Thee Sacred Souls reflect on the San Diego band’s heady year: ‘Sometimes it’s hard to just take it all in’

 Josh Lane and Alex Garcia of Thee Sacred Souls on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Nov. 30.
Singer Josh Lane and drummer Alex Garcia of Thee Sacred Souls are shown performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Nov. 30. The San Diego band released its self-titled debut album this year and is earning international acclaim.
(Randy Holmes / ABC via Getty Images)

After playing in intimate San Diego venues, the three-year-old trio is making an international impact with its sweet soul music


How heady a year has 2022 been for Thee Sacred Souls, the young San Diego band reverently breathing new life into the sweetest soul music of the 1960s?

“Sometimes, it’s hard to just take it all in,” said Alex Garcia, the group’s 26-year-old drummer and co-founder.

Formed in 2019 by Garcia, bassist Sal Samano and lead singer Josh Lane, the trio’s accomplishments this year would be impressive for any group, let alone one that not very long ago was cutting its teeth performing at such small San Diego clubs as the Whistle Stop and Soda Bar.

“Thee Sacred Souls is the second band I’ve been in,” said Lane, who learned to sing opera while studying music at college in Sacramento.

Released in August by Daptone Records, the band’s self-titled debut album has earned praise from Mojo and Uncut — two of England’s most respected music magazines — NPR and more. The dozen-song collection has also received shout-outs from Alicia Keys, Leon Bridges and other musical admirers, along with a featured guest performance slot on the Nov. 30 telecast of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

The unannounced benefit show by the 15-time Grammy Award winner, a day before her concert at Viejas Arena, raised $3.1 million for the year-old San Diego nonprofit

Nov. 5, 2022

At the 2022 San Diego Music Awards in April, Thee Sacred Souls’ wistful “Will I See You Again?” scored an upset Song of the Year win over Grammy winners Switchfoot and Jason Mraz.

The band then hit the road, bolstered by four additional touring members, to open shows for Belle & Sebastian and St. Paul and The Broken Bones before headlining its own concerts in Los Angeles, New York and several European countries.

“We’re just trying to be the best musicians possible and trying to make good music with other people,” Lane said.

With more than 50 million streams for their music and 11 million-plus views for their videos, the trajectory of Thee Sacred Souls’ has been swift. Come Thursday and next Saturday that record will include a precedent-setting two sold-out shows at The Observatory in North Park.

That venue’s capacity of 1,200 makes it nearly seven times as large as the 175-capacity Casbah, where Thee Sacred Souls performed three back-to-back shows last December.

Thee Sacred Souls are, from left, Alex Garcia, Josh Lane and  Sal Samano.
The members of Thee Sacred Souls are, from left, drummer Alex Garcia, lead singer Josh Lane and bassist Sal Samano.
(Lauren Wilson)

Double sell-out

So far as can be determined, no other San Diego band has sold-out two concerts in the same week at The Observatory, which has hosted shows by everyone from The Killers and Andra Day to Phoebe Bridgers and Prophets of Rage.

It is not uncommon for bands to use their concert tours to encourage fans to register to vote, as top Mexican rock quartet Maná is now doing on its U.S.

Oct. 8, 2016

“We probably could have added a third night,” said Casbah co-owner Tim Mays, who booked Thee Sacred Souls’ Observatory concerts.

“The first show at the Observatory sold out within hours and the second within a few days. I saw Thee Sacred Souls a few years ago at the Whistle Stop, and they were great. But I had no idea they would do this well, this fast.”

Neither did the trio’s members.

“It’s crazy!” said drummer Garcia.

“Obviously, we appreciate everything that’s happening, but we’ve got to move forward to make new music and remain creative. It’s definitely an honor to feel like we’re representing San Diego. To know we’ve sold out the same venue that bands I’ve always liked have played at is an honor.”

The Observatory gigs are the cherry on top of Thee Sacred Souls’ banner year. But the events of 2022 appear to have left lead singer Lane, 32, either feeling a bit dazed or determined to keep his feet on the ground, perhaps both.

