff that helped shape us.”

It was that shared love and respect for the foundations of soul that brought the band together in the first place. Launched in 2019, the group began with Garcia and Samano, who bonded over their similar experiences growing up in southern California and a mutual affinity for record collecting. While Samano didn’t pick up the bass until he’d already graduated from high school, Garcia had spent much of his teenage years obsessing over guitar and drums and teaching himself how to record on an old Tascam tape machine, and the pair’s mix of technical know-how and innate curiosity proved to be an ideal match. All they needed was a singer.

“I remember coming across Josh on Instagram,” says Garcia, “and I thought he could be a good fit even though he was doing something a little different. We invited him to come to a rehearsal with us, and he just came up with these great lyrics and melodies right on the spot. We knew he was the guy after one take.”

Joining a group like Thee Sacred Souls wasn’t an obvious move for Lane, though. A Sacramento native, he’d fallen in love with music through the church and studied classical voice in college, where he sang everything from French arias to Italian opera. When he moved to San Diego in 2017, he planned on becoming a solo artist, and his ambitions skewed more toward dreampop and chillwave than the old school soul sounds Garcia and Samano were cooking up.

“I grew up with a lot of the classic references like Al Green and Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield,” Lane recalls, “but I always just thought I’d sprinkle little bits of that into whatever I ended up doing. When I met these guys, though, they introduced me to deep soul and lowrider stuff like Thee Midniters, and that really opened things up.”

Performing live as a seven-piece (the core trio plus guitar, keys, and two backup vocalists), the band generated a local buzz almost immediately, which put them on Mann’s radar and led them into his Riverside, CA, studio. At the time, Mann was planning to launch a new Daptone imprint named Penrose Records, and Thee Sacred Souls were an obvious fit for the label’s inaugural release.

“They had a sound that caught my ear right away,” says Mann. “The combination of Sal and Alex’s taste and touch in the rhythm section with Josh’s masterful sense of voice and melody was just so fresh. I knew they could make an album that would blow some minds.”

The band more than delivers on that promise with Thee Sacred Souls, which opens with the mesmerizing lead single “Can I Call You Rose?” With lyrics penned on the spot by Lane during his first rehearsal with the group, the track is a silky slice of pure romance and an ideal entry point into the group’s timeless sound. Like much of the album, it’s a bittersweet meditation on matters of the heart and the primacy of love, one fueled by lush horns, velvety vocals, and an impossibly smooth rhythm section. The unhurried “Lady Love” tips its cap to the South Side of Chicago as it reckons with forgiveness and second chances, while the doo-wop tinged “It’s Overflowing” draws on both classic Chicano soul and Jamaican rocksteady music in its pledges of devotion, and the nakedly sensual “Future Lover” flips the band’s lineup on its head as it revels in the highs of infatuation.

“For a lot of songs, Alex writes the instrumental and demos them out at home,” says Samano, “but ‘Future Lover’ actually grew out of an after-practice jam session one day where we all switched instruments. I was on drums, Alex was on guitar, our guitarist was playing bass, and it all just clicked into place as soon as Josh started singing.”

The album’s vocals—both Lane’s beguiling leads and the collection’s airy female backups—serve as the glue that often binds these tracks together, imbuing the hypnotic arrangements with an undeniable sense of emotional urgency. The restless “Weak For Your Love” highlights Lane’s dazzling falsetto; the charming “Easier Said Than Done” complements his laidback delivery with a wordless counter melody; and the lilting “Trade Of Hearts”—a duet with vocalist Jensine Benitez—even brings Garcia and Samano in for call-and-response lines. But perhaps it’s the bittersweet “Sorrow For Tomorrow” that best showcases the breadth of Lane’s range as he shifts effortlessly between mellifluous vocal runs and semi-spoken passages all about loss and healing, growth and forgiveness, longing and regret.

“That song is basically permission to cry,” says Lane. “It’s a reminder that it’s okay to be open to pain and not to feel like your emotions are a burden or make you any less of a man.”