“I’m just trying to wake up every day and be excited about it,” he said.

Is that easy or hard to do?

“It depends — it’s hard to do that in general,” replied Lane.

The former leader of the Sacramento indie band Joshua Lane & The Heartfelt, he studied French and Italian opera repertoire while in college.

“I did that to learn to use my diaphragm,” Lane said. “But I had no desire to go into opera and still don’t. It’s an amazing ‘sport’ and it’s ridiculous how that world, the opera world, uses the voice.”

Lane moved to San Diego in 2017 to establish himself as a singer-songwriter. Garcia and Samano discovered him online in 2019 and were impressed by his creamy phrasing, pinpoint dynamic control and supple falsetto. They bonded, in the drummer’s garage practice room, over a shared love of old-school soul music, R&B and funk.

“There were some initial music sparks,” said Lane, who cites Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield among some of his key inspirations.

“First of all, you have to admire the other person’s music, and I liked what I was hearing. I think we wrote ‘Can I Call You Rose?’ the first time we hung out.”

“There was an immediate chemistry,” Garcia agreed. “But we didn’t know what we were doing with the project at first, so it took a little while to start writing and take it more seriously. We got together to make music; there was no plan of world domination!”

For now, Thee Sacred Souls are traveling to gigs in a Mercedes Benz Sprinter.

“Moving out of the Ford Transit Van into the Sprinter is a great feeling,” Garcia said. “But we don’t have a tour bus.”

And what have the band’s members learned, traveling side by side, in a van?

“That we’re all different people,” Lane said. “We’ve had to learn to come together. ... There’s a lot of good times that happen in the van and also a lot of times when you want to (be) on your own.”

Speaking by phone with Lane in a joint interview from their respective San Diego residences, Garcia added: “I would say a band rule, at least for me, is to keep your belongings near you and organized. That way you don’t lose anything.”

The Sacred Souls perform on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" November 30, 2022
Thee Sacred Souls performed their song “Easier Said Than Done” on the Nov. 30 telecast of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
(Randy Holmes / ABC via Getty Images)

Sweet soul music

For listeners who came of age in the 1960s, Thee Sacred Souls’ lovingly crafted songs are a clear homage to the classic soul music of the 1960s.

But if the band’s music sounds proudly retro in style, tone and its embrace of deep grooves and silky orchestrations, their lyrics can be fresh and contemporary.

Witness “Give Us Justice,” a song inspired by the 2020 murder of George Floyd. It deftly delivers a message of deep frustration and anger in the form of an aching lament, which evokes the honeyed balladry of Smokey Robinson and the late Sam Cooke.

In one of “Give Us Justice’s” most powerful verses, Lane sings: There’s a shotgun in my face / Fightin’ just to live / The shotgun takes my place.

On the lilting “Love is the Way,” he sings: Love has no gender and it has no creed / Love is, love is, a way of being.

Is there a specific musical and emotional experience Lane and Thee Sacred Souls want to give to their audiences?

“I’m aiming for the humanity in music to be at the forefront,” the singer replied. “I’m not a big fan (of the idea) music can prompt people (to action). I’m just trying to be honest.

“At the end of the day, you’re a human dealing with other humans. That’s always the way it will be, until the day the audience is all A.I. So you be yourself. And if people relate, that’s great.”

After taking time off for the holidays, Thee Sacred Souls will be back on tour from January into March, with more dates likely to follow.

The band is looking forward to making its second album for Daptone. That is the same roots-celebrating record label that brought such vintage soul-music champions as Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, now both deceased, into the spotlight.

“We recorded our first album in analog, not digital, to uphold the tradition,” Lane said. “A good song will hit you either way, but we are going for the tradition of analog and the warmth that provides.”

“For our sound,” Garcia agreed, “there is no other way.”

Thee Sacred Souls

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, and next Saturday, Dec. 17

Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Avenue, North Park

Tickets: Sold out