Ultimately, that’s what Thee Sacred Souls is all about: not just accepting our emotions, but embracing them as a beautiful and fundamental piece of the human experience. It can be difficult, no doubt about it, but as with everything else they do, Thee Sacred Souls make it look easy.

Say She She

The female-led discodelic soul band Say She She – named as a silent nod to Nile Rodgers (C’est chi-chi!: It’s Chic!”) will transport you with their dreamy harmonies, catchy hooks and up-tempo grooves.

KCRW recently named Prism #1 on their just-published Top 30 albums list and after their debut single “Forget Me Not,” a gritty funk send-up inspired by NYC’s Guerilla Girls made a huge first splash – premiered by DJ Novena Carmel on Morning Becomes

Eclectic and described by Jeremy Sole as “The Funkiest sh*t Ive heard in a while!” they have been on heavy radio rotation – receiving key spins across several influential shows from BBC Radio 6, JAZZ FM and Gilles Peterson’s WorldWide FM to WNYC and KEXP.

The band’s sound described as “A glorious overload of joyful elation and spiritual elevation” (MOJO) “Infused with the wonky post-disco spirit of early ’80s NYC” (The Guardian) injected with soaring sounds of the late 70’s girl groups with three strong female lead voices of Piya Malik (El Michels Affair staple feature, and former backing singer for Chicano Batman), Sabrina Mileo Cunningham and Nya Gazelle Brown (former 79.5).

Following Co-Signs From KCRW/The Guardian/Jazz FM/ BBC6 MUSIC

Say She She’s follow up single – a sultry B side BLOW MY MIND catalyzed their 7” release as a must cop 45 for DJs coast to coast and charted at number 12 on KCRW’s Top 30 Album chart. Next their single “Trouble” produced by members of Daptone Stalwarts Charles Bradley’s The Extraordinaires and Lee Fields The Expressions – recently hit #7 on KCRW’s Top 30 followed up with their billowing protest anthem “ NORMA” written in response to the decision to overturn Roe v Wade. Their Single Fortune Teller has been fixed on the BBC 6 A list.

The live set injects funk and pop with a heavy dose of dance and disco beats and a wide range of inspirations: Indian legend Asha Puthli, David Macuso’s loft parties, Turkish funk, Rotary Club, Stax soul groups and more, carving their own corner and coining their own crate of Discodelic Soul. The dazzling harmonizing trio of frontwomen are joined by a roaring roster of musicians that includes members of underground cult-funk band Orgone.

Say She She has also been on a roll on the road since this summer with their 7 piece band playing a number of festivals (including Giles Peterson’s We Out Here Fest and Lost Village) across the UK – their debut headline gig in London sold out in a few days and on the US East Coast, they were a must watch at the Rockefeller Center Rough Trade Indie Plaza festival in New York City. Following the release of their debut L, their recent success has culminated in sold out shows (including in L.A) for their Debut headline ‘Out of Our Minds’ Tour this Fall.

Jalen Ngonda

Daptone Records is proud to present the debut 45 from the newest member of the Daptone family stable of stars, Jalen Ngonda! Presently residing in the UK, Jalen grew up just outside of Washington D.C.. At the tender age of 11 his father introduced him to the joys of soul music, most notably Motown’s robust catalog, of which he soaked up like a thirsty sponge, guiding him on the path to become the remarkable artist that he is today. With this inaugural single Jalen delivers two sides of mid-tempo magic that will make you feel his Motown roots as opposed to wearing them on his sleeve.  ‘Just Like You Used To’ drops with groove and vibe in equal measure, providing the perfect foundation for Jalen’s vocals to soar. ‘What a Difference She Made’ digs deeper with the accompaniment of a lush string arrangement and wistful vocal, Jalen delivers every syllable with soulful excellence. A sure-shot single poised to propel Jalen to the front of the pack.